Law School statement on free speech

Free speech has been topical issue in New Zealand, with controversies at Massey and Auckland universities in past months. lso internationally.

From a statement on free speech from the Dean of the Notre Dame Law School in Indiana, USA ahead of a speaking engagement by William Barr, Attorney General of the United States:

Freedom of speech matters. As Frederick Douglass once said, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker”.

Just as speakers are free to speech, protesters are free to protest. They must do so in a place and manner that respects the rights of speakers to speak and listeners to listen…

Notre Dame Law School will neither endorse nor condemn invited speakers. An institution of higher education must be place where controversial ideas and points of view are expressed, heard and discussed.

This is such a place.

The full announcement:

But where politics (and political appointees) are involved it provoked the ‘only free speech that I like’ brigade. Tweets in response condemned both Barr and Notre Dame Law School. Like:

Winston Smith @2plus2isSTILL4

The invitation brings shame to your institution. It is a statement that you do actually accord respect to a man who has disgraced himself and his office.

Tessa Sainz  @tessasainz

So being a traitor to this country and party to unprecedented corruption is a “controversial point of view” the University deems worthy of discussion? Does @NotreDame gain anything from Barr’s corruption? I’m guessing there’s a lot of financial reasons behind this decision

KB851  @KB8511 (Lawyer and College Faculty)

So now Notre Dame joins Florida in completely screwing this up People are smart They get there is a difference between a conservative voice and allowing trump jr or Barr to do NOTHING but lie You are dead wrong ND as are you, my alma mater, Florida

I am ashamed

Megan Schweppenheiser  @schweppenheiser

There is still time to boycott. Who would want to listen to that liar and gadlighter who is complicit in bringing down our democracy? Don’t go. Non-violent protest. Bring whistles. Stand up for the rule of law and ethics! Don’t give him a platform!

There were more bitter political opponents.

But there were also a smattering of supportive tweets:

Mary Miskimon  @MaryEM106

The only reason Bill Barr is controversial is because students disagree with his boss. That’s not controversial; that’s diverse thought, and it’s what we do here in America. It’s sad that ND has to explain to the students it admitted (presumably bright).

Joseph Rio  @josephwrio

It’s utterly amazing that Dean Cole has to issue such a common-sense statement. But judging by the replies on this thread by people who evidently believe they have been blessed with revealed truth, it was absolutely necessary. Difference of opinion is not evil.

Politically and on free speech issues the USA is a badly divided country.


American Conservative on Barr’s speech at Notre Dame – Bill Barr: Religious Liberty Warrior

Last week, US Attorney General William Barr gave an extraordinary speech about religious liberty at Notre Dame Law School. I have not been able to locate a transcript, and only found time to watch it this morning. Here’s a video of the entire thing. The speech itself begins at about the four-minute mark.

The AG begins by talking about the capacity for self-government, meaning not the form of administration of a liberal democracy, but the ability of individuals to master their own passions, and subject them to reason. Can we handle freedom? That, says Barr, is a question that preoccupied the Founders.

No society can exist without the capacity to restrain vice, he goes on to say. If you depend only on the government to do this, you get tyranny. (This, by the way, is what’s happening in China; many Chinese actually support the tyrannical Social Credit System, because communism destroyed civil society and social trust.) But, says Barr, licentiousness is another form of tyranny. People enslaved by their own appetites make community life impossible. (This, I would say, is what we are more endangered by in America today … and it will ultimately call forth tyranny, Chinese-style.)

Barr offers this quotation from Edmund Burke:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.”

Why is religion a public good? Because, says Barr, it “trains people to want what is good.” It helps to frame a society’s moral culture, and instills moral discipline. No secular creed has emerged that can do what religion does, he says. And by casting religion out, we are dismantling the foundation of our public morality.

“What we call ‘values’ today are nothing more than mere sentimentality, drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity,” says the AG.

Barr took the gloves off, saying that religion is not jumping to its death; it’s being pushed.

“This is not decay,” he said. “This is organized destruction.”

He named secularists in academia, media, and elsewhere as figures who are not neutral at all, but have rather inculcated a kind of religiosity in their own project of destroying religion. They conduct their own inquisitions and excommunications for heresy.

Here’s a link to AG Barr’s entire speech. 

