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Where does society end and the rights of the individual begin? That is the true question that lies at the bottom of the Israel Folau controversy. The courts have been given the unenvious task of determining whether an organisation has the right to punish those members who don’t share its views, or if the rights of the individual should be upheld.
Former rugby player, Israel Folau and his lawyers are seeking up to AuS$15 million (including Aus$5m for the irreparable damage done to Folau’s reputation) from Rugby Australia. Folau had had his contract with Rugby Australia terminated after he was found guilty of a high-level breach (the only kind that can result in termination) of their code of conduct. This high-level breach came from Folau’s decision to post a picture on Instagram stating that hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolaters.”
Having failed to reach a settlement with Rugby Australia at a Fair Work hearing, Folau and his lawyers have moved their case on to the Federal Court. Folau himself has merely expressed his desire for Rugby Australia to admit they terminated his contract because of his religious beliefs. In a video, Folau stated: “Hopefully, Rugby Australia will accept that my termination was unlawful and we can reach an agreement about how they can fix that mistake. First and foremost, I am hoping for an apology from Rugby Australia and an acknowledgement that even if they disagree with my views, I should be free to peacefully express my religious beliefs without fear of retribution or punishment.”
According to Rugby Australia’s, Folau’s contract was terminated on the basis that he had violated their requirement to “treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability.”
Of course, what really lies at the centre of the Folau case is not homophobia, but freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is really a question of whether Israel Folau should be allowed to express his religious views without suffering economic or judicial penalty.
Both the US Supreme Court and the Australian Law Reform Commission have placed a special emphasis on freedom of speech. The US Supreme Court has noted that all other rights and freedoms are put in peril when freedom of speech is not protected. Similarly, the Australian Law Reform Commission has stated: “freedom of speech is a fundamental common law right. It has been described as the ‘freedom part excellence: for without it, no other freedom can survive.’
Likewise, the Australian Magna Carta Institute stated:
“Freedom of speech is an essential aspect of the rule of law and ensures there is accountability in government. People must be free to express their opinion about the content of laws, as well as the decisions of government or accountability is greatly reduced. Freedom of expression is a boarder term which incorporates free speech, the right to assemble, and other important ways of expressing ideas and opinions. The balance the law of Australia strikes between protecting and restricting freedom expression generally is very important to understand the health of the rule of law in Australia.”
It is remarkable to note, however, that freedom of speech is protected by neither the Constitution of Australia nor by Federal Legislation. In fact, there is a wide array of laws and regulations that place legal restrictions on expression. One cannot publish military secrets, incite criminal activity, or defame or libel another person.
Rather, freedom of speech is considered a common-law right adopted from the Westminster system. It is a feature of our political and legal traditions. The Australian High Court has stated that there is an implied right to freedom of expression embedded in the Australian Constitution (they did not say anything, however, about non-political expression). Likewise, Australia is also a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which lists freedom of expression as a fundamental right.
Freedom of religion is a natural extension of freedom of speech, expression, and association. It is derived from the simple fact that the government has no right to dictate what my beliefs should be. The government has no right to force me, a Christian, to accept gay marriage, abortion, or anything else I find incompatible with my beliefs.
Unlike freedom of speech, freedom of religion is a right guaranteed by the Australian Constitution. Section 116 of the Australian Constitution reads:
Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”
Similarly, freedom of religion is protected by Australian case law. In the case of Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner for Payroll Tax (Vic), the Judges Mason ACJ and Brennan J. commented: “freedom of religion, the paradigm freedom of conscience, is the essence of a free society.” Similarly, in the case of Evans v. New South Wales, the Federal Court decreed that religious freedom as an “important freedom generally accepted in society.”
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. A decision that favours Rugby Australia will give large organisations the legal mandate to bully and intimidate those that don’t agree with their views. If Australia’s Federal Court truly believes in freedom, it will uphold Israel Folau’s right to freedom of speech and religion, and rule against Rugby Australia.
It is a rare occurrence to see a film that is so memorable that it implants itself on the human psyche. A film that contains such a captivating story, compelling characters, and profound themes occurs so rarely it becomes etched into our collective unconscious. A Man for All Seasons is one of those films.
Set in Tudor England during the reign of King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547), A Man for All Seasons tells the story of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon (1485 – 1536), the birth of the Church of England, and the man who stood opposed to it.
During the 1530s, King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, passed the Act of Succession (which declared Princess Mary (1516 – 1558), the King’s daughter with Catherine, illegitimate) and the Act of Supremacy (which gave Henry supreme command over the Church in England), and made himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England.
