First Amendment

Ruling Class vs. ‘The Others’

Americans have a choice: either rebuild the foundations of our society or prepare for an inevitable and ugly collapse.

There has always been a troubling trend on the Left, and among statists and the ruling class in general, when it comes to the rule of law. For those types, “rule of law” means more of a series of suggestions intended to keep “the others”—that is, “the deplorables” or we peasants—in our place. It’s very much “a good for me, but not for thee” mentality. Should any of us violate the laws, we can expect to have the book thrown at us. But for them, it’s more a slap on the wrist, if anything at all.

We see this in the behavior of the Clintons, deep state actors, and even the Bidens. No one seriously thinks that Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian and Chinese business “activities” are above board. But even more troubling, consider that a sitting vice president of the United States was potentially involved in pay-to-play with foreign nations.

The ruling class apparently believes the law is whatever it says it is. It is whatever is convenient for them. The law is a weapon for the ruling class to subdue its enemies.

A remarkable public admission highlighted the truth of the matter recently. Gun-grabber Robert Francis O’Rourke, a man who believes he is fit to occupy the presidency and protect and defend the Constitution, said on national television that he would insist upon the confiscation of AR-15s and AK-47s. “It’s not voluntary. . . It is mandatory,” O’Rourke said. “It will be the law. You will be required to comply with the law.”

Although no one would ever claim O’Rourke is one of our leading intellectual lights, his words do raise an interesting question: what is just law? And please do not tell me it is simply whatever lawmakers at any given point decide the law is. In an American context, that is utterly absurd.

Consider that Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, anti-Semitic and racist, were enacted in 1935. No serious person would call them legitimate or just. Or consider South Africa’s series of laws meant to enforce apartheid. Or, sadly, consider America’s own laws that allowed for slavery. All of these have at one point been considered the “law of the land.”

Many on the Left have abandoned the idea of natural rights and the notion of transcendent law and absolutes. They’ve apparently decided that they’ll just make up the rules as they go.

But were they “just” laws? Those societies at the time said they were, and history is replete with more such examples. But these “laws” all share a common characteristic: every last one of them was in gross violation of human rights and natural law.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., echoing St. Augustine and Sir William Blackstone, “An unjust law is no law at all.” For laws to be just, they must conform with natural laws and rights or they are truly no laws at all: they are merely opinions and weapons meant to oppress other human beings that rationalize egregious human thought and behavior.

Cicero, a consul and Roman senator, and truly one of the last heroes of the Roman Republic, also knew that just human laws must be reflections of higher, transcendent law. We used to believe in such things, but such beliefs can be so inconvenient. It’s difficult to square the circle when there are those who don’t believe in transcendent laws given by a transcendent lawgiver who has endowed every human being, created in His image, with natural rights. Such rights include life, liberty, property, and the right to self-defense. In fact, there is no Constitution long enough to enumerate all the rights we as created human beings have by nature, which is why the 9th Amendment is present in our Bill of Rights.

All of this highlights the tension in our society today: many on the Left have abandoned the idea of natural rights and the notion of transcendent law and absolutes. They’ve apparently decided that they’ll just make up the rules as they go.

Some on the Left, Robert Francis O’Rourke among them, now claim that if given power—though God forbid they ever should—they will make laws that outlaw certain types of guns. Of course, it’s a muddled picture as to what this will look like as they babble on about .50-caliber AR-15s and “weapons of war” and all sorts of things that display a lack of rudimentary working knowledge about guns.

O’Rourke’s talk of gun control is in defiance of America’s founding ideas: our founders believed that one of the primary purposes of government, when people come into just and voluntary associations, is the protection of property, which includes not just physical objects, but anything and everything unique to a human being. If government fails to protect those rights, there is another natural right: the right to defend one’s life and property. This is why I’ve argued, and will continue to argue, that gun rights are a natural right: human beings are entitled to self-defense, ergo guns. And not just any guns, but the most powerful and effective guns.

Natural rights and transcendent laws are the foundation of our republic. This is why an abandonment of such ideas knocks out the very underpinnings of our society. History shows us that at some point a nation that develops a Byzantine series of laws meant to justify its behavior, when confronted with the reality of transcendent law, it will eventually collapse under its own weight—often at a great loss of life.

So we have a choice: either rebuild the foundations of our society or prepare for an inevitable and ugly collapse.

America • Center for American Greatness • First Amendment • Post • The Constitution • The Left

Nicholas Sandmann Was Denied the Justice He Deserves

A Jimmy Carter-appointed federal district court judge in Kentucky on Friday dismissed Nicholas Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post. The Covington Catholic High School student’s two other suits against CNN and NBC remain active, however.

Recall that Sandmann became Public Enemy No. 1 after video surfaced of him perpetrating a heinous crime on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the day after the 2019 March for Life: standing while white and MAGA-hatted. Even worse, he appeared to smile as Nathan Phillips, a Native American adult who approached Sandmann and his friends, loudly banged a drum in Sandmann’s face.

Sandmann, still a minor, was quickly smeared as a disgusting racist by thousands of adult, leftist pundits (shamefully abetted by many so-called conservatives), politicians, and activists. The Twitter mob said Sandmann had a “punchable face” and was a “prime candidate for wood chipping.” He became the embodiment of “white male privilege,” a scapegoat for all the world’s wickedness. He was even deemed complicit in Christ’s crucifixion! Ultimately, he was abandoned to the mob by his own bishop, as well as by a neighboring bishop who just couldn’t resist the urge to woke-signal.

Applying a Kentucky defamation statute, the court held that 33 statements from seven Post articles and three tweets—which Sandmann alleged were defamatory and entitled him to $250 million in damages—were all protected as opinion under the First Amendment. “Few principles of law are as well-established as the rule that statements of opinion are not actionable in libel actions,” Judge William O. Bertelsman wrote in his ruling.

In assessing the relevant defamation precedents, Bertelsman focused primarily on the first of the seven articles (the other six and the three tweets contained mostly recycled statements from the first article) and determined that nine of the 33 statements were not even “about” Sandmann in particular and thus were not actionable; another seven statements (some of which overlapped with the previous set) could not “form the basis for a defamation claim” because they were mere opinions, not factual statements “capable of being proved objectively correct.”

Most importantly, the court explained that “[i]n determining whether a writing is libelous per se under Kentucky law, courts must stay within the four corners of the written communication.” Which means the “words must be given their ordinary, natural meaning as defined by the average lay person,” and the “face of the writing must be stripped of all innuendoes [sic] and explanations” that could “enlarge or add to the sense or effect of the words charged to be libelous, or impute to them a meaning not warranted by the words themselves.”

Bertelsman also analyzed the allegedly libelous publications in their entirety to “determine if [their] gist or sting [are] defamatory”—in other words, if they would “tend to expose Sandmann to public hatred, ridicule, contempt or disgrace, or to induce an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking people.” For a statement to be defamatory, it cannot be an opinion; it must be about someone in particular; and it has to in itself—without reference to any “extrinsic evidence of context or circumstances [or consequences]”—be injurious to its object. None of the 33 statements, in Bertelsman’s determination, met this threshold, even as many people then and now hold “an evil opinion” of the “smirking” Sandmann.

Unfortunately, that conclusion follows more or less inescapably from Bertelsman’s straightforward application of Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit precedents to the facts of the case.

That Sandmann couldn’t convince the court to find that even one of the nearly three-dozen statements constituted defamation indicates deep rot at the core of this area of First Amendment jurisprudence. Especially so when the district court declined to reach a critical question in defamation law, namely, whether Sandmann was either a “public figure” or a “limited-purpose public figure.” Indeed, it is difficult to see how such an analysis could result in a finding that Sandmann—who did nothing to seek the public-square spotlight and the firestorm that later enveloped him—was anything other than a purely private figure, a classification which would have given his lawsuit a much higher chance of success.

Recently, Justice Clarence Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari in McKee v. Cosby—a case that asked the court “to review [the petitioner’s] classification as a limited-purpose public figure,” a classification rooted in the landmark defamation case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964)—put it best when he wrote, “New York Times and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law.”

What the New York Times decision and its progeny, including this case, get wrong is that free speech, for the Founding generation, generated a correlative duty to use it responsibly for the pursuit of truth, and its primary regulators were to be state legislatures, not courts. The Founders were not free-speech libertarians (even as the Supreme Court increasingly, and worryingly, has embraced such a relativistic vision of speech), and a world in which the press can, even incidentally, sic a ravenous, self-righteous mob on a teen and plaster racist next to his face forever and suffer no real consequences is not truly a free society.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court described why in 1788:

Libelling is a great crime. . . . With respect to the heart of the libeller, it is more dark and base than that of the assassin, or than his who commits a midnight arson. It is true, that I may never discover the wretch who has burned my house, or set fire to my barn; but these losses are easily repaired, and bring with them no portion of ignominy or reproach. But the attacks of the libeller admit not of this consolation: the injuries which are done to character and reputation seldom can be cured, and the most innocent man may, in a moment, be deprived of his good name, upon which, perhaps, he depends for all the prosperity, and all the happiness of his life.

No less an authority than Dante concurs; he placed liars deeper in hell than the violent because lies “offend against the rational part of the human being, which is nobler and more in need of protection even than the body.”

Sandmann plans to appeal, and he should, even though the Sixth Circuit likely would be forced to affirm Bertelsman’s decision thanks to decades of too-lenient defamation precedent that now robs private citizens of our right to our good names.

The Supreme Court should take this opportunity to reign in its runaway defamation jurisprudence, restore (at least to a degree and in this one area) the original understanding of the free speech clause, and tame our public discourse—which today more resembles the Wild West than a public square of a constitutional republic ordered to truth.

Free speech exists to secure human flourishing and the common good of the nation. We should take it back from those who have weaponized it to create a culture of fear as they push an anti-American agenda.

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First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Media

America, Google, and Me: My Senate Speech

Last week, at the invitation of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), I spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Google’s having placed more than 60 Prager University videos on its restricted list. Any family that filters out pornography and violence cannot see those particular videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google); nor can any school or library.

This statement is as much about what PragerU and I stand for as it is about Google. Those interested in viewing the presentation can do so here:

It is an honor to be invited to speak in the United States Senate. But I wish I were not so honored. Because the subject of this hearing—Google and YouTube’s (and for that matter, Twitter and Facebook’s) suppression of internet content on ideological grounds—threatens the future of America more than any external enemy.

