A liberal tells us what liberals “don’t get” about free speech, but she’s the one who doesn’t get it

We’ve met Katherine Cross before, in a piece she wrote defending the punching of Nazis. Identified as “a pizza loving feminist sociologist, trans Latina, and amateur slug herder, working on her PhD at the CUNY Graduate Centre,” she writes for The Establishment, which I don’t read but, upon perusal, seems to be a slightly upscale version of PuffHo—about as Authoritarian Leftist as they come. It should in fact be called The Authoritarian. (To wit: its headline article today the Grammys for blatant racism: they gave Adele an award for best album of the year but ignored Beyonce because, they say, she was black. They also spell “Black” with a capital letter and “white” without one.)

The article Cross wrote before, “Why punching Nazis is not only ethical, but imperative,” was a deeply flawed piece of writing, and I took it apart on this site. But she’s equaled it with her latest piece on Alternet, “What liberals don’t get about free speech in the age of Trump.” Yet most of us have already gotten what we’re said not to “get,” and I’m surprised that this piece was published in the first place.  I suspect that, like PuffHo, The Establishment publishes left-wing pieces with little or no remuneration to their authors.

But on to the piece, which I’ll summarize briefly. Cross says there are two things we liberals don’t get about free speech. She is, of course, mostly concerned with Milo Yiannopoulos.

1.) Free speech doesn’t entitle anyone to a platform anywhere you want. Cross says this:

This is the key difference. You can think whatever you like, and even say it without fear of government reprisal, but when you introduce force-multipliers for speech into the equation, things begin to get very hazy indeed. You have a right to a view; do you have a right to pronounce it to millions of New York Times readers, however? No. We have no problem recognizing this when it’s about something silly like Bigfoot, but the minute matters of consequence enter the frame, suddenly people are mystified by the very existence of standards.

To speak to so vast an audience is a privilege, not a right. To speak through a newspaper or magazine column, a TV talk show, an interview on national TV, a speech at a university, or a primetime debate program, is, by its very nature, a privilege not open to all. There are billions of people on this planet, each speaking their views at any one time, but they can’t all appear on the Today show. Once again, we intuitively grasp this basic logistical matter, but forget about it entirely when a raving bigot shows up, feeling cornered by an abstract principle into insisting that he or she be given not only space to speak, but the largest possible platform and audience for it.

It has been the pride of my life to be able to write editorial copy and speak at universities and conferences around the world. I do not, however, delude myself into thinking I have a right to any of these things. They are privileges I have earned. I have a right to the views I espouse here; I do not have a specific right to force the editors of The Establishment to use their platform for that espousal.

Duh! Is there anybody here who hasn’t grasped the difference between asserting a right to speak at, say, a college, and a right to speak in a public square? Milo didn’t have an a priori right to speak at Berkeley or any other school: he gained that right because he was invited to speak by the College Republicans. Once he was asked and accepted, he had a right to speak. Even the University Chancellor recognized that right, and urged the Berkeley community to act accordingly. And once Yiannopoulos had that right, he could say anything he wanted unless he violated the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment: permitting speech so long as the speaker’s words didn’t urge listeners to commit immediate violence. Of course Milo’s presence—he wasn’t allowed to talk—did lead to violence from protestors, but that wasn’t was his words were designed to do: it’s what his mere bodily appearance produced. You cannot ban someone from speaking simply because those who thought they might be offended by his speech (and not inflamed to do his bidding) start rioting, hurting people, and destroying property.

That much is obvious. So on to Cross’s second point:

2.) Free speech has to be balanced against another “right”: the right for society to be free of speech that will damage it. To her credit, Cross doesn’t say that people like Milo abrogate people’s right “to not be offended.” Instead, she says that Milo’s words were designed to encourage his followers to further marginalize and physically injure those already marginalized, which will create a dystopian society. To further her argument, Cross brings up—yes, again—the Nazis:

So many people are hung up on Yiannopoulos’ right to free speech (without enumerating the specifics, e.g. a right to this platform, a right to payment from this institution, et cetera, none of which are democratic rights per se), while ignoring the rights his hate-mongering specifically abridges.

. . . What I protest in Yiannopoulos’ “Dangerous Faggot Tour” is that he incites action, which cannot be ignored or brushed off by its targets. Yet despite being central to the issue, it is rarely the focus of chest-beating free-speech absolutism in the editorial pages.

