Thursday, March 28, 2024

Free speech in dock as US court ponders censorship reach

If the right to free speech diminishes in the US, it won’t last long in other liberal democracies.

This prospect is real after a hearing in the US Supreme Court last week, when the nine justices pondered whether to quash the federal government’s scope to put pressure on tech platforms to take down comments the government didn’t like. On behalf of their citizens and a handful of doctors and academics, Missouri and Louisiana had successfully sued the government in lower courts, arguing bureaucrats unconstitutionally had put pressure on tech platforms to censor criticism of pandemic lockdowns, masks, Covid-19 vaccines, election integrity and Hunter Biden’s laptop.

In his ruling, Louisiana Judge Terry Doughty called it “arguably the most massive attack against free speech in United States history”. A federal appeals court largely agreed, but the Biden administration, aware of the extraordinary implications, appealed it to the US Supreme Court.

“(We) cannot stress the degree to which this needs to be resolved immediately,” White House adviser Rob Flaherty told Twitter, now X, in February 2021, referring to a parody account mocking Joe Biden’s granddaughter.

When officials weren’t telling social media companies what to take down, they were laundering censorship through partnerships with universities, most prominently the Virality Project at Stanford. The justices’ line of questioning wasn’t reassuring for free-speech advocates.

“Before, I was fully confident that American courts were fully devoted to free speech; afterwards, I’m not so sure,” said Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya, one of the plaintiffs, whose 2021 roundtable discussion with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on damage caused by lockdowns was removed by YouTube.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, the US Supreme Court’s newest judge, said her “biggest concern is that your view has the first amendment hamstringing the government in significant ways”. As numerous legal scholars have pointed out, that is indeed the purpose of the first amendment of the US constitution – that congress, and by implication government, may not abridge free speech. There’s no exception for pandemics, safety, feelings or anything else.

Even some of the court’s conservative judges suggested the government’s actions were akin to the pressure political staffers routinely put on journalists to influence how they write stories.

Enthusiasm for free speech appears to be waning outside the court, too. The libertarian Cato Institute filed a brief that endorsed government meddling so long as it didn’t rise to “coercion”. That once venerable defender of free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union, which once defended the right of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, a Chicago suburb that was home to a large Jewish population, including thousands of Holocaust survivors, didn’t even bother to file a brief.

“If it stays on the persuasion side of the line – and all we’re talking about is government speech – then there’s no state action and there’s also no first amendment problem,” government lawyer Brian Fletcher said. He argued the government’s actions were akin to ministers using the “bully pulpit”, to influence public opinion.

What was occurring was systematic, clandestine, automatic removal of comments on social media, the sort of thing that occurs routinely on social media in China.

Journalists still can write what they want, but not so the thousands of individual citizens, most with far less power than mainstream media journalists, who in this case simply wanted to express their opinion in good faith.

The justices appeared to baulk at “coercion” of social media platforms, but perhaps not “significant encouragement”, a lower bar. But any instruction from the federal government has behind it the veiled threat of antitrust action or reform of section 230, part of US law that shields social media platforms from being sued over content their users post. These are hardly casual recommendations among friends.

Not that it should matter, given free speech entails the right to lie or be ignorant, but much of what was censored turned out to be true, whether it was the veracity of claims about Hunter Biden’s laptop or the potential for injury from “safe and effective” Covid-19 vac­cines. Indeed, last week The New York Times ran an article on the damage lockdowns and school closures caused to children’s development.And after a long legal battle, documents released in Germany last week, reported by London’s Daily Telegraph, showed public health experts there were privately aware lockdowns could cause more harm than good and that evidence masks would slow the Covid’s spread was non-existent.

Had individuals been able to criticise what in hindsight were misguided policies, without fear of censorship and opprobrium, damage could have been limited. Free speech is not only intrinsically desirable but also a critical tool to help scientists, bureaucrats and politicians reach the right answers.

If the Supreme Court decides in favour of the government when it hands down its decision in coming months, expect the growing censorship-industrial complex to flex its muscles further. In Australia, Britain, Canada and other liberal nations, new and pending legislation has strengthened governments’ hands for the next “crisis” that emerges. It’s as if authorities, humiliated for being so wrong throughout the pandemic, have doubled down on censorship rather than acknowledging fallibility.

For now, Elon Musk’s X, the largest social media platform for the exchange of ideas, remains a bulwark of free speech, regardless of what the court decides. But we can’t rely on one man, and one platform, to hold back the tide




Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The ‘disinformation’ warriors are all about suppressing any speech they dislike, even if it’s true

The “disinformation” warriors are out in full force to get the Supreme Court to reverse the landmark rulings that the Biden administration infringed on Americans’ constitutional rights by leaning on Big Tech to suppress content it disliked.

Mind you, while the “disinfo” zealots claim to fight falsehood, they mostly target speech they simply dislike, much of it perfectly true.

On Sunday, The New York Times jumped in, with a “news” article that fundamentally misled by painting concerns about this censorship as ginned up mainly by “Trump allies.”

Which is utterly nuts: The central journalistic work was done by lefties Matt Taibbi and Lee Fang and iconoclasts Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger; the Taibbi-Shellenberger testimony to Congress was based entirely on their investigations, not some Trumpie whispering in their ears.

Another confusion (one many justices seemed to share in Monday’s high-court oral argument) was a reckoning with just who the supposed “disinformation experts” are, and what their crusade is actually about.

In all but the tiniest sliver of cases, our would-be Ministers of Truth want to suppress not actual disinfo but opinions they don’t agree with and facts that are politically inconvenient for them.

On COVID, gender, Trump’s fake Russian collusion, and pretty much every other big news story of the past decade, the various nonprofits, executive-branch subagencies, and preening academics of our self-appointed “disinfo expert” class have been fighting against truth, not for it.

Take Nina Jankowicz, one of the key “experts” cited in the Times piece.

She’s a writer of Harry Potter fanfic songs whom the Biden White House picked to head up the “Disinformation Governance Board,” an Orwellian project within DHS scuttled thanks to public outrage once its mission — censorship, pure and simple — became known.

What qualifies her as an expert worthy of appointment as a powerful censor?

Hmmm, maybe it was her pushing of actual disinformation on Twitter, i.e. repeated suggestions that Hunter Biden’s 100% real laptop might somehow be a Russian intel campaign.

Or her saying — the horror! — that she shudders to think of “free speech absolutists” “taking over more platforms” (a nod to the Elon Musk/X acquisition)?

Jankowicz’s deranged views sum up the mindstate of disinfo warriors quite nicely: We get to decide what you see and hear, for your own good.

They were at work on this and abusing government power even in the Trump years before Biden took over.

This is not, as Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to think, about government giving feedback to social media companies.  

No: It’s about backdoor efforts to circumvent the First Amendment, using at least the threat of federal action to muscle these companies into suppressing the voices of ordinary citizens as well as academics like Jay Bhattacharya.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides, the fact remains that the crusade against “disinformation” is hyperpartisan politics at its ugliest, and utterly un-American.




Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Work on Hate Speech Law to Stop, NZ Government Announces

The New Zealand coalition government has put an end to work on hate speech laws started under Labour. Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith announced on X (formerly Twitter) that he had instructed the Law Commission to abandon the project.

This is despite a 12 percent rise in what NZ Police term “hate incidents” reported to them between 2022 and 2023, to 9,351. The majority were racial abuse (83 percent) followed by incidents targeting people’s sexual orientation (9.7 percent), and people of a certain faith (5.8 percent).