In A Man for All Seasons, Henry asks Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535) to disregard his own principles and express his approval of the King’s desire to divorce his wife and establish an English Church separate from Rome. Henry believes that More’s support will legitimise his actions because More is a man known for his moral integrity. Initially, Henry uses friendship and dodgy logic to convince his friend. It fails, and the so-called “defender of the faith” tries using religious arguments to justify his adultery. When this fails, he merely resorts to threats. Again, More refuses to endorse Henry’s actions.
A Man for All Seasons is really about the relationship between the law (representing the majesty of the state) and individual consciousness. In the film, Sir Thomas More is depicted as a man with an almost religious reverence for the law because he sees it as the only barrier between an ordered society and anarchy. In one scene, when William Roper the Younger (1496 – 1578) tells him he would gladly lay waste to every law in order to get at the devil, More replies that he would “give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.”
More’s reverence goes far beyond mere man-made law, however. He also shows a deep reverence for the laws of God, as well. After being sentenced to death, More finally breaks his silence and refers to the Act of Succession, which required people to recognise Henry’s supremacy in the Church and his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, as “directly repugnant to the law of God and His Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which no temporal person may be any law presume to take upon him.” More argues that the authority to enforce the law of God was granted to Saint Peter by Christ himself and remained the prerogative of the Bishop of Rome.
Furthermore, More argues that the Catholic Church had been guaranteed immunity from interference in both the King’s coronation oath and in Magna Carta. In his coronation oath, Henry had promised to “preserve to God and Holy Church, and to the people and clergy, entire peace and concord before God.” Similarly, the Magna Carta stated that the English people had “granted to God, and by this present charter confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.”
The central problem of the film is that the legal and political system in England is incapable of allowing More to hold a contradictory, private opinion. Even before he is appointed Chancellor, More expresses no desire to get involved with the debate surrounding the King’s marriage. He will not, however, swear an oath accepting the King’s marriage or his position as the head of the Church of England. More believes that it is the Pope who is the head of the Church, not the King, and he is perfectly willing to sacrifice his wealth, family, position, freedom, and, ultimately, his life to retain his integrity.
The relationship between the law and an individual’s conscience is an important one. What A Man for All Seasons illustrates is just how important this relationship is, and what happens when this relationship is violated. Modern proponents of social justice, identity politics, and political correctness would do well to watch A Man for All Seasons.
In today’s world of twenty-four-hour news cycles, infinite information, and endless news sources, knowing who to trust has become a virtually impossible task. To make this endeavour easier, I have compiled a list of the twenty conservative journalists, thinkers, and speakers I rely upon.
20. DAVE RUBIN
David Joshua Rubin (born 1976 in Brooklyn, New York) is a television personality, talk show host, and comedian. With a degree in political science from Birmingham University, Rubin was originally a host on The Young Turks before becoming the host of the popular, crowd-funded Youtube talk show, The Rubin Report.
The show, which has over half-a-million subscribers, features guests from both the political left and the political right and has been praised for its honest and politically incorrect approach to complex issues. Rubin, who considers himself a classical liberal, encourages discussion on all topics, no matter how controversial they might be.
Rubin is passionate about illustrating the difference between liberals and progressives and is responsible for popularising the expression “regressive left.” He has commented on issues like political correctness, free speech, mass media, religion, and more.
19. ANDREW BOLT
Andrew Bolt (born 1959 in Adelaide, Australia) is a journalist, editor, columnist, radio host, and television host. Armed with an arts degree from Adelaide University, Bolt began his career with a cadetship with The Age. Later he would move to The Herald where he worked as the paper’s Asian correspondent: fist in Hong Kong and then in Bangkok.
Bolt is known for his socially and politically conservative views. He has been at the forefront of many social and political debates and has talked about environmentalism, Islam, and many other topics. Radio host, Alan Jones referred to Bolt as a man who “sticks his head up (…) writing with clarity and conviction.” His columns and articles are published in The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser, Northern Territory News, and The Courier News. He can be seen weeknights on The Bolt Report on Sky News.
18. MIRANDA DEVINE
Miranda Devine (born in the 1960s as the daughter of the legendary newspaperman, Frank Devine) is an Australian conservative columnist. With a degree in journalism from Chicago’s North-West University and a bachelor of science from Macquarie University, Devine began her career working for the Boston Herald as a feature writer and reporter. She returned to Sydney in 1989 and took up a position at the Daily Telegraph. Whilst Devine primarily works for The Daily Telegraphs, her columns are also published in The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun, and the Sunday Times. Devine also formerly hosted the Miranda Devine Show on 2GB radio until it was cancelled in 2015.