In fact, never in American history has there been as strong a threat to freedom of speech as there is today.

Before addressing this, however, I think it important that you know a bit about me and the organization I co-founded, Prager University—PragerU, as it often referred to.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My late father, Max Prager, was a CPA and an Orthodox Jew who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II. My father’s senior class thesis at the City College of New York was on anti-Semitism in America. Yet, despite his keen awareness of the subject, he believed that Jews living in America were the luckiest Jews to have ever lived.

He was right. Having taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College, written a book on anti-Semitism and fought Jew-hatred my whole life, I thank God for living in America.

It breaks my heart that a vast number of young Americans have not only not been taught how lucky they are to be Americans but have been taught either how unlucky they are or how ashamed they should be.

It breaks my heart for them because contempt for one’s country leaves a terrible hole in one’s soul and because ungrateful people always become unhappy and angry people.

And it breaks my heart for America because no good country can survive when its people have contempt for it.

I have been communicating this appreciation of America for 35 years as a radio talk show host, the last 20 in national syndication with the Salem Radio Network—an organization that is a blessing in American life. One reason I started PragerU was to communicate America’s moral purpose and moral achievements, both to young Americans and to young people around the world. With a billion views a year, and with more than half of the viewers under age 35, PragerU has achieved some success.

My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person. That some label us extreme or “haters” only reflects on the character and the broken moral compass of those making such accusations. They are the haters and extremists.

PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. Our presenters include three former prime ministers, four Pulitzer Prize winners, liberals, conservatives, gays, blacks, Latinos, atheists, believers, Jews, Christians, Muslims and professors and scientists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and a dozen other universities.

Do you think the secretary-general of NATO; or the former prime ministers of Norway, Canada or Spain; or the late Charles Krauthammer; or Philip Hamburger, distinguished professor of law at Columbia Law School, would make a video for an extreme or hate-filled site? The idea is not only preposterous; it is a smear.

Yet, Google, which owns YouTube, has restricted access to 56 of our 320 five-minute videos and to other videos we produce. “Restricted” means families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video. It also means that no school or library can show that video.

Google has even restricted access to a video on the Ten Commandments . . . Yes, the Ten Commandments!

We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given.

But of course, we know why: because they come from a conservative perspective.

Liberals and conservatives differ on many issues. But they have always agreed that free speech must be preserved. While the left has never supported free speech, liberals always have. I, therefore, appeal to liberals to join us in fighting on behalf of America’s crowning glory: free speech. Otherwise, I promise you, one day you will say, “First they came after conservatives, and I said nothing. And then they came after me. And there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Thank you.

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Conservatives • Democrats • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Republicans • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

A ‘Green Book’ for Conservatives?

Last year, an Oscar-winning movie made known to many of us what the “Green Book” was—a guidebook listing accommodations for the African American traveler during the days of Jim Crow segregation. 

Today, I fear, we may need a “Green Book” for conservatives and Republicans. 

Stephanie Wilkinson, co-owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, who last year had kicked out a White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and family simply for their political affiliation, recently defended and promoted that practice in a Washington Post op-ed. She compared it to Cracker Barrel barring Grayson Fitts, who advocates “the arrest and execution of LGBTQ people.” Citing the cases last year where other prominent Republicans, Kirstjen Nielsen, Stephen Miller, and Mitch McConnell, were mobbed and driven out of restaurants, she wrote, “restaurants are now part of the soundstage for our ongoing national spectacle.” Amazingly, she complained that “the business involved inevitably comes under attack.” Those inclined to “scold owners and managers” and express dismay at the loss of a perceived “politics-free zone” should just get used to it. 

Wilkinson can deny that she approves of the next step—physical assault—by cheering the fact that there has been more support for Cracker Barrel’s actions than for those of the server who spit in the face of Eric Trump recently. Democrats like Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who criticized Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and her call for mob action—namely, forming “a crowd” and “push[ing] back” on all Trump Administration members at restaurants, gas stations, and department stores—can claim to be above the fray. In truth, however, mild statements of disapproval, are lost in the tsunami of actions against conservatives by businesses ranging from advertisers on the Tucker Carlson show, movie producers in Georgia, and censors on social media.

I take Stephanie Wilkinson’s exclusion policy personally, though. Lexington is the place of my overnight stays during my frequent drives to Atlanta.

As I decide where to have dinner, I have the uncomfortable thought: that there is a restaurant in Lexington where people with my political views are not welcome. The idea is so foreign to me. I spent several years supporting myself waiting on tables and tending bar in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Back then, it was “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” or no service only for drunkenness, fighting, or nonpayment of a check. 

It is also troubling to me, given that I fled tyranny in the arms of my parents from Communist Yugoslavia. I grew up hearing their stories about political oppression. Imagine what it feels like to see things that resemble those stories in this country.

I have faced discrimination in academia. The “American dream” is to work your way up, right? I was “outed” as a conservative when the topic of my dissertation failed to advance the Marxist gender/race/class line contemporary English departments demand. As an adjunct instructor, I was expected to join in group conversations during the 2004 Democratic presidential primary speculating about who could beat the evil George W. Bush. My silence outed me. After I wrote columns, I was told that suddenly no more classes would be available for me to teach the following semester.

But back in 2004, it would never have occurred to me that such discrimination would occur outside of academia, that I could be legally discriminated against in restaurants.

It gives me little comfort that I am not easily recognizable like Sarah Sanders. Wilkinson has broadcast to the world that my kind are not welcome in her trendy establishment, a place that dare not refuse service to someone because of race. She feels righteous, claiming her actions are as justified as refusing service to someone who openly advocates murder. 

Would I feel comfortable in Wilkinson’s restaurant? What if a server overheard me expressing my political views? If I made a reservation, would staff Google my name? I might not get the boot, but would I have my food spit in, or worse? No doubt, other restaurant owners are taking note, and I wonder: how do other Lexington restaurateurs feel? Do they also not want my business? What about the hotel where I stay?

Where this will end? Will conservatives be excluded next from grocery stores and hotels (as Maxine Waters would have it)? Will we be forced to sleep in our cars when traveling? It is hard to imagine this happening, but we now have those who feel no shame in openly advocating it. The inconceivable has happened in my lifetime—in a “free country.”

The ironic thing is that I support the concept of farm-to-table restaurants. I am a regular customer of the organic farmers who come here on the village square in Clinton, New York. I am against tax-subsidized corporate farming—something started by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am opposed to it because it led to the near-starvation of many black farmers and tenant farmers who were excluded from Roosevelt’s New Deal subsidies. Yet, African Americans had to pay the higher taxes and inflated prices for these programs. It also bears repeating that it was a Democrat president, Woodrow Wilson, who imposed segregation in the federal workforce. His protégée, Franklin Roosevelt, continued the policies even as he wooed black voters with “relief” payments instead of jobs and denied black children afflicted with polio the opportunity to use his Warm Springs facility while his wife posed with them for campaign photo-ops.

Barack Obama took up FDR’s mantle and was even portrayed in a way that evoked his image on the cover of a prominent magazine. His proposed federal regulation of small farmers who sold at public markets was met with a letter of protest from a farmer who sold organic produce from his five acres at such markets throughout the Atlanta area where I was living. Under President Trump, businesses, including farm-to-table establishments, are thriving.

Breaking bread is a way for people to come together. Having a meal should not be a political act. Yet, liberals and the Democratic National Committee, beginning in 2015, encouraged “conversations” with family members over Thanksgiving dinner to point out how benighted they are to vote Republican. Now it’s OK to kick Republicans out of restaurants and your family gatherings.

Charles Murray, the author of Coming Apart, who is much vilified on our liberal campuses, could write an updated version of his book based on the new levels of exclusion that go beyond zip codes to businesses run by self-righteous, intolerant, well-to-do liberals. If we are “divided” as a nation as many say, it is not because of conservatives or what our president says. It is because of people like Wilkinson.

The Red Hen is off my places to patronize, no doubt to the pleasure of Stephanie Wilkinson. I am one person, without much financial clout.

So were the African Americans riding the buses in Montgomery, Alabama. The time has come for conservatives, and all Americans who value the freedom of association and policies of non-discrimination, to take a page out of the playbook of that boycott and others like it. This isn’t a fight that conservatives started, but it is one we must win. The branding, exclusion, and assaults must stop.

Photo credit: TKTKTKTK

First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Media

Silicon Valley Is a Clear and Present Danger to Our Rights

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the battle over personal data, free speech and the free flow of information between the American people and the tech giants is heating up. As the Googles and Facebooks of the world take an unconstitutional role in deciding what speech and information should be online, it’s becoming clear much more is at stake than first meets the eye. 

It’s also becoming apparent that there are some voices on the Right who are either deeply naïve and ignorant about what is at stake or they are in fact paid collaborators of the tech companies. 

Most people who use social media are not entirely sure what their personal data is being used for, or to what extent they’ve actually given permission for the use of such data. Fact is, most people have given far more permission to the tech companies than they may realize. 

As Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) pointed out, users of Facebook and other “free” services have been paying for them with their valuable personal information; there is nothing free in life, trust me. In light of the DASHBOARD Act, cosponsored by Warner and Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Facebook even changed the wording of its user agreement to acknowledge for the first time it is paid by companies to show those companies’ advertisements to you by using your personal data. 

But that pales in comparison to what else Silicon Valley is using your personal data for when it comes to developing general artificial intelligence in pursuit of automation and singularity. Your data is like nitric oxide and jet fuel to the algorithms feeding general AI. Now add that to the premise of Moore’s Law, which is the idea that the speed of processors doubles every two years. Technology is advancing at an incredible pace. But our thinking—especially policymakers’ understanding—is lagging badly. 

We now see reports that robots will be replacing upwards to 20 million workers by 2030, most of which will be in manufacturing industries. What happens to the workers who are displaced? Where will they go? Even assuming a period of transition, what will become of an older generation of workers over the next 30 or 40 years? A universal basic income isn’t the solution for many different reasons, including the dignity that comes with actual work. I’ve suggested a new Great Works Program funded by royalties earned from energy exploration and use on federal lands. 