Of the racial incidents, more than a third were directed at people of Asian descent. People of colour were the victims in 8.9 percent of cases, and 7.2 percent were aimed at Māori.

The previous Labour government initially had an ambitious plan to deal with hate speech, but subsequently cut it back in the face of strong criticism from free speech advocates and a pledge from the National Party to repeal laws if it was elected.

The laws were part of the government’s response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Christchurch attacks, in which an Australian gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques.

Part of Labour’s problem was that it couldn’t agree on how the law would operate and what it would cover, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi contradicting each other about what was proposed.

While Ms. Ardern initially promised that political opinion would not be covered by the laws, when questioned in Parliament, she remarked that she would not rule it out, saying it would depend on consultation with the public.

When Kiri Allen took over as justice minister, she announced the law would be restricted to a change around incitement against religious groups, with other aspects referred to the Law Commission.

Then Prime Minister Chris Hipkins stepped in and said that even that provision would be postponed and referred to the Commission, allowing it “the opportunity to consider a difficult and highly contested area of law in totality.”

National’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First included a policy to stop the work on reforming the hate speech legislation.

However, as early as December 2022, Mr. Goldsmith had already committed a National-led government to stop any reforms.

“Hate speech legislation ... is not needed, and it will unnecessarily narrow free speech and expression in our country,” he said in 2023. “Proceeding with new hate speech legislation is a distraction from the more pressing issues that Ministry of Justice officials should be focused on. More speech and debate is the best response to speech that people disagree with—not bans and police investigations.”

Mr. Goldsmith’s decision is unlikely to prove popular among organisations representing minority groups.

When Labour referred its proposals to the Law Commission, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said it had “given way to often misinformed and opportunistic political debate.”

Meanwhile, Aliya Danzeisen, national coordinator of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, said “How many more people need to suffer from hate and for how long before our legislators will have the courage to do what is right? There is no more time or consideration needed.”

It received support, however, from coalition partner NZ First, which tweeted: “Freedom of speech is fundamental to any democracy. We’ve stopped work on Labour’s Hate Speech legislation, the vague and overreaching proposal by the previous government was careless legislating and we’ve stopped it in its tracks.”

The Free Speech Union also tweeted its support, saying “It is [already] illegal to incite violence. It was before March 15, and the hate speech laws had nothing to do with incitement to violence”, in response to a tweet from a journalist saying “... it will remain legal to incite violence against Muslims in New Zealand” as a result of Mr. Goldsmith’s decision.

It appears that Mr. Goldsmith’s action did not halt any progress—contrary to claims, the Law Commission had not initiated any work on the proposal.




Monday, March 25, 2024

Bill Maher rips government for shutting down ‘dissenting opinions’ about COVID pandemic

“Real Time” host Bill Maher ripped into the government, medical agencies and social media platforms for shutting down “dissenting opinions” on COVID-19 opinions Friday.

“As the years roll by now, we see that the dissenting opinions on a lot of these things were quite the right ones,” the HBO host told his guest, author and journalist Kara Swisher.

The conversation started when Maher brought up Murthy V. Missouri, a Supreme Court case that originated from a lawsuit filed by state attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana accusing government officials of colluding with social media companies to censor posts online.

These allegedly censored posts included statements about COVID-19 and Hunter Biden’s laptop, among other topics.

Swisher pushed back on Maher’s points, noting that it was a confusing time for everyone.

Maher said earlier in the interview that he “was always on the page during the pandemic that they should not be shutting down debate about medical matters.”

“I was a dissenter on many of these issues,” he said, before noting that there were valuable opinions that were silenced or discouraged at the height of the pandemic.

Facebook — now Meta — owner Mark Zuckerberg said last year that the “establishment… kind of waffled on a bunch of facts and asked for a bunch of things to be censored that, in retrospect, ended up being more debatable or true.”

The host continued, providing examples of where speech on the topic was discouraged.

“OK, but we should have been able to argue about whether it came from a lab, which we weren’t. Things like that,” he said.

“Natural immunity — whether it was better to go to the beach and get sun and fresh air, as I would have said, as opposed to sitting home and day-drinking and putting on weight.”

“They never mentioned that obesity was the biggest factor,” Maher continued.

“They have a lot to answer for.”

Swisher replied: “They do, but you’re in the middle of a plague and a debate that people don’t know, and so you’re going to… “

Maher cut her off: “Yes, so you should be able to debate it — this is medicine.”

“Yes you should,” Swisher responded.

“This is not ­— the moment was not — people make mistakes, and science says it makes mistakes.”

Maher explained more background about the lawsuit.

“There were two doctors, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff. They’re from Stanford and Harvard, and they said, ‘We were shut down. Not always fully, but there are ways to do that.’”

“They were saying that we’re going too far with school closures — again, I think, has been proved right. My question was always, ‘Why are your doctors more important than my doctors, the ones I want to listen to?'”

“And the social media companies were in the tank with the government,” Maher said.




Sunday, March 24, 2024

Laura's research revealed female academics are bullied into silence over their views on gender. Now, in the ultimate bitter irony, she's been silenced and ousted too

Earlier this month, Dr Laura Favaro popped into her office at Bournemouth University, where she lectures in social sciences, and was told she had some personal post.

Her heart sank: nervous that the handwritten envelopes might contain hate mail.

‘My first thought was “Oh no” but as I began to read, I realised they were lovely cards of support,’ says Laura, 42, who lives near the university with her partner and two young sons. ‘One woman said: “You’re brave and admirable and many women are outraged on your behalf.”

‘The other sent me a donation for my legal case. I was so touched. I tweeted about them, saying I will put them under my pillow and hopefully they will help me sleep better.’ Sleep is something Laura hasn’t had much of recently. Eighteen months ago, she became the latest female academic to be targeted by trans rights activists who demanded she be sacked from her then-job at City, University of London.

Among those responsible for the vicious online abuse were senior colleagues in higher education, including one female professor who had previously tweeted: ‘I have no qualms in silencing people who need to hush the f*** up. In fact, I’ve put the slog in to be able to do just that.’

Laura sought support against the bullying from the university but none was forthcoming and instead she felt ostracised. The university confiscated her post-doctorate work which had taken many months of painstaking research. Last March, she lost her job.  Her ‘crime’? Ironically, it was publishing research into the ‘gender wars’, which found that the silencing, discrimination and harassment of female academics was endemic in British universities.

Now Laura is taking City to an employment tribunal for claims including unfair dismissal, direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

The stress of the last year and a half has, at times, been unbearable.

‘I’d vomit with anxiety and wake up in the middle of the night drenched with sweat,’ she says. ‘I’d be sitting with my sons reading them a bedtime story and suddenly I’d feel tears streaming down my face and I’d be shaking. What I am most sad about is that I’ve lost so much precious time with my children.’

Like Professor Kathleen Stock, who was hounded from the University of Sussex, and Professor Jo Phoenix, who won her case against the Open University in January, Laura believes that her gender critical beliefs (that there are only two sexes — male and female) are at the root of why she was targeted.

‘I know that if I did believe in gender identity theory [the belief that men and women can ‘identify’ into the opposite sex], my career in academia would be thriving,’ she says. ‘But I don’t and so this is how they treat women like me.’

