Cal Berkeley & Another Loss for Free Speech

I’m disappointed that Ann Coulter’s speech is now canceled at Cal Berkeley. I’m not a fan of Coulter, but I’m a fan of the 1st Amendment, and this trend in our country where anti-freedom thugs are allowed to threaten or cause violence to shut down conservative speakers on college campuses is a black mark for our country. I would write the same post if liberal speakers were being shut down. All those who believe in true freedom from left to right must band together and fight to fully protect free speech in our nation. There is only one way to defeat speech you disagree with in a free society and that is to offer better and more thoughtful speech in rebuttal.

Here’s a thoughtful post on free speech at colleges from ACLU:

We All Need to Defend Speech We Hate

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

Shout-out to Bernie Sanders!

We applaud Senator Bernie Sanders for supporting free speech. He said the following in The Huffington Post about the Ann Coulter speaking at Berkeley fiasco:

“I don’t like this. I don’t like it,” Sanders told The Huffington Post after speaking at a rally . . .  “Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous ― to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.” . . .

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

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

We all need to stand up for free speech on college campuses. We must demand that all universities, especially public universities, truly embrace diversity of thought and academic freedom. If students believe their views are correct and other views are wrong, they need to test their views in the marketplace of ideas. The growing totalitarianism of thought on college campuses is a black mark for our country and must be confronted by all Americans that believe in freedom from the left to the right.

Thanks Bernie Sanders for supporting free speech!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

Yiannopoulos May Be A Clown But Free Speech Matters More!

We’re unimpressed with Milo Yiannopoulos and the so-called Alt-Right movement. We will not attend any of his speeches. He’s looking to provoke and say hateful things. His latest attempt to speak at a college was shut down at University of California-Davis this past Friday – see links:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/us/milo-yiannopoulos-uc-davis-speech-canceled/

http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/14/censorship-uc-davis-student-protesters-s

However, the students who shut down his appearances on campuses are making a mistake. Censorship is never the answer. The student protesters are actually helping to prove one of Yiannopoulos’ points – that American colleges are now completely controlled by leftist administrators and professors who are denying intellectual freedom and free speech to conservative students. If free speech is to be protected anywhere; it should certainly be protected at public universities. We believe that free speech works best as a marketplace of ideas. Let Yiannopoulos speak and listeners will quickly realize how ridiculous his radical right-wing views really are. The protesters are keeping Yiannopoulos in the news and actually ensuring he gets invited to even more colleges. Without the protests, some students would attend his events, he would not gain many followers and probably disappear from public debate rather quickly.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

 

 

 

I’m Thankful That FIRE Is Fighting To Save Free Speech For College Students!

When I entered SUNY at Buffalo Law School in 1989, I was surprised that some of my professors (not all) deemed it their solemn duty to indoctrinate me and my classmates with a left-wing interpretation of the legal system. It was not difficult to tell the difference between “black letter” Torts law and what was taught in that class. As an older student, I was not intimidated by the professors and pleased that some of the moderate and conservative students did debate the “critical legal studies” professors, but unfortunately, most students either remained quiet or actually enjoyed being indoctrinated by professors. I greatly enjoyed debating the left-wing professors and never allowed them to curtail my First Amendment rights at my public law school (although a few professors and a dean did try). The debates we sparked were beneficial to every student at our law school because college is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, where all views are tested and challenged. We ensured that the views of our fellow students were more thoughtful and informed after they heard all sides of an issue. Freedom of speech should always be the backbone of intellectual life at every college, but sadly we cannot pick up a newspaper without reading evidence that this is not true at too many colleges.

In the battle to save free speech on college campuses, there are some heroes like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Here’s its website: www.thefire.org and one of it’s founding members wrote an excellent op-ed in the New York Post this week that I recommend you read:

How US academia became an authoritarian petri dish

By Harvey Silvergate, May 10, 2016, New York Post

I have dedicated much of my career to a contest I consider immensely important to the future health of America: the effort to destroy the liberal arts-and-sciences university by replacing the quest for human knowledge with the indoctrination of students into truth as it is postulated by self-righteous post-modern fanatics.

This dangerous trend accelerated in the mid-1980s. On college campuses, definitions of “harassment” were adopted that were so vague and broad as to drastically escalate the number of disciplinary proceedings.

Speech codes popped up that sought to prevent students from insulting or “harassing” one another, but that in fact strangled the academic enterprise. Kangaroo courts were established to adjudicate violations.

Remember that we’re talking about liberal arts colleges, not prisons nor re-education camps!

The bottom line was that I saw that these major institutions had taken a turn toward practices that furnished a nutrient-laden petri dish for an experiment in authoritarianism.

University of Pennsylvania Professor Alan Charles Kors and I established The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in 1999, a year after we published our book, “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.”