Regardless of what the solutions might be, no one is really discussing them. Nor is anyone really discussing what the end goal is for Big Tech and the Silicon Valley oligarchy lurking in the wings. These companies are betting hundreds of billions of dollars to realize their vision for the future, which is “the singularity” in which robots run the world. This isn’t a joke or the stuff of science fiction. This is fast becoming real life, funded by people and companies who are convinced they know how to make us all “happier and healthier.”

In exchange, our lives as a self-governing people would come to an end. Freedom of speech and assembly would disappear along with the free flow of information. And while our leaders dither, this self-appointed oligarchy is running full speed ahead. The monopolies that have been allowed to form are also accelerating the process, and yet we have some on the Right mumbling about “muh free market” and how that will solve the problem.

Some of those spouting these ideas are hardcore libertarians like the Koch brothers and their allied groups, who should be ostracized and ignored. I have some rules in life, which include little kids should not play with matches and libertarians should not play with real politics. Both end badly. 

There are others who are also spouting such idiocy, including David French and his colleagues at National Review, which has received, multiple times, direct funding from Google. Some of us think that perhaps French and his type are deeply ignorant (certainly plausible) or they’re just paid collaborators of the tech companies. Neither of those two scenarios is good. Any organization on the Right, whether a publication or think tank, that has accepted Big Tech money should be viewed with great suspicion on these questions. 

It is incumbent upon the American people to come fully awake on these issues and demand our elected officials, in the immediate, protect our rights. To delay is to ensure the demise of our freedoms and to submit to the coming singularity and tech oligarchy.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • First Amendment • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Media

Political Bias in Big Tech Is a Major Problem

Suspicions of political bias in big tech companies are nothing new. Many people have suspected tech companies of being more left-leaning. Recent events and studies, however, are slowly turning these suspicions into facts. This political bias is detrimental not only to the companies and their users but also to the country.

A recent study by Northwestern University showed Google’s search engine ranked left-leaning political sites higher on its news feed. According to the survey, 86 percent of Google’s top stories over the course of a month came from 20 left-wing news sites. Out of these 20 sources, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post were leading the pack.

Google is not the only tech company credibly accused of bias. Facebook and Twitter have also been denounced for censoring right-leaning accounts and groups in their respective platforms. The three tech companies were summoned to a congressional hearing last year to explain themselves.

One might think that these cases of political bias are isolated to the big tech companies but nothing could be further from the truth. Silicon Valley, a region known to be at the vanguard of technological development in the United States, is a very left-leaning place located in a deep blue state.

The services these companies offer have become deeply rooted in our daily lives. This can give them the power to influence politics on a scale greater than any lobbying group could imagine. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 38 percent of Americans get their news from the internet. Among that group, roughly 50 percent of younger adults (ages 18-49) get their news online. Google’s preference for left-wing corporate media strongly shapes public opinion in ways not even television could.

A Nation at Risk?
Many tech companies face a backlash from their own employees when it comes to Pentagon contracts. Google employees rebelled, for example, when the company began work on an artificial intelligence system for drones called Project Maven. Microsoft workers resisted the company’s work on an augmented reality system for the Defense Department using their HoloLens technology for combat and training.

The dangers should be apparent. China is investing billions in A.I. projects with military applications while U.S. tech firms wring their hands. We know, too, that China is working hard on its cyber warfare capabilities while the U.S. military struggles to keep up its defenses. Recall how last year a U.S. Navy contractor working on undersea warfare projects lost 614 gigabytes of highly classified data as the result of a Chinese hack. More recently, worries over LockerGoga ransomware are growing in light of a March attack against raw materials producer Norsk Hydro as Congress debates a $2 billion infrastructure bill, which includes money for defenses against cyber attacks on vital civilian infrastructure.

Silicon Valley’s bias also affects right-leaning professionals trying to get into the tech industry. Prospective employees might feel discouraged from applying to a company with a strong political bias against their own beliefs while current workers have every reason to hide their political views for fear of backlash. Recall the case of James Damore, the Google engineer who lost his job after sharing a controversial memorandum questioning the company’s diversity hiring policies. (The company currently is facing a massive class-action lawsuit from 8,000 current and former female employees, who allege widespread sex discrimination.)

We could say that political bias has no place in giant tech companies, which ostensibly serve the general public regardless of political belief. We could say that, but it would be folly—putting hope over experience. Google, Facebook, and Twitter exercise an outsized influence on public discourse. With the 2020 presidential elections looming, these powerful corporations will shape voters’ perceptions of the race, just as they already influence our nation’s defense. How can a free, self-governing republic allow that to continue?

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First Amendment • Free Speech • Podcast • Technology

The Chris Buskirk Show: Episode 7—Sen. Josh Hawley Stands Against the Big Tech Oligarchy

Josh Hawley introduces legislation to prevent Big Tech from tracking you. Will Trump endorse? Also a look at European Parliament elections which could send a raft of new populist-nationalists to Brussels from all over Europe. What does it mean for Europe & the US? Tune into The Chris Buskirk Show below for the latest.

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First Amendment • Free Speech • Online Censorship • Post • Technology • The Constitution

Our Tech Slave Power

There can be no doubt any longer that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and their subsidiaries—YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, among others—are trying to suffocate political speech. These American companies have chosen political sides with the Democratic Party, donating what amounts to an in-kind political contribution by silencing those who disagree with them.

Consider that techno censors have never harassed fake news organizations like CNN, and wannabe doxxers like Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims spew hateful attacks on minors without consequence.

There can be no doubt any longer that tech companies have no desire to preserve liberties or the common good. They endeavor to become a new slave power by taking that which we earn by the sweat of our brow. We work; they eat.

As long as we play by their often hidden and opaque rules, and utter only the approved opinions, we might be able to partake in the scraps they throw at us from their table.

Their actions condemn any pretense that they are disinterested, objective gatekeepers of speech. Google tried to silence the Claremont Institute from purchasing an innocuous ad announcing its 40th anniversary dinner gala. Twitter banned David Horowitz. Many others face lifetime bans for expressing their political opinions.

When the Silicon Valley oligarchs feel political pressure for their deplatforming decisions, they blame the “algorithm” or say the “mistake” was a technical “glitch.” This is, of course, a lie; but it allows them to avoid responsibility.

It is, moreover, a lie that is a material misstatement or omission in connection with the sale of a security; if it were known that these public companies were risking regulation by tampering with American politics their stock values would plunge.

And the lie is transparent. Limitations on free speech are imposed only on the Right, not the Left. Algorithms are coded by human beings and those codes target certain forms of speech the human programmers don’t like. Just ask James Damore, who wrote about Google’s “echo chamber.” It might be more appropriately called a Star Chamber.

This has had a chilling effect on speech. When people have to watch what they say or else lose their livelihoods, political speech comes with a high price. Libertarians believe all of this is fine, just the price we pay for a free market and that time will solve the problem. But, these are the same interests who believed that trade with China was free, when it truly wasn’t. What can be done to secure the freedoms and equal liberty of speech for the common good of the republic?

A co-founder of Facebook believes the company should be broken up, in part because, “Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark [Zuckerberg] controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.”

In fact, at Google, community standards are difficult to find to the point that it is obvious they are being concealed from the consumer. Facebook standards are posted, but unequally enforced. The Southern Poverty Law Center violates several tenets of Facebook’s standards, and has never been banned. Same with Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Those groups suffer no harassment for their hateful speech.

The remedy we should seek is the protection of all political speech—in its broadest definition—in order to preserve liberty and equality, which would also preserve the free press.

Government intervention to the extreme of taking over tech monopolies would not solve the problem: this is something Zuckerberg wants because it will guarantee Facebook will always be a monopoly. There is a better option to this chilling situation in the form of a two-pronged approach that would empower users (the consumer) and preserve the right to property in our opinions.

The first is to break up the tech monopolies. The second is to open up libel laws. Both are necessary and need to be moved in tandem.

The Sherman Antitrust Act provided that any person who “shall monopolize” or “conspire” to do so, is guilty of a felony. Arguably, most of our tech giants are engaged in monopolistic practices, therefore the legal pretext for breaking them up is present.

In addition to the Sherman Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act provides that no company may change the price of a good between purchasers or discriminate in providing goods and services. It is often supposed that the only “customers” on social media are advertisers and paid-content promoters. But all users who agree to allow their data to be used and sold are customers; they simply pay with property rather than cash.

Where a consumer purchases a service in exchange for his or her personal data, only to find at a later date that the company denies the service in a discriminatory manner, that might be a violation of the Clayton Act. Companies like Facebook and Google collect, and sell, a user’s data. But for those banned, it is a bait and switch, a species of fraud. Banning a person from a platform while also keeping their data presents a legal problem for the company with which a user has the right to compensatory damages. Looking to the specific terms of the user agreement may not matter. These are contracts of adhesion in the setting of a natural monopoly.

Breaking up the tech companies could look something like the breakup of AT&T in the early 1980s. The platform would remain the same, but the services offered could be styled to suit the consumer.

Facebook could still be the same Facebook overlay, but the product delivery could be different, depending on user choice. One might accept the free version wherein ads are displayed, while the payment would be the user’s data, much like now. Another might opt to pay for the service without ads, and so on. Either way, the community would not change, and public speech and interaction would continue as it does presently. Unregulated competition could survive in this construction, and several companies could use the platform’s homepage overlay to offer unique services as a result.

The problem with Facebook in particular is that they are offering their services for free in return for the purchase of our data—likes, dislikes, browsing history, etc. Platforms that ban users arbitrarily or discriminatorily and then retain user data are either breaching a contract or possibly liable under an equitable theory such as estoppel or quantum meruit (unjust enrichment). They do not return the data of the user, nor do they pay the user for the data they have used to profit their enterprise. When a ban is imposed, the user-data is retained (as well as the data derived from the user data) for their own profit while wiping out the user’s work product in toto.

But the damages and enrichment are real—and calculable. This potential legal liability is ripe for class action. Discovery in such a suit would expose the political model posing as a business concern.