It was very different four years ago, when Laura — who was born in Spain — was offered the job of her dreams at City’s Gender and Sexualities Research Centre, which she had helped set up as a PhD student.

‘I haven’t known a life without feminism,’ she explains. ‘My mother was a teacher who had helped bring in anti-sexism approaches to education.’

The family spent time in the UK when Laura was younger and after leaving school she studied dance, then sociology, in Leeds.

But it was in 2015, as a fully-funded PhD student at City University, that she noticed ‘something strange’.

‘I was interviewing editors of women’s magazines who were telling me that these publications were feminist,’ she says. ‘To illustrate this, they would point to how much they were covering the topic of transgender, in particular men who identify as women like Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner).

‘It didn’t make sense to me. First, these men were being prioritised over women. Jenner even won Glamour’s Woman of The Year Award!

‘Also, all I could see were old stereotypes of womanhood — wearing dresses, make-up or heels — rather than the reality of our biology. I couldn’t find any feminism in this.  ‘I went to the academic literature and was surprised by the absence of critical discussion.

‘What was going on?’  With the support of City she put together an application for funding to study the transgender debate but was unsuccessful. Around this time she got pregnant with her first son and she and her partner — a former tennis player — returned to Spain.

But in 2019, by which time her second son had arrived, the university got back in touch to offer her a position to conduct her project.

‘It was a dream come true — I had been offered the chance to go back to an institution that had been so supportive of me during my PhD,’ says Laura. ‘Not only was I coming back to my intellectual home but also to friends.’

Laura returned to City in March 2020. She started her research but early on realised her line managers held views that seemed very pro gender identity ideology.

‘I remember showing them examples of abuse online towards gender critical women involving incitements to kill, decapitate, rape or punch them and my line managers would imply that the violence was on both sides,’ she says.

‘But the evidence didn’t show that. I went into this research with my eyes open and with a definite willingness to have my mind changed.’

Laura approached 50 academics in gender studies — from senior professors to early career researchers — to interview them about how ‘the gender wars’ had affected them. It became obvious to her that something incredibly disturbing was happening in higher education.

‘What struck me early on was the climate of fear,’ she says. ‘One professor described her working life as a feminist academic as a “continuum of hell”. More junior colleagues kept their “mouths shut” fearing their careers would not survive the “horrible backlash”.

‘Even those female academics who were in some agreement with the gender identity side described feeling depressed, alienated, and, most of all, “terrified”. They avoided the subject at all costs because they had seen how this had led to so many women being ostracised, harassed and threatened with violence.

‘Some were comparing the current situation at universities to “authoritarian regimes” and the “Thought Police”, and these well-respected scholars were stopping their gender-related research and teaching.’

She recalls one ‘exceptionally bright scholar’ crying as she told Laura: ‘I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t want to put my kids at risk. And I don’t have extreme views.’

Even some academics who supported gender ideology thanked Laura for the opportunity to have an ‘honest conversation’. These academics admitted to silencing gender critical colleagues and students.

Concerned by what she was finding, Laura decided to survey more than 600 academics — with funding from The British Academy — about the gender wars, working conditions and censorship at universities. Additionally, the Equality and Human Rights Commission asked her to produce a report of her findings.

‘But the more evidence I presented to my line managers at City, the more it seemed they didn’t want to interact with me,’ she recalls.

Was there ever a point she felt she should back off from such a controversial topic to save her own career? She shakes her head.  ‘I felt that I was recording something important, producing a record of a shameful historical moment, so I had to keep going,’ she says.

In September 2022 she published her findings in the Times Higher Education supplement under the headline: ‘Researchers wounded in academia’s gender wars.’

Inevitably there was a savage response on social media.

‘I was expecting a backlash — to be called transphobic,’ she says. ‘But the fact that the critics went for my integrity as a researcher was really painful. They called me “unethical”.

‘They accused me — again, falsely — of naming one of the anonymised participants, and lied about some of my methods.

‘One particularly hurtful tweet was saying that if I could do this to academics, imagine what I’d do to children.’

At this point Laura’s voice cracks and she breaks down in tears.

‘I was at home when this was happening all over Twitter [now called X] and I was horrified.

‘I hoped that my line managers at City would protect me. Instead, all I got was a brief email from them saying: “This has obviously become an institutionally sensitive issue and I’m sure we’ll be in touch over the next few days.”

‘That was it. I felt isolated and frightened. One work colleague who identifies as a transgender woman described my article on Twitter as “an attack on trans people”, and condemned City for allowing the research to take place. Others were demanding the retraction of my article, and of my research findings.

‘There were tweets calling for the end of my career. City investigated a formal complaint and found no evidence of ethical wrongdoing on my part.’

Amid the uproar, some of the academics who had contributed wanted to remove themselves from Laura’s research and the university attempted to persuade her to delete these interviews. ‘I pushed back, calling it Orwellian — you can’t allow people to withdraw from studies just because they don’t like the results — that would be the end of academia,’ she says, as the tears come again. ‘I was also put under pressure to return my British Academy grant.’

Laura was told by senior management that City considered her research data ‘dangerous’, and the university wanted to return her grant because it gave her ‘authority’. She says she was also told things would have been different if she believed that ‘trans women are women’.

It all took its toll: Laura was signed off sick twice with anxiety and depression.

‘It was incredibly stressful,’ she says. In March 2023, the university ordered Laura to return her interviews and survey, and to delete all her copies. A few days later, she was made redundant.

‘The university said there was no more funding for my research,’ she says. ‘But I had a permanent contract which said that, if this happened, then they would look for alternative employment for me. I offered to teach. But I was made redundant. I was very scared. We had no money.’

She adds: ‘Just weeks later, City advertised for six full-time positions within the same department.’

The Free Speech Union, which had been supporting Laura, introduced her to solicitor Peter Daly, who had helped Sex Matters founder Maya Forstater win her case after she lost her job with a think-tank for saying people could not change their biological sex.

With his help, Laura has regained access to part of her research data, and is preparing to take City to an Employment Tribunal on five counts, including the fact they failed to support her and victimised her because of her beliefs.

She has managed to raise £90,000 for her legal costs through crowdfunding but needs another £20,000. ‘The support means everything to me,’ she says.

City denies there is antipathy towards people with gender critical beliefs. Laura believes otherwise.

‘At one point all students and staff were called to “report directly to security” if they saw stickers on campus that were “designed to undermine trans people and their rights,”’ she says. ‘I asked what these so-called “hate stickers” were and they included stickers which simply had the words: “Woman: Adult Human Female” on them. Any student placing one of these stickers would be subjected to disciplinary procedures.

‘So, my case is not just about me stopping the persecution of women who have well-founded concerns about gender identity theory. It is about recovering universities as spaces of open, respectful and evidence-based debate.’

A spokesperson for City, University of London, said: ‘We are unable to comment on employment matters relating to individual members of staff. We can, however, say that we refute the allegations made against us and reject the context in which they are presented.’

They added: ‘At City, we have a legal obligation to protect freedom of expression that we take very seriously. We uphold academic freedom of enquiry in our education and research and are committed to ensuring that free and open-minded discussion can take place.’




Thursday, March 21, 2024

Free speech advocates around the world railed against a new Canadian law that could demand a life sentence for adults who violate speech laws on social media

Introduced last month, the Online Harms Act, or Bill C-63, would empower judges to imprison adults for life if they post views supportive of genocide. The bill would increase the maximum penalty for advocating genocide from five years to life imprisonment and from two years to five years, on indictment, for the willful promotion of hatred.

