Tag: Human rights

The Purge

For the last few months, Stephen Bainbridge has been talking about “the Purge”, what he perceives as an increased effort to rid campuses of ideas and people that the Left does not approve of. It has manifested in universities cutting funding for conservative groups and preventing them from hosting speakers that some students don’t approve of (lest anyone be “offended”). It has manifested in Rutgers withdrawing an invitation to Condi Rice to speak at their commencement (a precedent followed by other schools). It has manifested in Brandeis withdrawing a speaking invitation to Ayan Hirsi Ali. It has manifested in Charles Murray’s speech at Azusa Pacific being postponed indefinitely.

In isolation, these things wouldn’t be a concern. No one has a right to speak, after all (although I doubt the people who objected to Rutgers hosting “war criminal” Condi Rice would object to hosting a member of the Administration that has droned American citizens to death without trial). But we’re now seeing the second stage: legal harassment of people who may harbor politically incorrect views:

Douglas Laycock, School of Law faculty member and husband of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, is one of the country’s leading experts on religious liberty, and is well-known for a legal stance that often puts him on opposite sides of polarizing political issues: He supports individual religious rights, but also a total separation of church and state, and he’s argued several Supreme Court cases from that position, defending conservative Lutherans and Santería sect members alike.

Some of his recent writings have been heavily cited by members of the religious right, and now he’s facing the ire of activists on the other end of the political spectrum.

“His work, whether he understands it or realizes it or not, is being used by folks who want to institute discrimination into law,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of Berkeley, California-based LGBT activist group GetEQUAL.

Through the activist group Virginia Student Power Network, GetEQUAL found two UVA students willing to take up the cause of calling out Laycock: rising fourth-year Greg Lewis and now-alum Stephanie Montenegro. Last week, the pair sent an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” They also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups.

They say they just want to “start a dialogue”. Many of you will recognize that language. “Starting a dialogue” frequently translates out of Leftese into English as “you will shut up while I berate you.” Bainbridge calls them out:

Bullshit. You don’t start a dialogue with FOIA requests. This is a blatant effort at deterring public participation by anyone who does not hew 100% to the most radical version of the gay rights movement.

FOIA requests should sound familiar. That was the tactic that, when used in an attempt to fish around in Michael Mann’s records, was denounced by the Left as an Orwellian attack on academic freedom. And it was. But now that it is being applied to someone who isn’t even conservative, but is insufficiently liberal, it’s OK again. And that’s not the first time they’ve flipped on this. When Greenpeace used FOIA to go after climate skeptical Patrick Michaels, the academic-freedom-loving Left cheered them on. They then used the information Greenpeace dredged up to attack Michaels. (To be fair, as Walter Olson notes, some conservative groups are also using FOIA to attack profs they don’t like).

Look, you either believe in academic freedom or you don’t. You either believe in the free exchange of ideas or you don’t. And a significant and vocal part of the Left has made it clear, sometimes very explicitly, that they only believe in academic freedom for ideas they approve of.

I don’t think you win arguments by silencing dissenters. Argue … shout … scream … protest … sure. Make your case; make it forcefully; mock your opponents. That’s fighting bad speech with more free speech. But the tenor of these attacks is edging closer and closer to censorship, closer and closer to ridding the academy of ideas that are considered dangerous or subversive (at least by a small group of like-minded people).

The justification is usually given as protecting people from being offended. But no one has a right to not be offended. Hell, it’s good to be offended sometimes. It can motivate you. The most linked blog post I ever wrote was a debunking of Mother Jones’ claim that mass shooting were on the rise. I wrote it because I was infuriated by their abuse of statistics.

Moreover college is where you should be exposed to a broad array of ideas, some of which may offend you. Being taken out of your comfort zone is how you learn. Sometimes, you learn that you were wrong (of course, nothing offends people more than being wrong). Sometimes you learn that you were right. I always despised communism. It wasn’t until I was exposed to communist writings in college that if found it offended me with its awful understanding of economics and explicit embrace of totalitarianism.

Another justification given is that we don’t want to contaminate impressionable young minds with bad ideas. More garbage. The best time to encounter bad ideas is when you’re in college, when your entire life revolves around ingesting and either accepting or rejecting ideas.

You don’t immunize people from “bad” ideas by hiding them away. You argue, you debate, you explain why those ideas are wrong, you put forward better ideas. If you think Douglas Laycock is wrong on religious freedom, file your own amicus briefs. But don’t abuse the FOIA laws to try to harass and intimidate him. That’s not “starting a dialogue”. That just thuggery.

Citizens Untied

I’ve ever understood the hue and cry among the Left over Citizens United. It seem to me a lot of it is based on misinformation. They think that Citizens opened the door for big evil corporations to make massive policial campaign contributions. But that was already legal. Citizens was a very specific case where a non-profit political group made a movie about Hillary Clinton and were forbidden to show it 60 days before an election. It was an issue of free speech, not money. The same laws used to block Hillary: The Movie could and have been used to shut up unions, environmental groups and minority rights groups. But aided by a media who want to ensure that they are the only ones who can tell us what to think, this bullshit narrative has take hold.

Nancy Pelosi and several other Democrats have thrown their weight behind the “People’s Rights Amendment”. This has no chance of passing, none. It’s a bone to the Far Left. But it’s a remarkable insight into how these people think. Here’s the text:

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

This is an extremely bad amendment. As Volokh points out, the wording is liberal enough that it would strip almost any non-individual of their basic rights, including churches, corporate newspapers, all non-profits and basically anyone they want:

Congress could ban speech about elections and any other speech, whether about religion, politics, or anything else. It could also ban speech in viewpoint-based ways.

State legislatures and local governments could do the same. All of them could seize corporate property without providing compensation, and without providing due process. All corporate entities would be stripped of all constitutional rights

Except the compliant media, of course.

The idea that we the people have individual rights but that we the people can not pool our resources to exercise those rights is insane. This isn’t about evil money-grubbing corporations. This is about any group — from the NRA to the NEA to the NBA — exercising their rights.

You will rarely find a more perfect distillation of the hatred that our political class have for basic freedom. What pisses them off about Citizens is not money in politics or corporate rights or anything like that. What pisses them off is the idea of people saying nasty things about them. Had Hillary: the Movie tried to go through Hollywood or the MSM, it would have been stopped by the politicians’ dog washers. How dare the citizens try to get their message out some other way!

They despise our freedom. And they more than happy to take advantage of the anti-corporate hysteria of the Left to abridge it. No politician who supports this amendment should be allowed anywhere near power.

UNESCO FAIL

Syria is in the midst of a brutal murderous crackdown on protesters. Several thousand are dead. So now would seem an appropriate time to … what the?

The Obama administration seems to have to have put itself in the firing line over its handling of the crisis in Syria by not stopping the Mideast country from being elected to a UNESCO committee that deals with human rights.

Critics say that granting Syria a seat on the committee, a consensus decision that happened without much fanfare at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris earlier this month, has enabled the Assad regime to claim it’s doing nothing wrong and has the moral authority to pass judgment on others.

The U.S. sits on the 58-member UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) executive board, which through consensus allowed the Arab regional group’s candidate, Syria, to be re-elected to the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations.

I think the reason the US didn’t object is because we simply don’t care. UNESCO is the more irrelevant part of the UN. The full Human Rights Council has condemned Syria’s action, albeit with some abstention or opposition by various thugocracies. I’m sure a strongly-worded letter is being drafted.