Connected to this potentiality for class action, is the harm and damage for libel. Just because a user might hold controversial opinions does not give anyone the right to damage that person’s reputation. The consumer ought to have access to the courts to seek redress. When Facebook banned Milo Yiannopoulos, for example, it did so publicly for his alleged “hate speech.” This is a potential libel that should be actionable. No media outlet has the right to harm a person’s reputation. It violates the First Amendment, and contravenes every human being’s right to his own reputation. If Yiannopoulos is a “racist,” then it should be provable in court. If the company cannot prove such, then it should have to cough up damages.

While we have not considered the literal addictive properties that entice us in the form of a dopamine fix, as Sean Parker admitted, the freeing of speech might go a long way to preserving a space for liberty to flourish without the tyrannizing control those companies seek to impose over us. It is also the reason mainstream media cheers when those they disagree with are ousted. They are afraid of those who challenge their oligarchical position. They are afraid of the stronger deliberative argument.

They should be afraid. By breaking up these companies and opening up libel laws, citizens would have the tools they need to seek recompense for injustices done to them, and they would be free to speak their minds. The republic would be better for it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

America • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Technology • The Left

Undermining Our Principles Is a Facebook Feature, Not a Bug

Earlier this month Facebook announced that independent journalists and media personalities Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos would be permanently banished from its global community of 2.3 billion people.

While leftists in politics and the media gloat, corporate conservatives have shrugged their shoulders and invoked the magic spell of the market’s invisible hand. Their nonresponse undoubtedly emboldens Facebook to seek the next dissenting voices to silence.

Others have fought back, making a powerful case that access to social media platforms should be included among the range of civil rights that government guarantees equally to all.

It is certainly true that Facebook’s digital de-personing of dissenters makes a mockery of American principles of freedom of speech, press, and assembly. But these bans go further, flouting principles accepted by the entire global community of states.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, echoing our Constitution, declares in Article 18, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Article 19 sharpens the point, asserting, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

To be clear, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s unabashed attack on this global consensus in support of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and access to media, is a feature of Facebook rather than a bug.

In his recent commencement address at Harvard University, Zuckerberg announced the full scope of his ambition to transcend, even render obsolete, the nation-state. “The great arc of human history,” he explained,  “bends towards people coming together in ever greater numbers—from tribes to cities to nations.” In his view, these forms of community are archaic.

“Progress,” Zuckerberg decreed, “now requires coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.” He explained “the struggle of our time” almost as a holy war between “the forces of freedom, openness, and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism.”

Zuckerberg clearly sees himself at the forefront of this “battle of ideas,” and his model, evidently, is the founder and first ruler of the Roman Empire, Augustus Caesar. He explains that Augustus, “through a really harsh approach . . . established 200 years of world peace.” Zuckerberg admits that this reign of peace “didn’t come for for free, and [Augustus] had to do certain things.” With such a role model, Zuckerberg clearly has no difficulty rationalizing the digital de-personing of his enemies. It remains to be seen how far he is willing to go in his ideological warfare, and how far we will allow him to go.

Prior to his ambition to be a new Caesar, though, Zuckerberg was a hacker. He successfully hacked the media industry, and he did so by finding a way to hack our brains. Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, expressed remorse that the company has grown so powerful by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.“ Parker explained that Facebook’s first developers focused on the question, “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” This project is cynical at best, sinister at worst.

Having discovered how to monopolize our attention, Facebook leveraged its intimate knowledge of the inner workings of our minds to monopolize the media industry. Facebook and Google now combine to control almost 75 percent of the digital ad market. At a time when establishment media companies are going through mass layoffs—and alternative journalists with their new models of citizen journalism are being silenced with impunity—Facebook is achieving massive growth and boasts advertising revenues of $55 billion.

A tiny fraction of Facebook’s revenues in 2016 came from online advertising related to the U.S. presidential election. Still, the political content Facebook allowed significant for American citizens. Revelations that Russian operatives had used Facebook (and its Instagram platform) to sow seeds of anger and division during that campaign continue to produce the bitter fruit of disunity. Since then our politics have been inflamed by accusations of collusion between these Russian operatives and the Trump campaign. Though a special counsel, after an exhaustive two-year investigation, could not sustain the charge of collusion (or, more accurately, criminal conspiracy), partisans are still using the issue to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election.

No doubt this destabilization of American politics is just what the Russian hackers intended. But what about the intentions of the one who has hacked our minds, our media, and our democracy—Mark Zuckerberg? His public relations people were both sudden and cryptic in announcing the company’s bans, stating: “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.” It is speculative but relevant to note that the day before the bans, an influential researcher of online disinformation posted a long thread on Twitter demonstrating that Facebook’s Instagram platform was still rife with “russian (sic) propaganda/disinformation.”

It is possible to believe that Zuckerberg was not aware of this troublesome charge, and that the bans were not part of a calculated public relations strategy to distract attention away from it . . . but it does not seem plausible.

Also occurring, coincidentally, the day before Facebook announced these bans was Attorney General Bill Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Mueller investigation. This testimony underscored the point that Mueller’s report failed to support charges of collusion by the Trump Campaign with Russian operatives. As that charge loses force, a critical fact is coming into focus: the one organization that clearly and unambiguously bears Russian fingerprints during the 2016 presidential election is Facebook.

Zuckerberg may be alarmed by the prospect that Russians used his platform to interfere with American politics and elections. That does not change the fact that he intends to use Facebook as a platform for his own personal interference with American politics and elections.

Again, the use of Facebook to undermine American national politics is a feature, not a bug.

Zuckerberg’s digital de-personing of dissenters clearly amounts to a violation of their civil rights, and should be resisted on these grounds. Further, it makes a mockery of American principles of freedom of speech, press, and assembly, and even the supposed global commitment that all individuals should enjoy equal access to media. Most importantly, though, it represents a significant step toward the realization of Zuckerberg’s stated ambition of creating and leading a global empire. Having demonstrated his power to eliminate dissenting voices, Zuckerberg is well on the way to stigmatizing and silencing those who reject his anti-nationalist principles, and to undermining the authority of nation-states to regulate his business or check his ambitions. The question now is whether American citizens and their so-called leaders can muster the power, or even the will, to stop it.

Photo Credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

America • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Media

Understanding Google’s Military Mindset

Google tried to censor the Claremont Institute last week. The tech giant backed off under pressure, but the tactical maneuver was hardly a failure. To see why, we only have to think strategically.

The Claremont Institute is a conservative think tank devoted to preserving the original meaning and vitality of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Claremont has launched a new campaign against the dangers of multiculturalism, as Institute President Ryan Williams announced in an essay last month in its digital publication, The American Mind. The essay explains how multiculturalism and identity politics are anathema to the American principles of equal natural rights.

Google decreed that essay, and indeed Claremont’s whole American Mind site, to be “a racially oriented publication”—an absurdity belied by Claremont’s long-standing fight against racial classifications, and Google’s indifference to rampant leftist obsessions with racial and ethnic differences.

When the Institute responded aggressively, publicly challenging Google, several conservative outlets expressed outrage.

Google backed off, claiming it had made a “mistake.” Given the facts and applying the most basic logic, this is obviously false.

The most relevant fact is that Institute staff had to spend two hours on the phone asking Google how its ban (on paid advertisements for the Institute’s upcoming banquet) could be appealed, and for clarification about the grounds of the ban. Google responded that there was no appeal. Further, the ban would be withdrawn only upon complete capitulation to Google’s political correctness: the Institute would have to censor itself and repudiate four decades of patriotic scholarship and advocacy.

To understand what’s happening here, one has to think strategically. We are in a cold war with the Left. That war is heating up. Many soft-headed conservatives and libertarians either fail to see this or they’re clinging to the tiniest shreds of information they hope will allow them to ignore what’s happening. Even those of us who appreciate what is going on, do not always see how the other side really is thinking and acting in terms of war.

A military mindset is at work behind Google’s action—which represents the censorship and propaganda agenda of the whole social media conglomerate. To see this, it helps to reflect on a few lessons from one of the 20th century’s great but under-appreciated teachers of war and strategy, Harold W. Rood. Fittingly, Rood himself (who passed away in 2011) was affiliated with the Claremont Institute and taught for many years at Claremont McKenna College.

He had two sayings he was fond of repeating to his students: “Politics is war by other means,” and, “There are no coincidences.”

Take the second one first: The targeting of Claremont was no mistake and no accident. Scholars and activists associated with the Claremont Institute were among the earliest supporters of Donald Trump. The Institute’s Claremont Review of Books published Michael Anton’s famous “The Flight 93 Election”—the only essay that arguably had a significant effect on the 2016 election. And the Institute, more so than any other conservative think tank, has devoted its entire existence to explaining and defending what it means to be an American—an identity grounded in our founding principles of color-blind equal rights.

If Google could have bullied the Claremont Institute into submission, it would have been a massive victory for the regressive Left, and laid the foundation for a vastly more intense and aggressive censorship campaign.

But that wasn’t really what Google expected to happen, which brings up Rood’s second aphorism. The Left’s unrelenting propaganda, intimidation, censorship, de-funding and de-platforming are all tactics as part of a strategy in a “war by other means.” Google’s attempt to ban Claremont’s ads was a classic reconnaissance operation: initiate a small provocative skirmish with the enemy to probe his defenses and see how he responds; then pull back, analyze, and plan for the next (bigger) assault.

Google’s claim that it had made a “mistake” is a transparent falsehood. They were testing the perimeter. Thank goodness, Claremont stood its ground. That was necessary and important. Google has learned that at least one of its targets isn’t soft. But this simply means that the next assault will incorporate what the company learned this week; so it will strike harder.

Will you be ready?

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • Big Media • First Amendment • Free Speech • Online Censorship • Post • Technology

It’s Time To Make Big Tech Practice What It Preaches

Facebook banned Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and other “controversial” personalities from its platforms on Thursday.

This move and similar actions by big tech contradicts its deep love for net neutrality.

“Net neutrality is the idea that the internet should be free and open for everyone,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in 2017.

“The Internet has been a level playing field and I don’t think we would be here today and have a strong, free and open Internet without net neutrality,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in 2015.

“The @FCC’s vote to gut #NetNeutrality rules is a body blow to innovation and free expression. We will continue our fight to defend the open Internet and reverse this misguided decision,” the Twitter Public Policy account tweeted in 2017.

The hypocrisy is glaring when reviewing the many cases where Facebook, Google, and Twitter blocked or banned users based solely on their political views. These platforms promise a free and open internet, yet fail to deliver one with their own services.

