Free Speech is Dead in Germany

German authorities raided homes across the Reich, cracking down on dissidents the government claims are advocating fringe opinions contrary to the political establishment in Berlin.

The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action,” a German police chief said in statement. “Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet,” he continued, without the slightest indication of Orwellian satire.

This report reads like something from Joeseph Goebbels’ propaganda office in 1936. Unfortunately, it happened Tuesday.

In a coordinated raid across 14 states, the German police on Tuesday raid the homes of 36 people accused of hateful postings over social media, including threats, coercion and incitement of racism,” the Times reported.

Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation,” the report continued.

This report from Europe, the purported home of Western democracy and classical liberalism, comes the same week the American First Amendment scored a unanimous victory from the Supreme Court.

Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend,” Justice Alito wrote in the 8-0 decisionstriking down the Patent and Trademark Office’s disparagement clause. “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” Alito said, citing the classic case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell.

When it comes to liberty, the difference between America and Europe could not be more stark.

Of course, there are those in America who wish speech could be policed by a 21st century gestapo. Political correctness runs amok, the Left attempts to marginalize and banish orthodox conservative opinions, and protesters on the Right and Left seek to bully otherwise peaceful performances.

But these examples serve to further demonstrate how special America’s First Amendment continues to be, and how diligent we must be in guarding it. No other country in history has afforded such protection for the opinions of its citizens, no matter how unpopular or extreme.

It has become common for Americans in both parties to stay at a steady boil of outrage over the problems confronting America. Whether it is immigration, racism, moral decay, healthcare, terrorism, criminal justice, or any other issue, almost 60% of us consider the consider the country on the wrong track. In the constant furor, however, we should not forget that in some ways, and in some things, America continues to be exceptional.

We should look at Germany and take pride that such tyranny does not exist here.

Let’s keep it that way.

I’ve Been Called the Worst Thing You Can Call Someone, I Support the Right to Say It Anyway

I was called a n***er nearly every weekday of my life from my first day of school until my last.

This might seem hard to believe in this day and age, but it is true. I grew up on a tiny rural island in eastern Canada. Prince Edward Island has always been known for its beautiful beaches, Anne of Green Gables and potatoes.

But before the internet made the world much smaller, before mass immigration to North America from many regions across the world, before anyone had even heard of the term ‘hate speech’ – before all these things PEI was isolated and white. In the ‘70s and ‘80s most Islanders had never seen a black person in real life, and their entertainment certainly contained very few black faces. I was an anomaly. I was odd and too many people felt too free to let me know on a regular basis.

It wasn’t the n-word that was even the worst of it. The worst was when people would make up derogatory terms. When I would forget my sneakers for gym class and have to go bare foot they’d call me “Blackie toes!”. When The Terminator was breaking box office records I was “Ahhhhnold Swartzani**er”. There were endless “jokes” about shiny black people, sticky black people, black black people. It was the “creativity” that stung the most.

I left PEI just as soon as I was legally able and emigrated to the United States for good.

I’m a writer and it is my job to share personal stories to illustrate larger points, but I have to admit that even as a woman in my 40s it brings me inexplicable embarrassment to share this portion of my life. I don’t know why. Maybe it is the same kind of shame victims of terrible crimes feel…like somehow some choice they made led such treatment. I loathe the thought of anyone pitying me. That would be embarrassing too. I don’t want to be anyone’s symbol and I don’t want to denigrate the good and kind people who live in my birthplace either.

I’m telling you this story because today the Supreme Court ruled that the 1st Amendment contains no exceptions for hate speech.

As someone who has regularly been called one of the most horrible things one person can call another human being, I whole-heartedly support this decision and I couldn’t agree more.

The crux of our constitution is that no human rights come from man. If man can grant rights then man can take rights away. Our Founding Fathers were deliberate in asserting that rights come only from God. No man may tear them asunder.

Of course growing up I often wished for a “Superman” to come to my rescue and punch out the bullies. Of course my feelings were hurt often and deeply. Of course I wish someone could have just shut up all those a-holes.