Advocates of the bill say it will make online platforms safer. However, critics called the law "totalitarian" and "Orwellian" for its crackdown on speech. The bill also allows a judge to impose house arrest and a fine if there are reasonable grounds to believe a defendant "will commit" an offense.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley deemed the measure the latest step in a progression of already harmful laws against free speech in Canada.

Legal scholar and Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley said Canada's Online Harms Act was another step the government has taken to criminalize speech  (Fox News)

"The proposed changes constitute a doubling down on Canada’s commitment to reducing free speech for citizens despite criticism from many in the civil liberties community," he wrote in a new column.

Justice Minister Arif Virani, who introduced the bill, argued that laws exist regulating the safety of toys kids play with but not the "screen that is in our children’s faces."

As a father, he said he was "terrified of the dangers that lurk on the internet for our children."

However, Turley argued the same reasons given to stifle speech in this bill could be expanded to apply in less extreme examples.

"It is not likely to end there. Today the rationale is genocide. However, once the new penalties are in place, a host of other groups will demand similar treatment for those with opposing views on their own causes.  This law already increased the penalties for anything deemed hateful speech," Turley added.

Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson also spoke out against the bill by warning that even liberals fear it will chill speech.

"If even the mother of the progressive feminists in Canada thinks that Bill C-63 is dangerous then perhaps the rest of us might think twice as well," he wrote, referring to criticism of the bill from "Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood.

Atwood previously blasted the measure as "Orwellian" and said it invited "possibilities for revenge false accusations and thoughtcrime stuff."

Conservative author Stephen Moore called the bill the "most shocking of all the totalitarian, illiberal, and anti-Enlightenment pieces of legislation that have been introduced in the Western world in decades."

A recent poll found a majority of Canadians, 70%, supported the government's plan to regulate online content, The National Post reported.

Only 41% of respondents said they believed the legislation would create safer online platforms and just 10% of those polled said they "completely trust" the government to do the job while protecting free speech rights.




Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Anti-Semitic remarks are odious, but using the law to silence them is downright dangerous

In August 2016, Bill Leak drew a famously controversial cartoon depicting the family squalor facing some Indigenous children in the Northern Territory. After the confronting reporting about Alice Springs by Liam Mendes this week, there are many reasons to revisit Leak’s powerful pictorial commentary about the relationship between Indigenous family dysfunction and high rates of juvenile crime and incarceration.

Not least of these reasons is recalling what happened after the publication of Leak’s cartoon. Race commissioner Tim Soutphommasane told Indigenous people that if they felt racially insulted, offended, humiliated or intimidated, they could lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

After a complaint was duly lodged, the AHRC wanted to know Leak’s motives for drawing the cartoon. Leak refused to bow to government-appointed thought police.

Some months later, then president of the AHRC, Gillian Triggs, said the whole thing might have gone away if only Leak had told the commission he drew the cartoon in good faith.

It was passing strange that a “human rights” president didn’t understand that it is a dark day when people paid by the government demand to know what’s going on in your head when you’re exercising your right to free speech.

In any case, the university-educated commissars at the AHRC need only have looked at the cartoon to understand what Leak was thinking. It was plain as day.

In November that year, the woman who lodged the complaint withdrew it.

Before he died in March 2017, Leak took aim at his critics, describing them as toddlers suffering from “Chronic Truth Aversion Disorder” when all he was doing was trying to tell the uncomfortable truth.

Alas, the AHRC would go on to prove, in subsequent 18C complaints, that when it comes to free speech, the most fundamental of human rights, the commission is worse than useless. It is dangerous. Instead of throwing out an unmeritorious complaint, the AHRC’s flawed processes punished a couple of QUT students for posting this ironic remark about an Indigenous-only computer lab: “QUT stopping segregation with segregation.”

This week, Liberal MP Julian Leeser accused the AHRC of being entirely useless in denouncing the rise of anti-Semitism in Australia. He is right. Current commission president Rosalind Croucher could surely find some time to give a public address at a university, perhaps publish a few op-eds in The Guardian, and appear on the ABC’s Q+A to convince a few open-minded people on the left that anti-Semitism is wrong.

But what more should the commission do? Personally, I prefer my overpaid bureaucrats to be useless, if the alternative is dangerous.

The commission would indeed become worse than useless if it were, once again, to be seen to encourage use of 18C to make complaints about anti-Semitic comments that might – to use the language of the section – offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because of their race or ethnicity.

To be sure, one can understand why fears among Australian Jews about the surge in anti-Semitism in this country may, even without encouragement from the AHRC, lead them to use 18C as a weapon of last resort. But 18C is a fundamentally bad law and should be repealed – until it is, Jews might as well use it to the fullest.

Plenty of people, including me, have argued that 18C is an unreasonable infringement on our right to speak freely. If the right to speak freely applies only to words that provide comfort, words that one agrees with, it is meaningless. Free speech is the machinery that underpins our democracy because it empowers people to say things that are uncomfortable, to say things that buck the orthodoxy, to say things that some will find offensive, to say things that may not even be true.

Australia’s legal and cultural failures on free speech are twofold. First, we have laws to punish those who incite violence, but law enforcement agencies don’t use these laws. Second, many of our institutions promote a system of competitive victimhood, where people vying for victimhood status are infantilised by a bevy of laws and social diktats about what can and cannot be said.

When extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Ismail al-Wahwah called for a “jihad against Jews” during a sermon to Lakemba mosque in 2015, it was surely worth testing to see if those odious remarks amounted to incitement to violence. But nothing happened.

Fast forward to 2024. While these laws remain unenforced, extremists, including anti-Semites, continue to incite violence against Jews after the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks.

The AHRC would be of far more service to the country telling us that the focus in a free society should be on enforcing laws that prohibit words that incite violence, not on laws that allows a person to silence another because their feelings have been hurt.

Instead, the commission is strangely quiet on both fronts.

It’s strange because in December 2015 the Australian Law Reform Commission said this about s18C in its report on the encroachment of our traditional rights and freedoms: “... s18C of the RDA would benefit from more thorough review in relation to implications for freedom of speech. In particular, there are arguments that s18C lacks sufficient precision and clarity, and unjustifiably interferes with freedom of speech … the provision is broader than is required under international law, broader than similar laws in other jurisdictions, and may be susceptible to constitutional challenge.”

Croucher was president of the ALRC at that time.

Last week, constitutional professor Anne Twomey explored the constitutional validity of 18C, particularly whether there is a constitutional head of power to support it. In one of her regular YouTube legal tutorials, Toomey says it is possible that the High Court may find that section 18C goes much further than Australia’s international treaty obligations, and therefore infringes our fundamental right to free speech.

Legal academics Lorraine Finlay, Joshua Forrester and Augusto Zimmermann have written extensively on why section 18C is unconstitutional. The law, they say, lacks a legitimate head of power in the Constitution to support it, and separately infringes the implied freedom of political communication.

Finlay is now the Human Rights Commissioner.

It’s high time the AHRC shared its views about these major legal uncertainties – especially at a time when 18C may be invoked to shut down speech that is alleged to be anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism is a moral evil. It preys on Jews who remember only too well when vicious forms of anti-Semitism in the 1930s turned into violent pogroms, Kristallnacht, trains to death camps, and the Holocaust. Anti-Semitic remarks that incite violence should be prosecuted. But not every anti-Semitic statement reaches the threshold of inciting violence.