A panel hosted by the Hoover Institution in Washington, D.C., last week highlighted big tech’s net neutrality conundrum. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a strong critic of tech malfeasance, delivered the keynote address.

The panel offered salient perspectives on big tech’s neutrality problem. One important theme was how tech giants effectively act as monopolies and can’t be trusted to regulate themselves.

“If you allow the market to sort itself out—when the market is a functional monopoly—you empower the monopolists,” panel host and Hoover Institution fellow Jeremy Carl said.

Hoover Institution scholar Adam White argued big tech’s arguments for net neutrality could easily justify regulations against themselves.

White said tech giants claim if there was no net neutrality, it “would hurt the market, stifle innovation, and allow the monopolists to extract rents.” He countered that big tech’s business practices do those very same things. Yet, we have no regulatory policies in place to correct those issues.

Former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel Dan Huff contended that the problems net neutrality tries to prevent are far more minor than the platform discrimination practiced by Facebook and others. Net neutrality is said to be needed to prevent tiered services that may allow some people to access faster internet. Huff said it’s worse for a restaurant to suffer from artificially distorted search results than it is for them to have competing restaurants with faster internet.

“You need to be most worried about not getting noticed—not the question ‘I’ve gotten noticed but how quickly is [the internet] being delivered?’” Huff said.

He emphasized how internet nondiscrimination advocates should hold net neutrality’s supporters “feet to the fire” on this topic: “Listen, however much you care about this, the greater issue is the one of the platforms.”

Carl gave another example of why big tech’s discrimination is a major concern. He recalled a gay friend explaining why platform blocking is worse than a Christian bakery refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. “If Masterpiece Cakeshop won’t bake me a cake for my wedding, I have lots of other places I can go. But if Amazon bans my book or if Twitter deplatforms me, my ability to earn a livelihood is impacted fundamentally. Yet the first is protected and the second isn’t,” Carl recalled his friend saying.

The event showed that there is a growing bipartisan consensus that the status quo is unsustainable. U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was also supposed to speak, but couldn’t make it due to scheduling conflicts. Hawley and Sinema’s shared interest in the subject shows that internet non-discrimination is an idea Republicans and Democrats can support.

Facebook, Google, and other tech giants operate more like monopolies than the internet providers regulated by net neutrality. More than two-thirds of Americans receive their news from social media. Ninety-three percent of the search engine market is dominated by Google. These corporate giants used their power to throttle the competition. Mozilla has accused Google of intentionally making YouTube videos crash and run slow on Firefox, a competitor to Google’s Chrome browser. Facebook’s Instagram has blocked links to competitors like Snapchat.

Internet nondiscrimination is not just about protecting free speech. It’s also about upholding free-market principles where competition is encouraged and monopolies are broken up. Perhaps it’s time for Congress to make big tech live up to its own principles.

Photo Credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Deep State • First Amendment • Free Speech • Intelligence Community • Post • The Media

Wikileaks or the Washington Post?

The imbroglio du jour of the political class is the question of whether Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder arrested last week in London, is a hero or a villain. Is he a journalist entitled to special treatment or a criminal deserving punishment?

And if pursuing then publishing classified materials is a federal offense, what kind of consequences should American journalists face for reporting classified information? Especially when the illicit information is intended not to warn the public of a legitimate threat posed by their government but for partisan political purposes—specifically, to advance the bogus Trump-Russia collusion hoax?

Assange has been charged in a federal district court in Virginia with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for allegedly working with former U.S. Army security analyst Chelsea Manning to access and post a massive trove of stolen classified documents.

“The primary purpose of the conspiracy was to facilitate Manning’s acquisition and transmission of classified information,” the indictment read. “Assange was knowingly receiving such classified records from Manning for the purpose of of publicly disclosing them on the WikiLeaks website.”

Some of Assange’s detractors insist his alleged attempt to steal classified information, and not the act of posting the illicit documents, makes him a criminal, not a journalist entitled to First Amendment protections.

“Assange wants to fight his case under the banner of press freedom,” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius argued last week. “His problem is that the Justice Department has drawn its indictment carefully enough that the issue is theft of secrets, rather than their publication. That’s why so many press advocates seemed to be distancing themselves from Assange after the news broke Thursday.”

Now, that is an interesting (and not entirely accurate) take coming from Ignatius. His newspaper has been one of the most egregious curators of classified government information in the Trump era. And “theft” is an ambiguous term that could apply to all sorts of shady tactics. From publishing details about private calls between the new president and other world leaders to helping fuel the downfall of Lt. General Michael Flynn, the earliest casualty of the Trump-Russia collusion scheme, the Washington Post has disclosed illegally sourced classified information on multiple occasions.

In January 2017, Ignatius was the first journalist to report that incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had spoken several times with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016. Ignatius, in an attempt to help bolster the then-emerging plotline, further hinted that the conversations might have run afoul of an obscure law. “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?” Ignatius asked. “The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about ‘disputes’ with the United States. Was its spirit violated?”

Ignatius’ article lit a firestorm of controversy for the incoming administration. It also served as a pretext for two post-inauguration briefings between acting Attorney General Sally Yates and White House counsel Don McGahn, where Yates told McGahn that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian “blackmail” because his public statements didn’t line up with his private comments to Kislyak.

The details of those calls were leaked several days later to the Post. In a February 9, 2017 bombshell, three Post reporters claimed that Flynn did discuss Russian sanctions with Kislyak, contrary to Flynn’s public statements.

“Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters,” according to the Post. “Officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables, and saw evidence that Flynn and Kislyak had communicated by text and telephone around the time of the [sanctions] announcement.” Since the calls occured in December 2016, the sources would have been Obama Administration officials who likely were complicit in the scheme to fuel the Trump-Russia collusion hoax.

They also were breaking the law. The details of the calls were gleaned from classified reports produced by “intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats,” the Post acknowledged. This violates a federal law under the Espionage Act that prohibits the disclosure of classified information—a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

During a congressional hearing in March 2017, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) pressed then-FBI Director James Comey about the leak to the Post.

“How would you begin your investigation… that a U.S. citizen’s name appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times unlawfully?” Gowdy asked Comey. After Comey stammered and called the illegal leaks “terrible,” Gowdy continued to push. “One thing you and I agree on is the felonious dissemination of classified material most definitely is a crime,” the congressman said.

But the Post and its abettors were undeterred. In April 2017, two of the same reporters divulged how the FBI had sought and received a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The article was sourced by “officials [who] spoke about the court order on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.”

But, of course, that’s not why the officials wanted to remain anonymous and the Post was less than forthcoming to its readers about why they didn’t want their identities revealed. The reporters would have been more accurate—and truthful—by explaining that disclosing the existence of a FISA order to anyone also is a felony.

Two years later, as I’ve pointed out, the felonious leakers in both the Flynn matter and the Page FISA article have not been charged, let alone identified. Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, appears poised to expose at least a few of the leakers when he submits eight criminal referrals to Attorney General William Barr perhaps as early as this week.

Nunes told Fox News host Sean Hannity that one of his referrals is a “global leaks referral which involves just a few reporters but could involve multiple people.”

Now, these reporters likely would argue that publishing classified information sourced from government officials engaged in a criminal act isn’t a crime itself because they are entitled to some vague protections under the First Amendment. Further, they would argue that, unlike the allegations against Assange, they did not directly attempt to “steal” the classified material from an email server or a computer hard drive or a government document vault.

But what if the reporters enticed the officials with pledges of, say, free tickets to basketball games or golf tournaments? What if the journalists persuaded the felonious leaker to divulge classified information with a promise of a night on the town? After all, that is exactly what the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in his June 2018 report on the Clinton email investigation.

“We identified instances where FBI employees improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events,” the report disclosed. This fueled “a culture of unauthorized media contacts” that the IG detailed in two charts at the end of his report.

Or what if the reporter was being paid by political flacks to print classified information designed to harm the opposition? Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson is a former journalist with deep ties to the D.C. media claque. Turns out that Simpson was paying some of his journo-pals to write stories about the Fusion-planted Russia investigation.

Or what if the reporters and the news outlet published illicit national intelligence in order to win a major award? After all, the staff of the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for its “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign.”

Or what if the reporter slept with the man in charge of classified documents for a powerful Senate committee just so she could get the scoop, as was the case with a young New York Times reporter, Ali Watkins, and her lover, 30 years her senior, who fed her secret info about the Trump-Russia investigation?.

Just because these journalists didn’t steal the Page FISA application or Flynn transcripts themselves should not excuse their culpability. Further, unlike previous examples of news organizations publishing classified information against the will of the federal government, none of this was done in the public interest or for national security. The Washington Post reporters were used as scribes for anti-Trump antagonists associated with the top echelons of our law enforcement and intelligence apparatus while refusing to inform their readers that the information they were publishing was sourced by people breaking the law. It’s hard to see how most Americans would consider that legitimate journalism protected by the First Amendment.

In fact, at least WikiLeaks posted the entire trove of documents and let the reader judge for himself what to make of the evidence. The Washington Post reporters, and others of their ilk, are worse, relying on politically-motivated Obama holdovers bitter that Donald Trump won the election who were doing everything in their power to undermine his presidency.

That’s not heroism, or even solid journalism. It’s exploiting special privilege for partisan purposes. Not only should that not be rewarded, it should be investigated and handled accordingly. It’s clear that the widely-accepted press protections under the First Amendment have been abused by the American media in service of sabotaging Trump’s presidency. The damage they’ve inflicted on the country and the individuals involved is as serious as any other criminal leak of classified information.

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America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Conservatives • First Amendment • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Post • race • Religion of Peace

Candace Owens Has Shown Us the Way

How did this happen?

When did it become OK for one of the two major political parties in America to attack a young black woman, who works for an orthodox Jew, as a fascistic fan of Adolf Hitler after she was invited to testify before Congress?

When did it become OK for the representatives of the same party openly to label Israel, our closest friend in the Middle East, an “evil” state which has “hypnotized the West,” then libel their fellow representatives of having “dual loyalties” because they are Jewish, or to intimate that Israel simply shouldn’t exist?

And when did the all the leading names in that party’s list of candidates for president come to see it as obligatory to endorse a Green New Deal for the nation that has as its objective the outlawing of the internal combustion engine and air travel?

