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What Kent State Teaches Us About Free Speech

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

What Kent State Teaches Us About Free Speech

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

U.S. senators focused on free speech on college campuses on Tuesday as a panel questioned students, academics, and lawyers after high-profile speeches were canceled on campuses around the country this past year.

Kent State

Those students and academics questioned on the panel insisted the “golden rule” is for the speech to go on as long as violence can be prevented. They dismissed the idea of intolerance.

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, said that a “heckler’s veto” should not be allowed.

“I think the answer is to make sure they don’t create a disturbance and to threaten them with punishment, meaningful punishment if they do create a disturbance,” Volokh said. “If thugs learn that all they need to do in order to suppress speech is to threaten violence, then there will be more such threats.”

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that universities can’t always deal with the fallout when protestors respond to a speaker they oppose. She said the biggest threat of violence often comes from people who don’t attend the university and that colleges don’t always have the resources to deal with those types of situations.

“You don’t think we learned a lesson at Kent State way back when?” Feinstein said at one point.

In 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed protesters of the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students died and nine others were wounded.

Police charged that among the rioters they had spotted two militants just released from jail after serving six months on violent charges. The students denied this.

During these times on campuses across the country, it is imperative that elected officials and police understand the First Amendment in its entirety before any action is taken in the name of security. It’s also ridiculous to think that the killings of those students would have been prevented if the government hadn’t allowed the protests in the first place.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Therefore, students are within their rights to peacefully protest or demonstrate. If, and only if, protests become violent is it the role of the government to intervene.

Free speech means that Americans have the undeniable right to say, write, publish, and think whatever they want. It also means that we have the right to protest any establishment we so choose, even if it is our university or government.

The events that surrounded the shootings at Kent State should teach us that no matter how controversial the topic, we are within our rights to publicly display our disagreement as long as it is done without violence.

Big Government vs. Self-Government in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family by Morgan Dean Comments are off

Big Government vs. Self-Government in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It is known for the themes of marriage, forgiveness and love. However, upon closer examination, it can also be read as a tale of people fighting the wrongs of Big Government, while pursuing self-government.

as you like itFirst, we have to look at what it means to “self-govern.” We give this our own meaning every day when we make decisions independent from the government. Self-Governing means that you decide how to live and are responsible for your own actions and choices.

In As You Like It, there are two opposing sides in a warring family, Duke Senior, who represents self-government and peace, and the other being Duke Frederick who represents Big Government and violence.

The major motif within the play is a family divided. Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother and banished from the kingdom, while Duke Frederick remains and banishes other members of Duke Senior’s family.

Duke Senior flees to The Forest of Arden where he lives a very minimalist life, among the shepherds who live very pastoral lives. The forest serves as a place of freedom and refuge from the evils of courtly life. The idea of the forest in literature, and especially in this play, is that it is the antithesis of civilization. The forest is the one place that man has not yet touched and made corrupt.

Living in the forest, Duke Senior builds a life for himself, finds other lords who have also left the court, and pursues a freedom in the forest. They operate completely separately from the Big Government that is back at the court, and they are happy.

As we are well aware, Big Government always tries to intervene. Rare contributor Bonnie Kristian wrote an interesting article about how even the smallest examples of government interference should concern us.

Even during Shakespeare’s time, there is government overreach. Duke Frederick and his posse go after Duke Senior. However, along the way he meets a priest who convinces him to lead a peace-loving life away from the court. Self-government, for the win!

If self-government worked in the Shakespearean era, with practice, it can work today, several hundred years later.

Most importantly, are you putting self-government into practice in your daily life?

What Libertarians Can Learn from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Morgan Dean Comments are off

What Libertarians Can Learn from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Harry PotterAfter nine years, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, decided she was not quite done with telling the story of ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Released on July 31st, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child broke pre-order records for both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the same year that we, as libertarians, are breaking records.

So, what can we learn as libertarians from the Harry Potter books? Gina Luttrell wrote at ThoughtsonLiberty.com an article discussing the overarching themes of libertarianism in the Harry Potter series as a whole, but with a new addition to the saga, there are new themes and ideas that we, as libertarians, can explore.