But I could never and would never support the deliberate suppression of their right to speak hateful things. In fact, it could be said that “hate speech” is free speech, since no one would ever seek to ban speech that they agree with. If we want the right to speak our mind when it counts, then we must tolerate  it when others speak their own feeble minds. Free speech is dead the second we start deciding that some of us are more free than others.

Justice Kennedy summed up the decision thusly…

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.

The irony of my experiences with hate and racism is that they have served to solidify my belief that it is our absolute God-given right to speak freely, even if those words are hurtful. As Justice Kennedy pointed out, there is no guarantee that the tables of censorship won’t be turned on me or others who think like me one day. Our only protection is to protect those we are disgusted by.

Someday I’ll write a book about what it was like to experience what I did. It is only recently that I’ve come to realize how unique my life experience has been. When it’s your everyday reality it doesn’t seem that weird. It just…is. For now, dear reader please know two things:

I harbor no hate, for just as Christ has forgiven me so do I extend that same grace to others who are no less the recipients of His grace than I am. God is so much bigger than our pain.

And…

If we are not free to hate then we can never really be free to love, for it is only when we get to choose between the two that Love can be fully realized.

Pro-Free Speech Students Reclaim Campus Expression From the Fascists

Amidst the modern overwhelming rancidness of illiberal, Enlightenment-hating, antediluvian campus fascists violently rioting and shouting down university speakers whose ideas offend their “social justice warrior” snowflake sensibilities, the University of Chicago has consistently managed to stand above the fray.  In early 2015, Chicago’s president-appointed Committee on Freedom of Expression produced a refreshingly pro-free speech administrative report, which was ultimately circulated amongst similarly-minded institutions of higher learning as the eponymous “Chicago principles,” and even prompted then-Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens to write glowingly about his alma mater in a widely-shared column.  Chicago again made headlines last August for its decision to tell all first-year students that, as an institution, it emphatically rejects “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”  This past February, the Journal once again celebrated the University’s intellectual and moral leadership on this issue.

Now, with modern campus brownshirts pusillanimously causing mayhem from Middlebury College all the way to UC-Berkeley, Chicago is once again assuming the mantle of national leadership.  Specifically, my dear friend Matthew Foldi, a current third-year at the college and a precocious activist who appeared on Fox News last August to discuss the University’s strong anti-“safe space”/”trigger warning” stance, worked closely with the University’s administration to organize an initial pro-free speech national student conference, which took place this past weekend in the Windy City and included 25 student leaders from around 20 different colleges.  Students heard from pro-free speech speakers hailing from across the political spectrum, with the ultimate goal of crafting a unified statement of principles to widely disperse.

Foldi, as the University of Chicago College Republicans’ president and a passionate pro-Israel advocate (he is the nephew of prominent American-Israeli pundit Caroline Glick and, truthfully, is just an all-around awesome guy except for the lamentable fact that he is…somehow…a vegetarian), is no stranger to the censorious bed-wetting temper tantrums of the anti-intellectual freedom crowd.  He describes thusly the impetus for his working to organize the national student leader conference:

Far too many believe that college students monolithically support shutting down speech.  Some of the bravest activists I know are standing up for free speech and expression, from California to the Midwest to New England, and beyond.  We think this meeting was particularly important because it is a chance to show how an entirely student-run group can come together and work to change a dominant narrative.  We’re already incredibly encouraged by the feedback we’ve received from around the nation, and are looking forward to continuing this momentum.

Why do this?  A key component of a college education is challenging our beliefs, and free and open discourse is a crucial component of that.  Without rigorous inquiry, education is incomplete and meaningless.  The recent violence at events from across the country is deeply disturbing.  Additionally, our discourse has suffered with people siloing themselves from others who disagree with them.  It was fantastic to have students from all over the country of all ideologies at the conference, all of whom agree that this is an issue worth fighting for.