She then quotes Ron Rosenbaum, and expert on the history of Nazism:

For Trump, his army of trolls, and his ideological lieutenants like Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer, words are playthings used to win a moment’s battle, to elicit a reaction, and to hide as much as to reveal. It is their actions that speak true.

And then, mentioning Hannah Arendt, Cross says this:

Hannah Arendt had the right of it when, in her Origins of Totalitarianism, she explained what the purpose of Nazi propaganda was. It was not a proposition presented for debate, compromise, and rebuttal, but an alternative reality that justified its own existence:

“The assumption of a Jewish world conspiracy was transformed by totalitarian propaganda from an objective, arguable matter into the chief element of the Nazi reality; the point was the Nazis acted as though the world were dominated by Jews and needed a counterconspiracy to defend itself.”

In other words, these were articles of faith that served to justify Nazism’s aims. They told the world what had to be true in order for race laws and death camps to make moral sense. This was not a matter for debate, though it had been disproven on its merits time and time again.

And, at the end, although Cross claims she’s not trying to excuse the violent protests at Berkeley, she says she understands why they did what they did: they had to fight Milo’s “actions”—or rather, what she sees as his call for immediate violence:

This is not to say that quests for truth are pointless — quite the opposite — but rather that we should understand what they can and cannot do. You cannot disprove the truth of an action; you can only combat it.This essay will undoubtedly be positioned as a defense of the violence at Berkeley. It isn’t; a disquisition on the merits of political violence as such requires its own article. But the argument I’ve made here should serve as an explanation of why, when faced with an establishment that is deaf to all reason, some may have felt setting lighting equipment on fire to be their only recourse.

Inasmuch as it stopped Yiannopoulos from radicalizing his audience into committing hate crimes against their fellow students, the protest achieved something meaningful. But it diminishes us to flush that down the memory hole of another pointless debate about tediously abstract and immature constructions of free speech. If we must do this, then let us do it properly. Let us call actions by their names, acknowledge the harms of those actions, and then, with the terms of debate and its principles properly grounded, discuss the matter.

After all, is that not what those of us who care about words are obliged to do?

This is deeply confused. First Cross tells us that there is a “right” to be free from the kind of violence-inducing speech promulgated by Yiannopoulos, then says that we must combat that “hate speech” by calling it what it is: not only hate speech, but speech designed to wreck society. But we’re already doing that! Plenty of liberal outlets have done what Cross says we’re “obliged” to do: argue against Milo, produce counter-speech, and even accuse him of “hate speech.”  So what’s the problem? And if you can’t “disprove” the truth of an action (i.e., speech), why even “discuss and debate the matter.” What’s the point if listeners are “deaf to reason”?

Why did Cross even write this piece?

Her problem is that she indicts Milo for truly violating the First Amendment as interpreted by the courts—for making speeches that he knows will move his audience to violence. Well, that’s just not true, and if it were, Cross or anybody else could take Milo to court for violating the Constitution.

Milo doesn’t call for violence. Yes, he does stuff that I think is unwise, like publicly naming a transgender student and was (so I hear) about to urge Berkeley students to name fellow students who are undocumented immigrants. To my mind that’s wrong, but I say that as a person. As someone acquainted with the law, though, I have to add that although I think it’s wrong, it’s also legal, and I’ll defend Milo’s right to say those kinds of things.

There is no “right” for people to not be subject to speech like Milo’s. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to listen to his talks. But the kind of speeches Milo gives on campuses do not violate the First Amendment, and thus abrogate no legal rights. The Constitution does not prohibit, nor has it been interpreted to prohibit, calls for social changes that other people think are harmful. If that were the case, then every Muslim could riot when Charlie Hebdo cartoons are published, every black person could riot when some of the tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement are questioned, and every believer could riot when religion is criticized. For indeed, all of those offended by such speech believe it will wreck society. Cross sees herself as the Arbiter of Non-Damaging speech, and thereby guts the First Amendment, as many Authoritarian Leftists do.

And I’ll add here that the censorship of a free press, which is what the Nazis did when they assumed power, was done in the name of keeping German society peaceful.



  1. Randy schenck
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Free speech has been defined and ruled upon by the courts for over two hundred years and it seems to do little good. Always some like Cross are ready to provide their new version of the same old thing. Let me decide what is free speech for you and I will be the censor in charge.

    • Justin Seabury
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      And this is why our country’s forefathers made this the first and foremost thing in our constitution, because I am sure they also suffered their version of this behavior in the day. They knew and we know a healthy society means we need to yell at each other constantly!

