Category Archive 'Free Speech'
02 Sep 2017

We’re All “Serfs on Google’s Farm”

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Josh Marshall, at leftist Talking Points Memo,

[W]e at TPM – and some version of this is the case for the vast majority of publishers – are connected to Google at almost every turn. … Running TPM absent Google’s various services is almost unthinkable. Like I literally would need to give it a lot of thought how we’d do without all of them. Some of them are critical and I wouldn’t know where to start for replacing them. In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google lets people use for free.

But here’s where the rubber really meets the road. The publishers use DoubleClick. The big advertisers use DoubleClick. The big global advertising holding companies use Doubleclick. Everybody at every point in the industry is wired into DoubleClick. Here’s how they all play together. The adserving (Doubleclick) is like the road. (Adexchange) is the biggest car on the road. But only AdExchange gets full visibility into what’s available. (There’s lot of details here and argument about just what Google does and doesn’t know. But trust me on this. They keep the key information to themselves. This isn’t a suspicion. It’s the model.) So Google owns the road and gets first look at what’s on the road. So not only does Google own the road and makes the rules for the road, it has special privileges on the road. One of the ways it has special privileges is that it has all the data it gets from search, Google Analytics and Gmail. It also gets to make the first bid on every bit of inventory. Of course that’s critical. First dibs with more information than anyone else has access to. (Some exceptions to this. But that’s the big picture.) It’s good to be the king. It’s good to be a Google.

There’s more I’ll get to in a moment but the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is so vastly important to the entirety of the web, digital publishing and the entire ad industry that it is almost impossible to overstate. Again. They own the road. They make the rules for the road. They get special privileges on the road with every new iteration of rules.

In recent years, the big new things are various kinds of private deals and private markets you can set up to do business in different ways with advertisers. That uses Google architecture and they take a percentage. How much of a percentage does Google take on what I was referring to above – the so-called open auction? No one knows.

Now Google can say – and they are absolutely right – that every month they send checks for thousands and millions of dollars to countless publishers that make their journalism possible. And in general Google tends to be a relatively benign overlord. But as someone who a) knows the industry inside and out – down to the most nuts and bolts mechanics – b) someone who understands at least the rudiments of anti-trust law and monopoly economics and c) can write for a sizable audience, I can tell you this.: Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices.

There’s one way that Google is better than Facebook. When Facebook is getting a bigger and bigger share of the advertising pie, that money is almost all going to Facebook. There are some small exceptions but that’s basically the case. When Google is making insane amounts of money on advertising, it’s not really the same since a huge amount of that advertising is running on websites which are getting a cut. Still, the big story is that Google and Facebook now have a dominant position in the entirety of the advertising ecosystem and are using their monopoly power to take more and more of the money for themselves.

We’re basically too small for Google to care about. So I wouldn’t say we’ve had any bad experiences with Google in the sense of Google trying to injure us or use its power against us. What we’ve experienced is a little different. Google is so big and so powerful that even when it’s trying to do something good, it can be dangerous and frightening.

Here’s an example.

With the events of recent months and years, Google is apparently now trying to weed out publishers that are using its money streams and architecture to publish hate speech. Certainly you’d probably be unhappy to hear that Stormfront was funded by ads run through Google. I’m not saying that’s happening. I’m just giving you a sense of what they are apparently trying to combat. Over the last several months we’ve gotten a few notifications from Google telling us that certain pages of ours were penalized for ‘violations’ of their ban for hate speech. When we looked at the pages they were talking about they were articles about white supremacist incidents. Most were tied to Dylann Roof’s mass murder in Charleston.

Now in practice all this meant was that two or three old stories about Dylann Roof could no longer run ads purchased through Google. I’d say it’s unlikely that loss to TPM amounted to even a cent a month. Totally meaningless. But here’s the catch. The way these warnings work and the way these particular warnings were worded, you get penalized enough times and then you’re blacklisted.

Now, certainly you’re figuring we could contact someone at Google and explain that we’re not publishing hate speech and racist violence. We’re reporting on it. Not really. We tried that. We got back a message from our rep not really understanding the distinction and cheerily telling us to try to operate within the no hate speech rules. And how many warnings until we’re blacklisted? Who knows?

If we were cut off, would that be Adexchange (the ads) or DoubleClick for Publishers (the road) or both? Who knows?

If the first stopped we’d lose a big chunk of money that wouldn’t put us out of business but would likely force us to retrench. If we were kicked off the road more than half of our total revenue would disappear instantly and would stay disappeared until we found a new road – i.e., a new ad serving service or technology. At a minimum that would be a devastating blow that would require us to find a totally different ad serving system, make major technical changes to the site to accommodate the new system and likely not be able to make as much from ads ever again. That’s not including some unknown period of time – certainly weeks at least – in which we went with literally no ad revenue.

Needless to say, the impact of this would be cataclysmic and could easily drive us out of business.