The first annual free speech national student conference was successful, and Foldi worked with all attendees to craft a statement of principles.  The full statement reads:

WHY WE’RE HERE AND WHO WE ARE:

The Free Speech Movement began as an entirely student-led initiative.  However, free speech has been increasingly undermined by attempts of students and administrators alike to silence those with whom they disagree.  We seek to reclaim that original tradition with this student-created Statement of Principles.

We, the undersigned, stand united in our shared conviction that free expression is critical to our society, in spite of our differing backgrounds, perspectives, and ideologies.

WHAT WE BELIEVE:

A central purpose of education is to teach students to challenge themselves and engage with opposing perspectives.  Our ability to listen to, wrestle with, and ultimately decide between contending viewpoints fosters mutual understanding as well as personal and societal growth.  The active defense of free and open discourse is crucial for our society to continue to thrive as a democracy premised on the open debate of ideas.

The only way to achieve this is by cultivating a culture where all are free to communicate without fear of censorship or intimidation.  While some speech may be objectionable and even hateful, constitutionally protected speech ought to be held and enforced as the standard and must not be infringed upon.  As Justice Louis Brandeis observed exactly ninety years ago, “those who won our independence believed . . . that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievance and proposed remedies,” and that “the fitting remedy for evil counsels” is not disruption, violence, or suppression, “but good ones.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Our vision is to foster a nationwide community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other friends who support free expression.  If you share our passion for free speech, viewpoint diversity, and open discourse, please sign onto this Statement of Principles and encourage your community to do the same.

I am a proud University of Chicago alumnus this week, and I also could not be prouder of my good friend Matthew Foldi.  Together, along with other pro-free speech student leaders such as Foldi’s own cousin Steven Glick, the forces of intellectual freedom and open discourse can—and will—rebuff the modern campus fascists.

In the interim, you can help this noble cause by lending your name to the Statement of Principles.

Cheers for Bernie Sanders, Jeers for Howard Dean

Lest anyone get the wrong idea from the headline of this article, make no mistake:  I think Bernie Sanders is a nut.  This is the same man, remember, who so loved the Soviet Union that he actually spent his honeymoon there.  He’s also a self-avowed socialist whose policy prescriptions lie somewhere between Angela Davis and Che Guevara on the political spectrum, and seems to have invented Fifty Shades fan fiction long before there was a Fifty Shades.

But, when it comes to matters of free speech, Crazy Bernie actually has his noggin screwed on straight.  Speaking with the Huffington Post, he weighed in on the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter and her upcoming speech at Berkeley, which the university had wanted to reschedule to a time better suited to late-nite informercials because they had “concerns” about “security”.  To his credit, Bernie was having none of it, and said that free speech shouldn’t be subject to a rioter’s veto:

I don’t like this. I don’t like it.  Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.

Let’s set aside the notion that Bernie Sanders calling anyone “off the wall” is a lot like Anthony Weiner telling Kim Kardashian that she might be sharing a bit too much on Instragram.  We give praise here when praise is due, and in this observation Bernie is absolutely correct.  Moreover, given the kind of climate we’re in, for him to take such a stand is brave and commendable.

To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness.  If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?

 

What are you afraid of ― her ideas?  Ask her the hard questions.  Confront her intellectually.  Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.

Can I get an amen?  Well said, Bernie!  Have you ever considered going on tour with Mark Steyn?

Anyway, even though he doesn’t understand the first thing about economics, Bernie seems to have a pretty decent grasp of the First Amendment (at least until you get him going about Citizens United–but that’s an argument for another day).  Contrast that with serial bloviator Howard Dean, who decided to dish on Ann Coulter and proved yet again that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt:

 

Hey, Howard–I guess this means they should have hauled you away that time you said, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.”  Let me know if need any money for bail, pal.

Luckily for Dean, I don’t think he needs to worry about Donald Trump sending the goon squad to collect him, because–unlike Bernie Sanders–he is spectacularly wrong about what the First Amendment protects.  That includes the stuff he doesn’t like, such as when Ann Coulter says something incendiary, and the stuff he does, like when he suggested that George W.Bush might have known about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

Or, as a wise editor at the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten once wrote, “Free speech is free speech is free speech.  There is no but.”