17. KATIE HOPKINS
Katie Olivia Hopkins (born 1975 in Devon, England) is a television personality, radio presenter, and columnist. Bursting onto the scene in The Apprentice, Hopkins has made a name for herself as a professional provocateur, writing for The Sun since 2013, and The Daily Mail from 2015 t 2017.
Holding no punches, Hopkins has tackled topics ranging from ginger-haired babies and social class to obesity and Islamic terrorism. She has been involved in numerous media stunts. In 2015, Hopkins gained and then lost a significant amount of weight to prove that obesity was caused by lifestyle and not genetics.
16. GLENN BECK
Glenn Lee Beck (born 1964 in Washington) is a talk show host, producer, entrepreneur, and political commentator. He is a defender of the US Constitution and is a supporter of free markets and individual liberties. Beck is the founder of The Blaze, a conservative news site in 2011 and owns Mercury Ink, a publishing imprint, in a partnership with Simon and Schuster. Beck’s radio show, The Glenn Beck Program, is nationally syndicated and is one of the most popular radio programs in America. He is married with four children.
15. MICHELLE MALKIN
Michelle Malkin (born Michelle Maglalang in 1970 in Philadelphia) is a television personality, blogger, syndicated columnist, and the author of six books, including: Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores (2002), In Defence of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War Two and the War on Terror (2004), Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild (2005), Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies (2009), Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs (2015), and Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires & Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels are Screwing America’s Best and Brightest Workers (2015).
Malkin started her career at the Los Angeles Daily News in 1992. In 1996, she moved to the Seattle Times. Since then she has founded Twitchy and Hot Air, has had her popular newspaper columns nationally syndicated through Creators Syndicate, has been a frequent contributor on Fox News, and has been a guest on MSNBC, C-Span, and numerous radio programs. She is married with two children.
14. GAVIN MCINNES
Gavin Miles McInnes (born 1970 in Hitchin, UK) is a writer, actor, commentator, columnist, comedian, and entrepreneur. McInnes grew up in Canada and graduated from Concordia University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts. He co-founded Vice Media in 1994 with Suroosh Alvi and Shane Smith. Since then, he has written for Takimag, Truth Revolt, and The Federalist, has been a contributor and content-producer for Fox Digital and has been a frequent guest on The Blaze.
McInnes is the host of the Gavin McInnes Show on Compound Media. He considers himself a God-fearing, pro-life Catholic and is a member of the Knights of Columbus. McInnes has described feminism as a movement that “trivialised motherhood”, forces women to “pretend to be men”, and makes women “miserable.” He is the founder of the Proud Boys movement and has described himself as a “western chauvinist.” He is married with three children.
13. BILL WHITTLE
William Alfred Whittle (born 1959 in New York City) is a blogger, political commentator, film director, screenwriter, film editor, pilot, and author. Describing himself as “the voice of the common-sense resistance”, Whittle is a former writer for National Review Online, and is known for appearing in numerous PJ Media Youtube videos and short films.
Whittle is a frequent guest-speaker at Republican, Tea Party, High School, and University events. He has frequently appeared as a guest on radio and television, appearing on Fox News, The Dennis Miller Show, and Sun TV. He is the current host of PJ Media’s Afterburner, is the host of Firewall, and is the co-host of Right Angle with Stephen Green and Scott Ott.
12. STEPHEN CROWDER
Stephen Blake Crowder (born 1987 in Michigan, USA) is an actor, comedian, podcast host, and political commentator. He is a former Fox News contributor and is a frequent guest on The Blaze, The Glenn Beck Show, and The Dana Show.
Crowder is well known for satirising the political left through videos produced by various conservative media outlets, including PJ Media and Big Hollywood. He is the host of the conservative podcast, Louder with Crowder (available on I-Tunes and streamed on Youtube) which covers news, politics, and popular culture.
11. ANDREW KLAVAN
Andrew Klavan (born 1954 in New York City) is a novelist, screenwriter, political, commentator, and podcaster. He is the author of True Crime (adapted into a film directed by Clint Eastwood) and Don’t Say a Word (adapted into a film starring Michael Douglas), and has won the Edgar Award Twice.
Klavan has written essays and opinion editorials on politics, religion, film, and literature for a variety of conservative news publications, including City Journal and PJ Media. He has starred in a series of Klavan on the Culture videos and is the host of The Andrew Klavan Show which airs Monday through Thursday. He is married with two children.
10. DENNIS PRAGER
Dennis Mark Prager (born 1948 in Brooklynn, New York) is a radio host, musical conductor, political commentator, television host, and the author of The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism (1976), Think a Second Time (1996), Happiness is a Serious Problem (1999), Still the Best Hope (2012), and The Ten Commandments (2015).