If anti-Semitism falls short of statements that incite violence, then it should be left to us – and the AHRC – to condemn those statements, rather than allowing 18C to become the weapon of choice to punish and silence offensive and ignorant statements.

Why is the AHRC so quiet about 18C? This otherwise noisy body has not been shy in sharing its views on other legal matters, including its proposal for a Human Rights Act. But it won’t surprise you to hear that the commission appears more concerned about suggesting a new batch of laws that would increase its powers and reach, than even investigating reforms to section 18C that would boost our rights to free speech – and necessarily curtail the reach of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

For now, we should thank Pauline Hanson that these important legal questions about 18C are being raised at all. Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi is suing Hanson under 18C claiming she was offended when Hanson tweeted that she should “piss off back to Pakistan”. Hanson’s tweet was in response to a tweet by Faruqi in September 2022, in which the Greens senator said she would not mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II because the Queen was the leader of a “racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples”.

For purely selfish reasons, when one looks at a sample of Faruqi’s nutty opinions, she should be defending free speech, rather than running off to the AHRC complaining that she is offended by something Hanson has said. Faruqi’s comment, for example, that our federal government supports “Israel’s genocide” is deeply offensive and ignorant.

And so were Faruqi’s comments last year that Australia was a “criminal” nation, responsible by its inaction on climate change, for the floods last year in Pakistan.

Hanson’s comment may well have offended Faruqi. And so what? X, formerly Twitter, is a cesspool. Get a life. Move on.

That said, Faruqi’s claim to be a victim has enabled Hanson to carry out an important public service by asking the courts to tell us whether 18C is constitutional.

Even if 18C is constitutional, the next question for us is: is 18C an appropriate law for a democracy where some debates will inevitably cause offence to some people?

At a time of increasing tensions and passions, with growing claims of anti-Semitism and deep concerns about civilian deaths in Gaza, some people will express views that are uncomfortable, often offensive, even anti-Semitic.

In a healthy democracy, we should go head to head with these views, robustly debating difficult questions and offensive opinions. What, for example, is anti-Semitism? Is the phrase being used too loosely in an effort to curtail free speech? When we say that Hamas must be destroyed, the pertinent question surely is, at what cost?

Only this messy, noisy, and magnificently liberal process will allow us to ask hard questions, test our own views, hear a range of views, settle on the most sensible ones, and confidently toss aside the offensive and dumb ones.

What’s not to love about a free society that encourages people to be robust, to think for themselves and, where appropriate, to use public shame as a weapon rather than playing the victim by using a legal sledgehammer to silence people who may make hurtful, even anti-Semitic, statements.

To paraphrase Twomey, when we hear someone make a disgracefully racial or religious or even anti-Semitic slur, rather than being incited to racial, religious or anti-Semitic hatred, it is just as likely, or probably even more likely, that we will be disgusted by their conduct.




Tuesday, March 19, 2024

‘Long Covid’ should be scrapped over fears its ‘probably harmful’: QLD chief health officer

One of the nation’s top health authorities is calling for the term “long Covid” to be scrapped as new research suggests it is no more “sinister” than the long-term effects of the flu.

Long Covid emerged as a term during the heart of the pandemic when it was determined a small minority of people experienced long-lasting symptoms for a number of months after recovering from the initial viral infection.

However, new Queensland Health research suggests the term could be creating “unnecessary fear”.

The state’s chief health officer John Gerrard said a study of more than 5000 Australians found the lasting effects of infection from seasonal flu and other respiratory illnesses were experienced at the same rate as those who were infected with Covid.

“It causes unnecessary fear. It implies that there is something particularly sinister and ominous about Covid-19,” he said in a statement released by the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) on Friday.

“Our evidence suggests that there isn’t, that it is not dissimilar to other viruses. That does not mean that you can’t get these persistent symptoms following Covid-19, but you’re no more likely to get it after Covid than with other respiratory viruses.”

Overall, 16 per cent of all respondents reported ongoing symptoms a year later, and 3.6 per cent reported moderate-to-severe functional impairment in their daily life activities.

The study’s results will presented on April 30 at the ECCMID conference in Barcelona.

Dr Gerrard said this does not mean the long Covid effects weren’t real or debilitating, with people reporting fatigue, brain fog and changes to taste and smell a year after their infection.

The findings add to previous Queensland Health research that found no difference in ongoing symptoms and functional impairment when Covid-19 was compared with influenza 12 weeks after infection.

Rates of long Covid in Australia are low due to high vaccination rates upon the easing of Covid restrictions and the population’s subsequent exposure to the Omicron variant.

The authors also point to several limitations of their research, including the risk of long Covid being lower during the Omicron wave and because 90 per cent of people in Queensland were vaccinated when Omicron emerged.




Monday, March 18, 2024

Australian conservatives' push to make promoting crime online an offence, with powers to take down violent content

By general agreement, incitement to violence has always been subject to censorship and prosecution so this in not a far-out proposal but the devil is in the detail.  The laws against it in various jurisdictions try to define what it is and set boundaries to it but prosecutions under such laws have been difficult and there are controversial cases

The problem is particularly great when it comes to religion. The Bible in Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination and orders offenders to be killed.  A court in Finland is prosecuting a Christian woman over that text at the moment.  And many Muslims justify calls for aggression against Jews on words in the Koran.  So laws meant to punish ordinary criminals could ensnare religious true believers

So I think Peter Dutton is walking into a quagmire if he is serious about this.  Very tight definitions might protect people against any abuses of such laws but tight definitions  would probably also make convictions difficult.

Australia has long had laws against "hate speech" but even attempts to enforce them have been rare.  Judge Mordechai Bromberg's absurd conviction of Andrew Bolt under section 18C of the RDA in a race-related prosecution seems to have chilled all further urge to action.  As Bromberg is Jewish, everybody wants to walk away from the potential complexities of the matter

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called for powers to take down harmful online content to be extended to social media posts "glamorising" violence and criminal activity, with new offences to punish those who "post and boast".

The Coalition will introduce a private members bill into parliament next week that would grant the eSafety commissioner powers to issue take-down orders and criminalise the act of promoting crime online.

The bill would create a new Commonwealth offence to criminalise posting material that depicts violence, drug offences or property offences to increase a person's notoriety, punishable by up to two years' imprisonment.

It would also provide sentencing options to ensure courts could prohibit individuals convicted of that offence from using social media for up to two years.

The commissioner's current take-down powers only allow posts to be removed with the cooperation of the hosting social media company.

Mr Dutton said the offences were a "common sense" proposal that he urged the government to support.

"I hope that the government is able to pick it up quickly because I think Australians want an answer from the prime minister about what we can do at a federal level," Mr Dutton said.

"When I was a policeman many years ago you'd go to a break-and-enter, largely it was someone breaking in to steal goods or money to fuel a drug habit.

"Today we know cars are being stolen and people's houses are broken into ... because kids if they're part of a gang or if they're part of a culture where they can post an image of a motor vehicle ... or a designer handbag, or if they're standing in a bedroom with an elderly lady asleep or cowering behind them, that brings them great kudos online, and it gives them notoriety, and it glamorises their crime."

Renewed calls to turn the tide on youth crime

Dubbed a "wicked" problem with the power to shape elections, youth advocates fear punitive measures will fail to address the underlying causes of crime.