Thanks, for defending it, Bernie.  Howard, you can go away now.

Berkeley Cancels Coulter Speech, Ann Tells Them to Stick It

There’s a quintessential moment in Star Trek III when Admiral James T. Kirk, upon being asked by his crew if Starfleet Command will allow them to attempt a rescue of their fallen comrade Mr. Spock, tells them, “The word is no.  I am therefore going anyway.”  I don’t know if Ann Coulter has ever seen the movie, but she definitely appears to be channeling that spirit in her dealings with the University of California at Berkeley.

Here’s the story.  When the local chapter of the College Republicans and BridgeUSA invited Coulter to give a speech there, the university presented long list of demands that she would have to meet, supposedly to ensure security at the event.  These included having the speech in the middle of the day and making it open only to students.  On top of that, the time and the venue could only be announced shortly before the speech began, so potential troublemakers wouldn’t have time to organize a violent protest.  Coulter thought that the university imposed those rules because they believed she would never accept them, so she did what any self-respecting, free speech firebrand would do.

“I called their bluff,” she said, agreeing to everything.  Berkeley, the weaselly institution that it is, responded by canceling her speech.

Or, as the Dean Wormers of the university put it:

Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and student affairs Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton wrote to the Berkeley College Republicans Tuesday saying, “We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue for your planned April 27th event featuring Ann Coulter. We therefore must now work together to reschedule her appearance for a later date.”

By “later date” they apparently meant “never.”

Coulter, meanwhile, took a page from the history of the free speech movement at Berkeley and decided that the best course of action was to stick it to the man:

In their own statement, the College Republicans and BridgeUSA made clear their support for Coulter:

This is as clear-cut a case as it gets that public universities are using taxpayer dollars to shut down conservative speech, while allowing liberal speech only. UC-Berkeley has for example, welcomed the corrupt former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who has cursed at and mocked Donald Trump, currently the President of the United States.

 

The university, and U-C chancellor Janet Napolitano personally, have revealed themselves to be using taxpayer money for an unconstitutional purpose. Even after Coulter went along with their ruses and guises to shut down her speech, they simply announced, like Kim Jung Un, that it was cancelled.”

They saved the best for last, though.

We have no intention of acceding to these unconstitutional acts. The Ann Coulter lecture sponsored by Young America’s Foundation will go forward.

So Berkeley will have to deal with Ann Couter whether they want to or not.  That’s what I call power to the people, man!

It also sends a very clear message to Berkeley, and other universities that have been so craven by giving in to leftist mobs who would rather burn the joint down than engage in a free flow of ideas:  If you want to avoid riots, you aren’t going to do it by branding conservative speech as too dangerous for campus.  You’ll have to do it by enforcing the law, and making an example out of anyone who engages in violence.

Wellesley’s Tolerant Fascism

The comedian George Carlin once famously remarked, “When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts.”  What he didn’t realize was that it would also come in the form of an editorial appearing in the newspaper of an elite college.  In a piece sporting the rather turgid title “Free Speech is not Violated at Wellesley,” the staff of the Wellesley News–who should have at least a passing familiarity with the principles of the First Amendment, considering that they work for a newspaper–actually make the argument that while free speech is all cool and stuff, it’s like totes okay to stop people from saying things that make certain people feel bad.

Or, as the editorial puts it:

Many members of our community, including students, alumnae and faculty, have criticized the Wellesley community for becoming an environment where free speech is not allowed or is a violated right. Many outside sources have painted us as a bunch of hot house flowers who cannot exist in the real world. However, we fundamentally disagree with that characterization, and we disagree with the idea that free speech is infringed upon at Wellesley. Rather, our Wellesley community will not stand for hate speech, and will call it out when possible.

I saw the Hot House Flowers when they opened up for Prefab Sprout back in 1989–but that’s not important right now.  What is important, however, is that Wellesley wants you to know that it will defend to the death your right to say what you want, so long as it doesn’t fall into the category of what they call hate speech (or #h8speech, for those who only speak Twitter).  But when does free speech cross the line into hate speech?  Not to worry, Wellesley is on that too:

Wellesley students are generally correct in their attempts to differentiate what is viable discourse from what is just hate speech. Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech.

