CNN op-ed attacks free speech

Free speech is under attack from all directions these days, including from a lot of colleges and now the media, or at least in an op-ed on CNN.

I didn’t know CNN did editorials or op-eds, which shows that I haven’t been paying attention. And of course they have a right to do that, so long as they make clear that it’s one person’s view and not the website’s. But I would have expected better from CNN than this Authoritarian Leftist call for censorship of “hate speech” and other “speech that incites immediate violence,” even when it doesn’t.

Here’s the editorial by Noah Berlatsky, self-identified as a “freelance writer and editor.” (Click on screenshot to see it.)


Berlatsky starts his “Nazi” screed by calling attention to this infamous “Nazi salute” picture taken by a photographer of a bunch of guys attending their high-school senior prom in Baraboo, Wisconsin:

Yes, it looks like the famous Nazi salute, and has been circulated as such by white-supremacist groups all over the place, but are the kids really thinking, “Sieg, heil!” It’s not at all clear. The Internet and the school (which decided not to punish anyone), is outraged, although the photographer says he simply asked people to wave goodbye to their parents (the senior prom, a dance, marks the end of high school). I’m not sure why the photographer would ask a bunch of people to give a Nazi salute, or raise their arms to mimic it, but his explanation is nevertheless somewhat credible, and until we learn that he’s a secret Nazi sympathizer, or that all those boys are being white supremacists, I think we should let this one go.

As CNN reports, the school did let it go:

In a recent letter to parents and the community, Baraboo School District Administrator Lori M. Mueller said the district made the decision after a 10-day review. She said district officials are unclear about some key details surrounding the photograph despite their efforts.

“As previously stated, we cannot know the intentions in the hearts of those who were involved. Moreover, because of students’ First Amendment rights, the district is not in a position to punish the students for their actions,” Mueller said in the letter, which Baraboo School Board of Education President Kevin Vodak shared with CNN.

CNN affiliate WISN previously identified the photographer as Pete Gust. He told the station critics took the photo out of context.

. . . . Gust said he asked the students to wave goodbye to their parents. “There was no Nazi salute,” he said.

Convinced that this was a Nazi salute mistakenly protected by the First Amendment, Berlatsky calls for punishment of all the students, and then issues his real beef: these guys got off because they are white, using the mantra of “it was free speech” (it doesn’t need to be defended that way if it was a wave), while black students wouldn’t get off:

Perhaps Gust was just confused, but the mix of explanations (“it’s free speech”; “they were just waving goodbye”; “who knows what’s in their hearts”) suggests that the issue is less any one principle, and more a general desire to exculpate students. Black students apparently need to be disciplined rigorously and constantly in schools across the US, but white students are good kids who deserve protection, even when (especially when?) they make the sign for white power.

The school could have mandated detention or banned students from school activities for a time. Gust should be reprimanded by the school. The school has said it’s going to put in place “restorative practices,” which is good. But if there’s no sanction of any kind, how seriously will students view those efforts?

And so we get the usual reason for attacking free speech: it disempowers minorities, who are said to be unable to answer it or incapable of their own counter-speech, and free speech can incite hatred and violence (he raises the issue of Heather Heying’s murder in Charlottesville, in which the car-driver is being tried for murder). We already have laws that ban speech if it incites immediate violence, and in Charlottesville that was not the case, as the white supremacist speakers didn’t urge their followers to go out and kill Lefties.

Berlatsky proceeds to make a number of misleading statements, which include the following (I haven’t the heart to repeat my refutations again, but you’ll know them). For example, this is wrong is a lot of different ways:

Speech by white people is often seen as unobjectionable, no matter what its content; who you are is more important than what you say. Defending the speech of white kids doesn’t necessarily protect the speech of marginalized people, just as All Lives Matter in a racist society does not in fact mean that Black Lives Matter. Racism is built on inequality and disproportion; you can’t confront it by pretending that we’re all in this together when we manifestly are not.

In fact, in practice free speech for Nazis is often itself a threat to free speech for everyone else, because Nazis use their freedom to violently suppress their opponents. Giving free speech to fascists to rally can reasonably be expected to curtail the free speech rights of other people, which means that organizations like the ACLU, and judges, need to balance interests, rather than just treating free speech for fascists as in itself increasing free speech.