Prager has a double-major in history and anthropology from Brooklyn College and studied Arabic, comparative religion, and international history at the University of Leeds. In 2010, Prager launched the Prager University Youtube Channel which features short videos explaining the conservative view on particular subjects.
09. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.
William Francis Buckley, Jr. (1925 – 2008) was an editor, author, political commentator, and television personality who was described by the historian, George H. Nash (1945 – ) as “arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half-century. For an entire generation, he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure.”
Armed with a Bachelor of Arts with honours in political science, economics, and history, and buttressed with a transatlantic accent, wide vocabulary, and a sophisticated wit, Buckley was the founder of National Review, a publication for conservative intelligentsia, and the host of Firing Line, a public affair show that aired from 1966 to 1999. Over the course of his career, Buckley wrote over forty books, including several spy thrillers. His column, On the Right, was published in more than three-hundred newspapers.
Buckley was a devout Catholic who frequently attended Latin Mass. He married Patricia Taylor in 1950 and had a son, Christopher Taylor Buckley.
08. DINESH D’SOUZA
Dinesh Joseph D’Souza (born 1961 in Mumbai, India) is a conservative policy analyst, public speaker, writer, filmmaker, political commentator, and Christian apologist.
While studying at Dartmouth College, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, D’Souza wrote for the Dartmouth Review, an independent newspaper financed by alumni of Dartmouth College. Following his graduation with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1983, he became the editor of the monthly journal, The Prospect – which was financed by Princeton University alumni. The journal would become controversial under D’Souza’s tutelage as it criticised, among other things, the University’s affirmative action policies.
Between 1985 and 1987, D’Souza worked as a contributing editor for Policy Review, a journal published by the Heritage Foundation. In an article entitled, The Bishops as Pawns, D’Souza opined that Catholic bishops were being used as pawns by the American left in an attempt to manipulate the public into opposing the use of American power abroad and the build-up of the US military.
D’Souza was made a national fellow at the Hoover Institute from 1998 to 2000 where had expertise in affirmative action, American cultural and principles, civil rights, education, political sociology, and American culture and values.
In 2010, D’Souza was made the President of The King’s College in New York. That same year he published The Roots of Obama’s Rage, it was later described as the best book of the year and formed the basis of the 2016 documentary, Obama’s America.
07. DAVID HOROWITZ
David Joel Horowitz (born 1939 in Queens, New York) is a conservative writer and intellectual. He graduated from Columbia University in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and subsequently earnt a master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He is married with four children.
Horowitz is the founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the founder of Students for Academic Freedom – an organisation dedicated to battling left-wing indoctrination and political correctness in higher education, the director of Discover the Networks – a website that keeps track of the connections between various left-wing groups and individuals, and the editor of FrontPage Magazine.
06. DOUGLAS MURRAY
Douglas Kear Murray (born 1979 in London, England) is a journalist, political commentator, and the author of five books, including: Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas (2000), Neoconservatism: Why We Need It (2005), Bloody Sunday: Truth, Lies, and the Saville Inquiry (2011), Islamophobia: A Very Metropolitan Malady (2013)), and The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (2017). Murray is the associate editor of The Spectator.
As a journalist, Murray has written form Standpoint, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian on a wide variety of topics, including UK and US foreign policy, the Middle East (specifically Iran and Israel), national security, national defence, multiculturalism, Northern Ireland, Islam, domestic radicalisation, and terrorism. He has appeared on the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Question Time, News Night, Fox News, and Sky News. He is also a frequent debater at both the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union.
Murray is the founder of the Centre for Social Cohesion, and is the associate director of the Henry Jackson Society. He has described multiculturalism as “the idea that Governments should bend over backwards to accommodate migrants”, dismisses the term ‘Islamophobia’, and has warned of a “creed of Islamic fascism – a malignant fundamentalism, woken from the dark ages to assault us now.”
05. MARK STEYN
Mark Steyn (born 1959 in Toronto, Canada) is a journalist, political commentator, author, and human right’s campaigner who has been described by the Boston Phoenix as “the most toxic right-wing pundit you’ve ever heard.”
Steyn is the author of three books: America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (2006), After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (2011), and Climate Change: The Facts (2015. As a journalist, Steyn publishes his ‘Steynposts’ – his commentary on current affairs – Monday through Friday. He has been published in The Daily Telegraph, National Post, The Australian, The Irish Times, The Jerusalem Post, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.