Ah, so it’s up to the wizened students of Wellesley, with the breadth of experience gained from their grueling months attending a liberal university, to determine what is “viable discourse” and what is not.  And once they determine what’s allowed to be said, they also reserve the right to themselves to “shut down” the “rhetoric” that they determine is offensive.  Exactly how they’re supposed to accomplish this remains unsaid, but the implied threat that appears later makes it pretty clear:

If people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted.

Like the hostility shown at recent campus riots–I mean, protests–where agitators used violence as a form of viable discourse?  I ain’t lyin’ girls, the brown in those shirts really sets off your eyes.

Then, to prove their Consitutional bona fides, they provide us a lesson as to what the First Amendment really means:

The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.

If that’s the case, it’s a relief that the founders didn’t mention anything about protecting citizens from the students of Wellesley–otherwise we wouldn’t have them to save us from hearing anything that makes us feel unsafe or damaged.

Still, this got me thinking about what the First Amendment actually says–and wouldn’t you know, it’s just a teensey bit different from how the Wellesley News describes it:

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 the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Hmm, I don’t see anything in there about how speech is only free so long as it protects the suppressed or the disenfranchised.  In fact, it looks a lot like the founders really did want a free-for-all where anything is acceptable.  That’s why you don’t see the word except anywhere in the First Amendment.

You see, the founding fathers understood a very simple concept that seems beyond the grasp of the numb nuts who run the Wellesley paper, and whose parents spend $47 grand a year in tuition to make their kids even stupider than they already are:  popular speech doesn’t need protection, because everybody already likes it.  The reason the First Amendment exists is to make sure that unpopular speech is protected from those who would seek to shut it down.  Sometimes this means that Martin Luther King, Jr. gets his say on civil rights, even at a time when large parts of the country didn’t want to hear it.  And sometimes, this means that the assholes at the Westboro “Baptist” “Church” get to spew their venom about gays and fallen soldiers.  The First Amendment makes no distinction as to whether speech is noble, hateful or anywhere in between.  It merely guarantees the right to speak–which includes, by the way,  the asinine ramblings on the editorial page of the Wellesley News.

That the staff there doesn’t get this doesn’t speak well of their knowledge of American history or the Constitution–but it does a lot to explain the sorry state of journalism these days.


NOTE:  It appears as if the site hosting the original Wellesley editorial is down.  So that you can view the article in its entirety, I’ve pasted the complete text below:

Many members of our community, including students, alumnae and faculty, have criticized the Wellesley community for becoming an environment where free speech is not allowed or is a violated right. Many outside sources have painted us as a bunch of hot house flowers who cannot exist in the real world. However, we fundamentally disagree with that characterization, and we disagree with the idea that free speech is infringed upon at Wellesley. Rather, our Wellesley community will not stand for hate speech, and will call it out when possible.

Wellesley students are generally correct in their attempts to differentiate what is viable discourse from what is just hate speech. Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.

This being said, the tone surrounding the current discourse is becoming increasingly hostile. Wellesley College is an institution whose aim is to educate. Students who come to Wellesley hail from a variety of diverse backgrounds. With this diversity comes previously-held biases that are in part the products of home environments. Wellesley forces us to both recognize and grow from these beliefs, as is the mark of a good college education. However, as students, it is important to recognize that this process does not occur without bumps along the way. It is inevitable that there will be moments in this growth process where mistakes will happen and controversial statements will be said. However, we argue that these questionable claims should be mitigated by education as opposed to personal attacks.

We have all said problematic claims, the origins of which were ingrained in us by our discriminatory and biased society. Luckily, most of us have been taught by our peers and mentors at Wellesley in a productive way. It is vital that we encourage people to correct and learn from their mistakes rather than berate them for a lack of education they could not control. While it is expected that these lessons will be difficult and often personal, holding difficult conversations for the sake of educating is very different from shaming on the basis of ignorance.