Now it’s never happened. And this whole scenario stems from what is at least a well-intentioned effort not to subsidize hate speech and racist groups. Again, it hasn’t happened. So in some sense the cataclysmic scenario I’m describing is as much a product of my paranoia as something Google could or might do. But when an outside player has that much power, often acts arbitrarily (even when well-intentioned) and is almost impossible to communicate with, a significant amount of paranoia is healthy and inevitable.

I give this example only to illustrate the way that Google is so powerful and so all-encompassing that it can actually do great damage unintentionally.

RTWT

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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NYM is obviously a lot smaller than TPM, and unlike TPM, tries to operate without outside funding. This is undoubtedly severely limiting. I pay for expenses out of pocket, and can’t afford subscriptions to costly research services. I have no interns or assistants. I don’t make anything more than pocket change, and therefore blogging is just a small avocation and minor duty for me. A more serious blog, making a real income, would contain a lot more original writing and research.

Sometime back, I used to make something like $150-200 a couple of times a year from Google Adsense. One day Google’s Ads disappeared. It took me six months or so to notice (sigh!). And when I looked into what had happened, this was roughly four years ago, I found I had been given an ultimatum from Google. I had to remove a posting and beg to be forgiven, and then I might have my ads restored.

I sent the Google Adsense team a foreign language literary reference, “Ich heisse Götz von Berlichingen,” inviting them to kiss my ass. I have since done without Google Adsense.

Here’s the posting describing all that.

Josh Marshall is right, I think, to be concerned with the power wielded these days by a handful of corporations which have arrived at positions of control over speech and communications incidentally in the course of the more conventional corporate drive for profit and market control.

Companies like Google are demonstrably not above applying Planetary-sized corporate muscle to enforce standards not only of speech, but of opinion, reflecting the mere prejudices and whims of corporate chieftains applied robotically by lesser imps deep in the depths of their own bureaucracy.

Libertarians like myself would normally be found arguing that Google isn’t really a monopoly, you can use Duck Duck Go or Bing instead, and contending that corporations have a right to make their own terms. Today, however, we have corporations possessed, ephemerally perhaps, of dominant position gate-keeping kinds of power, appointing themselves as universal censors of speech and political opinion they do not like. They are literally able to silence people they look upon unfavorably, and they are therefore, in reality, exercising governmental powers without anybody ever having voted and elected them.

The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 applied an older Common Law doctrine of Public Accommodations being required to serve everyone. There is no reason that the same doctrine shouldn’t be applied to the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Go Daddy.

08 Aug 2017

Google SJWs Have Wrongthink Blacklists

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Two Minutes of Hate

Breitbart:

Numerous individuals alleged to be members of Google’s management team have been caught bragging about forming blacklists to impact the careers of colleagues with different political beliefs.

In a series of screenshots from 2015 onwards provided to Breitbart News by a verified Google employee, individuals described as left-wing Google management employees can be seen discussing the ways they punish their colleagues both inside and out of the company. …

“One of the great things about Google’s internal communication mechanisms (G+, mailing lists, etc), is that, as a manager, I can easily go find out if I really want to work with you,” wrote another individual described on social media as a Google manager, Collin Winter. “I keep a written blacklist of people whom I will never allow on or near my team, based on how they view and treat their coworkers. That blacklist got a little longer today.”

In the comments, one Google employee can be seen asking, “Are such blacklists allowed at Google?” before another added, “I would talk to legal before assembling a list of people who are possibly creating a hostile workplace.”

“And now I know that if I ever sue Google for harassment I should demand to see all manager’s shit-lists to see if this was something management already knew and thus let happen (my tormentor could be on there and not dealt with). It would probably increase the settlement aware considerably,” he continued. “I would encourage anyone else getting mistreated at Google to do the same.”

This week, a Google employee’s ten-page document went viral, after he called for more ideological diversity at the company. …

The employee’s manifesto quickly prompted extreme responses from left-wing users, including one SJW, Emily Gorcenski, who claimed she would “beat the sh*t out of him.”

Gorcenski frequently retweets and expresses support for It’s Going Down, an extremist far-left Antifa organization, who have previously doxed and harassed college students, and encouraged violence against Trump supporters.

Alon Altman, who according to social media posts is a senior software engineer at Google and who describes himself as an “intersectional feminist” and uses “they/them/their” pronouns, was also seen in leaked screenshots urging Google management to fire employees who agreed with the anti-political correctness manifesto that was revealed this week.

In leaked screenshots, Altman added that should the employee behind the manifesto not be fired by the end of the month, he would hand in his resignation notice.

In another post, alleged Site Reliability Manager Paul Cowan warned to employees that “freedom of speech is the right to freely express an opinion. It is most assuredly not the right to express an opinion with freedom from the consequences.”