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but frankly, I do not get very excited about the bill of rights the way most people today seem to. Whether it is the first, the second or the fourth that gets them going, I know that the Constitutional convention did not have a bill of rights. They talked about but decided it was not necessary and voted it down. It was only later when pushing for ratification in the various states that the anti-federalists demanded a bill of rights. So, approximately 3 years after the Constitution had been written and ratified, the first Congress worked out the first 10 amendments you see today.

        The fact that some of them are still argued and discussed today shows that Madison was right to begin with. Putting a bill of rights into the constitution was not necessary and may have been a negative idea. Highlighting specific rights only lead others to think – what about other rights that were left out? We still haven’t figured out, or at least many haven’t a clue, what free speech, free religion or free press is.

  2. Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Cross’ apparent obliviousness to the irony of juxtaposing these two lines is quite telling I think:

    “But the argument I’ve made here should serve as an explanation of why, when faced with an establishment that is deaf to all reason, some may have felt setting lighting equipment on fire to be their only recourse.

    Inasmuch as it stopped Yiannopoulos from radicalizing his audience into committing hate crimes against their fellow students, the protest achieved something meaningful.”

    So if your opponents are “deaf to all reason”, then violent recourse can be acceptable. And you just shut down your opponents so that they couldn’t commit violence. So doesn’t the first line justify your opponent’s use of violence against you, since you are – by shutting down their speech – quite neatly fitting yourself into the “deaf to all reason” category?

    Furthermore, she assumes that shutting down Yiannopoulos’ talk prevented “radicalization” and “hate crimes”. This assumption is highly suspect on its own. But couple this with her first claim that radicalization and violence are justified when one faces an opponent who will not listen, and the inanity is simply mind-boggling.

    How does one even begin to speak coherently about these things anymore?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      “… deaf to all reason” was a phrase that jarred with me too.

      She used the same words in the other article Jerry took apart iirc, and it got me then as well.

      What she actually means is that they weren’t persuaded by the arguments of the protestors. There is no recognition that the protestors might be wrong.

      Anyone can use the same argument, including the eponymous Nazis. e.g. atheists failed to listen to reason that the Jews were destroying society, so they had to be sent to the death camps too. Their bad.

    • Cindy
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Furthermore, she assumes that shutting down Yiannopoulos’ talk prevented “radicalization” and “hate crimes”.

      All that this will do is force people to go underground where they build their own echo chambers and seethe with resentment.

      If you want more division in society, this is how you go about creating it.

    • eric
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      So doesn’t the first line justify your opponent’s use of violence against you, since you are – by shutting down their speech – quite neatly fitting yourself into the “deaf to all reason” category?

      Many strongly partisan people either unconsciously or consciously reject the notion that a rational human being could strongly disagree with them on their partisan issues. They don’t just have a different opinion, they must be crazy. For folks like this, disagreement itself becomes an indicator of ‘deaf to all reason.’

      I think it’s a natural human bias; when some conclusion is strikingly obvious and clear to you, it is very hard to fathom another smart adult disagreeing with you on it. That’s a situation where it’s very difficult if not impossible to ‘see it from their point of view.’ When humans get into that situation – where they find it impossible to see things from the other person’s perspective – then it becomes easy to conclude that some adult disagrees with you, they must either not be smart or be disagreeing for ulterior motives.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        I largely agree with what you’ve said here. But things are complicated by the fact that in some cases one side is actually right and the other side is actually wrong rather than the issue being nearly or completely subjective, or where it just is too complicated and or there isn’t enough evidence to be able to really determine which side is correct.

        • eric
          Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          Every partisan thinks their side is actually right and the other is actually wrong. 🙂

          The point is, the fact that someone is actually wrong on some issue where all the evidence points to the right answer (from your perspective) /= they are blind to reason.

          • Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

            Blind to reason and, apparently, must be beaten into agreement (or at least silence).

        • veroxitatis
          Posted February 14, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          That is rarely the case in matters such as political decision taking or economics. All that one can do in these areas is weigh up the views of those who have some degree of expertise in the field. My decision on Brexit was influenced largely by the considered opinions of economists and the heads of businesses in various sectors of the economy. However, for those who have either preconceived views or lack the ability to digest, analyse and think critically about expert opinion it is “grist to their mill” to have someone who is generally recognised as educated and intelligent declare that “We have heard too much from experts” and that their opinions are of no worth or consequence. This was Michael Gove’s published view. Gove was a member of Cameron’s Government, resigned and became joint leader of “Leave”, the campaign for Britain to exit the EU. This panders to the “You could be as right as anyone else” viewpoint which is so prevalent today.