This is today’s Democratic Party. A party whose members wish to see tax rates reach 70 percent, who want to abolish the federal agencies that protect our borders, and who used to believe that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” but who now want mothers to have the right not only to kill their child in the womb, but also once it has been delivered into the world. It’s a party that is just fine with one of its freshman representatives targeting a Jewish advisor of President Trump’s as a “white nationalist” even as she belittles the events of September 11, 2001, and mocks those who take al-Qaeda and Hezbollah seriously.

This is a party in radicalizing free fall, with its new leaders vying to outdo each other in their extremism as the old guard simply surrenders to the mob.

Most Americans think the words and actions of today’s Democratic Party are un-American. By “most,” I mean those who live outside the ultra-liberal metropolises in the land where the real world exists.

Before I joined the Trump Administration, I traveled the nation to brief our military, the FBI, and local law enforcement on the evolution of the terrorist threat from al-Qaeda to ISIS, and during the 20,000 miles or so I would average in a month, I met thousands upon thousands of patriotic Americans. All of them lived in the real world. They would have no idea who Anderson Cooper or Rachel Maddow are, but they would have no truck with anyone who believes that America has never been great or that our president should be apologizing for who we are.

In fact, these are the people who voted for a non-politician in 2016 to fix all that the reigning political class had destroyed since the 1980s.

We are a nation divided. But we are not divided in the way the fake news media and the talking heads would have you believe.

The division is between an establishment that doesn’t care about life outside of the Acela corridor in the “flyover states” and the people who actually work in those states to make America the incredible country it is. It is a division between a radicalized Democratic Party which hates the traditional American values upon which our Republic is built, and those who shed blood on foreign fields to vouchsafe that Republic and who carry a badge and a gun and keep us safe from those who would use violence against us at home. And it is a division between the average American conservative who still believes in the model of citizen-politician typified by our Founding Fathers and our 45th president and their Republican senators and congressman who have become professional politicians, grifters, liars, and cowards.

Candace Owens’ testimony has the potential to leave an indelible mark on American politics and culture. Already, barely a week after she publicly annihilated Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the C-SPAN clip of her stand against their bigotry and rank arrogance has garnered a record-breaking 7.5 million views online. And I for one intend to repost it daily and play the magnificent audio on my national radio show, “America First,” until both disgraceful racists no longer serve on Capitol Hill.

In her interview with Breitbart Radio after the hearing, Candace spoke of her experience testifying for the first time in front of Congress, the trepidation she felt, and then about her realization of who her foes were: “I sat down in the chair, and I have to say, just looking at them, they just all seem so pathetic to me. . . . I think it was a major win for all of us.”  

Candace most definitely won. But it is now our responsibility to take her example as the catalyst we have been waiting for.

We cannot reason with the Democratic Party. Its policies are those of extremists. Its leading lights are bigoted racists who are as comfortable publicly attacking young black women now as they were when the Ku Klux Klan was the official armed wing of their party and its politicians held offices in both.

In 2016 we pulled our nation back from the precipice of disaster. Since then, incredibly, the Democrats have radicalized even more and the establishment GOP has continued its charade of pretending to represent conservative values and our founding principles.

Perhaps it is time to resurrect the Tea Party or create its new 21st-century analogue, one led by people with the courage and fortitude of young women like Candace Owens. Brava.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Big Media • Congress • Democrats • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Progressivism • Technology • The Culture • The Left

Zuckerberg’s Regulation Gambit Is a Scam

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The writing is on the wall, and Mark Zuckerberg has finally noticed.

Facebook’s litany of failures finally generated enough heat to push Zuckerberg to publish a call for regulation of his company and the social media space in general. I’ve long called for better oversight and accountability for these social media giants and the role they play in our public life, but Zuck’s suggestions ring hollow; like the words of a man whose hand has been caught in the cookie jar, arguing for more sustainable distribution of the cookies he’s already stolen. It’s time to treat these companies not as the plucky startups they pretend to be, but as the corporate behemoths they’ve become.

Zuckerberg argues—unconvincingly—that “we” need additional regulations on speech, more restrictions on how Americans are able to influence their own elections, data regulatory schemes, and “data portability.” There are more than a few problems with this.

First, our representatives have abdicated their role in representing the people, particularly when it comes to their duty to protect and defend our First Amendment rights. Because of that, these tech companies have filled the void and elected themselves the arbiters of “hate speech.” Memo to those reading: corporations run by and filled with leftists are bound to have a different definition of “free speech” than you or I do.

Democrats and those on the Left have always wanted to monitor and muzzle the political speech with which they disagree. From running smear campaigns against Republican donors to using the IRS to attack conservative nonprofits, Democrats are out to use the system to make elections break in their favor. Whether it’s through campaign finance regulations or hate speech regulations, Democrats are determined only to allow certain people to use their money or their influence to engage in political speech. They’re happy to let Patagonia slander politicians, but if Chick-Fil-A wants to speak in favor of traditional families, watch out. Now they’re joined in their work to redefine what is acceptable speech by those who have a similar worldview: Google, Twitter, and Facebook.

The problem before us now is that we have an attempt to limit and then manipulate speech and the free flow of information so that the Left can create a brave new world in its own image. They have no doubt that the ends they pursue are noble and just. And they are just as sure that all who oppose them are evil. Deviation from that opinion is “hate.”

When Zuckerberg calls for transparency and “data portability,” his proposals really mean cementing Facebook’s power and hamstringing any would-be rivals. Zuckerberg is suggesting Congress create a regulatory scheme with which only the biggest and most well-heeled of companies can comply. This is a familiar tactic in industry.

Much like the EU’s GDPR, these kinds of regulatory schemes inherently benefit the established interests. Startups that emerge from garages and college dorms can’t afford the gaggle of lawyers it will take to comply with expensive, resource consuming regulations like the ones Zuckerberg and company will propose. By passing these laws we could entrench the establishment and ensure that the killer app that could out compete Facebook never emerges.

If Congress is actually serious in representing the interests of the American people—and there is strong doubt that they actually are—then it needs finally to treat Facebook, Google, and Twitter like the publishers and telecommunications companies they are.

They aren’t just technologies and they certainly aren’t neutral platforms. They are publishers that decide what is and isn’t allowed or encouraged on their platform. They decide this not only with their often arbitrary and ever-changing “community guidelines,” but also with their algorithms, that choose the posts you see and the ones you don’t. These are not the actions of a neutral tech company, but those of a publisher with a viewpoint and a world view they’d like to see implemented. Our representatives need to stop giving them exemptions that don’t hold them responsible for the content posted on their website and stop letting them get away with squelching ideas that aren’t popular in Silicon Valley.

Congress shouldn’t abdicate its responsibilities to represent and protect the American peoples’ rights to free speech and the free flow of information—and certainly not for the sake of un-elected left-leaning corporatists in Silicon Valley. It’s time for members of Congress to do their jobs by recognizing we have publishing companies and telecommunications companies masquerading as tech companies. This is the only way to protect all Americans online. The future freedom of our republic depends on it.

America • Conservatives • Defense of the West • First Amendment • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left

How the Left Keeps Me Religious

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Nothing keeps me religious more than the Left, not even religion itself.

I am not even particularly “spiritual.” My religiosity is overwhelmingly rational (the title of my Bible commentary is The Rational Bible). I believe in God because creation rationally suggests a Creator.

The force that has most propelled me to religion is the great (secular) religion of the last 100 years: the Left. If most people of the Left (the Left, not liberalism)—people who have not only rejected but scorned God, Judaism, Christianity, and the Bible—were decent individuals, were committed to intellectual honesty and had produced some great art and works of wisdom, leftism would have constituted a serious challenge to my religious beliefs.

But the very opposite is the case. While liberals have done some good, everything the Left has touched it has ruined. The most obvious example is the universities. As Harvard professor Steven Pinker, a liberal and an atheist, put it, the Left has rendered the universities a “laughingstock.”

The most godless, religion-free and Bible-free institution in the West, the university, has become the both the stupidest and most morally corrupt institution in the West. That is what first awakened me to the indispensability of God, religion, and the Bible. I first wrote about it some 16 years ago (“How I found God at Columbia”). 

Our universities, because of the Left, are intellectually and morally sick. And if that is not a result of their antipathy to the Bible, its God and Judeo-Christian thought, what is it the result of?

Let’s begin with the moral. The Left and the universities teach gullible young students lies, immoral idea, and foolish doctrines. At almost any university in the English-speaking world, the United States—arguably the most decent large society in history—is depicted as a vile society, founded by bigots who engaged in genocidal evil, sustained by racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and greed. Its wars are depicted as racist and imperialist. Students are taught that it is a racist “microaggression” to say that “There is only one race: the human race” or “America is a land of opportunity” or “I try to treat everyone the same.” At universities, minority students are taught that they are hated by all white Americans—perhaps the greatest libel since the medieval blood libel that charged Jews with killing Christian children to use their blood for Passover matzos.

The universities teach that in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it is humane, democratic, liberal Israel that is the villain, not the totalitarian genocidal theocrats of Hamas. I debated this very issue at Oxford University, where my opponents, two left-wing academics, argued that between Israel and Hamas, Israel was the greater threat to Middle East peace.

The godless left and universities teach there is no male and female in the human species, that these terms are mere “social constructs.” A few weeks ago, two trans females came in first and second place in a Connecticut high school track race. These runners won solely because they were biological males. Yet, not only they were allowed to race against females, but they also set new records in Connecticut girls track. Anyone who complained this was unfair—which to every non-leftist it was—was attacked by the Left as “haters.” A writer for The Nation defended the male bodies that won the races because, in his moronic words, “trans women are in fact women” (emphasis added). As I showed in my last column, truth has never been a left-wing value.

Moreover, I could not find one “feminist” organization that defended the girl runners of Connecticut. Feminism is no more interested in protecting women than Communism was in protecting workers.

The Left is also the Western home of contemporary anti-Semitism. There are individual anti-Semites across the political spectrum, but the incubator of modern anti-Semitism is the left. Thanks to leftists such as Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the British Labour Party, and the two new female Muslim members of the U.S. Congress, anti-Semitism is becoming respectable in the West for the first time since the Holocaust. The Left has rendered Zionism, the oldest national movement in history—the 2,000-year-old Jewish aspiration to return to Israel—a term of opprobrium. While many individuals continue to support Zionism, the one non-Jewish group to continue to defend it is the evangelical Christian community.