Steyn hosted The Mark Steyn Show for two months before it was cancelled. He has been a regular guest on the Rush Limbaugh Program, The Sean Hannity Show, The John Oakley Show, and is a frequent guest-host on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
As a human right’s campaigner, Steyn is committed the protection of free speech and has been instrumental in the repeal of Canada’s section thirteen hate speech laws. He has spoken to the Canadian parliament, Australian parliament (where he was introduced by Julia Bishop), and the Danish parliament. He is married with three children.
04. ANDREW BREITBART
Many commentators have credited Breitbart changing the way people wrote about politics. He founded Breitbart in 2005, followed by Big Government, Big Hollywood, and Big Journalism.
Breitbart’s online campaigns made him a hero of the right. Breitbart was famous for using undercover videos to illustrate his point. He played a central role in the ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy, was central to the firing of the Georgian State Director of Rural Development, Shirley Sherrod (1948 – ), and was instrumental in the downfall of the Democratic congressman, Anthony Weiner (1964 – ). He left behind four children.
03. PETER HITCHENS
Peter Jonathan Hitchens (born 1951 in Silema, Malta) is a journalist, political commentator, Christian apologist (in stark contrast to his brother, the atheist Christopher Hitchens), and the author of several books: The Abolition of Britain (1999), Monday Morning Blues (2000), A Brief History of Crime (2003), The Broken Compass (2009), The Rage of Against God (2010), The War We Never Fought (2012), and Short Breaks in Mordor (2014).
Hitchens served as a foreign correspondent in Moscow and Washington. He has worked as a reporter on education and industrial and labour affairs, then as a political reporter, and finally as deputy political editor for The Daily Express. He left the Daily Express in 2000 and currently writes for the Mail on Sunday. Hitchens was awarded the Orwell Prize in 2010.
Hitchens is a proud Christian and a social conservative who has described himself as an Anglican, social democrat, and Burkean Conservative. He has been critical of both the Labour Party and the Conservative party, is a supporter of traditional, Christian morals, and advocates a society ruled by personal conscience and the rule of law. He is married with three children.
02. MILO YIANNOPOULOS
Milo Yiannopoulos (born 1984 in Kent, England) is a journalist, author, political commentator, public speaker, and publisher. After failing to gain a degree from either the University of Manchester of Cambridge University, Yiannopoulos began his career in journalism when he gained a position at The Catholic Herald.
Yiannopoulos first came to prominence reporting on the Gamergate controversy. He fought against the politicisation of video games and described those who wished to politicise video game culture as “sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners, abetted by achingly politically correct American tech bloggers.”
Yiannopoulos has been described as a cross between a pit-bull and Oscar Wilde. A vehement anti-feminist and critic of Islam, he holds no punches when it comes to attacking and ridiculing his opponents. All are targets for his ire and ridicule.
Yiannopoulos has been described by his enemies as a white supremacist and a member of the alt-right. Labels that he rejects. In reality, he is a contrarian, a fly in the ointment that has made name for itself as a professional troll and talented provocateur.
01. BEN SHAPIRO
Benjamin Aaron Shapiro (born 1984 in Los Angeles, California) is a political commentator, columnist, the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Truth Revolt, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, and a New York Times best-selling author. Among the books he has written have been: Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004), Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future (2005), Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House (2008), Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV (2011), Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America (2013), The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration (2014), A Moral Universe Torn Apart (2014), What’s Fair and Other Short Stories (2015), and True Allegiance (2016).
Shapiro began his career writing for The Daily Bruin, the student paper of the University of California at Los Angeles. He was suspended from The Daily Bruin after he complained on radio talk shows that the paper had refused to publish an article he had written accusing Muslim student groups of supporting terrorism. By the time he was seventeen, Shapiro had become the youngest nationally syndicated journalist (he was so young, in fact, that his parents had to sign his contract on his behalf).
Ben “facts don’t care about your feelings” Shapiro has become one of the most prominent voices of the millennial conservative movement. Holding no punches, Shapiro possesses a remarkable ability to demolish left-wing arguments with a lawyer’s precision and debater’s skill. He is a pro-life, anti-Black Lives Matter, and supports reductions in taxes on the rich, the privatisation of social security, and the repeal of Obamacare.
Shapiro is a frequent speaker on US college campuses and is a regular commentator on television and radio, including The O’Reilly Factor, The Lars Larson Show, Fox and Friends, The Dennis Prager Show, and more. Shapiro’s daily podcast, The Ben Shapiro Show was named the second-most popular I-Tunes podcast in the US after Oprah Winfrey. It is available on I-Tunes.
Ben Shapiro holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Juris Doctor from Harvard University. He is an Orthodox Jew and is married with two children.