          • eric
            Posted February 14, 2017 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

            What? I think it’s very much the case with politics! Conservatives are only conservative because they’re selfish and greedy. Liberals are only liberal because they’re stupid. How many times have you heard something like that? That’s an example of a partisan not being able to comprehend or believe that the other side might rationally disagree with them.

  3. Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Anybody who thinks that shutting down speakers isn’t going to come back and bite them in the ass is an idiot.

    Does anybody seriously think that Trump won’t use precedents set by protestors to shut down speech he thinks is ‘hateful’?

    Does anybody think he won’t use the same justification for violence that protestors are making legitimate?

    • Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink


      Has she even thought about who gets to determine what speech is deemed damaging to society?

    • Kelly
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      So true. Trump will probably follow Cross right down that rabbit hole that she continues to dig out.

    • Jay
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Whether Trump does or not is immaterial, plenty across the spectrum would be willing to do that.

      In a humanist group I used to be a member of (not anymore– they’ve gone nutso) one of the leaders responded to a member’s comment that some voted for Trump because liberals tended to look down on other opinions by unfriending that person and announcing it publicly. He then told anyone who disagrees with him to unfriend before he does it.

      Side point : bizarre levels of Trump phobia– like an educated man becoming terrified that his polite plumber may have voted for Trump.


      • veroxitatis
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Interesting article you drew attention to. Scruton referred to this phobia as oikophobia (fear of one’s countrymen) derived from the Gr. word “oikos” meaning “home”. Theer have been many examples of same in the UK post the referendum vote to leave the UK. However, the attitude might be better termed “oikphobia”, the British slang word “oik” meaning a person regarded as inferior because ignorant, ill educated or lower class. Invariably thought to be all three by those who voted in the referendum to remain a member state of the EU.

  4. Sshort
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    i do wonder, for my own edification, about
    the concept of stochastic violence. A verifiable tool of the anti-abortion movement and recently used against Clinton by Trump:

    “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”

    At what point can or could that be used legally? Are there any cases? Is it a good idea to try? Counterproductive?

    • eric
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      If I had to guess I’d say it’s a real thing; violent speech that doesn’t quite meet the conditions of incitement probably contributes to the background rate of violence.

      However, it’s also worth remembering that modern societies are orders of magnitude less violent than human societies of 100 or 200 years ago. On top of that, the stochastic effect is likely small (it would have to be, otherwise it would be obvious). So look, let’s get our priorities straight here. If we tolerated 50 murders per 1,000,000 people per year 100 years ago, and car accidents kill 10 people per 1,000,000 people per year, I think we can live with speech that bumps the murder rate from 3.9 per 1,000,000 per year to 4.0 per 1,000,000. Its worth it for the freedom we gain and frankly, we have much bigger contributions to the ‘untimely death rate’ to worry about.

  5. Jay
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Cheering mob violence to shut down speech gets a bit dicey when circumstances shift and it’s your speech being attacked.

  6. veroxitatis
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Sheer guff from the immature Ms. Cross.

    In an article in yesterday’s Times, entitled “Students can’t be allowed to curb free speech”, the author Matt Ridley (“Genome & other publications) quoted pointedly and approvingly of a paragraph by John Stuart Mill (On Liberty – 1859):-
    “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
    As true today as it was at the time of writing, imo.

  7. jeremy pereira
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Is it possible that Adele won album of the year because she released the best album of the year?

    • Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Maybe they were afraid that actually enjoying Beyoncé would be cultural appropriation?

      • sshort
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink


    • BJ
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Come on! Haven’t you noticed how the music industry and media in general never give Beyonce any attention or awards? It’s clearly because she’s black!

  8. Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Hello Jerry and everyone else. I agree with the post Jerry wrote. I do have some questions though. What is the legal difference between actions and speech. Also then what is the moral difference between actions and speech. Last I wondered what is our obligations concerning both actions and speech. Not looking for an argument please, just trying to round out in my head the many difference of these. Hugs

    • Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      All speech is, in a sense, action.

      There are laws against direct incitement because that is considered an action.

      Other speech acts are limited by libel or slander laws, or copyright, or perjury.

      Some speech carries legal weight: to swear an oath, to pronounce a couple married, to sentence a convicted criminal, or to give an order to a subordinate.

      We also what’d promises and warnings as more than simple words: we expect a commitment to the truth.