Hmm – Notre Dame conspiracies linked to Christchurch conspiracies

How the far right is trying to turn Notre Dame into the next Reichstag Fire

It didn’t take long. Within hours of the news breaking of a devastating fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, far-right leaders were leaping on it, using dog whistles and fabrications to promulgate their theories on white supremacy and the perceived superiority of Western civilisation.

A large subset also hinted or directly asserted that the fire was caused by Muslims – possibly in retribution for the Christchurch shooting.

This contradicts all media reports and the word of the French police. Although French officials told media outlets that the fire was accidental as early as 5:19 am New Zealand time – less than an hour after the catastrophe began and while the blaze was still burning – a wide range of far-right figures were quick to cast doubt.

Stefan Molyneux, the Canadian provocateur whose speaking tour in New Zealand last year was cancelled following protests, started off by “just asking questions” about the safety procedures at the cathedral.

Also on Twitter, prominent “alt-right” troll Jack Posobiec – who at one time championed the Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theories – discussed his own doubts. He tweeted and later deleted, “I notice [US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar] is awfully quiet today,” as if the Muslim congresswoman had personally set the fire.

He later joined a number of right-wing commentators condemning Fox News host Shepard Smith. Smith was interviewing former French politician and convicted libeller Philippe Karsenty when the latter suggested the fire was intentional. “Of course, you will hear the story of the political correctness which will tell you it’s probably an accident,” Karsenty said.

Smith was quick to shut down Karsenty, refuting his baseless allegations and then kicking him off the show. Posobiec and others denounced Smith for this.

White supremacist Richard Spencer … posted on Tuesday: “If the Nortre [sic] Dame fire serves to spur the White man into action – to sieze [sic] power in his countries, in Europe, in the world – then it will have served a glorious purpose and we will one day bless this catastrophe.”

ll these tactics serve a single purpose: promulgating far-right ideology and recruiting new adherents. The far-right wants to identify Notre Dame as a pinnacle achievement of “Western civilisation” – a dog whistle term for white civilisation. In many cases, this is blatant. In his YouTube video, Molyneux described Notre Dame as a Western achievement, then went on to argue that white men were responsible for “way more than 90 percent of scientific innovations from 800 BC to 1950 AD,” a reference to a debunked statistic from race scientist Charles Murray.

By synonymising Notre Dame and Western civilisation, the far-right wants to convince those who understand their underlying meaning that white culture is in danger, also known as the white genocide conspiracy theory.

This theory posits that white people are at risk of being replaced by increased diversity in majority white countries and increased tolerance of racial and cultural differences. Notre Dame has become, literally overnight, an icon of white genocide – a Reichstag Fire for a generation of white supremacists desperate to believe they are the victims.

A select few have gone even further and directly connected the accident in Paris to the Christchurch terror attack. Noting that the fire began on April 15 Paris time and the shootings occurred on March 15 New Zealand time, low-profile conspiracy theorists have argued that the fire was retribution.

Deeper down the rabbit hole, some on the far-right Twitter-style platform Gab argued that the Christchurch attack was a hoax, and that the fire was either started by the same people who organised Christchurch, or that the Muslims who they assume to have started the fire were tricked by the false flag.

Of course, none of these claims have basis in fact. It may seem to most to be very obviously nonsense, but the month since Christchurch has shown us that plenty of people will believe what a majority consider absurd.

How the far right is trying to turn Notre Dame into the next Reichstag Fire

And what looks like becoming conspiracy central in New Zealand, Whale Oil, has also been been trying to stoke the conspiracy fires, usually in posts like Things that make me go hmm – ‘hmm’ is code there for disingenuous promoting of crap ‘theories’.

 

 

Notre-Dame Cathedral on fire

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. There has been major damage, and the spire has collapsed.

The cathedral was being renovated.

Reuters: Paris’ historic Notre-Dame Cathedral hit by fire

A major fire broke out at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday afternoon, leading firefighters to clear the area around one of the city’s most visited landmarks.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. France 2 television reported that police were treating the incident as an accident.

A major operation was under way, the fire department said, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared.

Notre-Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.

Wikipedia:  Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning “Our Lady of Paris”)  is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France.

The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, the enormous and colorful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration all set it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.

The cathedral was begun in 1160 and largely completed by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed.

A major restoration project supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845 and continued for twenty-five years. Beginning in 1963, the facade of the Cathedral was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime, returning it to its original color.

Another campaign of cleaning and restoration was carried out from 1991-2000.

And as reported Notre-Dame was undergoing further restoration, which is thought to be related to a possible cause of the fire.