Berlatsky is using his own free speech to attack the behavior of white people; allowing speech by one group doesn’t endanger the speech of another; and free speech for Nazis, so long as it doesn’t produce “clear and present danger,” doesn’t curtail anybody else’s free speech. We can see this this from the regular counter-demonstrations that occur when Nazis or white supremacists appear, something that happened in Charlottesville. Berlatsky’s objection is that “hate speech” causes physical danger to others and prevents them from speaking. This is not true with the exception of the kind of speech that’s already outlawed. Berlatsky adds that “Fields [Heyer’s killer] used his freedom to make sure that Heather Heyer would never speak again.” That’s bullshit, to put it bluntly. If Fields was free to kill, how come he’s on trial for murder?

Berlatsky then goes off on a tangent about disproportionate punishment of black students. I’m not sure whether that reflects real racism or a difference in school or student behavior, but at any rate it has nothing to do with free speech:

. . . school officials have broad latitude to suppress and punish student speech and expression, on campus and off.

Inevitably, schools use that disciplinary authority disproportionately against marginalized students. Black students in 2013-14 were 15.5% of the US student population, but accounted for almost 39% of suspensions, according to data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released this year. Black students were also disproportionately subject to corporal punishment, expulsion, and school-related arrest.

In that context, the Wisconsin school board’s reference to the First Amendment sounds less like a principled stance and more like an excuse. Free-speech rights are important, and school officials are given far too much power to silence their students. But if you truly care about free speech, it’s important to acknowledge the ways in which free speech arguments can be leveraged to protect the powerful while others are silenced.

As usual, the problem is this: who gets to decide which speech to ban? Invariably it’s the person writing the editorial. But until Berlatsky can show me that allowing free speech for one group SILENCES the speech of other groups, I’m sticking with the courts’ construal of the First Amendment.


  1. Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Pretty much every single sentence of that op ed is either argument by assertion, or a flat-out falsehood.

  2. Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    To me this is just another example of how divided we are. I read some of the articles about the incident. Some of the boys waved, some did not, others did not hear gay ggey were asked to wave. The photographer was surprised by the reaction and claims he only asked them to wave.
    I am not sure how to restore trust and respect between divisions. Both sides blame the other. I will probably be called out again for bothism as I have been before.

    • yazikus
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Eh, there is certainly something to what you are saying. One of the news reports I read included a posting of the pic (by one of the students, I believe) with a caption of something like ‘we even got the black kid to do it!’, which would indicate they were indeed knowing that what they were doing was something offensive to people of color. Other former students of the school had less than glowing reports about their time there (but what HS doesn’t have disenchanted former students?).

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    As usual, the problem is this: who gets to decide which speech to ban?

    Exactly, and this is one the reasons censorship is ultimately undemocratic. In a democracy there is a chance that people you disagree with will be in charge. If you have been restricting speech, they will now restrict the speech they don’t like. The only way to make sure you can prevent that is to make sure you are never out of power, which can’t be done in a democracy. The trouble with that argument, though, is that I think there are a lot of people who would prefer to control the people they don’t like, rather than have to live with them. There has been so much moral equivalence between the US and other regimes that many people (especially but not exclusively on the left) see no value in free institutions, because, people think, they provide no better outcomes than the alternative.

  4. jacques Hausser
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    “Who gets to decide which speech to ban ?”
    In Switzerland whe have a law against racist and antisemitic speech. It was not decided by an op-ed writer, but by a democratic vote of the population, following a public debate.

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      I definitely trust a democratic vote of the population regarding core human rights. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

  5. Graham
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Here in Oxford the local newspaper’s reporting on the outrage around Steve Bannon’s invitation to speak at the Oxford Union. Apparently it could damage Oxford’s reputation for inclusivity and diversity. I’m not sure how banning someone helps the cause of diversity. Not sure if they’ve really thought that one through.

  6. Gillian
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Oh, come on, Coyne, do you really believe that they are waving to their parents? It’s not plausible. Someone has to be too naive to believe in this.

    The photographer doesn’t need to ask them to do a nazi salute for a bunch of kids to do a nazi salute. They could be just kidding when he asked for a simple wave.