      But what Yiannapoulis is doing is none of these things. It’s pure performance.

      • Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. This is quite informative. As I read it over I found a question? Does speech change based on who is speaking or is it only the type of speech. For example the judge sentencing a convicted person is a deeply different type of speech than if I gave a Ted Talk. Is it still just speech if it carries the force of law. Is the speech of a weatherman more protected than speech which is not useful or needed? Thanks again. Hugs

        • Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          It depends on who is speaking and the expectations of those present.

          An actor in a romcom dressed as a priest may pronounce the leads ‘man and wife’ but it carries no legal weight – even if it is in a church.

          So a performative speech act requires that all parties present accept that the speech act is more than just air expelled through the mouth.

          • Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

            Great points. Thank you. Hugs

  9. David Duncan
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    She’s a textbook proof that there are too many people at college doing worthless degrees. They should go out and get a real job.

  10. chris moffatt
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    So we should shut down speech before people actually say anything in case they might offend us? Do I have a right to be offended and if so do I have a right to have whoever’s words offended me stop offending me on pain of being hit by me? This free speech thing is just too complex for the regressive left products of bogus pomo university courses – better just eliminate it then we’ll all be happy. Well not all maybe but those who won’t be happy don’t matter anyway; they don’t have the correct opinions to start with.

  11. Cindy
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    …but speech designed to wreck society…

    Well I am sure that if we go around punching people and segregating ourselves by way of identity politics that society will turn into the utopia that we have always dreamed of!

    • eric
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Heh. Wasn’t rock and roll declared ‘speech designed to wreck society’ decades ago? And atheism? And opposition to war? We hear the same ‘too dangerous’ mantra any time anybody on the left or right wants to shut down access to ideas they dislike. Here’s a good quote:

      “[Atheism is] dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!”
      -Monique Davis, Illinois state legislator, speaking in open session on the floor of the state senate (!!!), April 14, 2008.

      • Cindy
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

        I keep forgetting to link this:

        The Third Wave was an experimental social movement created by California high school history teacher Ron Jones to explain how the German population could accept the actions of the Nazi regime during the Second World War.[1][2] While he taught his students about Nazi Germany during his “Contemporary World History” class, Jones found it difficult to explain how the German people could accept the actions of the Nazis, and decided to create a social movement as a demonstration of the appeal of fascism. Over the course of five days, Jones conducted a series of exercises in his classroom emphasizing discipline and community, intended to model certain characteristics of the Nazi movement. As the movement grew outside his class and began to number in the hundreds, Jones began to feel that the movement had spiraled out of control. He convinced the students to attend a rally where he claimed the announcement of a Third Wave presidential candidate would be televised. Upon their arrival, the students were presented with a blank channel. Jones told his students of the true nature of the movement as an experiment in fascism, and presented to them a short film discussing the actions of Nazi Germany.[3]

        Fifth and last day

        Instead of a televised address of their leader, the students were presented with an empty channel. After a few minutes of waiting, Jones announced that they had been a part of an experiment in fascism and that they all willingly created a sense of superiority like German citizens had in the period of Nazi Germany. He then played them a film about the Nazi regime to conclude the experiment.[3]


        As Ben Goren stated in another comment, we should not dehumanize the Nazis. People who do horrible things are not mustache twirling movie villains. They truly believe that what they are doing is righteous and moral. We need to recognize these tendencies in ourselves, as tribal beings, and squash any urge within ourselves to resort to fascism because we believe in the absolute superiority of our chosen ideology.

  12. Historian
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The Founders placed freedom of speech in the first amendment because of their remembrance of censored speech when under British rule. Throughout the nation’s history this concept has largely been honored by governmental authorities. But, there have been some notable exceptions. Perhaps the biggest was the attempt by the pre-Civil War South from about 1830 on to quash even the remotest criticism of the justice and wisdom of slavery. Southerners even wanted anti-slavery talk to be banned in the free states of the North. Another example was the attempt of the Wilson administration to ban anti-war talk during World War I. In particular, the great Eugene Debs was imprisoned for urging resistance to the draft. In 1920, he actually ran for president from his jail cell as the Socialist Party candidate. It was the Republican president, Warren G. Harding, who commuted his sentence.