This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted. If people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions. It is important to note that our preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn. Rather, we are not referring to those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so. Paid professional lecturers and politicians are among those who should know better.

We at The Wellesley News, are not interested in any type of tone policing. The emotional labor required to educate people is immense and is additional weight that is put on those who are already forced to defend their human rights. There is no denying that problematic opinions need to be addressed in order to stop Wellesley from becoming a place where hate speech and casual discrimination is okay. However, as a community we need to make an effort to have this dialogue in a constructive and educational way in order to build our community up. Talk-back, protest videos and personal correspondences are also ways to have a constructive dialogue. Let us first bridge the gap between students in our community before we resort to personal attacks. Our student body is not only smart, it is also kind. Let us demonstrate that through productive dialogue.

Facebook, Free Speech and the Globalization Problem

Everybody talks about changing the world, but few people ever get a chance to actually do it.  Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg realizes this, and seems intent on making sure that he doesn’t miss his opportunity.  A lot of people might say that Zuckerberg has already done that, creating a social media platform that has literally connected billions of people across the planet and forever altered the way we consume and share information.  In an interview with Fast Company, however, he insists that Facebook is still very much a work in progress, and that there is still much left to be done.

Chief among those tasks is solving the problems that inevitably arise when technology moves faster than the ability of human social structures to keep up.  Back in the old days, when communication was far more interpersonal, it was a lot easier to avoid friction over differing views because people usually tried to keep the conversation polite by not talking about sore subjects.  People also tended to congregate in tighter-knit communities that shared the same values, which further kept a lid on cultural and political clashes.  But these days, your Facebook feed can easily be filled with all kinds of things you’d rather not see–and some things that will make your blood boil.  About this, Zuckerberg is remarkably candid, saying:

We know that people in the community want real information. Whenever we give them tools to get access to higher quality content, they’ll always go for that. But at the same time, we also believe in freedom of speech. People should have the ability to say what they think, even if someone else disagrees with that. And freedom of speech is a funny thing because people always want freedom of speech unless people disagree with them.

As somebody who has lost Facebook friends–and the occasional real friend–over a debate that erupted after some political post, I can personally attest that this is a very real problem.  It used to be that people who didn’t see each other too often only got that heated after a few drinks at the occasional holiday get-together.  With Facebook, you can have those kinds of fights every day–plus there’s something about dishing on a computer keyboard that makes people far more vicious than they would ever be in person.

And this is where the irony comes in.  Because of this rancor, a lot of Facebook users have cut themselves off from anything and anyone that might offend them, basically retreating into social media bubbles where everyone shares the same values and a dissenting opinion never rears its ugly head.  Perhaps it’s just human nature, but it seems we can’t avoid tribalism even on a digital landscape.

Zuckerberg seems to recognize this problem, and has ideas on how to address this kind of culture clash:

One of the things that we have struggled with recently is how do we have a set of community standards that can apply across a community of almost two billion people… The question is, in a larger community, how do you build mechanisms so that the community can decide for itself and individuals can decide for themselves where they want the lines to be? This is a tricky part of running this company…  We have come to this realization that a bunch of people sitting in a room in California is not going to be the best way to reflect all the local values that people have around the world. So we need to evolve the systems for collective decision making. It’s an interesting problem. There are certainly going to be a lot more global infrastructure and global enterprises going forward, there just hasn’t been anything at this scale yet.

Interestingly, in a way Zuckerberg has made an argument for federalism here–that a community is far better poised to make decisions for itself, rather than having a larger authority imposing a one-size-fits-all solution.  On the other hand, he also seems to be making the argument that it will probably be necessary to wall certain communities off from others, because their standards and beliefs are just too different to be compatible with one another.  Granted, he’s talking about the digital world here–but one could just as easily find a corollary in the real world, particularly in Europe where the refugee crisis is in the process of radically transforming the culture there.