There has been an alarming trend in modern culture: numerous political and social activist groups have been attempting to use the pernicious and false doctrines of political correctness, tolerance, and diversity to silence those they disagree with. Many of these groups have sought the passage of so-called “hate speech” laws designed to silence voices of dissent.
At public colleges and universities, places where free speech and open debate should be actively encouraged, measures – including protests, disruption, and, in some cases, outright violence – taken to suppress voices of dissent has become tantamount to Government censorship. This censorship prevents students from inviting the speakers they wish to hear and debate speech they disagree with. Eva Fourakis, the editor-in-chief of The Williams Record (the student newspaper of Williams College) wrote an editorial, later recanted, commenting that “some speech is too harmful to invite to campus.” The editorial went on to say: “students should not face restrictions in terms of the speakers they bring to campus, provided of course that these speakers do not participate in legally recognised forms of hate speech.”
The University of California, Berkeley, is famous for sparking the free speech movement of the 1960s. Today, however, it has become a haven for radical, anti-free speech Neo-Marxists and social justice warriors. Not only have many Republican students had their personal property destroyed, but numerous conservative speakers have had their talks disturbed, and, in some cases, halted altogether. In February, Antifa – so-called anti-fascists – set fires and vandalised building during a speech by the controversial journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos (1984 – ). In April, threats of violence aimed at members of the Young Americas Foundation forced political commentator, Ann Coulter (1961 – ), to cancel her speech. A speech by David Horowitz (1939 – ), founder and president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, was cancelled after organisers discovered that the event would take place during normal class times (for safety, or so they claimed). Finally, the conservative journalist, Ben Shapiro (1984 – ), was forced to spend US$600,000 on security for his speech at UC Berkeley. These events show that those who wish to use disruption, vilification, threats, and outright violence to silence others can be, and often are, successful in doing so.
Like most the principles of classical liberalism, free speech developed through centuries of political, legal, and philosophical progress. And like many Western ideas, its development can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. During his trial in Athens in 399BC, Socrates (470BC – 399BC) expressed the belief that the ability to speak was man’s most divine gift. “If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind”, Socrates stated, “I should say to you, ‘Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you.”
Sixteen hundred years later, in 1215, the Magna Carta became the founding document of English liberty. In 1516, Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) wrote in the Education of a Christian Prince that “in a free state, tongues too should be free.” In 1633, the astronomist Galileo Galilei was put on trial by the Catholic Church for refusing to retract his claim of a heliocentric solar system. In 1644, the poet, John Milton (1608 – 1674), author of Paradise Lost, warned in Areopagictica that “he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.” Following the usurpation of King James II (1633 – 1701) by William III (1650 – 1702) and Mary II (1662 – 1694) in 1688, the English Parliament passed the English Bill of Rights which guaranteed free elections, regular parliaments, and freedom of speech in Parliament.
In 1789, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, an important document of the French revolution, provided for freedom of speech (needless to say, Robespierre and company were not very good at actually promoting this ideal). That same year, the philosopher Voltaire (1694 – 1778) famously wrote: “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” Over in the United States, in 1791, the first amendment of the US Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble:
ARTICLE [I] (AMENDMENT 1 – FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
During the 19th century, the British philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) argued for toleration and individuality in his 1859 essay, On Liberty. “If any opinion is compelled to silence”, Mill warned, “that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to presume our own infallibility.” Mill believed that all doctrines, no matter how immoral or offensive, ought to be given public exposure. He stated in On Liberty:
“If the argument of the present chapter are of any validity, there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered.”
Elsewhere in On Liberty, Mill warned that the suppression of one voice was as immoral as the suppression of all voices:
“If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
Centuries later, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, accepted unilaterally by the United Nations, urged member states to promote civil, human, economic, social, and political rights – including freedom of expression and religion.
Within the American Justice System, numerous Supreme Court cases have created judicial protections for freedom of speech. In the case of the Nationalist Socialist Party of America v. Village of Stoke (1977), the Supreme Court upheld the right of neo-Nazis to march through a village with a large Jewish population and wear Nazi insignia. The Justices found that the promotion of religious hatred was not a sufficient reason to restrict free speech.
In the city of St. Paul during the early 1990s, a white teenager was arrested under the “Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance” after he burnt a cross made of a broken chair (cross-burning is commonly used by the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate African Americans) in the front yard of an African American family. The Court ruled that the city’s Ordinance was unconstitutional. Justice Antonin Scalia (1936 – 2016), noted that the purpose of restricting fighting words was to prevent civil unrest, not to ban the content or message of the speaker’s words. Scalia wrote in the case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992):
“The ordinance applies only to ‘fighting words’ that insult, or provoke violence, ‘on the basis of race, colour, creed, religion or gender.’ Displays containing abusive invective, no matter how vicious or severe, are permissible unless they are addressed to one of the specified disfavored topics. Those who wish to use ‘fighting words’ in connection with other ideas—to express hostility, for example, on the basis of political affiliation, union membership, or homosexuality—are not covered. The First Amendment does not permit St. Paul to impose special prohibitions on those speakers who express views on disfavored subjects.”