That book followed Professor Kors’ representation, with some legal advice from me, of an undergraduate who had been hauled in front of a Penn disciplinary tribunal. The infamous “water buffalo” case involved a student who admonished a loud group of undergraduate women to “shut up, you water buffalo!” as he tried to write an English paper.

The women, who were black, considered this remark “racial harassment,” and student life administrators agreed. It turned out, actually, that in the offending student’s first language, Hebrew, the common term “behema” best translates to “water-buffalo” and refers in slang to a rowdy or thoughtless person.

Penn’s administrators, unaware of the student’s cultural background, assumed that the water buffalo was native to Africa (it’s not) and from this they extrapolated their hate speech theory. In the face of derisive worldwide publicity, triggered by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial titled, “Buffaloed at Penn,” the campus bureaucrats backed down, but it turned out to be merely a tactical retreat.

Sanity’s well-publicized victory in the water buffalo case triggered a flood of students seeking assistance from Professor Kors and me. These beleaguered individuals were suffering not only from unfair disciplinary proceedings, but also were being cheated of a genuine liberal-arts education.

The liberal arts are not readily compatible with censorship and mindless persecution. From the day students arrive as freshmen they are immediately subjected to tendentious sensitivity training engineered by burgeoning student life bureaucrats who intrude into their most intimate lives and thoughts.

I recognized that they were at the mercy of a new regime, something of a cross between Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Kafka’s “The Trial.”

Kors and I couldn’t handle the volume, and so FIRE was born out of sheer necessity. I at the time had assumed that surely the ludicrousness of the campus prosecutions would result in the phenomenon burning itself out within less than 10 years.

It was, I told myself, a momentary social panic. FIRE would be a temporary project. The burning of witches in Salem, after all, ended rather abruptly when the Massachusetts high court decided that enough was enough and put an end to the trials in 1693. The scourge had lasted only one year.

Well, FIRE is in its 17th year with no end in sight. We are in trench warfare for the time being, until we can figure out how to administer a knock-out blow to the illiberal forces that have overtaken the academy.

The bacteria in the authoritarian petri dish, then, are thriving. And so must our efforts to develop the legal, cultural and intellectual antibiotics necessary to stop them.

Excerpted from Harvey Silverglate’s acceptance speech upon his being awarded the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award May 9.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

More on War on Free Speech at Colleges

free-speech-feature-300x206I’m pleased to have come across this thoughtful piece I just read on The Atlantic website: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-glaring-evidence-that-free-speech-is-threatened-on-campus/471825/

The writer Conor Friedersdorf verifies the threat being waged against free speech principles on college campuses and the chilling effect it’s having on both students and professors.

My favorite part of the college experience was participating in robust free speech. In college and law school, I loved debating my fellow students and professors inside and outside the classroom. These debates taught me so much. By listening to counterpoints to my views, I improved my public policy positions and even changed a few when I realized the weakness in my arguments.

Throughout our society, too many people fail to understand the doctrine of freedom of speech. It’s always meant to be a two-way street. You say what you think and I can respond with counterpoints. The backbone of a free society is a marketplace of ideas with a full and substantive debate on the issues we face. Freedom of speech certainly doesn’t mean that you speak and no one can disagree with you.

The college students that want campuses to be “safe zones”  and administrators enforcing speech codes apparently fail to appreciate the tremendous value of free and open debate in the college environment – or maybe this is just another example of politically correct extremism practiced by zealots who don’t support the doctrine of free speech and seek to block the expression of ideas they disagree with.

Do you have a child attending college soon? If yes, visit the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where you can review the free speech ratings for most colleges in our country.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator in New York)

 

 

We’re in a War to Defend Freedom of Speech

France RallyI just read a thoughtful post on the American Thinker website (LINK) that sparked me to offer some observations about freedom of speech and the executions in France of the Charlie Hebdo journalists. I’m as close to a First Amendment absolutist as you can get and fully support a wide interpretation of First Amendment rights. I do not believe any government is capable of fairly regulating freedom of expression. There should never be any modification to the First Amendment:

“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.”

We must strongly promote the quote attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We must ensure that our society remains a diverse and open marketplace of ideas. Let’s get all views out on the table and have a honest debate about the issues we face. Censoring or suppressing beliefs and speech only makes them more dangerous. The beauty of the free speech doctrine is that it’s a two-way street. It’s not just the speaker and writer who enjoy freedom of speech – it’s also the listener and reader who have the same right to challenge or respond.

While I was in law school, a controversial professor came to speak at the University of Buffalo. His name was Leonard Jeffries, and he had a long record of making hateful and racist statements (link about Jeffries). I appeared with other students to protest outside the speech. I made up a flyer with all of Jeffries’ hateful public statements and tried to gave it to all those entering the speech. I fully supported his right to speak at the event, but believed it was equally important to meet his hateful speech with my own speech. A few people confronted me and asked why I did not support free speech. I quickly explained how they misunderstood what freedom of speech is all about – Leonard Jeffries should make his speech, and I was there with my responsive speech to educate the attendees that the speaker they came to hear was a proven racist and anti-Semite. I even appeared on the nightly TV news, which was exciting for a law student.

