Tag Archives: censorship

War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us

Icon for censorship
Icon for censorship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 28, London’s Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, aka “the Old Bailey,” announced the conviction of Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary on charges of “inviting support for a proscribed organization” (the Islamic State). He’ll be sentenced, likely to a long stint in prison, in September.

On August 18, social networking service Twitter announced that it has suspended 360,000 user accounts since mid-2015 — 235,000 of them just since February — for “promoting extremism.” While Twitter is theoretically a private sector entity, the New York Times reports that the company’s actions are motivated by “intensifying pressure on Twitter and other technology companies from the White House, presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and government agencies.”

The United Kingdom is back in the business of holding political prisoners on a scale not seen since before the 1997 ceasefire in occupied … er, “Northern” … Ireland, and American social networks are handing the US government de facto power to censor Internet communications. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s easy to look the other way and whistle when the roundups target people like Choudary and the censorship is aimed at a particular variety of “extremism” enjoying little support in the UK or the US apart from small groups within insular communities.

First they came for the Islamists …

It’s easy not to notice that the terrorists who “hate us for our freedoms” chalk up a win each time those freedoms are diminished, openly or surreptitiously, in the name of fighting terrorism.

It became necessary to destroy the Constitution in order to save it …

We are told the west is at war. That much is true. But the central front in that war isn’t Iraq or Syria or Libya, nor is the enemy the Islamic State. “Daesh” is a gnat in a hurricane, empowered solely by western forces toppling secular regimes and creating power vacuums in which it can set up shop.

The real central front is the west itself and the real enemy is the western governments transforming themselves into totalitarian regimes before our eyes.

Every time an Anjem Choudary is imprisoned, or a Twitter account is shut down for “extremism,” or a beachfront town in France bans “burkinis,” the west looks less like the cradle of the Enlightenment and more like the Soviet Union circa 1937 or Germany circa 1939.

The best weapon against bad ideas is better ideas, not censorship and political imprisonment. Don’t let London or Washington wrest that weapon from us.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Unacceptable Speech at Old Dominion

Ban Censorship (RGBStock)

With the fall semester beginning at colleges and universities around the US, it’s time for a new round of controversy over student speech. Right out of the gate, Virginia’s Old Dominion University takes an early lead: WTKR News Channel 3 reports that ODU “officials took time from their weekend to respond to some banners hung up at an off-campus home that are upsetting many.”

The banners: “Rowdy And Fun: Hope Your Baby Girl is Ready for a Good Time.” “Freshman Daughter Drop Off.” “Go Ahead and Drop Off Mom Too …”

Offensive? Yeah, I can buy that. Certainly not very respectful of women. But, on the other hand, also very informative and likely self-correcting. If I lived in that house, I wouldn’t bet money on me being able to get dates with any ODU co-eds this semester. Just sayin’.

But when it comes to truly offensive, sickening speech, let’s talk about this, from an official statement issued by ODU:

“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not be tolerated.”

Old Dominion is a “public” — by which I mean tax-funded — university. And as the statement makes clear, the banners were displayed at a private residence, not on campus.

Public universities don’t get to decide to “not tolerate” student speech. Especially speech that takes place off-campus at a private residence.

ODU’s administrators, of all people, should be well aware of that fact. Old Dominion originated as part of the College of William and Mary, the institution where Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler  studied, and where George Washington got his surveyor’s credentials. The idea that the First Amendment has thus far escaped notice at ODU just isn’t plausible.

In a message to faculty, staff and students, Old Dominion president John R. Broderick claims to have spoken with a young female student who “described the true meaning of the hurt this caused.” The student, writes Broderick, “thought seriously about going home.” Broderick closes his message with dire threats of disciplinary action against those displaying the banners.

Broderick should have spent more time talking with the young student, explaining to her that if a few stupid signs hung on a private residence have her thinking about quitting school, she probably should. ODU is allegedly a university, not a daycare center, and she’s clearly neither intellectually nor emotionally mature enough to handle living on her own as a semi-autonomous adult.

Unfortunately, the teacup tempest at Old Dominion isn’t an isolated incident. America’s colleges and universities seem to be collectively sliding into daycare center mode, where the mission is to offer students four additional years of insulated, isolated childhood instead of educations to fit them for adult life in the real world.

The danger to free speech in this case may seem slight, but it isn’t and can’t be. Speech is free or it isn’t. To compromise that value at Old Dominion now is to cultivate future tyranny everywhere.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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