In the Matal v. Tam case (2017), the Supreme Court found that a provision within the Lanham Act prohibiting the registration of trademarks that disparaged persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols violated the First Amendment. Justice Samuel Alito (1950 – ) opined:
“[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy (1936 – ) opined:
“A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.”
In recent years, numerous calls to ban speech have been justified on the basis that it is “hateful.” Much of this has come from the political left who (in what one may cynically regard as having more to do with silencing voices of dissent than with protecting vulnerable groups) argue that restrictions on hate speech must occur if minorities are to be given equal status with everyone else.
That certain types of speech can be offensive, and that some of that speech may be aimed at certain groups of people, is undeniable. Hate speech has even been criticised for undermining democracy! In an article, Alexander Tsesis, Professor of Law at Loyola University, wrote: “hate speech is a threatening form of communication that is contrary to democratic principles.” Some have even argued that hate speech violates the fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution which guarantees equal protection under the law:
Article XIV (AMENDMENT 14 – RIGHTS GUARANTEED: PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES OF CITIZENSHIP, DUE PROCESS, AND EQUAL PROTECTION)
1: All persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That there is a historical basis for restricting hate speech is undeniable. Slavery, Jim Crow, and the Holocaust, among other atrocities, were all proceeded by violent and hateful rhetoric. (Indeed, incitement to genocide is considered a serious war crime and a serious crime against humanity under international law.) Genocide is almost always preceded by hate speech. However, what proponents of hate speech laws fail to realise is that the countries that perpetrated these atrocities did not extend the freedom to speak to the groups that they were targeting. Joseph Goebbels (1897 – 1945), the Nazi minister for public enlightenment and propaganda, for example, had such an iron grip on Germany’s media that any voice contradicting the Nazi’s anti-Semitic propaganda had no opportunity to be heard.
But who, exactly, supports hate speech laws? Analysis of survey data taken from Pew Research Center and YouGov reveals that it is primarily non-white, millennial democrats. In terms of age, the Pew Research Centre found that forty-percent of millennials supported Government censorship of hate speech, compared to twenty-seven percent of gen x-ers, twenty-four percent of baby-boomers, and only twelve percent of the silent generation.
In terms of race, research by YouGov reveals that sixty-two percent of African Americans support Government censorship of hate speech, followed by fifty percent of Hispanics, and thirty-six percent of White Americans.
In terms of political affiliation, research from YouGov taken in 2015 found that fifty-one percent of Democrats supported restrictions on hate speech, compared to thirty-seven percent of Republicans, and only thirty-five percent of independents.
The primary issue with hate speech is that determining what it does and does not constitute is very difficult. (The cynic may argue, fairly, that hate speech begins when the speaker expresses a view or states a fact or expresses an opinion that another person does not want others to hear.) As Christopher Hitchens (1949 – 2011) pointed out, the central problem with hate speech is that someone has to decide what it does and does not constitute.
The second issue with hate speech laws is that they can easily be used by one group to silence another. Often this kind of censorship is aimed at particular groups of individuals purely for ideological and/or political purposes, often with the justification that such actions increase the freedom and equality of the people the advocates claim to represent.
In Canada, Bill C-16 has sought to outlaw “hate propaganda” aimed at members of the community distinguishable by their gender identity or expression. The Bill originated with a policy paper by the Ontario Human Rights Commission which sought to determine what constituted discrimination against gender identity and expression. This included “refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun.” Supporters of Bill C-16 see it as an important step towards the creation of legal protections for historically marginalised groups. Detractors, however, have expressed concern that the Bill creates a precedence for Government mandated speech.
The Canadian clinical psychologist and cultural critic, Professor Jordan Peterson (1962 – ), first came to public attention when he posted a series of YouTube videos warning of the dangers of political correctness and criticising Bill C-16. In his videos, Professor Peterson warned that the law could be used to police speech and compel individuals to use ‘transgender pronouns’ (these are terms like ‘ze’ and ‘zer’, among others). For his trouble, Peterson has been accused of violence by a fellow panellist on the Agenda with Steve Palkin, received two warning letters from the University of Toronto in 2016, and was denied a social research grant from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Europe has been experiencing similar attempts to silence speech. A law passed in the Bundestag this year will force social media companies operating in Germany to delete racist or slanderous comments and posts within twenty-four hours or face a fine of up to €50 million if they fail to do so. Additionally, numerous public figures have found themselves charged with hate speech crimes for merely pointing out the relationship between the large influx of non-European migrants and high crime rates, particularly in terms of rape and terrorism. One politician in Sweden was prosecuted for daring to post immigrant crime statistics on Facebook.
