Posts concerning free speech


17:39 27 Oct 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly since 01 August 2006: every day for that first year, five times per week for four years after that, and at least once per week since 01 August 2011. Now it’s time for a break.

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Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix”, Part 4

21:55 19 Feb 2012. Updated: 23:44 02 Mar 2012

I mentioned this on Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s important enough to also write a post about.

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SOPA and Why I’m Against it

23:52 22 Jan 2012

Earlier this week I “blacked out” tadhg.com as part of the widespread protests against SOPA. This post includes a number of my reasons for opposing it.

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Expression, Pseudonymity, Google+

23:06 21 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important.

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My Reaction to “40 Things People Need to Stop Saying”

23:18 28 Apr 2011. Updated: 18:16 29 Apr 2011

In my Twitter feed yesterday I found a link to “Privileged Musings: 40 Things People Need to Stop Saying”, an article at Womanist Musings. The intent of the piece is narrower than the title suggests, in that it’s primarily concerned with discussion in that community rather than more generally, but I was interested in it anyway since it concerns regulation of expression.

Overall the list is concerned with statements defending or perpetuating prejudice, arguments that have been addressed numerous times before (or are just inane). However, it doesn’t explain what’s wrong with them, even briefly, which is a mistake for two reasons: one, it would make the list much more useful and effective; two, writing such explanations would have made clear which things on the list were questionable, as some of them certainly are.

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“Protect the Children” Hysteria and Injustice

22:41 18 Apr 2011

This is the summary:

  • Local comic/musician goes to elementary school, plays song for kids.
  • A friend of his videotapes this, both the performance and the kids’ (positive) reactions.
  • Musician and friend later come back to empty classroom and record him performing a song with graphically sexual lyrics.
  • Musician edits two sets of footage together to make it appear as if he sang the sexually-explicit song to the kids.
  • Musician then puts edited version on YouTube and plays it at a local club’s comedy night.

Clearly the title of the post gives it away somewhat, but what do you think happened next?

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I Know, I Know, My Regard for the First Amendment is Touching and Quaint

22:25 21 Sep 2010

The EFF bulletin covers all the salient points. Clearly a “blacklist” with many easy ways to get on it, and few to get off it, is going to create all kinds of problems with abuse. Censorship—even if done in the name of fighting copyright infringement—is a very powerful tool, and many people tend to forget that it grants powers not merely of enforcement but also of definition.

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An Exploration of Police Raids Around the RNC

15:13 31 Aug 2008. Updated: 23:56 21 Jul 2009

In Minneapolis/St. Paul, there’s been plenty of democracy suppression over the last few days, with various police forces raiding homes and gathering points of groups planning to protest the Republican National Convention. Glenn Greenwald covers the bases here, and also has a follow-up about Federal involvement.

As pointed out in a letter to Glenn, this isn’t new by any means (nor, I suspect, is it restricted to the Republican convention—I’d be rather surprised if the same stuff didn’t happen around the DNC). It also goes back a lot further than the letter-writer suggests (they cite 2000 as the starting point).

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It’s Not Censorship, Of Course

19:42 28 Aug 2008. Updated: 17:54 28 Jan 2009

This story about CBS Outdoor refusing art billboards in Minneapolis/St. Paul is quite illustrative of how tightly the public sphere is controlled in this country. CBS worries, essentially, about offending some powerful Republican patrons—at least, that’s my guess, it might not even get to that level of conscious thought.

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High School Students should have Freedom of Speech

23:43 09 Oct 2007. Updated: 00:45 10 Oct 2007

Recently a Marietta, Georgia school has come under fire for allowing a student to publish, in the school newspaper, an opinion piece comparing homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome. School officials are standing by the decision despite the furor (and some national media attention) the piece has caused.

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Pepper Spraying the Vice Commissioners

23:53 25 Sep 2007. Updated: 03:04 26 Sep 2007
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Authority Sickness

22:44 18 Sep 2007. Updated: 00:36 10 Oct 2012

The story about a University of Florida student being tasered by campus police at a John Kerry speech is all over the net at this point. It’s fairly grotesque, although I think the UCLA campus library incident from last year was even worse. As then, however, one of the most disturbing things about it are the commenters who emerge to justify the violence perpetrated by the authorities.

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Pathetic Absurdities

23:58 16 Sep 2007. Updated: 01:19 17 Sep 2007

So a Swedish newspaper has gotten involved in a controversy over depictions of Muhammad, culminating in heated diplomatic exchanges, threats of boycotts, and bounties on the heads of the cartoonist and the editor. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Danish Jyllands-Posten uproar from late 2005, which led to death threats and fatal riots.

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The ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ Decision

23:48 26 Jun 2007. Updated: 09:10 27 Jun 2007

I am completely disgusted by the outcome of the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case. It doesn’t seem that surprising, but the expansion of powers of school administrations is simply awful.

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Prohibition Implies Definition

00:10 09 May 2007

I’ve covered some of this groud before, but I’ve been reminded of its importance once again, primarily in relation to free speech issues: when you prohibit something, and allow some authority to enforce that prohibition, you are also granting to that authority the power to define the thing prohibited.

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Das Leben der Anderen

23:25 07 May 2007. Updated: 04:27 08 May 2007

I saw this on Sunday night and it was excellent. I highly recommend it. (The full post contains spoilers, so don’t read this yet if you’re going to go see it.)

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Frank Gaffney and Treason

11:55 17 Feb 2007. Updated: 19:54 13 Mar 2011

Recently the Washington Times featured an editorial by Frank Gaffney (cached here) in which Gaffney called for an examination on “what constitutes inappropriate behavior in time of war”—after opening with a (fictitious!) quotation from Abraham Lincoln calling for the hanging of Congressmen who damage morale during wartime.

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Random email about mame.dk

13:06 09 Apr 2006. Updated: 19:14 23 Feb 2009

A few years ago, I wrote this article about mame.dk closing. (mame.dk was a site hosting game files for MAME, an arcade game emulator.) I get more email in reference to that article than, I think, anything else I’ve put up. Most of the email is in agreement with my viewpoint, and some ask for where one can get ROMs now (sadly, I have no idea). Last week I got a negative email, from “Mark”, and decided to post it and my reply.

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Those words don’t actually mean anything, do they?

14:50 31 Jan 2005. Updated: 20:08 23 Jun 2013

Taken together, the following three links give a disturbing (and, probably, a disturbingly accurate) depiction of where the US is going:

Your tax dollars at work: http://www.ncix.gov/images/publications/posters/jefferson_poster_8x11.jpg (that’s an official government poster, see http://www.ncix.gov/publications/posters_calendars/posters/index.html)

Don’t stray from the message: http://www.thismodernworld.com/weblog/mtarchives/week_2005_01_30.html#002025

Given what schools are like, is this any surprise? http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/01/31/students.amendment.ap/index.html

Obligatory Kant quotation in reference to that last one: “Freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity has been achieved.”

An article on the emerging security state (where I got the poster link): http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=2152

And as always, the question that comes to my mind is “can I do anything effective about any of this?”

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Don’t carry (or think) the wrong thing/Two events not so public

15:50 10 Aug 2004. Updated: 20:19 23 Jun 2013

I got these from Cursor, a daily stop for me. The first one is about spectators being barred from the Olympic Games if they’re carrying the wrong brand of food, drink or merchandise:


The other is about Republicans not letting people into their rallies without loyalty pledges (!), which fits with their general mindset but is pretty amazing nonetheless:


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