One of the main conflicts we see in the newest book is Harry’s son, Albus’ struggle to find where he truly belongs, both at school and in the world. He worries that the Sorting Hat will place him into Slytherin, instead of Gryffindor, the house of the rest of his family. Harry consoles him by pointing out that this doesn’t matter, that he will be loved regardless, and that The Sorting Hat will take his feelings into account.

This is similar to the struggle many of us have faced at least once, with a media telling us that there are only two political paths. Their aim is to push us to subscribe to one of their schools of thought, either a conservative or liberal viewpoint. It is important to remember there is more to politics than left and right.

Speaking as someone who formerly identified as a conservative from a conservative family, I can attest firsthand to the struggle of facing a change in philosophical identity after taking The World’s Smallest Political Quiz and realizing my values are different than I thought they were. I guess that is one way to find our “place”…The Quiz is almost like a Sorting Hat, huh?

As it has previously been discussed among libertarian scholars, Harry Potter is the perfect example of a libertarian. He values the ability to choose his own path, while fighting against the corruption within the Ministry of Magic. In previous books, the Ministry subscribed to similar ideas as the villains of the series, like ethnic cleansing, discrimination, violence, and secrecy. With a total lack of transparency, Big Government rules throughout the series.

In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we see a very different Ministry of Magic, led by Hermione Granger, a character who has always been keen to follow the rules, but has proven time and time again that she is not afraid to deviate from them in cases of principle. We also see that Harry is serving as an Auror, or dark wizard catcher under Hermione.

So what can we take away from this shift as libertarians? Harry and his friends used to fight against the established government and their oppressive ideas, and now they ARE the government. Being a part of the libertarian movement means fighting corruption with freedom and openness, spreading the ideals of libertarianism as people become more open to it.

During this election year, I think we are experiencing a significant shift in the way people think. As people tire of the same two choices, and they get tired of Big Government ruling their lives, they are opening their eyes to libertarian ideals.

Libertarianism is more than just politics, yet we are seeing a shift in what drives people to throw their support behind a candidate. We have Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the main stage, and although neither is perfect, they are representing new ideas that have never gained so much attention. Every day, we are changing the way people think.

So, let’s make sure we don’t forget that there is more than two options in politics. Let’s remember to stand strong on issues of morality. Let’s fight against an oppressive government.

Political discourse is changing.

Just like the beloved Harry Potter characters did, could we be experiencing a shift in the ‘political status quo?’ Let’s hope so.

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises writes that tending toward “a transgression of the limit” of the application of violence is a natural impulse among professionals who use violence in their line of work, even if the particular application of violence is seen as legitimate.

These transgressions are seen everywhere, from instances of police brutality to the ever-growing presence of law enforcement agents on our borders and airports.

SmartphoneNow, this transgression is entering another realm, making way for law enforcement to have an even more formally accepted online presence.

According to a new Department of Homeland Security proposal, officials are considering asking visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program to disclose information pertaining to their social media presence.

If the DHS has its way, visitors would have to fill out a form with links to their Twitter, Facebook, and other online applications. According to the DHS, the collection of this information would “enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But the wording in this new proposal is broad enough to allow officials to dig at will, increasing the risk of abuse of power—a surveillance issue that has already been associated with 4th Amendment violations in the past. To privacy advocacy organizations like Restore The 4th, this new transgression is everything but legitimate.

In a press release, the organization explained that the DHS new proposal is toxic.

In a letter addressed to the US Customs and Border Protection, the group along with “over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations” outlined the program’s “disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings.”

According to the letter, the DHS will be further invading individual privacy, putting freedom of expression at risk if this proposal is implemented. Furthermore, the federal government would have to worsen the national debt due to the high cost of implementation. The maintenance of this program would also cost taxpayers greatly, Restore The 4th added, and these costs “appear to be unaccounted for in the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act statement.”

The advocacy group also claims that the DHS would ignite the expansion of the surveillance state by opening a new window into the traveler’s private life. If implemented, this new rule could impact particular groups of travelers, allowing law enforcement to refer to their racial and religious bias in order to do their job.

Restore The 4th explains:

“This ‘disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.’”

The letter urges CBP to dismiss the DHS proposal altogether. ​

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use, Philosophy by Alice Salles Comments are off

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

We often hear that persuasion is an obstacle to freedom. “Rhetoric,” they say, is why we’re in such trouble. After all, voters would make better decisions if they had been better educated about the issues facing the nation.