In Great Britain, British Freedom of Information documents reveal that around twenty-thousand adults and two-thousand children had been investigated by the police for comments that made online. In politics, British MP, Paul Weston (1965 – ), found himself arrested after he quoted a passage on Islam written by Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965). In Scotland, a man was charged under the 2003 Communication’s Act with the improper use of electronic communications after he filmed his dog making a Hitler salute.
In Australia, Herald Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt (1959 – ), was found to have contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after he published articles accusing fair-skinned Aborigines of using their racial status for personal advantages. The law firm, Holding Redlich, speaking for a group of Aboriginal persons, demanded that the Herald Sun retract two Andrew Bolt articles, written in April and August of 2009, and restrain Bolt from writing similar articles in the future. Joel Zyngier, who acted for the group pro-bono, told Melbourne’s The Age:
“We see it as clarifying the issue of identity—who gets to say who is and who is not Aboriginal. Essentially, the articles by Bolt have challenged people’s identity. He’s basically arguing that the people he identified are white people pretending they’re black so they can access public benefits.”
Judge Morcedai Bromberg (1959 – ) found that the people targeted by Bolt’s articles were reasonably likely to have been “offended, insulted, humiliated, or intimidated.”
We need speech to be as free as possible because it is that which allows us to exchange and critique information. It through free speech that we are able to keep our politicians and public officials in check, that we are able to critique public policy, and that we are able to disseminate information. As the Canadian cognitive psychologist, Stephen Pinker (1954 – ), observed: “free speech is the only way to acquire knowledge about the world.” Measures taken to restrict free speech, whether it be the criminalization of hate speech or any other, is a complete contradiction of the principles that free Western democracies are founded upon.
Yet again, the extreme left has proven that they are incapable of tolerating the beliefs and opinions of those who do not agree with them.
In two separate incidents, members of the extreme left turned out to wreak havoc at what could have been peaceful events. On Sunday, members of Antifa, calling themselves the “security force” for progressives and cladding themselves from head to toe in black, resorted to mob violence against Trump supporters in an anti-racism rally in Berkley, California.
In the second case, members of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and Showing Up For Racial Justice organised various stunts to make law enforcement officials attending the Fraternal Order of Police national convention in Nashville, Tennesee, feel unwelcome. Banners were erected throughout Nashville with statements like “Fraternal Order of Police Protects Killer Cops.”
The group also held a demonstration entitled “Unwelcome the FOP” in downtown Nashville. Dixon Irene, an organiser with Showing Up For Racial Justice, commented that the Fraternal Order of Police “only existed to keep cops out of a system of accountability.”
Jo Freeman, a political scientist who had been part of the student movement that forced Berkeley to permit political speech in the 1960s, commented:
“It is not uncommon for societies to produce a hate squad. People who want to suppress the right to speak — they are everywhere.”
Other leftists, however, have not been so quick to condemn the Left’s actions. Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe has refused to condemn Antifa by name. Benny Johnson of the Independent Journal Review repeatedly asked McAullife to condemn Antifa for violence in Berkeley. McAuliffe stated:
I disavow anyone — we won’t tolerate violence of any kind. You’re entitled to protest. First amendment certainly protected. As I’ve said after Charlottesville, anyone who came to our state, anyone who committed violence, on any side, will be arrested. […] Everybody’s entitled to do their protest but were not going to accept violence from anybody.”
McAuliffe then went on to say:
“Here’s what I do as governor, I denounce any individual who commits a crime, who commits violence on our citizens. We will get you, and we will arrest you, plain and simple. I don’t care what the group is.”
It’s interesting how violence on the Right is condemned, but violence on the Left is ignored.
In a remarkable breach of personal liberty, Google has fired one of its engineers for circulating a manifesto critiquing the company’s diversity policies.
Danielle Brown, Google’s Vice-President for Diversity, Integrity, and Governance, condemned the views expressed in the manifesto in a statement issued to staff. Brown told staff:
“We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company. We’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”
The employee, James Damore, confirmed his dismissal (for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’) in an e-mail to Bloomberg. In his manifesto, Damore accused the tech giant of silencing conservative political opinions and claimed that the lack of women in technology could be explained by biological differences between men and women.