Zuckerberg also addresses the issue of globalization, acknowledging that while there have been tremendous benefits from the free flow of goods and information, they have not come without a price:

A lot of the current discussion and anti-globalization movement is because for many years and decades, people only talked about the good of connecting the world and didn’t acknowledge that some people would get left behind. I think it is this massively positive thing over all, but it may have been oversold. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad—it can still be massively positive—but I think that you need to acknowledge the issues and work through them so it works for everyone.

It’s a pretty realistic assessment of where we are, and one of the few times I’ve heard the CEO of a major company talking about the downside of a global economy.  Whether Donald Trump’s trade policies will solve the problem remains to be seen–but given that a retreat from globalization was a winning theme of his campaign, and given the success of Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, there’s no doubt a lot of voters share the same concerns.

It’ll be interesting to see what Zuckerberg and Facebook have planned.

We Need To Talk About Milo

If you have an interest in politics that borders on obsessive–and let’s face it, if you’re reading this site you probably do–then it’s doubtless that you’ve heard about all the brouhaha surrounding Brietbart editor and resident social media troll Milo Yiannopolous.  Typically this isn’t a problem for Milo, who courts brouhaha the way Harry Reid courts shady real estate developers, but in this case his antics have come back to bite him pretty hard.  As in Sharknado hard:

Employees at Breitbart News are reportedly prepared to leave the company if controversial senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos is not fired.

 

Another senior editor at the publication told Washingtonian Monday that “at least a half dozen” employees are prepared to leave to organization because of remarks Yiannopoulos made about pedophilia that gained attention this weekend.

At first glance, you might think, “Aw, geez.  What kind of fake outrage are the social justice warriors throwing at Milo this time?”  This is, after all, the guy who got banned from Berkeley when rioters there burned half the place down rather than let him speak.

But, as it turns out, there’s more to Milo’s free speech than any of us wanted to hear:

This arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys the understanding that many of us have of the complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships. People are messy and complex, and in the homosexual world particularly some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming of age relationships, the relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are, and give them security and safety and provide them with love and, sort of, a rock.

I’m the father of a 15 year old daughter and 12 year old son.  To me, the idea of consent isn’t arbitrary, and it sure as hell isn’t oppressive.  To me, the kind of moral equivalency at the heart of this statement is stomach-turning.  Underage boys, by virtue of being underage, cannot give consent.  And an adult man who would take advantage of a confused young boy at a vulnerable time isn’t loving–he’s a predator.

There really isn’t any other way to spin this–which is why CPAC withdrew its invitation to have Milo speak, and why Simon & Schuster have canceled publication of his forthcoming book.  This is a line neither one of them wanted to cross, apparently.  But is this a setback for free speech?  No doubt, Milo will attempt to cast it as such.  When even his fellow travelers at Breitbart are demanding his ouster, though, you have to know there’s more to it than that.

Free speech, after all, is a right to speak–not a right to be heard.  And it isn’t encumbent upon the conservative movement or its institutions to provide a forum for Milo Yiannopolous just because he tweaks liberal pieties.  More than that, the conservative moment has its own right to associate with whomever it wants, and even to shun others.  If CPAC no longer wants to be associated with Milo’s brand, they’re under no obligation to host him.  Distancing itself from his speech is not nearly the same thing as censoring it.

It’s also smart thinking, and maybe an opportunity for conservatives to reevaluate themselves a bit.  The Era of Trump has led to a lot of confusion as to what we are and what we want to be–primarily because we’ve been coasting on a lot of emotion, whereas before our tradition has been mostly based on ideas.  The emotional side is still reveling in the victory last November, and taking great satisfaction in the rolling back of Obama’s excesses.  It’s also the first time in a long while that they’ve  felt ascendant, and they want to keep that going.  The intellectual side, meanwhile, is still exploring the why of what the administration is doing, and how–or even if–it fits into the traditions of conservative philosophy.  They wonder where all of this will end up, and whether we’ll like what we find when we get there.

Both sides are correct, in their own ways–and if we can find a way to bring them together, I think we can build some powerful momentum for the reforms that America desperately needs.  In the meanwhile, though, perhaps Milo’s tale can be a warning to avoid our own excesses.