    But this is, clearly, a problem. We all know what that sign means. We all know what the nazi speech means.

    If you decide that this hate speech can circulate freely without even call them for attention, without any consequences, you basically sending the message that this kind of thing is ok.

    And we all know what happens when a nazi rise to power. They suppress violently others opinions giving zero fucks to “free speech”. They don’t care about your right to free speech. Period.

    CNN is right on this issue. You’re are not protecting free speech protecting nazi speech. You are empowering them.

    I understand your point about being absolute free, but history is written.

    Best regards.

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Nobody calls me “Coyne”, and you’re off to a very bad start. The sign looks like a Nazi salute but I’m not convinced that this was done deliberately. If it wasn’t, then it’s not hate speech.

      Even if it was a hateful gesture, it’s legal, though of course the school can decide if it wants their own punishment. They decided they didn’t.

      Nazis prohibited free speech AFTER they rose to power. And just because Nazis did that doesn’t mean that we should suppress the speech of Nazis in America, who won’t rise to power because almost nobody supports them and because their opponents, like me, have free speech.

      Sorry, but I’m not wrong. What I do know is that you are rude, and should go comment elsewhere until you learn how to be civil.

    • BJ
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      “And we all know what happens when a nazi rise to power. They suppress violently others opinions giving zero fucks to “free speech”. They don’t care about your right to free speech. Period.”

      You’re right! We should be more like the Nazis and suppress others’ speech! Brilliant argument.

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Nobody was ever harmed by a Nazi salute. It’s the other stuff done by people who enjoy Nazi saluting that is harmful. Banning the Nazi salute won’t stop them doing the things they are rightfully reviled for.

      But it might ruin the lives of ordinary people who appear to be Nazi saluting when they are not, or do it for an ill-advised joke.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      Do you really believe any of those kids embodies or advocates for any type of Nazi behaviour.
      That’s ridiculous.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Difficult to understand why CNN would go for this. Anyway it is an article struggling with itself. CNN just went through an experience with freedom of the press after their White House correspondent Jim Acosta had his press pass taken away by Trump. CNN then immediately sued and the press pass was restored. Trump loves to test the boundaries of everything and the first amendment is at the top of his list.

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Difficult to understand why CNN would go for this.

      I disagree, it is not difficult at all.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        If you are going to disagree and go to the trouble to type it. You should also explain what your disagreement is. Otherwise you are just pounding sand as they say.

        Why would CNN not be a true free speech institution? A media center? Then again maybe they are and running this piece is their way of showing it??

        • Davide Spinello
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          It seems to me that when you embrace identity politics free speech becomes a secondary principle that can be discarded when necessary for the cause. This has been discussed extensively with too many examples to make a list.

          • Davide Spinello
            Posted November 30, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            P.S.: after re-reading my first response to you I apologize for sounding condescending. It was not intended towards you.

  8. Ann German
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I commented before that the best way to respond to this is make the students acknowledge what they’ve done: each of them should have to write an essay explaining the consequences of “hate speech,” which in this case would be having to write the essay.

    • Taz
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      You’d have to go through them one by one and decide who’s actually giving a nazi salute. Some of them clearly aren’t – some don’t have their hands raised at all, a couple have clenched fists, and one has two fingers extended. As far as I know, this is not a formal group, just a bunch of guys. So who should face the consequences? The ones you suspect are going to claim they were just waving.

  9. Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Of course it could be the Bellamy salute that is American and long preceded the Nazi salute, but I doubt it.

  10. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I think we can all agree that speech that directly incites to violence should be banned. The question is how direct should it be?
    ‘Death to those who mock the prophet” , and with enough people taking that up, I’d presume that would definitely qualify.
    But what about say, Radio Mille Collines? “They are cockroaches, and you know what we do with cockroaches”. I’d qualify that as inciting to violence too, albeit not ‘directly’. Still, it resulted in over 800.000 murdered, often in the most horrible ways.
    Where is the boundary, who gets to decide about that? So the boundaries are always fuzzy.

  11. Bob Murray
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    The first paragraph following the second block of indented text. Should line four have the surname HEYER not HEYING?

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I was also going to comment about the Charlottesville victim.