Cowan continued to reference a post from Google dissidents, who were discussing the blacklists being created by an “SJW cabal” at the company, before defending the concept of punishing anti-SJW employees.

“To be clear: this is, in my opinion, perfectly acceptable,” he declared. “Quoting this as if it were some egregious abuse of power, or of your rights, is laughable… My life, happiness, and mental health, are worth too much to me to burn my precious happy-fu working with people I find contemptible, unpleasant, or even in some cases merely irritating.”

After being warned that keeping blacklists could result in him being reported to Human Resources, Cowan then bragged on Twitter that they were “threats I ignored, naturally, and which ironically grew the list substantially.”

In older posts, Kim Burchett, a now ex-Google employee and Antifa supporter, also discussed blacklists in a post on Internal Plus.

“I am considering creating a public-inside-google document of ‘people who make diversity difficult’,” claimed Burchett. “I am thinking of something like google doc that accepts comments, and which calls out those googlers who repeatedly made public statements that are unsupportive of diversity, with links to those statements so that readers can decide for themselves.”

RTWT

08 Aug 2017

We Knew This Was Coming

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James Damore (Facebook photo)

Well, surprise, surprise! Bloomberg reports that Google has fired the software engineer who wrote the memo criticizing that company’s diversity policies that recently went viral.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web company’s diversity policies, creating a firestorm across Silicon Valley.

James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an email, saying that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” He said he’s “currently exploring all possible legal remedies.”

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Business Insider predicts that Mr. Damore will find no legal remedy.

The problem is that US labor law is well-settled in this area: In the vast majority of US states, employees have almost no rights to free speech at work. …

The First Amendment to the US Constitution prevents the government from restricting your speech. It doesn’t restrict your employer from controlling your speech when you are at work. As the government is not involved in this case, Damore is already on shaky ground if he files a lawsuit arguing a free speech case.

More importantly, Damore’s speech has not been restricted. He can continue to express his opinion. Indeed, his opinion has already been published far more widely than he can have hoped. His speech is on steroids right now! His legal problem is that he does not have a constitutional right to a job at Google. If he is an “at-will” employee — i.e. an ordinary employee not governed by a special contract, like a film star might have — then Google has every right to demand that he leave.

You can read a lengthy legal paper on this issue by Prof. Eugene Volokh, of the UCLA Law School, here. It can be summed up in one paragraph:

    “Of course, employee speech can always be restricted by private employers, who are not bound by the First Amendment. This cannot, however, authorize greater restrictions by the government. A householder is entitled to kick out dinner guests who say certain things. A commercial landlord can refuse to rent to tenants who put up certain posters. A newspaper publisher can refuse to publish articles with which he disagrees. A private university may restrict what its faculty say in class, or even what its students say on campus. Speech on private property can generally be controlled by the private property owner.

As Google Site Reliability Manager Paul Cowan warned internally at Google — his posts were screengrabbed by Breitbart — “freedom of speech is the right to freely express an opinion. It is most assuredly not the right to express an opinion with freedom from the consequences.”

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But he does have at least two job offers, Heavy reports:

Damore also has a couple job offers to consider. One offer came from Gab, a company founded in 2016 that says it is “an ad-free social network for creators who believe in free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online.” It has become popular among those in the alt right, including some who have been banned from Twitter.

And Wikileaks’ Julian Assange tweeted Tuesday, “Censorship is for losers. @WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore.

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This is a real pain in the ass. I use Chrome all the time, and now I have to switch to Safari or Opera. I guess I’ll also soon find out if Duck Duck Go is any good as a search engine.

12 Jul 2017

Stanley Fish Says Free Speech is Not an Academic Value

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Stanley Fish takes a cynical, reductionist, and self-interested professorial view of the place of Free Speech with the context of the University.

(The article is behind a paywall at Chronicle of Higher Education, but it was captured and reposted here.)

[In] what might seem to be a paradox, the public university is “absolutely committed to protecting free speech” only when the speech produced is nonacademic. When it is academic speech that is being produced the interest of the employer is paramount and speech is permitted only when it serves that interest.

But isn’t that interest centered on speech because, as the Minnesota faculty put it in their draft recommendations, the university’s “larger normative commitment [is] to the free exchange of ideas”? No, it isn’t. The university’s normative commitment is to freedom of inquiry, which is quite a different thing. The phrase “free exchange of ideas” suggests something like a Hyde Park corner or a town-hall meeting where people take turns offering their opinions on pressing social matters. The right to speak is held by all; no requirements (of rank, intelligence, professional standing, etc.) limit the number of those who have access to the microphone. (Limits of course may attach to time, manner, and place.)