The Coalition has campaigned on issues of crime in recent weeks, both ahead of the Dunkley by-election in Victoria and the Queensland state election due to be held in October.

Monthly crime data shows there has been a long-term trend downwards of crime in Queensland and fewer young offenders as a percentage of all offenders, however assaults, rape and shop thefts have risen since 2003.

Crime rates also appear to have returned to trend after dropping off during the COVID pandemic.

Some states have already moved to ban criminal "posting and boasting", with New South Wales announcing earlier this week it would create new penalties for people who shared vehicle thefts or break-and-enter offences, and make it tougher for young people to get bail.

University of Queensland Associate Professor Renee Zahnow said "posting and boasting" laws already existed in Queensland, but they had been difficult to enforce.

Dr Zahnow also said posting crimes was an issue beyond content that promotes those acts, and that governments should also be thinking about crimes posted out of community safety concerns, as well as crimes that identify victims.

"The government and police pick up on the posting and boasting because that's the most offensive to the public. But the other thing we need to start to think about is more broadly not just when people are putting up their own offences and boasting about it, but they can still get the same infamy from other people putting up posts on them committing offences," Dr Zahnow said.

"[And] If the victim is involved they are automatically identified."

Dr Zahnow said if the eSafety commissioner were granted takedown powers, those could also extend to powers to pull content that identifies victims of crime.

But she noted even though there were benefits to "posting and boasting" laws, they would do little to actually reduce youth offending.

"They're not going to stop crime rates. Young people who are doing this stuff don't care. You don't steal a car and put your video online of you doing it, and then think, 'Oh someone is going to charge me for putting it online.'

"[however] we might not see changes now ... and it's very hard to measure, but the benefit might be that we don't see other young people do these offences later, maybe the young brother, or the young kid who lives down the street."




Sunday, March 17, 2024

Must not be skeptical about the Holocaust

The lamebrains of the Left seem blind to the fact that prosecuting skepicism about the holocaust cretes the impression that it is really a false story.  Why get so heavy about it if it is truth?

As recent upsurges of vocal antisemitism over Palestine have shown, suspicion of Jews is still widespread in Europe so this conviction will simply reinforce antisemitic ideas, not reduce them.  Trying to shut someone up creates the impression that they have something important to say

A court in Belgium sentenced prominent far-right activist Dries Van Langenhove to a year in prison on Tuesday for running an organization that a judge said spread “racist, hateful, Nazi and negationist speech,” in a major ruling on how the nation deals with extremism.

Five members of the extremist group that Van Langenhove led received suspended sentences, including two who work for the far-right Flemish Interest party, which is slated to make big gains in June elections.

Tom Van Grieken, the leader of the Flemish Interest party, said the ruling was proof that “Belgian justice is rotten to the core” and called the proceedings “a political trial from day one.”

They were accused of using a chat group to exchange racist, antisemitic and other extremist comments. Van Langenhove, a former Belgian parliamentarian, also had some of his civil rights suspended for a decade, making him ineligible for office.

Investigative journalists from the VRT public broadcaster were at the heart of the case as their 2018 documentary on Van Langenhove's Shield and Friends group highlighted its public and private militaristic and extremist activities.

"The defendant raved about Nazi ideology, which has caused and continues to cause untold suffering to countless people. The file showed that he wants to undermine democratic society and replace it with a social model of white supremacy,” said Judge Jan Van den Berghe.

The chats on the Shield and Friends site included the most macabre jokes and memes on anything from famine in Africa to Holocaust concentration camps.

Van Langenhove, 30, said he did not commit any crimes.

“A years-long investigation, on which the Justice Department wasted millions of euros of taxpayers’ money, shows that the ... activists cannot be charged with anything other than some memes. Humor. Memes that I didn’t even post myself,” he said in a reaction.

Some of the parties in the case lodged complaints following the VRT documentary.

“The ridiculing of gas chambers, of incinerators, that was so over the top for me that I spontaneously lodged a complaint,” said Henri Heimans, a former magistrate whose parents survived the Nazi death camps. “Then, of course, I unwittingly ended up in a procedural battle that lasted for years.”

Van Langenhove was not at the court in Ghent, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Brussels, but his lawyer said he would appeal the ruling, which automatically suspends his imprisonment. He was also fined 16,000 euros ($17,470).

Right-wing extremism, racism and antisemitism has been on the rise through much of Europe, and far-right political parties have made big inroads in many European Union nations over the past few years. They're set to be a key issue at the June 6-9 EU elections.




Thursday, March 14, 2024

US lawmakers say TikTok won’t be banned if it finds a new owner — but that’s easier said than done

US lawmakers are threatening to ban TikTok but also say they are giving its Chinese parent company a chance to keep it running.

The premise of a bipartisan bill headed for a vote in the US House of Representatives is that TikTok fans in the US can keep scrolling through their favorite social media app so long as Beijing-based ByteDance gives up on owning it.

“It doesn’t have to be this painful for ByteDance,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat and bill co-sponsor, recently posted on X. “They could make it a lot easier on themselves by simply divesting @tiktok_us. It’s their choice.”

But it’s not going to be as simple as lawmakers are making it sound, according to experts.

While some people have voiced an interest in buying TikTok’s US business — among them “Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary — there are a number of challenges including a 6-month deadline to get it done.

“Somebody would have to actually be ready to shell out the large amount of money that this product and system is worth,” said Stanford University researcher Graham Webster, who studies Chinese technology policy and US-China relations. “But even if somebody has deep enough pockets and is ready to go into negotiating to purchase, this sort of matchmaking on acquisitions is not quick.”

Big tech companies could afford it but would likely face intense scrutiny from antitrust regulators in both the US and China.

Then again, if the bill actually becomes law and survives First Amendment court challenges, it could make TikTok cheaper to buy.

“One of the main effects of the legislation would be to decrease the sale price,” said Matt Perault, director of the University of North Carolina’s Center on Technology Policy, which gets funding from TikTok and other tech companies. “As you approach that 180-day clock, the pressure on the company to sell or risk being banned entirely would be high, which would mean probably the acquirers could get it at a lower price.”

That could only happen if the US president determines “through an interagency process” that TikTok is “no longer being controlled by a foreign adversary,” according to the bill.

Not only that, but the new US-based TikTok would have to completely cut ties with ByteDance.

That includes no more “cooperation with respect to the operation of a content recommendation algorithm or an agreement with respect to data sharing.”

It reflects longstanding concerns that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over data on the 170 million Americans who use TikTok.

The worry stems from a set of Chinese national security laws that compel organizations to assist with intelligence gathering.

It’s an unusual bill in the way that it targets a single company.

Typically, a government group led by the Treasury secretary called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, will review whether such a sale would pose any national security threats.


Yes. The Trump administration brokered a deal in 2020 that would have had US corporations Oracle and Walmart take a large stake in TikTok on national security grounds.

The deal would have also made Oracle responsible for hosting all TikTok’s US user data and securing computer systems to ensure national security requirements are satisfied.

Microsoft also made a failed bid for TikTok that its CEO Satya Nadella later described as the “strangest thing I’ve ever worked on.”

Instead of congressional action, the 2020 arrangement was in response to then-President Donald Trump’s series of executive actions targeting TikTok.

But the sale never went through for a number of reasons. Trump’s executive orders got held up in court as the 2020 presidential election loomed. China also had imposed stricter export controls on its technology providers.