  12. revelator60
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    How sad to see that Noah Berlatsky has added CNN to the list of websites he’s befouled. In addition to politics he also writes badly about films, comics, and literature—for several years he has earned my prize of “Worst Critic in America.” He personifies the right-winger’s stereotype of the left as SJW wackaloons.

    Giving the government power to censor free speech is always a bad idea, and arguing for this when Trump and his creatures are in power is an act of psychotic blindness.

  13. phil brown
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Is the school really unable to punish the kids because of first amendment rights? Are kids constitutionally protected when being racist at US schools? Can’t they be punished for damaging the reputation of the school?

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      And is any of these likely to bring any good to anybody?

      • phil brown
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        You think schools should allow their students to get away with racist behaviour, in school time?

        • Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

          It depends. If a student is bullying another student because of race, then the school must intervene immediately. However, if a student just makes a racist statement, he should get away with it. I think the function of schools is to teach, not to hammer values into the heads of students.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, they all really do want to exterminate whole populations and set up a fourth Reich and rule with an iron fist.
          Sure they do.
          Or it was a bit of tomfoolery.

          • phil brown
            Posted December 1, 2018 at 5:11 am | Permalink

            Tomfoolery or not, it’s still racist. I was just surprised that the first amendment might prevent teachers handing out a detention or suspension.

  14. Bob
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Take a look at the fifth guy from the left in the first row. Then, take a look at his right hand. It’s either the “WP” sign (as in white power) or the more traditional “OK” sign. Considering the context, I believe it to be the former.
    From Wikipedia:

    As white power symbol
    Beginning in 2017, the gesture was at the center of an online prank in alt-right and white supremacist meme culture that originated from the anonymous message board 4chan.[31] The Boston Globe reported that users on 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board were instructed in February 2017 to “flood Twitter and other social media websites…claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy,” as part of a campaign dubbed “Operation O-KKK.”[32] The supposed association of the gesture with white supremacy derives from the assertion that the three upheld fingers resemble a ‘W’ and the circle made with the thumb and forefinger resemble the head of a ‘P,’ together standing for “white power.”[citation needed] While some members of the alt-right used the symbol after the launch of the 4chan campaign, it remains ambiguous whether or not it was being used to communicate genuine adherence to white supremacy, or with deliberately ironic motives.[33] In May 2017 the Anti-Defamation League published an article asking:

    Has the simple thumb-and-forefinger ‘OK’ hand gesture become a common white supremacist hand sign? Not quite, but it has become a popular gesture used by people across several segments of the right and far right—including some actual white supremacists—who generally use it to trigger reactions. […] Only if the gesture occurs in context with other clear indicators of white supremacy can one draw that conclusion.[34]

    By 2018, a number of people were accused of signaling support for white supremacist ideology in publicly displaying the gesture.[32][35][36][37] For example, in September 2018 the U.S. Coast Guard disciplined an employee who flashed the symbol on camera in the background of a newscast.[38][39]

  15. XCellKen
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Does Bret Weinstein know that has wife is dead ?

  16. Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    It is a “Lord of the Flies” thing. A bunch of young, smirking bozos reinforcing each other’s bad behavior. Regrettable, but part of the cost of living in a free society.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Berlatsky’s only rationale for denying free speech to Nazis is the following ipse dixit:

    “… in practice free speech for Nazis is often itself a threat to free speech for everyone else, because Nazis use their freedom to violently suppress their opponents.”

    This is simply a call to roll back a century’s worth of First Amendment jurisprudence to the old standard of whether speech had the “intention and effect” of “encourag[ing]” lawless conduct — the standard that was used to imprison socialist labor leader Eugene V. Debs, and the Yiddish pamphleteers in Schenck v. US, for advocating against military conscription during World War I.

    Only someone ignorant of this dark history would seek to repeat it.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      I am currently reading a book about the presidents of war. Very few of them were justified as best I can see. WWII and I suppose you can make a case for WWI but the whole war itself should never have happened. Last time we actually declared War? 1942

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        I saw an interview with Michael Beschloss about that book. Let me know what you think.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Will do. Have only made it through the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Neither one of those should have happened. As far as these wars go – they could be called lite wars, kind of like lite beer.

  18. Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “Speech by white people is often seen as unobjectionable, no matter what its content; who you are is more important than what you say.”