To Deirdre McCloskey, the celebrated Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, people who scapegoat persuasion are misguided.

PersuasionIn a video for the Learn Liberty series, McCloskey argues that while many people with different points of view on politics all agree that free speech is “sacred,” few agree that persuasion is just as important, if not a feature of a free society.

“Rhetoric,” she tells the viewer, “sounds like a bad word.” Media outlets are the first ones to accuse politicians and key figures of indulging in rhetoric, and never getting to the point. But McCloskey believes that this approach to persuasion is superficial, especially when considering the alternative.

She explains that, persuasion would be bad if the alternative to “sweet-talking” people into believing something or siding with someone wasn’t persuasion through force.

Because we are humans, McCloskey adds, we depend on language. But if we cannot use language, there is another way of persuading people into taking a particular stance: Violence. If I have a gun in hands while telling you to believe in economics and stop arguing with me if you want to stay alive, you will most certainly choose to agree with me, just so you may avoid getting shot in the head. But if there aren’t any guns involved, all we can do to make our point stick is to try to persuade folks by selling our idea the best way we can.

“In a society of free choice, free ideas, free consumption,” McCloskey adds, “you have persuasion as the only alternative to violence.”

Henry David Thoreau once said that “thaw, with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor, with his hammer.” The late, prolific author Gore Vidal once said that advertising is the only art form ever invented in the United States of America. To McCloskey, “a free society is an advertising society,” after all, a free society is where people debate and persuade, rather than threaten others into going along with their ideas. Americans should be proud of this very American tradition.

Instead of demonizing rhetoric by complaining that propaganda alone is the root of our problems, McCloskey seems to argue, we should celebrate the “speaking, rather than violent, society,” and take part in the activity, rather than decry it as the root of all evil.

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

in Criminal Justice, First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Chicago is notorious for gun-related violence. With some of the toughest anti-gun rights on its books, the city struggles to keep its residents safe. With pro gun control advocates making the case that the town’s gun-related violence is due to the fact most people purchase their guns illegally, it’s hard not to see how enacting more restrictive laws won’t make a difference.

But gun violence alone is not the only issue in Chicago.

Chicago

According to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, corruption among Chicago Police Department officers continues to expose countless of innocent residents to unconstitutional abuses.

DNA Info Chicago reviewed over 1,800 police maintenance logs of the city’s many police cars to learn why 80 percent of the footage captured by squad car dashboard cameras in the city is often silent.

Last month, Chicago officials blamed the absence of audio on two factors, error and “intentional destruction.” With the help of the maintenance records, researchers found that, in many cases, officers pulled out batteries of their microphones, stashed full microphones in their glove boxes, and even destroyed microphone antennas. Microphones have also disappeared in several occasions.

But the research team also wanted to discover why footage of a particular 2014 incident involving a Chicago officer and a teenager did not contain any audio. What DNA Info learned is nothing short of horrifying.

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed by officer Jason Van Dyke. The encounter’s footage was widely shared online. But while the video went viral, none of the patrol cars’ cameras present at the scene were able to capture any audio.

The dashcam attached to the patrol car used by Van Dyke had been sent to repair at least twice prior to the killing. According to DNA Info, police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring issue had been fixed three months after the camera had been brought in for repair. But just one day later, the same dashcam was sent back to technicians.

According to the records obtained by DNA Info, technicians claimed that the issues presented the second time were due to “intentional damage.”

Twelve days after the camera came back from the technician’s desk, McDonald was killed.

Van Dyke’s patrol car camera did not register any audio of the incident. The video that went viral was recorded by another patrol car.

As the nation debates criminal justice reform, incidents like the one involving McDonald and officer Van Dyke should be part of the discussion.

Overcriminalization is a real issue. To Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, “too many officer-involved shootings receive little scrutiny.” Setting emotions aside and bringing these issues to light may give the public a better idea of what the solution is. But simply standing idly by as law enforcement, state officials, and lawmakers push for more laws, more restrictions, and more penalties won’t do.

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.

“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”

The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”

President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.