I share this story because it’s always better to have controversial and hateful statements out in the marketplace of ideas. And that is exactly why we must stand with and defend the Charlie Hebdo magazine and all other controversial publications. The brave 2012 quote of Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier is important for the world to remember: “but I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees.” If you are truly dedicated to freedom and liberty, you must feel exactly the same way. While I personally would not engage in blasphemy against a religion, I would defend to the death the right for someone else to do so.

The radical Islamic terrorists like Al-Qaeda and ISIS are pleased to announce their goal of destroying freedom and liberty around the globe, and last week we learned just how serious they remain – we’re in a war to defend freedom of speech. There is no First Amendment in an Islamic dictatorship. The free world properly rallied around France over the past week, but we must be concerned there are too many nations that refuse to protect civil liberties. Our fight for real freedom and liberty cannot stop in France – we must remain vigilant until every nation in the world enshrines into law the civil liberties we enjoy in our great country.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator).

It’s Time To Stand With Our Police

police_vehicle_cop_car_hero_thank_you_cards_invitation-rf085206617ac47178c008c96bad17701_zkrqs_512

My community, New Rochelle, NY, has an excellent police department. My family is pleased with the safety we enjoy thanks to the brave men and women in blue. I serve as a Westchester County Legislator and am also impressed by the excellent work of the Westchester County police. The job of police officer is as difficult as any in our society. Each day when police officers leave their homes, they put their lives on the line to protect all of us. In their duties, the police deal with the most evil aspects of our society: murder, assault, human trafficking & prostitution, domestic violence, drugs and others, which must negatively impact them in various ways. And yet, they keep heading out there to protect us. Most police officers do their jobs very well. Yes, mistakes are made and it’s a tough job to perform perfectly all the time. And yes, there are some bad cops out there, as in any profession. The officers that make mistakes can be punished in a court of law or through internal discipline procedures, and we certainly hear about cops being punished in the media.

I believe we should stand with our police when they are unfairly criticized – and that time is now. You cannot watch the protesters from Ferguson to New York City (“NYC”) and not see examples of hatred towards police. Not every protester is bashing cops, but many are. This past weekend in NYC, protesters were caught chanting: “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” It’s impossible to understand how anyone could chant such hateful words.

We all must support freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble to protest about issues, and many people are doing so across the country. However, other protesters are crossing the line into violence and other illegal actions. In NYC this past weekend, we had a protester mob attack two police lieutenants.  The New York Post reported:

“The violence erupted shortly after the two lieutenants attempted to stop one of the angry agitators from hurling a garbage can at other cops standing in the walkway below, police said.

That’s when other demonstrators intervened and attacked the officers — knocking them to the ground and kicking and punching them before trying to steal their jackets and radios, according to police.”

Mayor DeBlasio recently stated, “People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives . . . The relationship between police and community has to change.” Is this based on empirical research? No, it’s not. It’s just his flawed opinion. His views are at odds with the fact that over the past 25 years the NYC police have made it the safest big city in our country (confirmed on Politifact.com) and crime deceased in every neighborhood. And by the way Mr. Mayor, who wrongly stands with the protesters instead of the police, I personally don’t know a single person that is not fully aware that “black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives.” As a Catholic, my faith has taught me this fundamental truth since I was a little boy. It’s never been in doubt to the vast majority of New Yorkers.

Like so many others, I’m troubled by the Eric Garner video. To me, Mr. Garner’s crime was minimal and he did not appear to be resisting arrest that much. But as an attorney, I respect the rule of law and recognize that those accused of a crime may rely on their constitutional rights in their defense. I and all the protesters were not on the grand jury, and we did not review all the evidence presented. Regardless of our opinion on the grand jury’s actions, we must accept the result of their deliberations, while being saddened by the death of Mr. Garner.

So while it appears mistakes were made by the police in the Garner death, I don’t believe their actions can be deemed racist in any way, and it does not appear they intended to kill Mr. Garner. I expect that the police officer who caused the death will face police discipline and sanctions. But I also noticed on the news another group of protesters chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racists cops have got to go!” Who are the racist cops they are referring to? I don’t have an answer.

This cop bashing is wrong in the face of the facts and a slander of many brave police officers regularly placed in dangerous situations to protect us. It’s time to vocally stand with our police against reckless and erroneous attacks – stand with them on social media and when you hear someone slandering them, and also by saying “Thank You” when you see a police officer protecting our streets. I will do so right now – thank you to the New Rochelle and Westchester County police for protecting my community and my family so well.

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com