    That’s roughly the opposite of the truth. Just consider a black person using the n-word (no one would care) versus a white person doing so (instant firing). Or consider Sarah Jeong saying “kill all whites” vs a white person saying “kill all Blacks”.

  19. Taz
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Black students in 2013-14 were 15.5% of the US student population, but accounted for almost 39% of suspensions, according to data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released this year.

    Berlatsky implies that the higher rate of suspensions is the direct result of racism on the part of those doing the disciplining. I’m sure he knows that one affect of racism (past and present) is that black students disproportionately attend schools in poorer and rougher neighborhoods. I wonder how the rates of suspension break down for black vs white administrators?

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Several studies have been conducted, and black principals in general mete out harsher penalties. When relative punishment rates are looked at district-by-district, instead of as a statewide or national aggregate, the racial differences disappear.

  20. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I regularly peruse the CNN web site. It will post op eds that cover a range of viewpoints. So it will have opinion pieces that are pro-Trump, for example.

    When I was their age I and my friends would be easily induced to give a Nazi salute as a crass joke, or do any number of dumb, impulsive things.

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      We seem to live in an over-reactive society now, probably because every fool thing goes viral.

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I think our generations were lucky to have few cameras and no Internet around when we were growing. Now, every “dumb, impulsive thing” is to stay till the end of civilization.

      • Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        I grew up with Hogan’s Heroes, so my friends and I would regularly fool around saying Jawohl, Herr Kommandant, clicking our heels and saluting. Today, we’d be sent off for sensitivity training.

    • tomh
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      “I regularly peruse the CNN web site. It will post op eds that cover a range of viewpoints.”

      That’s what a lot of people don’t get about op-eds, whether CNN or the NYT or any other news site. The whole purpose is usually to present a range of views, often from one extreme to the other. Too many confuse them with editorials, which are actually the site’s views.

      • Mikeyc
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Yes. Their website is sometimes very different from what they air.

  21. Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the photo, at first glance I saw just a bunch of happy young men waiving their school good-buy. At second glance, I agree that it looks like the Nazi salute and, moreover, their expressions seem impish. However, I think that it is best to forget the incident. Most of them will become nice men, and they need not be over-shamed for their mistake. And if some are inclined to become neo-Nazis, I think the over-shaming can only make this more likely.

  22. Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    NO ONE can support free speech by denying others that same right. It is logically incoherent to think otherwise.
    But that as seen, CNN fell into the trap, someone’s amygdala is doing overtime.
    Looking at the photo, i dare anyone to go back in time and do that in Hitlers presence, or Hitler youth parade whilst laughing and kidding around.
    It is highly probable you would be quickly beaten, dead or in the hands of the Gestapo.
    This is not making a mountain, this is SHOVING a mountain on top of a mole hill.

  23. Caldwell
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it looks like the famous Nazi salute, and has been circulated as such by white-supremacist groups all over the place,

    Actually it’s been circulated mostly by mainstream (left) media, as a google image search on
    prom nazi salutes
    will clearly show.

    Results in order without omissions:,,,,,,, …

    And now

    • tomh
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      “Actually it’s been circulated mostly by mainstream (left) media…”

      It’s debatable whether mainstream media is “left” (I would say obviously not) but regardless, it has still been “circulated as such by white-supremacist groups all over the place,” as the original post stated.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        [7.1] Visitors to ‘nasty little websites’™ are heavy on the acne & low on their [their mum’s] credit card spending. Google not interested.
        [7.2] Some ‘nasty little websites’™ have been banished to the dark web or only ever existed there or are in private ‘invite only’ groups

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

          oops wrong place in the thread – meant for Caldwell

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 9:37 pm | Permalink


      “Actually it’s been circulated mostly by mainstream (left) media, as a google image search on prom nazi salutes
      will clearly show. Results in order without omissions:,,,,,,,

      My results:

      vox, nytimes [I have an account], [in my RSS feed], bringmethenews,,, kare11 [Minneapolis], sputniknews

