Ninth Circuit Imposes (Some) Limits On Cops Yanking Things Out of Your Ass

Mark Tyrell Fowlkes had a bad day.

For you or me, that means realizing that there's no credit left on our Starbucks card or our co-workers being annoying or getting a flat tire. For Fowlkes, it meant the Long Beach Police Department forcibly pulling something out of his ass.

LBPD, assisted by the DEA, were wiretapping and surveilling Fowlkes to see if he was dealing drugs. He was. LBPD arrested him once, caught him with drugs and a gun, and released him, probably to see where he'd lead them. A week later, they ran a pretextual traffic stop on him, arrested him, and took him to jail. There they strip-searched him:

Five officers observed the strip search, including Officer Jeffrey Harris and Sergeant Michael Gibbs, who brought along his taser, gloves and “assistance” in the form of additional officers because he thought Fowlkes might have drugs.

Officers believed that Fowlkes was not being cooperative displaying his anus and thought he was trying to push something in there. One Sergeant testified that he believed Fowlkes was trying to force an object further into his anus in order to destroy evidence. That's not how anuses work. That's not how any of this works. But to prevent Fowlkes from further hiding or destroying something in his anus, Sargeant Michael Gibbs “delivered a drive stun tase to the center portion of the defendant’s back” and the officers handcuffed him. Officers claim they could see a plastic bag protruding from Fowlkes. With Fowlkes cuffed, tased, and under the control of five officers, the officers decided that immediate action was needed to protect evidence. Sargeeant Michael Gibbs gloved up and pulled the object out of Fowlkes' rectum without seeking a warrant, without medical training or medical personnel, and "without the assistance of anesthesia, lubricant, or medical dilation," producing blood and feces.

So. Not as bad as the day David Eckert had when New Mexico police enlisted the help of a doctor to penetrate him repeatedly, but still bad.

The feds charged Fowlkes with drug and gun possession. That included a count based on the drugs pulled out of him. The trial court rejected his argument that the drugs seized from his anus were illegally obtained. Yesterday, in a revised opinion, the Ninth Circuit decided to put some limits on cops' freedom to root about in our collective asses.

The Ninth Circuit found the warrantless visual strip search reasonable, including the visual body cavity search, mostly on the grounds that the government arrests so many people it would be impractical to get warrants to strip-search them, and because jail safety is important because the government arrests so many people. As Dilbert would say, that's not being circular, it's having no loose ends.

But the Court noted actual limits on intrusions into our bodies. "Therefore, while visual cavity searches that do not require physical entry into a prisoner’s body are generally permissible without a warrant during the jail intake process, physical cavity searches generally are not." Did the Court recognize a general rule against sergeants yanking things out of our asses without a warrant? Not exactly. It's the Ninth Circuit, sure, but this is still America. The Court avoided a broad rule. "We need not and do not determine whether a warrant is required to seize evidence discovered during a visual strip search from an inmate’s body because the officers’ conduct here was unreasonable for other reasons." The Court decided that the search was unreasonable — and thus violated the Fourth Amendment — because the officers violated the jail's own written policies requiring a medically trained person conduct cavity searches, because Fowlkes posed no immediate threat, because the officers had no training in such measures that would let them evaluate whether they were safe or necessary, and because the officers did not take any steps to minimize trauma:

Here, the LBPD officers did not take adequate steps to minimize Fowlkes’ physical trauma. They did not, for example, use lubrication or ensure that the removal was conducted under sanitary conditions; they did not seek the guidance or assistance of medical personnel; and they did not assure themselves that removing the object from Fowlkes’ rectum was safe—indeed they did not know the size, shape, or substance of the object. Further, they did nothing to mitigate his anxiety or emotional trauma. They did not, for example, offer him options for removing the contraband or secure his compliance; they did not (and could not) assure him that the removal was safe or being conducted by a trained professional; and they did not (and could not) assure him that the procedure was legal and in keeping with LBPD policy rather than an arbitrary show of force.

The Ninth Circuit — bless its heart — seems to think that physical and emotional trauma were a bug, not a feature, of the officers' approach. But at least we know: there are limits to the judiciary's willingness to let cops conduct medical procedures on you.

So the Ninth Circuit reversed Fowlkes' conviction — on the one count arising from the drugs found in his rectum. It upheld the rest of the conviction.

Isn't justice majestic?

If You Watch the Tape, You'll Still See What You Want To

The pro-life advocacy group Center for Medical Progress went undercover to expose Planned Parenthood's practice of (legal) fetal organ harvesting during (legal) abortions and the subsequent (generally legal) sale of those organs (if certain regulations are followed). That sounds like pretty neutral language to me, though I will concede that (at least) the words "pro-life", "expose" and "sale" are somewhat fraught, but I don't mean any of those words judgmentally. CMP is indisputably pro-life; they had a specific agenda of discrediting Planned Parenthood for engaging in acts they believe to be immoral and illegal; and Planned Parenthood was indisputably selling fetal tissue and organs, though whether how it did so was illegal or immoral is above my pay grade in both respects and not the point of this post.

The point of this post is how two ideological sides see the same video and not only have different emotional reactions to the video but also make wholly contradictory fact claims about what the video shows.

To wit, on September 16, at the second GOP debate, Carly Fiorina referenced those tapes. Imploring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to watch the tapes, for the purpose of defunding Planned Parenthood, Fiorina said:

"Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’"

It's two weeks later and it is still hotly contested whether she was telling the truth or not. Where you stood on the truth of this statement, as always, depends on where you sit. Generally pro-choice media outlets (Vox, Slate, