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  • The right's new slogan: My free speech, not yours

    Conservatives are attacking what they call “cancel culture” for violating their First Amendment right to free speech, so much so that the theme for the ultra-conservative CPAC conference in Orlando last February was “America Uncanceled.” 

    Everywhere you turn, conservatives are wrapping themselves in the Constitution as readily as they wrap themselves in the flag, but they do so selectively and hypocritically. My right to pray, not yours. My right to bear arms, not yours. My right to vote, not yours. And of course their culture war slogan, “My free speech, not yours.”

  • Trump’s words on January 6 were a clear and present danger

    The defense in Donald Trump’s second impeachment rested in large part on the assertion that his fiery words to protestors on January 6 were protected by the First Amendment. Republican senators used free speech—along with other pretexts—to ignore Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors. But they were wrong. Trump’s incitement was not protected speech. His words posed an unambiguous, clear and present danger.

  • Charlie Hebdo shows there’s always some speech that isn’t free

    On January 7, 2015, terrorists attacked the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including the editor and several cartoonists. Much of the world denounced this brutal attack. French president François Hollande expressed outrage over the murder of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, and millions of ordinary people rallied at the Place de la République in Paris, in the squares of other French cities, and in cities abroad as well, to reassert their commitment to free speech. Je suis Charlie became the chant of the day. 

    But Charlie fever proved all too brief. On January 11, the same world leaders who were chanting “Je suis Charlie” called for increased police powers to spy on the internet activities and mobile phones of terrorists, suspected terrorists, people who might one day become terrorists, and for good measure, just about everybody else on the planet, including cartoonists. There was little outrage that this surveillance, calculated to protect everyone’s speech, could actually wind up suppressing speech. And by the time the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre published a new issue on January 14, with a cover of Muhammad shedding a tear and holding a sign that says, “Je suis Charlie,” many of those who had condemned the murder of cartoonists now said, free speech is important, but insulting religion invites serious consequences.