As I show in my commentary on Genesis, what the first book of the Bible depicts is not only God’s creation of the world but, equally important, God’s shaping primordial chaos (Genesis 1:2) into order. The divine order consists of distinctions; prominent examples include man and God, man and animal, male and female, good and evil, holy and profane, parent and child. The Left is a war against order; in its essence, leftism creates chaos. It has worked to destroy all those biblical distinctions. The present giveaway is the nihilist project of the left to erase the male-female distinction, the only innate human distinction God cares about: “God created mankind in his own image . . . male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27); “He created them male and female and blessed them” (Genesis 5:2). No ethnic or racial distinction matters in Genesis; only the male-female distinction.

The God-centered West produced Bach and Michelangelo. The Left, which dominates music and art, has produced mostly junk; there is nothing higher to aspire to, as excellence is not a left-wing value and the Left uses art to shock, not inspire. Hence the huge amount of scatological art, for example.

Belief in God and the Bible were instrumental to the creation of America, the last, best hope of mankind. The rejection of that God and that Bible are instrumental to wrecking America (and the rest of the West). That alone tells me how important that God and that Bible are. The Left knows it, too.

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feminists • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Progressivism • race • The Left

Woke’s on You!

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Those who doubt the operation of a beneficent, or at least an amusing, providence should consider the case of the British writer Titania McGrath. Margaret Ann Bulkley may have decided to move to South Africa and live her life as a man. But Titania McGrath, a Twitter sensation and the author of the forthcoming Woke: A Guide to Social Justice, is “a radical intersectionalist poet committed to feminism, social justice, and armed peaceful protest. A regular on the live-slam poetry scene, Titania regularly performs at arts festivals, deconsecrated churches, and genderqueer spiritual retreats.” Nice! Ms. McGrath was guyed by Private Eye for the way she commended her book to the public: “I have written the most important book of 2019. Do not buy it for my sake, but for the sake of humanity.”

Shameless? Or in-your-face intersectional wokeness?

We incline to the latter view. Ms. McGrath burrows deep into the contradictions of late capitalism, patriarchal privilege, toxic masculinity, white supremacism, and heteronormative binary exclusivity. She is so woke she makes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez look like Sleeping Beauty. Consider: “If you don’t think exactly the same way as me,” she points out, “then you’ve clearly got a lot to learn about diversity.” Could any triggered academic put it better? “I despise whiteness. Literally nothing about me is white except for my skin colour.”

Although she is British, Ms. McGrath outdoes Bill Kristol at his own game: “It’s a broken kind of democracy that allows a majority of voters to impose their wishes on the rest of us.” Yes! Ms. McGrath cracks open the hard nut of oppression lurking inside all of us, all men anyway. “Men who are attracted to women clearly have feminine tastes and are therefore probably gay.” Again: “I have posed nude for Penthouse in an effort to dismantle the patriarchy from within.” And how’s this? “If you only have sex with people you find attractive, you might want to ask yourself why you’re such a superficial bigot” . . .

Read the rest at The New Criterion.

America • Congress • Democrats • Elections • First Amendment • Free Speech • Political Parties • Post • Progressivism • Republicans

‘For the People’ Is a Censorship Bill, Plain and Simple

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Campaign finance reform is all about “getting money out of politics.” Just ask any proponent and they’ll tell you. At eye-rolling, mind-numbing length.

As memes go, however, “getting money out of politics” is effective. It resonates. It sticks. But it isn’t entirely true. Money is, as Jesse Unruh famously said, “the mother’s milk of politics.” Money buys all sorts of things, from air time and mailers to plane tickets and polling data.

Money also buys access. Campaign finance reform, therefore, is about getting the wrong kind of money out of politics. And what’s that? It goes by many names and takes many forms.

“Corporate money.” “Special-interest money.” “Dark money.”

Bad, all bad.

But political campaigning will always cost money. Money gets things done. Just try to run for office without any money and see how far you get. The goal of reform, then, is to replace “bad money” with “good money.” And “good money” invariably means taxpayer money with strings attached.

Enter Congress.

The House of Representatives last week passed House Resolution 1, which Democrats cleverly dubbed the “For the People Act.” Vote against “the people” at your peril, Republicans! Which they did, and rightly so…

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump • Education • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • The Left

A Million-Dollar Punch

President Trump on March 2 announced he would issue an executive order addressing free speech on college and university campuses. The order itself hasn’t been issued, and so far there has been little indication of what it might say. That hasn’t stopped a torrent of criticism aimed at what Trump might do. The higher education establishment is worried. The president’s words suggest that significant funding could be at stake.

This is what President Trump actually said about the executive order during his two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual convention. First, he made some general comments:

We reject oppressive speech codes, censorship, political correctness and every other attempt by the hard left to stop people from challenging ridiculous and dangerous ideas. These ideas are dangerous. Instead we believe in free speech, including online and including on campus.

Then, after introducing Hayden Williams, the young man who had been punched while distributing conservative pamphlets at UC Berkeley, Trump continued:

Today I am proud to announce that I will very soon be signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars.

If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak. Free speech. And if they don’t, it will be costly. That will be signed soon.

Certainly these statements convey a tone and an attitude, put they do not present a policy beyond the general sense that the pending executive order would forge some link between research funding and institutional support for free speech.

Trump’s words about the executive order won lots of applause but the more vivid moment was his praise of Williams, whom he advised to sue his assailant and the university. Trump forecast that the punch would make Williams a wealthy man. In theory, it could also impoverish a lot of colleges and universities that, at this point, are tied up in ideological knots and have no idea how they could reconcile their profound dependence on federal spending with their eagerness to appease the illiberal Left.

The most sensible response to Trump’s remarks has been Adam Kissel’s essay in National Review, “An Executive Order on Campus Free Speech.” Kissel surveys the numerous twists and turns, water traps, fire pits, and rock walls that such an executive order would have to navigate. Which institutions? Private as well as public? Funding for research or for institutional overhead? How would the policy promote or inhibit the search for truth? Would the policy get to the less obvious ways that colleges and universities suppress dissenting views, such as faculty hiring? Might the new policy actually encourage such repressive measures as “bias response teams” that routinely stigmatize unpopular views? How would the government know when a college is violating its new rules? What would happen to these rules in the hands of a different president?

Numerous other figures have commented more harshly on the pending executive order, including the president of the University of Chicago, Robert Zimmer (“a grave error”) and Terry Hartle, who is senior vice president of the establishmentarian redoubt, the American Council on Education. Hartle called Trump’s proposed executive order, “A solution in search of a problem.”

How to Fix It
As head of an organization (the National Association of Scholars) that tries to stay sober when others are off popping champagne corks or drowning their sorrows, I feel obligated not to reach for either condemnation or endorsement until we see what the executive order actually says. But it is fair game to say what I’d like to see in the way of federal action on intellectual freedom in higher education. Part of this is philosophical. I’m no First Amendment absolutist. But part of it is practical. I know how colleges and universities work. First I’d like to see a policy that reflects:

  1. Recognition that the First Amendment doctrine of free speech has only limited applications to higher education. Free speech pertains to prohibitions on the government controlling what people can say. Much of higher education is made up of private colleges and universities. Moreover, all colleges and universities necessarily restrict expression. An academic course or a college classroom is not a free-for-all.
  2. Recognition that intellectual freedom, as distinct from free speech, is indispensable to higher education. Students and faculty members need to be free to think their own thoughts and express them in appropriate ways.
  3. Recognition that the reason we value intellectual freedom and freedom of expression is that they together contribute to the pursuit of truth. Intellectual freedom doesn’t guarantee that we will find the truth on a particular question. Such freedom often leads to mistakes or to powerfully held but false convictions. But without intellectual freedom and freedom of expression those mistakes and false convictions go unchallenged, unexamined, and unrefuted. To put this another way, intellectual freedom is a path, not a destination. The destination is discovering the truth.
  4. Recognition that institutions of higher education have a civic responsibility to foster the pursuit of truth, and to that end they need to uphold the kinds of intellectual freedom and freedom of expression that are aimed at truth-seeking.
  5. Recognition that there are ways of organizing intellectual freedom and freedom of expression that are hostile to truth-seeking. To declare that one’s mind is made up about something and one is no longer willing to hear criticism of one’s view is, in a sense, an act of intellectual freedom: freedom from having to consider contrary arguments or weigh evidence that contradicts the opinions one is seeking to protect. But that is not the kind of intellectual freedom that higher education should encourage. That is a misuse of intellectual freedom aimed at silencing debate.
  6. Recognition that attempts to silence the expression of views one dislikes are wrong. Likewise attempting to prevent the appointment of faculty members, the admission of students, or the inviting of speakers on the grounds that their ideas are offensive or traumatizing is not a legitimate exercise in freedom of thought or expression. Drawing the line between wrongful attempts to exclude unfavored views or the people who hold then, and legitimate attempts to uphold intellectual standards can be difficult. Colleges and universities should strive to be fair but also generous. The close calls go in favor of including the views that might otherwise go unheard.
  7. Recognition that the parts of higher education that most undermine intellectual freedom and freedom of expression are out of sight. The shout-downs and disinvitations are highly visible, and the social media mobbing of non-conforming faculty members and students is often seen by the public as well. But it is the decisions behind closed doors not to admit, invite, or hire; the decisions to create and fund one program and not another that are at the heart of the Left’s illiberal campus regime.

Beyond these seven points, I’d like to see a practical policy that is calibrated to the offenses and the contexts. There is no reason why the physics department at UC Berkeley should suffer a cut in funds merely because a non-student was punched by another non-student on university property. Universities can be and often are bad actors, but figuring out how to sanction them for repeated transgressions will require careful attention to who is actually responsible for the transgressions themselves and, separately, the cover-ups and excuses.

In the last few years we have learned a lot about which faculty members incite student mobs and we have learned even more about deans, provosts, and college presidents who temporize over illegal and dangerous student-led disruptions. The administrations that concede everything to the disruptive students, who meet flagrant violations with wrist slaps, or who even bestow honors and commendations of bad actors are the most culpable figures. An executive order that calls down severe sanctions on institutions led by people like these would be welcome. It would spur their boards of trustees to clean house.