The course of free inquiry in universities is not like that at all. Before one can speak, in a classroom or in the research seminar or in a journal publication, one will have been subjected to any number of vetting procedures
— votes, auditions, presentations — designed largely to determine those who will not be allowed to speak. Whether it is a department, a college, a dean, a provost, a learned-journal editor, it is the business of the university to silence voices, not to license them indifferently. To put it another way, the free exchange of ideas between persons who want in on the conversation is a democratic ideal; but the university is not a democracy; it is (or is supposed to be) a meritocracy, one in which those who get to put their ideas forward are far outnumbered by those who don’t. The process is more Darwinian than democratic.

This leads me to a conclusion implicit in the previous paragraphs: Freedom of speech is not an academic value. Accuracy of speech is an academic value; completeness of speech is an academic value; relevance of speech is an academic value. Each of these values is directly related to the goal of academic inquiry: getting a matter of fact right. The operative commonplace is “following the evidence wherever it leads.” You can’t do that if your sources are suspect or nonexistent; you can’t do that if you only consider evidence favorable to your biases; you can’t do that if your evidence is far afield and hasn’t been persuasively connected to the instant matter of fact.

Nor can you follow the evidence wherever it leads if you are guided by a desire that it reach a conclusion friendly to your political views. If free speech is not an academic value because it is not the value guiding inquiry, free political speech is positively antithetical to inquiry: It skews inquiry in advance; you get where you wanted to get from the get-go. It is political speech if, when the material under consideration raises political/ethical questions, you believe it is your task to answer them, to take them seriously rather than academically. Any number of topics taken up in a classroom will contain moral and political issues, issues like discrimination, inequality, institutional racism. Those issues should be studied, analyzed, and historicized, but they shouldn’t be debated with a view to fashioning and prosecuting a remedial agenda. The academic interrogation of an issue leads to an understanding of its complexity; it does not (or should not) lead to joining a party or marching down Main Street.

That is what I mean by saying that the issue shouldn’t be taken seriously; taking it seriously would require following its paths and byways to the point where one embarks upon a course of action; taking it academically requires that one stop short of action and remain in the realm of deliberation so long as the academic context is in session; action, if it comes, comes later or after class.

So neither free speech — speech uttered by anyone who has something to say — nor political speech — speech intended to nudge students in one direction or the other — is a legitimate part of the academic scene. But both are part of the extracurricular scene: the rallies, workshops, panel discussions, and lectures about which we hear so
much today. In those contexts partisan views are front and center, and they are aired by anyone and everyone in the room or the quad or the auditorium. And these views are being taken seriously. Speakers are not merely reflecting on the alternatives; they are strongly urging the alternatives, sometimes in apocalyptic terms: Unless we divest
from fossil-fuel stocks, the environment will be destroyed; unless we speak out against Israel, a new Nazi-ism will triumph; unless we stand up against microaggressions, racism will run rampant. Passions run high, the stakes
are felt to be enormous, the fate of the republic hangs in the balance.

It’s all so exciting, so exhilarating, so serious. But it is not a seriousness to which the university is a party. My contention that moral/political seriousness has no place in the university holds even in those areas in which moral/political seriousness is being performed to a fare-thee-well; for while that conversation (often very heated) is occurring within university precincts, the university is not actively presiding over it; rather, the university is, or should be, managing it, much as the proprietors of a sports stadium manage the crowds they invite in or as the proprietors of a Broadway theater manage the audiences they labor to attract. It’s show business! The university lets this stuff go on, but it doesn’t have a dog in the hunt; it neither affirms nor repudiates any
of the positions that vie for attention in the circus it allows on its grounds; it doesn’t take those positions seriously, and it shouldn’t, for if it did so (by divesting from fossil fuels or policing microaggressions or declaring the entire campus a free-speech zone) it would no longer be in the education business; it would be in the partisan-politics business.

Not all universities understand the difference between curricular and extracurricular activities and the different responsibilities attendant on each. They are confused in both directions: They think that the partisan passion of the extracurricular sideshow has a place in the classroom, and they think that something genuinely academic is
going on when speakers invited precisely because they are controversial become the occasion for controversy. They don’t see that it is the administration’s job, first, to ensure that the classroom is a safe space for intellectual deliberation (that’s the only safe space I’m interested in), and, second — a very distant second — to maintain
control of the energies that have been let loose once the decision to have a lecture or mount a panel discussion or allow a rally has been made.

I put it that way so as to emphasize the fact that nothing requires the making of that decision; nothing requires that there be extracurricular activities at all. A university would still be one if all it contained were classrooms, a library, and facilities for research. A university would not be one if all it contained was a quad with some tables on it, a student union with a food court, an auditorium and a bowling alley, a gymnasium with a swimming pool and some climbing walls. You could take away all those things, and along with them the student newspaper, the fraternities, the sororities, the concerts, the athletic events, the dances and everything else
administered by the office of student affairs (which you could get rid of too), and the core of the university would be intact.

So if you’re a college or a university, you don’t have to saddle yourself with any of those extras. But once you’ve decided to add them on, it’s your job to see that they work, which means, mostly, ensuring that events go smoothly and no one gets hurt. If that’s the assignment, many colleges and universities deserve a failing grade.