Incoming President Joe Biden in 2021 reversed course and dropped the legal proceedings. Now Biden says he’s in favor a bill that would ban TikTok if ByteDance won’t divest, and Trump is not.




Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The dangers of banning ‘Islamophobia’

The definition of Islamophobia, put forward by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims in 2018, has now been adopted by one in seven local authorities in England. It is likely to be taken up by more, particularly if the Labour Party wins the next General Election (Labour has itself adopted the definition for internal party matters). This is all happening despite the UK government’s refusal to adopt the definition, which it describes as ‘not fit for purpose’.

The APPG definition is as follows: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.’

The problem with such a broad definition is that it can be invoked to shut down legitimate criticism of Islam as a religion, not just unacceptable prejudice towards Muslim people. Indeed, the authors of the APPG report dismissed the ‘the supposed right to criticise Islam’ as ‘nothing more than another subtle form of anti-Muslim racism’. In this way, a well-meaning effort to protect Muslim people from abuse ends stifling debate about almost anything connected to Islam. Teaching about the spread of Islam historically through war and conquest, criticisms of Islamic practices around women’s rights – particularly those made by ex-Muslims – and press coverage of Islamist terror attacks all have the potential to be labelled ‘Islamophobic’, according to the APPG’s definition. No other religion is granted this degree of protection in the UK.

The definition of ‘Islamophobia’ in the APPG’s report is so broad that, among other things, it means anyone disputing Hamas’s description of Israel’s military operation in Gaza as a ‘genocide’ is guilty of hate speech. Indeed, anyone who questions a group of Muslims, or a Muslim-majority state, when they claim to be experiencing ‘genocide’ is designated as an Islamophobe. As GB News reporter Tom Harwood recently pointed out, this would make Keir Starmer, who doesn’t accept that what’s happening in Gaza is a ‘genocide’, an Islamophobe. Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow equalities minister, recently tried to publicly shame the Conservative Party for not subscribing to the APPG’s definition. She was seemingly unaware that, as a member of Labour’s front bench, her adoption of Labour’s official line on Gaza would make her an Islamophobe as well.

Recognising that the APPG definition risks suppressing public debate about the Israel-Gaza conflict does not mean condoning bigotry towards Muslim people. As the Network of Sikh Organisations has pointed out: ‘“Anti-Muslim’ hatred, (like “anti-Sikh” or “anti-Hindu” [hatred]) is much clearer language to describe hate crime specifically against the Muslim community.’ And, of course, it is already a criminal offence to stir up hatred against a group on religious grounds.

The terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslimness’ and ‘perceived Muslimness’ are never explicitly defined by the APPG, so the definition can be easily exploited by those wishing to advance their own subjective interpretation of Islam. Is it ‘Islamophobic’ to say that Islam discriminates against women? Some would say it is, others would say it isn’t. Is ‘Muslimness’ defined exclusively by clothing and, if so, how does the APPG definition protect those Muslims who choose not to wear Islamic dress?

What’s more, by defining Islamophobia as a form of racism, the APPG definition wrongly implies that Islam is a race, rather than a multi-ethnic religion. In the APPG’s report, the meaning of racism is even expanded to encompass criticism of a ‘culture – broadly defined – that is perceived to be inferior’. Again, would it therefore be Islamophobic to criticise Islamic cultural practices?

Even bad behaviour that happens to be committed by Muslims would also be ringfenced from criticism. Journalists such as Dominic Kennedy and Andrew Norfolk have already faced accusations of Islamophobia for reporting on the grooming-gangs scandal. Adopting the APPG definition would further empower those, like Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), who often complain of Islamophobia whenever the British media report on stories that he thinks reflect badly on Muslims.

The grooming-gangs scandal itself is indicative of a further problem with adopting the APPG definition: the abuse of vulnerable girls by mainly Muslim men of Pakistani heritage was ignored for too long by local authorities afraid to intervene, lest they be accused of Islamophobia. Similarly, counter-terrorism operations that depend on a frank assessment of the religious motivations of Islamist perpetrators would be imperilled by the widespread adoption of the APPG definition.




Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Censorship by another road

Detailed information released this week by the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government makes plain that the Biden administration has been partnering with major banks and payment processors to censor non-profit ministries and threaten the freedom of everyday Americans.

And now, the subcommittee has revealed that the government has targeted Alliance Defending Freedom. We’ve been unlawfully swept up in the federal government’s “domestic terrorist” dragnet.

While ADF was advocating on behalf of the freedom of EVERY American to live according to their beliefs—including at SCOTUS—the U.S. Treasury Department was telling Big Banks to monitor their customers to identify domestic threats and shared a list of “hate groups” published by the hyper-partisan Institute for Strategic Dialogue to help them do so.

This censorship-industrial complex is a clear threat to the freedom of every American. The Biden administration is attempting an end-run around the Constitution and outsourcing censorship to some of the world’s most powerful corporations.

This is simply unconscionable.

The government can’t openly silence those they disagree with, thanks to the First Amendment, so the federal government is now enlisting and pressuring big banks to intimidate, punish, and cancel their opponents by cutting off financial services to disfavored groups, ministries, and people.

This Orwellian surveillance of American citizens has no place in a free society.

If this isn’t stopped now, then future government officials could use the same tactics. And if they can do this to a successful U.S. Supreme Court advocate like ADF, what ministry or non-profit organization could they target next?




Monday, March 11, 2024

Ireland tries to take women out of its Constitution

Irish voters took to the polls on International Women’s Day — Friday — to remove the words “woman” and “mother” from the Constitution.

Also up for vote: a measure that would widely expand the definition of “family.”

Two amendments were on the ballot: Article 39, on the family, and Article 40, on the role of women/mothers in society.

Article 39 would redefine the family to a grouping “founded on marriage,” as the Constitution now says, “or on other durable relationships.”

The proponents of the changes argued the current wording is exclusionary to single-parent and nonmarried households.

“The relationship that exists between a child and their mother or father when they’re born, that’s the one-parent family,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said. “It’s committed, it’s caring, it’s long-lasting.”

But the vague inclusion of “durable relationships”  caused more confusion.

Nobody — neither voters nor politicians — seemed to have a clear definition of the term.

The referendum failed.  The voters rejected the proposals




Sunday, March 10, 2024

St. Louis TV station KMOV under fire after anchor uses ‘outdated’ racial term on air

I guess we are not allowed to say what NAACP stands for

A St. Louis television station is under fire after an anchor “mistakenly” described minority homeowners using an “outdated, offensive and racist” term.

Television station KMOV issued an apology for using the term on Feb. 26 while previewing a story about racial bias on home appraisals, according to reports.

“Tonight, colored homeowners are sounding the alarm when it comes to undervalued home appraisals,” anchor Cory Stark, who is white, said on air.

JD Sosnoff, KMOV vice president and general manager, and Stark tried to do damage control over the apparent slip-up as criticism grew over the cringe remark.

“It was in an original script as ‘homeowners of color’ and was inadvertently changed and mistakenly read on air,” Sosnoff said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.




Thursday, March 07, 2024

Wrong to call called a London police officer “a stupid white bastard”?