And that, more than anything, would solve the problem that President Trump hopes to address.

As to the objection that his executive order would lack statutory authority: Nonsense. Title I of the Higher Education Act, passed in 1965 and still standing, Part B, Section 112, “Protection of Student Speech and Association Rights” stipulates:

(C) an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas;

(D) students should not be intimidated, harassed, discouraged from speaking out, or discriminated against; and

(E) students should be treated equally and fairly.

On that basis, I would say President Trump has plenty of room to run.

Photo Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California • Donald Trump • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • The Left

Trump Has Saved the Free Speech Movement

He took a hard punch in the face for all of us.”

With these words, President Donald Trump transformed Hayden Williams, the young conservative campus activist who was viciously punched in the face at UC Berkeley last month, from a victim to conservative folk hero.

Trump went further. With Williams looking on in starstruck awe, the president announced at the Conservative Political Action Convention on Saturday that he would sign an executive order that would oblige American universities to comply with the First Amendment’s free-speech protections or risk losing federal funding.

For President Trump, it was an old refrain: his words echoed sentiments he expressed exactly two years and one month ago on Twitter, the day after the city of Berkeley was set ablaze in a riot over conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’s planned speaking engagement on campus.

In other words, President Trump is finally making good on his promise to hold universities accountable for trampling on the free-speech rights of conservatives. It also means UC Berkeley will finally have to come to terms with its own celebrated (and now ironic) legacy as the “Home of the Free Speech Movement.”

As the president of the Berkeley College Republicans in 2017 and someone who was involved with inviting Yiannopoulos, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, and Ben Shapiro to speak at UC Berkeley, I feel vindicated by the president’s words at CPAC. All of the hard work my colleagues and I put into fighting for conservative students’ right to voice their opinions on liberal campuses, unmolested by the Left, appears to be on the verge of paying off in a big way.

In February 2017, it was a different story. Milo Yiannopoulos effectively was shut down by radical leftists, who threw explosives, set trash cans on fire, and broke windows. My friends and I were pursued in the streets by angry mobs threatening to bloody our faces beneath the heels of their boots. Locked away later in the safety of a dorm room I warned, “The Free Speech Movement is dead.”

To me, that moment seemed both transformational and deadly: a pivot point from the era of impregnable American constitutional rights to a de facto repeal of those rights in favor of politically correct thought control and mob rule. Our inability to secure a venue for Horowitz and Coulter to speak on campus, and the large police presence required for Shapiro—who had spoken at UC Berkeley in April 2016 without incident—only confirmed to me my worst suspicions about the state of our country.

In this, Berkeley was a microcosm of the Left’s shocking abandonment of even its own principles. Once the epicenter of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, Berkeley now stood as yet another “good censor” in the model of its neighbors at Google. The New Free Speech Movement—an organic, grassroots swell of campus conservative courage—was killed in its cradle by thuggish “anti-fascists,” with the tacit approval of cowardly university administrators who no doubt would still turn around and trumpet Berkeley’s free-speech heritage in fundraising appeals, even as they denied and destroyed it on-campus.

But they can no longer claim to be the caretakers of that heritage. President Trump has defrocked them. We should be relieved by that, but we should not forget that the case of Hayden Williams was merely the most egregious example of a trend that has persisted on Berkeley’s campus for years.

Where was the mainstream media when Jack Palkovic was assaulted in front of a local news crew by two men, just because he had the gall to wear a Make America Great Again cap in public? Where was the mainstream media when Kiara Robles was pepper-sprayed in the face and William Wright pelted with paint during the Milo Yiannopoulos riots? Where was the media when Joey Gibson and Keith Campbell were hospitalized after a rally in support of Trump?

These people were my friends and acquaintances. Yet the objective fact that their blood was spilt was met with the kind of polite, disinterested silence that the media reserves for neo-Nazi marchers. The assumption implicit in their deafening silence was clear: We had it coming. We must have. After all, we supported President Trump.

And now, President Trump supports us. With that support will come real change: change the media cannot bury or ignore. The sanctimonious, haughty, platitudinous nonsense that academic elites feed themselves about “only being intolerant of intolerance” will be swept away by the harsh light of the law, which will penetrate every nook and cranny where the black-clad, black-hearted Black Bloc hide. The Free Speech Movement will live again, and once more stick its thumb in the eye of cosseted liberal elites seeking to foist the arid ideology of technocracy on unquestioning students.

Decades ago, another free-speech radical declared war on “well-meaning liberals” and exhorted his peers: “You’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels . . . upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

President Trump has ensured that the bodies of innocent conservative college students are not fodder for progressive machine politics. President Trump understands that that machine operates in direct opposition to our freedom, and because of that, he has taken the steps necessary to prevent the machine from working at all. The Free Speech Movement lives at Berkeley again. And the well-meaning liberals couldn’t be more terrified.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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California • Center for American Greatness • First Amendment • Post • Religion and Society

Violating the Confessional Will Make Bad Catholics and Bad Americans

California legislators want to force Catholic priests to break the sacramental seal of confession and reveal what penitents disclose in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. Senate Bill 360 by Jerry Hill of San Francisco would achieve this by designating priests—and all clergy, in fact, regardless of religious affiliation—as “mandatory reporters” of such crimes.

The brazenness of this proposed law is breathtaking. We all know that California lawmakers are basically allergic to reality, but it’s distressing to contemplate that, at best, they have never heard of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, or, at worst, they hate and want to gut it.

Yet it is not at all surprising this would happen in a cultural moment when:

  • CNN anchor John King felt comfortable musing that maybe Second Lady Karen Pence shouldn’t get Secret Service protection because she’s an evangelical Christian
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) attacked now-Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s impartiality because she’s an orthodox Catholic (remember “the dogma lives loudly within you”?)
  • The Obama administration tried to force nuns to pay for contraceptives in violation of their Catholic faith
  • Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) implied that a judicial nominee who is part of a Catholic charitable organization, the Knights of Columbus, couldn’t be an impartial judge
  • The Colorado Civil Rights Commission openly expressed its bigotry against Christian cakemaker Jack Phillips (but was slapped down by the Supreme Court last term)
  • The mainstream media perpetrated a coordinated smear campaign against 16-year-old Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School and his friends.

The California bill is just the latest and boldest salvo in a broader assault on religious liberty, a precious right Americans ought to hold dear, orchestrated by the Democratic Party’s progressive, “social justice” wing: a pack of extreme, anti-Christian fundamentalists.

However, we might wonder whether we should really care about this bill. After all, haven’t some Catholic priests done horrible things to some children? Why should they get “special treatment” just because they wear a Roman collar? Maybe we should force them to report the abuse or neglect of minors.

That impulse is understandable given the degree to which the Church has soiled itself in recent decades, and because some of her leaders have behaved unbelievably shamefully in speaking about and denouncing clerical sex abuse, but this bill emphatically is not the way to protect children and secure justice.

A Bad Standard Made Better
Whatever our in-the-moment instincts say, we have to remember that we simply will not and cannot promote the common good and human flourishing by trampling on the natural right to religious freedom.

In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), Justice Antonin Scalia authored what might have been his very worst majority opinion. In it, he seemed to imply that we could and must suborn religious freedom in some cases in order to promote the common good.

In Smith, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s free exercise clause permits the government to prohibit sacramental peyote use and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use. Smith stands for a broader proposition, too: “[I]f prohibiting the exercise of religion . . . is . . . merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been offended.”

Essentially, Smith teaches that if a law is general in its reach and therefore doesn’t target a particular religion, then it’s analyzed under rational-basis review—a very lax standard under which the government nearly always wins.

In response, and endorsing a more robust conception of religious freedom, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) in 1993 to overrule Smith; many states followed suit, passing their own RFRAs after the Supreme Court held in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) that the federal RFRA was an unconstitutional attempt to abrogate states’ sovereignty pursuant to Congress’s Section 5 enforcement powers under the 14th Amendment. (Congress fixed that and other issues by enacting the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, “RLUIPA,” in 2000.)

RFRAs subject laws that allegedly infringe upon religious free exercise to strict scrutiny review; the government nearly always loses such cases, which is why we say that strict scrutiny—the highest standard of review known to modern constitutional law—is “strict in theory but fatal in fact.”

Religion Rightly Understood
RFRAs also stand for a broader proposition that religion—the freedom to worship God in accord with the binding dictates of one’s conscience, in private or public—is of paramount importance, and should only be infringed in the rarest of circumstances, namely, in the interest of preserving public order or to protect another’s rights.

An example of a practice that offends both limiting principles would be human sacrifice as practiced by the ancient Aztecs. Clearly, the victim’s right to life should matter more than the free exercise of the one who would sacrifice him. In endorsing a robust conception of religious freedom—a person is presumptively free to practice his religion until he hits an obvious limitation—RFRAs shield religion from crude “balancing tests” or imprecise, overly deferential judicial analyses, both of which result in the government’s accruing sweeping power to regulate, and thus control, the substantive content of religion.

But religion, rightly understood, is a pre-political right, ordered toward the supernatural and so is simply outside the government’s domain of competence. As Madison wrote in his “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments”: “This duty [to the Creator] is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society” (emphasis in original).

California legislators, arrogantly and tyrannically, have decided that duties to our Creator, pursued and exercised in even the most sensitive of sacraments—the confession of sins—must be subject to their watchful, bigoted eyes. The inviolability of the confessional’s contents is what allows it to work; if people cannot be fully candid with the man who stands in the person of Christ to absolve their guilt, then they are not truly free to be faithful Americans Catholics.

Violations of the confessional are violations of a right which the Constitution does not create but merely recognizes as existing by nature. That is unacceptable. But if it is allowed to happen, it would have far-reaching, negative consequences for any person of faith.

Happily, however, such a law would have a positive side-effect: giving good, holy priests opportunities to prove their fidelity to Christ and His Church by enduring (probably) a bloodless martyrdom when they refuse to violate canon law or their own consciences under the threat of government coercion.

If this bill becomes law, no religious believer is safe.

First, they came for the Catholics, but I was not a Catholic, and so I did nothing. . . .

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