RTWT

HT: Matthias E. Storme.

Mr. Fish is obviously right in a strictly definitional sense: yes, take everything else away and leave one lecture room, some books, and a scribbling professor to give lectures, and you still have the core of the university.

But universities in reality never consist simply of such a core. There are also, besides the learned professor in his professional role, the same professor as human being, and along with him there are college administrators, employees, and, yea! even students. Those core activities are always surrounded by a community and by the social, the fraternal, and the recreational penumbrae of human life.

Universities, particularly elite universities, never exist in a vacuum, but rather maintain an active intercourse and constantly communicative relationship with the general society which supports them and whose interests they purport to serve. The university’s core may be research, scholarship, and teaching, but the university is always much more than its core. Every day of the week, its community lives and functions; its clubs and societies hold meetings, lectures, and debates; athletic teams hold practices and competitions; its cultural life manifests itself in the form of exhibitions, concerts, and film showings; and political leaders, intellectuals, and public figures and celebrities visit to use the university as a platform for self-promotion and communication.

The customary traffic in, and exchange of, enhanced prestige between the university and the public figure visiting speaker may be, as Stanley Fish contends, not really central, not part of the university’s core function, but it is, on the other hand, a routine feature of today’s university life, and one of no insignificant value.

The regular presence on campus of nation-wide famous people is a well-recognized and highly visible evidence of a particular university’s comparative status and of its relevance to, and influence upon, the great outer world.

Reasoning that the theoretically adventitious character of a standard feature of university life makes everything about it trivial and reduces the responsibility of university authorities from upholding liberal political ideals and values to merely keeping the peace is really just a clever and tongue-in-cheek exercise in sophistry.

05 Jul 2017

CNN Bullying Becomes National Scandal and Major Internet Meme

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CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski proudly explains how CNN tracked down the identity of the Reddit user who created the “Trump wrestling CNN” video that President Trump gleefully tweeted three days ago.

Using identifying information that “HanA**holeSolo” posted on Reddit, KFile was able to determine key biographical details, to find the man’s name using a Facebook search and ultimately corroborate details he had made available on Reddit.

On Monday, KFile attempted to contact the man by email and phone but he did not respond. On Tuesday, “HanA**holeSolo” posted his apology on the subreddit /The_Donald and deleted all of his other posts.
“First of all, I would like to apologize to the members of the reddit community for getting this site and this sub embroiled in a controversy that should never have happened,” he wrote. “I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and anti-semitic. I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life. I am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life, I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction from the subs on reddit and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts. I would never support any kind of violence or actions against others simply for what they believe in, their religion, or the lifestyle they choose to have. Nor would I carry out any violence against anyone based upon that or support anyone who did.”

The user further apologized for calls for violence against the press in his statement on Reddit.

“The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation,” he wrote. “I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President’s Twitter feed. It was a prank, nothing more. What the President’s feed showed was not the original post that was posted here, but loaded up somewhere else and sound added to it then sent out on Twitter. I thought it was the original post that was made and that is why I took credit for it. I have the highest respect for the journalist community and they put their lives on the line every day with the jobs that they do in reporting the news.” …

[Emphasis added]
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

Well, Gentlemen, how do you like a news organization going out and hunting down the individual private citizen responsible for creating a joke at their expense, forcing him to delete his online comments and opinions, and extracting a promise from him never in future to express sentiments or opinions that CNN doesn’t like, under penalty of public targeting and exposure?

Presumably, if you create two videos mocking CNN in a row, matters will escalate to the point that they will despatch a hit squad to deal with you permanently.

Well, it may be that Mr. Kaczynski gloated publicly too soon. It may really be the case that CNN has really shot itself in the foot again. The Internet is actually exploding today with indignation over CNN’s identification and blackmail of that Reddit user. Free Speech, remember that?

CNN apparently did not like being mocked in one humorous video three days ago. Well, today there is now #CNNBLACKMAIL featuring a very large supply of brand new videos and other mockery at CNN’s expense.

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UPDATE: Apparently CNN is blackmailing the wrong guy.

09 Jun 2017

Ooops! Harvard Offed the Daughter of a Major Donor

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Whipping a heretic.

Boston.com reports that at least one of the students who had their admissions to Harvard rescinded over private jokes on Facebook is closely related to somebody Harvard does not want to be messing with.

The daughter of a major donor to Harvard University was among the accepted students whose offer of admission was rescinded following the revelation that some incoming freshman were posting obscene and offensive memes in a private Facebook group chat, The Boston Globe reports.

At least 10 students lost their place at the university, according to The Harvard Crimson, which first reported the story on Sunday. Students in the chat allegedly shared offensive memes targeting minorities and mocking child abuse, sexual assault, and the Holocaust.