    So, the attempt by government to suppress freedom of speech is not common, but not exceedingly rare either. These acts of suppression were under the guise of the public good. Now, there is a new movement by some individuals to curtail freedom of speech under the rationale that “hate speech” might induce some people to do bad things. Of course, these individuals are ready to take up the burden of defining what hate speech is. And, yes, some people may fall under the sway of hate speech. As most things in life, free speech is not free. There is a cost to it. I believe many Trump voters fell under that sway. However, for me, the cost is worth it. I am willing to take the risk of the effects of some people doing awful things because of what they heard than having an Orwellian censor reviewing every word I write or speak. I am betting that the American people, even those who were conned by Trump, are not comparable to those Germans who succumbed to Hitler’s charismatic oratory. We’ll see how my hand plays out.

    • eric
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      The Founders placed freedom of speech in the first amendment because of their remembrance of censored speech when under British rule.

      Well…no. Madison’s original list of nine or so proposed things for the bill of rights had it listed as number four. Then when Madison’s ideas were consolidated with other suggestions, our current first amendment was the third on the list. But the first two ont the list didn’t pass at that time, so that’s how it became the first amendment. (The original first amendment set representation at 1 congresscritter/30,000 people; the original second amendment is now our 27th amendment)

      • Historian
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        You’re missing my point. It’s irrelevant whether freedom of speech was in the first amendment or the tenth amendment or in what amendment it ultimately ended up in. The particular amendment a provision is in doesn’t make it any more or less important than an provision that may be in another amendment. All that is important is that the freedom of speech guarantee is in the Constitution, not which amendment you find it in.

        However, I did enjoy your factoid.

        • eric
          Posted February 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          I agree its irrelevant which amendment freedom of speech is in; the order of them is due to historical contingency, it doesn’t reflect some sort of ‘ranking of importance.’ However, I often see that argument (‘the founders put it first because they thought it was sooo important’) bandied about, and your original post sounded like that’s what you were saying, so I was correcting that perceived argument. My apologies if that wasn’t the argument you were making.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted February 14, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

            I think the argument is mute anyway. Please remember, the “founders” as you refer to them did not do the bill of rights. At the Constitutional Convention there was no bill of rights. It was talked about and voted down. I will not quote Madison directly but he thought having a bill of rights was not a good idea. He was a founder, by the way. In fact, they refer to him as the father of our Constitution. I will not bore you with all the details but history and Madison do not think the bill of rights was such a big deal. It was put together by the first congress to fulfill a promise made during ratification.

            Said in another way, the idea of the Constitution was to give the people and not the state, governmental power. Creating a bunch of rights was redundant to the Constitution and lets see what the bills actually accomplished. Over two hundred years of arguing their meaning.

            • eric
              Posted February 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

              Please remember, the “founders” as you refer to them did not do the bill of rights.

              You don’t consider Madison a founder? He wrote them. I consider him a founder so IMO a founder did write them. If you want to quibble over the plural, so be it; they did not write the amendments collectively as a group.

              As an interesting sidebar, Madison didn’t do it out of some high-minded principle. The anti-federalists had gerrymandered his district out from under him, and so he made a campaign promise intended to please the majority anti-federalists in his newly drawn district (it worked; he was reelected despite his district being generally hostile to federalism). The more things change, the more they stay the same. 🙂

              • Randy schenck
                Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

                Of course he was a founder but the task of doing the bill of rights was accomplished by the first congress, which Madison was a part of. He drafted some of the bills but they got a good going over and were added to by others in the congress. It was not something he did personally and alone. That is the way a congress works.

                If you followed the ratification process as it unfolded you would know that many states had calls for additional rights. It became a duty, so to speak, that this would be done after the first Congress was on the job. There was also a serious move by some to hold another Convention to create some additional amendments and federalist, like Madison, did not want that can of worms opened and therefore, shut this move down by accomplishing the promised additional rights.

                Bills of rights were nothing new, most of the states had them in their state constitutions already. So anyway, if you think Madison did the Bill of rights all by his lonesome, that would be wrong. And as I have said before, he was with the majority at the Convention in Philly who voted against having any bill of rights. The Constitution was ratified and the government was in existence – then the bill of rights was created and ratified, some 2 or 3 years after Philly.

  13. eric
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe she mixed up time/place/manner speech limitations with censorship based on message and content. That’s either a rookie mistake – which says something about her depth in this area – or she’s maliciously conflating qualitatively different things.

  14. Kevin
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The larger Cross’ fan base, the more powerful the GOP and conservative Christian base will become. Maybe this is what she wants. A world filled with cowards.

    • Cindy
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      A world filled with division.

