As long as there are human societies, people will attempt to control the information that goes out to the group. People can be easily manipulated, especially in groups, and that creates both a fear of unnecessarily incendiary material on the positive side, or subversion of the dominant paradigm and narrative on the dark side.
Here’s what happened this week with censorship and the response to it.
- Angela Merkel wants Facebook to censor dissent on immigration.
Former East German politician Angela Merkel, now the putative head of the European Union, has made the statement that Facebook should censor racial commentary including speech against the recent immigration surge into Europe:
Politicians and celebrities have voiced concern about a rise of xenophobic comments in German on Facebook and other social media platforms because of the refugee crisis.
“When people stir up sedition on social networks using their real name, it’s not only the state that has to act, but also Facebook as a company should do something against these paroles,” Merkel told regional newspaper Rheinische Post.
The problem with this of course is that it includes both the rude and cruel speech of those who fling racial slurs, and those who merely mention the issue and possibly critique it. Merkel did not say “ban racial slurs”; she argues for the banning of “racial commentary,” which in theory could include this post. She reveals her East German roots with this one.
- Reddit censor Ellen Pao fails to appeal failed gender discrimination suit.
Former Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao, who tried to implement the banning of controversial content by topic and not texture (such as slurs) on Reddit and was partially successful, was working at Reddit after being fired from a law firm which she was suing on the grounds of gender discrimination. They said she under-performed; she said they discriminated against her. Most suits of this type get settled to avoid publicity, which means that many people get a payout for simply bringing the suit. The firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, fought back instead and won. Pao appealed and was widely hailed as a hero by SJW journalists, even as she was acting on Reddit to shut down any speech on certain topics, even if factual, logical and polite.
Ellen Pao is dropping her appeal of the gender discrimination suit she lost against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao sued KPCB in 2012, claiming that women were not given fair consideration in the male-dominated workplace. She also said that a male colleague with whom she had an affair unfairly cut her out of e-mail correspondence and upper management did nothing about it. She was fired soon after filing her suit. After a bruising month-long trial in which her personal character and work performance were repeatedly brought into question, a jury of six men and six woman ruled that there was no evidence of gender discrimination.
The failure of her appeal means that Pao is out for the legal costs of her initial suit. This shows a court (and jury) spanking down such spurious suits by not only denying her victory, but also forcing her to bear some of the cost of making the accusation. This perhaps reveals the amount of damage such unnecessary profiteering has cost firms.
- Cartoon exhibit fights back against censorship and terror
Pittsburgh City Paper reports that a cartoon exhibit is fighting back against censorship and threats to speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Jyllands-Posten cartoon fatwa, and a shooting at a “Draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in Texas which seems to have been designed to provoke Muslim fundamentalists. The exhibit touches on many issues related to free speech and free expression:
Slinging Satire: Political Cartoons and the First Amendment, curated by Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist and ToonSeum board president, courageously takes on civil rights, racial inequality, terrorism and the impact of art on politics.
The provocative exhibit features digital prints donated by 20 renowned artists from newspapers and online publications across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe.
The most striking part of the exhibit is “Je Suis Charlie,” a tribute to those fallen in the Al Qaeda attack at French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo this past January.
It is unlikely that this event will be popular among the extremist set but it aims to re-establish certain liberties taken by writers and artists in the past that are currently threatened by censorship or violence from many sides.
- Gentleman’s barbershop fined for not cutting woman’s hair.
In a desire to provoke denial and create a sense of personal injury, a woman entered a barbershop which advertises itself as specializing in the cutting of men’s hair, was as expected refused service, and has now invoked Government to force us all to be nice precious snowflakes who get along with each other. Never mind that barbershops for men have existed for centuries much like their female counterpart. The state imposed its demands with an investigation:
Now, the business is at the center of a heated debate after owner John Interval was fined $750 for refusing to cut a woman’s hair.
She filed an action with the state’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
That agency imposed the fine for gender discrimination after a state investigator visited the business and interviewed Interval.
This continues a habit in American and European law of forcing people to serve every other conceivable customer, even if illogical, and limits both their speech and free expression in how they run their businesses. While this is being argued as a victory for freedom, in fact it deprives people of freedom to operate a business for a specific clientele.
- Charlie Hebdo could be sued after mocking refugee death.
No stranger to controversy, and recovering after the slaughter of most of its upper staff by extremists, French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo faces a new foe: government. According to its detractors, the magazine has crossed the line into full-on racism, which is illegal in France despite being a matter of free speech:
But barrister Peter Herbert, Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and former vice chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, was among many who said Charlie Hebdo had overstepped the mark.
Mr Herbert alleged on Twitter that the magazine was a “racist, xenophobic and ideologically bankrupt publication that represents the moral decay of France”.
He added: ‘The Society of Black Lawyers will consider reporting this as incitement to hate crime & persecution before the International Criminal Court.’
This will have chilling effects for speech as the definition of racism expands at the convenience of government and media. It seems ludicrous on its face to assume that criticism of someone who is of another race must naturally be racist, instead of assuming that they are being treated just like anyone else, since Charlie Hebdo somewhat ineptly mocks everything and anything.
- SJWs attack RPG-style games, causing companies to adopt censorship policies.
RPGs are for hardcore nerds who love Dungeons & Dragons and related games. SJWs however insist that everyone obeys their maniacal doctrine… even when those people are already obeying it. A game called Tournament of Rapists aroused SJW ire, but apparently no one read anything about it, because in the game players battle these rapists, SJW-style. SJWs could not be bothered to do the research and attacked, causing at least one company to adopt an official censorship policy:
Steve Wieck, CEO of DriveThruRPG, issued his final response to the controversy on Tuesday. In a long blog post, they explained that they had come to an agreement with the publishers of Tournament of Rapists, and that the title would be removed from the store.
Wieck also announced a new policy on offensive content, whereby RPGs reported as offensive would be screened on a case-by-case basis. Wieck announced that he would be the “final arbiter” of what was deemed to be too offensive for the store, and informed readers that he would “err toward including content, even when it challenges readers and deals with sensitive issues, so long as it does so maturely and not gratuitously.”
This continues the assault on free speech in games on the basis of “moral” grounds known as Social Justice, which apparently holds that everyone must tolerate and pretend to like everyone else at all times, or you are all very racist. As with other forms of speech restriction, this plays right into the hands of governments and corporations who wish to find a way to restrict criticism of their immigration, H1-B or other policies.
- The Supreme Court has made it harder for local governments to crack down on political advertising.
You know those political signs that pop up like mushrooms or exhumed corpses on lawns during election season? One local community regulated them, and the ensuing lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled that not only was there nothing wrong with the signs in question, but that local governments did not have the power to regulate advertising of that nature.
From the New York Times:
Though just two months old, the decision has already required lower courts to strike down laws barring panhandling, automated phone calls and “ballot selfies.”
…The key move in Justice Thomas’s opinion was the vast expansion of what counts as content-based. The court used to say laws were content-based if they were adopted to suppress speech with which the government disagreed.
Justice Thomas took a different approach. Any law that singles out a topic for regulation, he said, discriminates based on content and is therefore presumptively unconstitutional.
On the surface this appears a win for free speech, but may experience pushback as it ties the hands of localities to stop nuisance behaviors like panhandling and automated phone calls. Time will tell whether the court is accountable like elected politicians are supposed to be, or if this type of restriction is permanently gone.
There’s our roundup for this week of juicy censorship and speech rights related stories for you. Hang tight for more anarchic fun in the weeks ahead.