According to the Globe, after someone notified the admissions office about the posts, school administrators contacted students who posted the material in the spring and asked them to explain their actions.

Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor emeritus, called the school’s actions “dangerous” and a “serious mistake.”

“These actions are not consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment,” he told the Globe. Dershowitz told the paper he had not seen the posts and had no first-hand knowledge of the situation.

That little girl should get Daddy to hire Alan Dershowitz to sue Harvard and to sue personally the University bureaucrats who violated her privacy and trampled her free speech rights. Her father ought to ask his attorney to represent the other nine victims as well.

06 Jun 2017

So Much For Privacy and Free Speech

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At The Game in 2004, Yalies tricked Harvard fans into holding up signs creating this message.”

The Crimson reports:

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups [i.e., Jokes] in a private Facebook group chat.

A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.

In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”

After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group. University officials have previously said that Harvard’s decision to rescind a student’s offer is final. …

The chat grew out of a roughly 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in early December to share memes about popular culture. Admitted students found and contacted each other using the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.

“A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,” Jessica Zhang ’21, an incoming freshman who joined both chats, wrote in an email. “Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.”

Messages shared in the original group were mostly “lighthearted,” wrote Zhang, who said she did not post in the splitoff meme group and that her admission offer was not rescinded. But some members soon suggested forming “a more R-rated” meme chat, according to Cassandra Luca ’21, who joined the first meme group but not the second, and who also said her offer was not revoked.

Luca said the founders of the “dark” group chat demanded that students post provocative memes in the larger messaging group before allowing them to join the splinter group.

“They were like, ‘Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,’” Luca said. “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”

Employees in the Admissions Office emailed students who posted offensive memes in mid-April asking them to disclose every picture they sent over the group, according to one member of the chat whose admission offer was revoked. The student spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be publicly identified with the messages.

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics,” reads a copy of the Admissions Office’s email obtained by The Crimson. “As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee.”

“It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,” the email reads.

The anonymous student also said that administrators informed implicated students that their admissions status was under review and instructed them not to come to Visitas, Harvard’s annual weekend of programming for prospective freshmen held at the end of April. Roughly a week later, at least ten members of the group chat received letters informing them that their offers of admission had been withdrawn.

The description for the official Facebook group for the Class of 2021, set up and maintained by the Admissions Office, disclaims all administrative responsibility for “unofficial groups” and warns members their admissions offers can be rescinded under specific circumstances.

“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character,” the description reads.

Luca said she had mixed feelings about the administration’s move to revoke admissions offers. She said she was “going back and forth” on the matter.

“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” Luca said. “I don’t think the school should have gone in and rescinded some offers because it wasn’t Harvard-affiliated, it was people doing stupid stuff.”

She added, though, that if memes sent over the chat posed any kind of threat to members’ lives or well-being, then she believed administrators’ actions were justified.

Other members of the Class of 2021 said they strongly supported the Admissions Office’s decision. Zhang wrote that she thought the students’ actions were indefensible, and that the administration was correct in choosing to penalize those who posted obscene images.

“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Zhang wrote. “I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters.”

“I do not know how those offensive images could be defended,” she added.

Wyatt Hurt ’21, who said he did not participate in either meme chat, agreed and said he was glad administrators took action.

“I haven’t seen any of the stuff firsthand, but I definitely think that the administration made the right choice and I think that as an incoming student—we all have our group chats and everything like that going on—we all pretty much universally agree it was the right decision,” he said.

Hurt added that he recently attended several scholarship conferences and that students he met at those events—many of whom he said planned to matriculate at Ivy League schools—also agreed that “rescinding was definitely the way to go.”

This incident marks the second time in two years that Harvard has dealt with a situation where incoming freshmen exchanged offensive messages online. Last spring, some admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial class GroupMe chat, prompting Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 to issue a joint statement condemning the students’ actions.

“Harvard College and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid were troubled and disappointed to see a conversation that included graphics with offensive themes,” Khurana and Fitzsimmons wrote in their statement, which they posted on the Class of 2020’s Facebook page.

But administrators chose not to discipline members of the Class of 2020 who authored the messages. Then-Interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said in an interview at the time that the individuals in question were “not matriculated students at this point.

RTWT

Where does Harvard get off investigating the content of teenage admittees’ jokes in a private group on social media?

This country needs a federal law absolutely protecting the privacy of all electronic communication, including both email and social media. Beyond that, email services and social media companies ought to be held liable when private communications are intruded upon with resulting injury to their owners.

One is inclined to advise those wronged ten students that they ought to consider themselves lucky that Fate has saved them from becoming members of that community of prigs and Pharisees in Cambridge. In a properly-run world, the president of Yale would respond by ordering letters of admission sent to each of those ten kids.

22 May 2017

“What Has Yale Become?”