      I keep thinking of Barry Goldwater’s Southern Strategy to mobilize racist whites…


      If the plebs are constantly fighting each other, they will be distracted and not look at the real source of their oppression.

      I see identity politics as a modern form of the Southern Strategy. And there is money and influence in being an aggrieved leader of one of these movements – on both sides, left and right.

    • Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Hello Kevin. I missed a few steps here. Cross is not claiming to be either gop or christian conservative is she? I don’t agree with her position and her statements, but I am not sure how she is increasing the other two groups by her positions. Can you lead me through the progression. Thanks. Hugs

      • Posted February 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        She is (probably) increasing conservatives by making liberals look bad.

  15. busterggi
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    On the other hand I do have warm feelings for a fellow slug herder due to my term project for Dr. Chichesterback in ’74, the joys of Arion fasciatus and subfuscus and Limax maximus, the struggles to keep them going over winter.

    How does one trans into being hispanic though? I did study Spanish, I enjoy tacos and mariachi music but remain a polack even after decades of exposure.

  16. darrelle
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Cross does herself no favors with non sequitur, irrelevant arguments like her “Free speech doesn’t entitle anyone to a platform anywhere you want” argument. Free speech proponents don’t think or argue that it does. And that isn’t the circumstance that obtained at the Milo Berkeley event.

    “Her problem is that she indicts Milo for truly violating the First Amendment as interpreted by the courts—for making speeches that he knows will move his audience to violence.

    Exactly. It gets back to the common illiberal left claim that words can be violence all by themselves. Which brings to mind another thing they can’t seem to keep straight. Who is it that they are trying to protect from hearing speech they disapprove of? Themselves, as in Milo’s speech hurts me just as if he had physically assaulted me? Or the other people that hear Milo speak, as in Milo will be able to convince them to agree with him?

    • BJ
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      The only violence Milo’s speech seems to lead to is from the left.

      • BJ
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Correction: the mere threat of his possibly speaking produces violence from the left.

  17. Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    If people like Cross are concerned that people act violently or the like after hearing person thus and so, then how does this cancel the “better speech” argument? I don’t see that addressed at all. [not surprisingly]

    • eric
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      It doesn’t. In fact, if they consider speech a form of violence, and they think it’s acceptable to respond to it with violence, then they still don’t have an excuse for escalation. After all, if both those things are true, then they could respond to his violent speech-acts with violent speech-acts of their own.

      But they don’t. Why not? Because speech isn’t sufficiently violent for them to count as violence when they’re the actor. Only when they’re the recipient.

      • Posted February 15, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Ironically, it might be related to what people point out about various ethnic conflicts. Group or state X has a right to defend themselves, but it doesn’t follow from that that *any action* is permissible in this role.

  18. aaa
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    About Berkeley:

    “If an Los Angeles Times reporter can find the black bloc attackers, why can’t the Berkeley authorities?”


  19. Scote
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    “Well, that’s just not true, and if it were, Cross or anybody else could take Milo to court for violating the Constitution.”

    You can’t take individuals to court for “violating the constitution.” The restrictions of the constitution apply to the government, and government agents, not individuals. Instead, Milo Yiannopoulos could be criminally prosecuted for incitement under state laws.

    That being said, I’m a big fan of your ongoing resistance to Liberal incitements to violence. I’m pretty stunned how many of my fellow liberals who have all sorts of excuses for why it’s ok to punch people who’s speech they don’t like, and utterly fail to see the fatal flaw in their unacknowledged exceptionalism.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure I understand that point. Aren’t a number of the pending cases against Trump’s EO re immigration actions brought by individuals?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 14, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Individuals can bring actions for a violation of their constitutional rights. But most of the applicable provisions of the constitution limit the actions of the government rather than of other individuals.

        And the statute that authorizes parties to maintain an action for a violation of their constitutional rights, 42 U.S.C. section 1983, pertains only to actions undertaken “under color of state [or federal] law.”

        • Randy schenck
          Posted February 14, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for that reminder. Said another way – Think of the amendment and free speech as a restriction on government, not incitement by the people.

          • eric
            Posted February 14, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

            IANAL but AIUI, another way to think about it is – the government is the only actor who can initiate a criminal prosecution. Individuals, groups, and states may all initiate civil suits. So if some student thinks Milo illegally harassed them, that student can sue. But since incitement is a criminal charge, only the state can bring that charge on him.

    • aljones909
      Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      “Instead, Milo Yiannopoulos could be criminally prosecuted for incitement under state laws.”. Where has he incited violence?