      The Google algorithm doesn’t work as you imagine.
      [1] It pays attention to your web activity & serves up material that it ‘thinks’ suits you best. If you’re American you’ll get a lot of American-based content for example.
      [2] Google lives off ads. It is sensitive to material that might cause advertisers to block their material being served up by Google [In Adsense & other similar utilities you as an advertiser can manage who is allowed to serve up your ads]
      [3] Many of the nasty little websites promoting this image are poorly designed & they’re managed by amateurs. Thus, for efficiency, the Google web crawler doesn’t visit or visits less often, because it takes much longer to index those pages
      [4] Crawler visits the most active sites with the most changing content the most often. No point in crawling a blog daily where there’s a new post only weekly. Inefficient use of Google resources.
      [5] Crawler pays much less attention to aggregator sites without original content. These nasty little sites share or steal memes from other nasty little sites, 9GAG, 4Chan etc. Original content overall is very low compared with the MSM
      [6] MSM pay skilled ex-Google consultants to pump up their presence using SEO tricks to stroke the Google algorithm. Some things are obvious – constant new material [usually minor updates of ongoing stories or ‘fighting the flab’ clickbait increases traffic & crawls & the all important goal of appearing on the front page of Google search.
      [7] MSM pay to be promoted in results
      [8] I could go on

  24. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    the problem is this: who gets to decide which speech to ban?

    Not a problem, the courts.

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Not a problem at all. I am going to sleep tight.

  25. Diki
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    On a completely different subject I think there are at least two left handers in the photo but can’t be completely sure. Could you do a spot the “left-handed salute” competition?

  26. Posted November 30, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    The kid fourth from the right on the front row has two fingers extended in the traditional anglo-saxon greeting for people who have ticked him off. The one two further along seems to be giving the Black Power salute. The one two further along from him has thumb and forefinger circled as if he is about to deliver the traditional sign that he thinks the photographer might be a wa- … somebody who self stimulates.

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      I doubt Hitler would be happy with this lot.

  27. eric
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I thought his point about the protection being unevenly applied (…and that those in power tend to get the better protection) was legit. But that doesn’t really make it any different from any other law we have. Soooo…he’s saying (this aspect of) the legal system often favors the rich and powerful? Who knew!?! 😉

    I also agree with his gripe about ‘bong hits for jesus’ case. But the solution to both that excessive curtailing of student speech and the uneven application of free speech protections based on power or status is to better extend protection to those who pragmatically don’t get it. The solution is not to ‘cut off our nose to spite our face’ and remove speech protections from those for whom the the 1st amendment is working as it was designed to do.

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 4:19 am | Permalink

      I totally agree with that. The one valid point Berlatsky makes is that there are black kids who have been disciplined by their schools over what are ultimately expression issues (hairstyles, clothing, etc) and free speech defenses were not raised in their case. So yes, it would be good to be more consistent. But I see that as a reason to be more expansive about free speech, not to crack down on yet another group.

  28. Pray Hard
    Posted December 1, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    F CNN.

  29. Posted December 2, 2018 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    I agree, Berlatsky is f’ing awful, and somebody I’ve sparred with more than a few times on Twitter, an unproductive and frustrating waste of time if there ever was one. His ideas epitomize the gross double standards and petty authoritarianism that characterize the social justice movement. He’s somebody who only sees wrongful power dynamics as being solely based on identity, so things like excess of state power don’t even register with him if the targets are straight, white, etc.

    As to CNN giving their stamp of approval to Berlatsky, it doesn’t surprise me in the least – CNN has always been about a certain kind of authoritarian centrism, and if you’ve ever seen how they report issues around drugs, sex work, etc, you’ll notice a leaning toward very strong prohibitionism as a matter of course. I think folks seem to miss CNN’s biases because of a mistaken “horseshoe theory” idea that bad political ideas only come from the extremes of the political left or right, which tends to let centrists off the hook when they have bad ideas.

    Also, the fact that Berlatsky is in CNN is yet another pointer to the weird realignment in American politics that took place in 2016 – basically, the HRC coalition of resolutely centrist technocratic Democrats with the identity politics left as a way of heading off a resurgent old left, exemplified by Bernie Sanders. Look no further than Vox for examples of this alliance. For another recent example, look for the similar anti-free speech op-ed recently in the NYT by trans activist Parker Molloy, who’s affiliation is listed as Media Matters for America, one of the Clinton/David Brock orgs.

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