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04 Apr 2017

“Doe v. Yale”

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A new lawsuit involving sexual assault witch-hunting combined with free speech issues is targeting Yale, the University where Free Speech is supposedly safely and permanently protected by promises made in the mid-1970s Woodward Report, the Wall Street Journal told us yesterday.

Doe alleges Yale violated his 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of the law.

This case also involves free expression because it began, Doe alleges, with Yale’s draconian regulation of his speech. According to his lawsuit, in late 2013 a female philosophy teaching assistant filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office about a short paper Doe had written. In the context of Socrates ’ account in Plato’s “Republic” of the tripartite soul, the paper argued that rape was an irrational act in which the soul’s appetitive and spirited parts overwhelm reason, which by right rules.

According to the lawsuit, Pamela Schirmeister, Title IX coordinator and an associate dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, summoned Doe to her office and told him his rape example was “unnecessarily provocative.” She ordered him to have no contact with the teaching assistant and directed him to attend sensitivity training at the university’s mental-health center. She also informed him that he had become a “person of interest” to Yale, which meant that the university had to intervene to ensure he “was not a perpetrator himself,” in the lawsuit’s words. A few months later, the same Title IX office initiated the sexual-assault investigation against him.

Through a spokeswoman, Yale described the lawsuit as “legally baseless and factually inaccurate” but declined on confidentiality grounds to address any specific factual allegations.

If the lawsuit’s account is accurate, Yale has reached a new low in the annals of campus policing of speech.

Full story.

Hat tip to classmate Seattle Sam.

26 Mar 2017

Philosophy Professor Writes: “Tolerance Is Not the Goal”

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Alan Levinovitz is (God help America!) an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at James Madison University.

Rod Dreher was appalled.

that a Stanford and University of Chicago-trained philosophy and religion professor (who holds an M.Div) believes that the proper way to address Charles Murray’s arguments is by shouting them down. Let the record show that a Stanford-and-Chicago-trained philosophy and religion professor believes that we should not allow the arguments of C.S. Lewis — C.S. Lewis! — to be heard, because people might come to believe them. And let the record show that this did not appear in a magazine of the radical left, but in a center-left publication owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world.

Alan Levinovitz declared in Slate that Tolerance is not the goal, “the truth” of which he personally happens to be in possession of is.

Progress today depends, as it always has, on the refusal to tolerate falsehood and immorality. In certain circumstances proper intolerance will demand reasoned discourse; in others it will demand shouting and breaking the law. We may disagree about how to fight for what’s right, but that disagreement should come in the context of recognizing our proud participation in a long, necessary history of virtuous intolerance. Only then can we hope to defend truth unfettered by hypocrisy and self-contradiction.

Back in the 1950s, when supporting Totalitarianism was looked upon as reprehensible by normal ordinary Americans, the Left cried out for Tolerance. We still hear constantly about the horrors of McCarthyism and the national reign of terror in which a small number of disloyal radicals faced social and professional disapproval for supporting an aggressive alien ideology that 37,000 Americans had recently laid down their lives to oppose in Korea. In those days, the University of California at Berkeley prohibited the on-campus distribution of Communist propaganda and used the laws of trespass to exclude outside agitators.

The Left responded with the so-called Free Speech Movement of 1964-1965 demanding Tolerance. The Left got its tolerance for political agitation, propagandizing, and on-campus organization and recruiting, and a half century later the Left owns all the campuses. Now, the necessity and desirability of Tolerance is over. All of which proves that the fainting liberals of the 1950s and ’60s who were moved by the Left’s hypocritical please for tolerance were simply suckers.

23 Mar 2017

“What Has Yale Become?”

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“My students who are most intellectually engaged, most intellectually thirsty, they would tell me that they feel that there’s no place for them at Yale.”

— William Deresiewicz.

Hat tip to Intellectual Takeout.

08 Mar 2017

Catholic Slogans Banned in Madrid

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At Return of Kings, Spanish blogger Juan Sanchez Villalobos reports that Catholic slogans on a Madrid bus responding to a leftist transgender propaganda meme quickly provoked official and unofficial hostility.

A bright orange bus appeared in public on Monday in the city of Madrid with several phrases written on its sides stating blatant biological facts: “Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina. Don’t let them fool you. If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you’ll keep being one”.

The vehicle was commissioned by a Catholic organization called Hazte Oir (Make Yourself Heard), which has campaigned against abortion in the past. The bus is allegedly a response to a campaign displayed across northern Spain by a Basque organization which exhibited drawings of nude children holding hands and stating that some boys have vulvas and some girls penises. Their campaign was funded by an anonymous donor from New York who’s goal was to “raise social awareness about transgender children.”

It didn’t take long for the government officials to spring into action. Madrid’s City Council, which is ruled by liberals, promised to take the “necessary measures” to stop the bus from touring the city saying the vehicle did not comply with local traffic ordinances. The regional government, ruled by cuckservatives, said that it was consulting with the Attorney General over whether the bus broke any “hate crime” laws. The cities of Barcelona and Valencia, both with progressive governments, announced penalties up to 3,000 Euros if the bus dares to come to their cities.