In August 2006, only 36 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War while 60 percent, the highest number at the time, opposed it due to almost daily reports of violence in Iraq. By the end of that year, more than 3,000 American soldiers were killed in the line of duty, according to iCasualties.org.

With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?

It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.

Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.

“When do we get to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” Boenig said, referring to the May 2003 photo op and speech by President Bush, “and when do I get my kids to come home safe again?”

“There’s no definite answer because our enemies get a vote in this process,” said Cotton. “In the end, I think the best way to honor our veterans…”

“Is to have more killed?” asked Boenig, who interrupted Cotton. “[I]s to win the wars for which they fought,” the freshman Arkansas senator said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also trying to position himself as Bush-style foreign policy hawk. During a recent appearance on Fox News, obviously, Rubio gave an unusual answer to a question about Iraq.

“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”

When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.

Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.

Report: U.S. Losing Freedom of the Press

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Each year the respected international organization Reporters Without Borders issues a World Press Freedom of the PressFreedom Index that explores and ranks freedom of the press in the countries of the world. According to the organization, the Index reflects “the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

In this year’s report the United States is ranked a sad 49th out of 180 countries. This is the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002. (The lowest was in 2006, when the U.S. was ranked 53rd). Ranking immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.

Americans accustomed to the U.S.’s reputation as the bastion of a constitutionally protected free press may be surprised by the rankings. Reporters Without Borders cites incidents it considered in its rankings, including:

  • The U.S. government’s years-long effort to force two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.
  • The U.S. continued war against WikiLeaks and similar whistleblower organizations and individuals like Edward Snowden. 
  • The arrests of at least 15 journalists covering the police protests in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Journalists definitely feel a chill in post-9/11 America. As the Liberator Online reported last year, the PEN American Center, an organization of professional writers whose membership includes some of America’s most distinguished writers, surveyed its members and found:

“73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today. Writers are self-censoring their work and their online activity due to their fears that commenting on, researching, or writing about certain issues will cause them harm. The fear of surveillance — and doubt over the way in which the government intends to use the data it gathers — has prompted PEN writers to change their behavior in numerous ways that curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information.”

It’s not just the U.S. facing such problems. Press freedom is in decline around the world, says Reporters Without Borders. They say it is “incontestable” that “there was a drastic decline in [worldwide] freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year. …

Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents. … All warring parties without exception waged a fearsome information war. The media, used for propaganda purposes or starved of information, became strategic targets and were attacked, or even silenced.”

Great News! The World Is Getting Better: HumanProgress.org

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HumanProgress.orgThere is a large and growing body of evidence showing dramatic and remarkable improvements in human well-being in recent decades, especially in the developing world.

Unfortunately, this evidence is little-known and often overlooked. Bad news and predictions of doom and gloom are disproportionately reported. Many people, including the highly educated, simply have no idea of the great and ongoing progress in many crucial areas of human life around the world.

This exciting and uplifting news deserves far more attention. HumanProgress.org, a new website and research tool from the Cato Institute, hopes to accomplish that.

Many visitors who take the time to explore the site will be genuinely surprised by the well-documented major advances in world peace, living standards, environmental cleanliness, life spans, and much more. Crimes such as rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, and child abuse are all substantially down from the past. Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and well over half the human race lives in countries where average incomes have tripled or more. Technologies unimaginable just a few years ago are now commonplace even among the world’s poor.

HumanProgress.org provides tools that let users see the many documented ways in which the world has become a far better place. Over 500 data sets of human development indicators from a variety of reliable sources allow visitors to compare indicators with one another, create and share graphics, and calculate differences in human well-being between different countries over time. Visitors can explore progress in categories including: Communications, Education, Energy, Environment, Food, Gender Equality, Happiness, Health, Housing, Transportation, Violence, and Wealth.

By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, HumanProgress.org provides a fantastic documented resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

For a good graph-free overview of what it’s all about, go to the introductory essay “What is Human Progress?” which presents some downright startling figures and arguments and puts them in context.

And for an easy way to keep up with breaking good news about human progress — and to get a regular booster shot of reasons for rational optimism — you can like HumanProgress.org’s Facebook page.

Cato hopes that HumanProgress.org will lead to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world. Things are getting better in many areas, to a remarkable degree, and largely due to progress in markets, civil liberties and peace. That’s great news! Let’s spread the word.