      • darrelle
        Posted February 15, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

        You need to re-read the OP and the comment you are responding to again. You’ve missed something key to understanding.

      • eric
        Posted February 15, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        IMO the far left seems to confuse the way they think the law ought to work with the way it does work. When they imply Milo has committed incitement to violence, what they really mean is something like “I think comments like his ought to count as incitement.” Pointing out that current law doesn’t work the way they think it should doesn’t seem to register.

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Cross can rail about Nazi propaganda. But such propaganda succeeds only where it need not compete against the free flow of information and ideas. That’s why every would-be despot seeks to curb free speech.

    The creation of an orthodoxy in speech and thinking is the necessary precondition to despotism. Once such an orthodoxy is established — once expression of heterodox views is deemed verboten — all that those who aspire to despotism need do is make their message the prescribed one.

    This is why societies where free speech is allowed are the least likely to turn autocratic, and why autocratic regimes never permit free speech.

  21. Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Cross also alleges …

    […] Interestingly enough, there wasn’t anywhere near this much speech surrounding the attempted murder of an anti-fascist protester at the University of Washington by one of Milo’s supporters. Apparently, a right-winger trying to shoot someone to death matters less than an anarchist smashing a Starbucks window, but I digress. […]

    It would be terrifying if true, but according to various mainstream sources it isn’t true. Business as usual, in other words.

    The sources agree about the event like this: the shooter claimed he was sucker-punched and his Trump cap stolen outside the venue by the protestors. He wrote a Facebook message to Yiannopolous asking if he’d send him a new signed one (who didn’t respond).

    Sometime later, there was a fight, and he shot at the victim, a protestor, seriously injuring him. The shooter offered himself to the authorities few hours later, citing self-defense. The victim didn’t press any charges and somehow felt “empathy” for the shooter. Sources indicate, the thing is murky. Whatever happened, no source I found portray it as “attempted murder” or as “trying to shoot someone to death”.

    Such severe distortions, on both sides, Alt Right and CTRL Left are now commonplace. They are in the business of propaganda, not truth. Their entire worldview seems warped by such myths and deceptions.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 15, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      I agree. The same thing can be seen right here on WEIT, more and more it seems. For example, in discussions that include topics like feminism and gender there are always several commentors making claims that are as hyperbolic, unsupported and even counterfactual, as the worst from their opponents.

  22. aljones909
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    She’s simply odious. After Charlie Hebdo she quickly spotted the real victims – Muslims.

    Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie: on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre and Duelling Extremisms


    “But what both cases have in common is an impoverished idea of free speech that is actually anathema to a democratic society, makes idols of art that should be up for discussion, and threatens to make a mockery of the very ideals people claim to be defending now.

    Simply put, by making untouchable martyrs out of the slain Charlie Hebdo writers and artists, and belittling the longstanding concerns many have had about the newspaper’s history of racism, we compound the tragedy and do further violence to free expression. Terrorism’s chilling effect requires the complicity of a public that uses its collective power to do what no number of bullets or bombs ever could: in this case, the reaction of many to the shootings will further restrict free speech, coarsen debate, and leave ethnic minorities — especially Muslims — in a compromised position whence they can’t speak freely, under threat of violence or oppression.”


  23. jeffery
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    My big question is: just WHO is it that gets to decide what’s “damaging” to society, and what isn’t? The Nazis thought that it was “damaging to society” to just SAY that Jews and non-Jews should be allowed to marry and have children; this launches us on such a “slippery slope” of subjectivity that any rational person would immediately shy away from her argument.
    Another thing is that, once this subjectivity is embraced, at the cost of the core values of free speech along with its adherent regulatory characteristics of libel, slander, and property laws, it’s “given” that the ONLY option you will have left to either promote an idea you like, or discourage an idea you don’t like, IS violent action.
    Violence is easy, simplistic, seductive, and has deep ties into our deepest genetic instincts: even though I myself am not a proponent of violence, I find myself getting a pleasurable feeling when I contemplate the vision of all these SJWs being taken out and soundly whipped- Ha!
    Like the trooper in Viet Nam said, “This killin’ thing is great! It solves all kinds of problems- trouble is, once you start, it’s hard to stop….”

  24. kelskye
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    It’s funny to think about the arguments I used to hear from conservatives along a similar path – it’s not censorship, it’s protecting the vulnerable from the harm that not censoring would unleash. “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”

  25. Forse
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Seen recently: “I may disagree with you, but I will fight till your death my right to shut you up”.

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