At any case their complaints have been successful and the bus was impounded by the police and taken off the road. The judge said the bus would remain immobilized until the slogans were removed, adding that the messages went beyond simply advertising the group’s ideology and attacked the dignity of certain people by denying their sexual orientation.

The orange bus has also sparked a furious backlash and hundreds of threats on Twitter by SJWs. “Less tweets and more burning and stoning the bus.” They incite him to burn it, paint it, throw eggs or use artifacts like a a bazooka to destroy it.

Read the whole thing.

08 Mar 2017

“Don’t You Dare Say There’s No Free Speech!”

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The Telegraph has a humor item from one of the more advanced educational Gulags across the pond.

A student union has banned a university Conservative society from using its social media accounts – because they challenged its position on free speech.

Lincoln University’s Conservative Society has been censored by its student union after it posted an image online showing that the university had been ranked “very intolerant” on free speech in a recent survey.

In response, the Students’ Union swiftly suspended the society’s social media accounts, on the grounds that highlighting the university’s ranking had brought it into disrepute.

However, the decision has been met with widespread derision from social media users and Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who said that union officials should be “ashamed”.

“This intolerant, illiberal and totalitarian response is akin to something out of the Soviet Union or North Korea rather than a place for learning and debate,” he said.

Read the whole thing.

07 Mar 2017

Deresiewicz Contemplates the PC Regime

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William Deresiewicz is a big squishy liberal, who thinks racism (after 50+ years of constant indoctrination, social engineering, and federal scrutiny of American hearts and minds) is still a terrible major problem, but even he is appalled at the Speech & Thought Control PC regime that has taken power at every elite college and university.

Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion. ..

Elite private colleges are ideologically homogeneous because they are socially homogeneous, or close to it. Their student populations largely come from the liberal upper and upper-middle classes, multiracial but predominantly white, with an admixture of students from poor communities of color—two demographics with broadly similar political beliefs, as evidenced by the fact that they together constitute a large proportion of the Democratic Party base. As for faculty and managerial staff, they are even more homogenous than their students, both in their social origins and in their present milieu, which tends to be composed exclusively of other liberal professionals—if not, indeed, of other liberal academics. Unlike the campus protesters of the 1960s, today’s student activists are not expressing countercultural views. They are expressing the exact views of the culture in which they find themselves (a reason that administrators prove so ready to accede to their demands). If you want to find the counterculture on today’s elite college campuses, you need to look for the conservative students.

Which brings us to another thing that comes with dogma: heresy. Heresy means those beliefs that undermine the orthodox consensus, so it must be eradicated: by education, by reeducation—if necessary, by censorship. It makes a perfect, dreary sense that there are speech codes, or the desire for speech codes, at selective private colleges. …

[P]olitical correctness is not about justice or creating a safe environment; it is about power. And so much of what is taking place at colleges today reflects the way that relations of power have been reconfigured in contemporary higher education. Campus activists are taking advantage of the fact (and I suspect that a lot of them understand this intuitively, if not explicitly) that students have a lot more power than they used to. The change is the result not only of the rise of the customer-service mentality in academia, but also of the proletarianization of the faculty. Students have risen; instructors have fallen. Where once administrations worked in alliance with the faculty, were indeed largely composed of faculty, now they work against the faculty in alliance with students, a separate managerial stratum more interested in the satisfaction of its customers than the well-being of its employees. …

The power of political correctness is wielded not only against the faculty, however, but also against other groups within the student body, ones who don’t belong to the ideologically privileged demographics or espouse the approved points of view: conservative students; religious students, particularly Christians; students who identify as Zionists, a category that includes a lot of Jewish students; “athletes,” meaning white male athletes; white students from red states; heterosexual cisgendered white men from anywhere at all, who represent, depending on the school, between a fifth and a third of all students. (I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.) I haven’t heard too many people talk about creating safe spaces for Christians, or preventing micro-aggressions against conservatives, or banning hate speech against athletes, or disinviting socialists.

What I have heard, frequently, for as long as I have been involved in academia, are open expressions of contempt or prejudice or hostility against those suspect groups or members of those groups. If you are a white man, you are routinely regarded as guilty until proven innocent, the worst possible construction is put upon your words, and anything you say on a sensitive issue is received with suspicion at best. I attended a workshop on micro-aggressions at the University of Missouri last year. The problem with micro-aggressions, the leader said, is that they “create a space of hostility,” that they say, “you don’t belong; you are different in a way that’s not okay.” Those formulations precisely describe the environment that the groups I just enumerated often encounter at elite private colleges, except that unlike the typical micro-aggression, the offense is not inadvertent. It is quite deliberate.

Read the whole thing.

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