It appears to be a criminal offence in Britain. One would think that a policeman would be accustomed to abuse and would see it as all in a day's work

On the other hand, what if the cop had been black and was called a "stupid black bastard"? In that case the abuser would undoubtedly have had the book thrown at them

The Left are in a huge pickle over this. They do not want a popular brown woman to be described as racist but they have difficulty expaining how an explicitly racist comment is not an explicitly racist comment

Their difficulty stems from their own past politiical opportunism when they have descibed any comment about race as indicating racism. That stupidity has come back to haunt them.

The moment Samantha May Kerr made her Matildas debut at the age of 15, everyone watching knew there was something special about her. From her uncanny ability to sniff out a goal, to her strengths in the air, and her unaffected charm – Kerr’s career trajectory was as thrilling to watch as it was to enjoy once she reached the heights of global esteem.

But no amount of penalty shootouts, World Cup appearances or Women’s FA Cup finals could prepare Kerr for the pressure she’s under now after news broke that she’d been charged with causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress to a London police officer.

It has since come to light, via British tabloid The Sun, that Kerr allegedly called a police officer “a stupid white bastard” during a dispute over a taxi fare on January 30 last year. She reportedly vomited in the cab after a night out and is alleged to have made the slur when police arrived.

Many will question whether the alleged slur satisfies a criminal threshold. Where a black and white argument starts to become grey is whether or not the alleged remark amounts to a form of racism. We know little of the detail but we know this much: a white, male police officer is accusing a lesbian, female footballer of Indian heritage of racism.




Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Excommunicated by

Google has deleted some of my blog posts because of their political incorrectness.  But I now have a new censor: is a site where people can put up their personal thoughts and stories.  I use it as  somewhere to go when I have time on my hands.  

Its posts are mostly open to the public but you can become a "member" by paying a small monthly fee.  I have paid that fee as I do get some value out of the site.  And there is a privilege attached to membership.  Some posts are made available to members only.  How that selection is made is a mystery to me.

The site does allow and encourage comments on its posts and I have put up comments occasionally.  They have however now put up a flag whenever I log on to say that I have violated their rules  The rules concerned are a very long list so I have no idea which rule I have broken and when. And I now no longer get the privileged members-only emails.

It would be nice if they had the manners to tell me which particular comment they disliked.  Even Google does that whenever they delete one of my blogspot posts.

It will be interesting to see if they take their monthly fee from me.  It will be a test of how hollow or not their  pretensions of having principles are.




Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Must NEVER spell out the N-word

High-profile film critic Shane Danielsen has left the news and culture publication The Monthly after a dispute centring on the use of the N-word in a film review, and a subsequent decision by the magazine not to run his story about controversies at the Berlin Film Festival involving the war in Gaza.

Danielsen, a Hollywood-based Australian writer, filed a review of American Fiction that included the title of the Flannery O’Connor short story The Artificial N----r, which is referred to in the script and is a key part of the film’s storyline about the fallout from a black character’s use of racially loaded language.

Danielsen spelled the N-word out in full in his copy, but the magazine’s editor, Michael Williams, argued it shouldn’t be published. A forthright email exchange followed and the critic quit, citing censorship.

Williams agreed the context “could not be clearer or more unequivocally non-racist”, and argued he shouldn’t quit over the issue. Danielsen later backtracked and apologised for what he called an overreaction.




Monday, March 04, 2024

Ohio Union Violating First Amendment by Taking Dues From Public School Staffer Who Opted Out

Suppose you joined a local gym several years ago, but after a while you discovered that you didn’t like some of the gym’s policies. So, you tell the gym that you no longer want to be a member and ask it to stop taking your monthly membership payments.

The gym confirms that you are no longer a member and stops taking payments.

However, a couple of months later, you discover that the gym has started taking payments again without getting your permission. When you ask what happened, the gym claims to have made a mistake by allowing you to leave.

Apparently, the only time you may stop payments to the gym is during a 10-day period occurring once a year. Unless you make your request within that window next year, they’ll just keep taking your money—even though you haven’t been a member or been charged for months.

Surely, the gym can’t just start taking your money without your permission after stopping payments months earlier.

But that’s pretty much what happened to Denise Cogar—except in her case, she tried to quit and stop paying a public sector union, rather than a gym.

When Cogar began working as a paraprofessional for an Ohio school district more than 20 years ago, she joined the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Local 367, the union that represents the district’s paraprofessionals. It’s an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

At the end of 2022, she became frustrated with the union, and sent a letter withdrawing her membership and requesting that dues no longer be withheld from her wages on her paycheck. The union confirmed her withdrawal and told her that it would inform the school district to stop withholding union dues.

And the school did stop—briefly.

Four months later, the school district started taking money from her wages again. The union told Cogar that it had made a mistake. Because she hadn’t made her request during the union’s 10-day “opt-out window,” she had to keep paying dues after all.

Worse, the union and the school district’s actions were at the behest of Ohio law, which requires that a government employer withhold dues from its employees on behalf of the union.

But the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 held in Janus v. AFSCME that public employers cannot give an employee’s money to a public sector union “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” Doing so violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.

Because the union confirmed that Cogar was no longer a member and instructed the school district to stop withholding dues at the end of 2022, dues could only be withheld from her paychecks again if she consented to the withholding. But she didn’t consent—and the union’s reliance on Ohio state law to withhold union dues violated her First Amendment rights.

The union’s violation of the Cogar’s constitutional rights didn’t end there.

Months later, based on the union’s claim that Cogar could only stop paying dues during an “opt-out window” between Aug. 22 to Aug. 31, she tried to stop the withholding of dues again. She mailed an opt-out request to the union, which the union said it had received one day before the window began. As a result, the union refused to stop her dues payments.

The union waited until after that window had closed to tell her that. According to the union, that means she’ll have to wait another full year for the opt-out window to reopen before she can try again—and the union plans to keep charging her monthly dues in the meantime.

The union’s actions to continue to take Cogar’s money without her permission is unjust and unconstitutional.

That’s why Cogar, with the help of the Liberty Justice Center, filed a federal lawsuit in Ohio alleging that the union’s actions, the school district’s withholding of union dues, and the Ohio law on which the union and district relied are unconstitutional because they violate her First Amendment rights.

Government employees have a First Amendment right to decide whether they want their money to support public sector unions, and those unions can’t move the goal posts in order to take an employee’s money without their consent.




Sunday, March 03, 2024

Lost freedoms across the board

The Biden administration trampled the First Amendment by “suppressing millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens,” a federal appeals court recently ruled.

The Supreme Court will hear that bellwether case next month.

In the 1990s, local bureaucrats sporadically cracked down on home schooling, preventing a smattering of parents from teaching their own kids.

During the recent COVID epidemic, teacher unions spurred unjustified school lockdowns that victimized tens of millions of children.

Vast learning losses resulted that continue to plague young lives.

In the 1990s, controversies erupted when some schools gave free condoms to teenagers.

Nowadays, many of the nation’s largest school systems encourage children to agonize over their own gender identity from kindergarten through high school.

Ten million kids attend government schools that will assist children in changing their gender without parents’ knowledge or permission.

Puberty blockers and “gender-affirming” double mastectomies are far more disruptive than prophylactic freebies.

In the 1990s, civil-liberties groups challenged laws requiring drug tests for new employees.

In September 2021, President Biden decreed that 80 million-plus adults working for private companies must get Covid vaccine injections.

After millions of Americans took the jab thanks to his edict, the Supreme Court struck down his order.

But neither Biden nor his political appointees have any liability for that illicit command or the side effects of the vax.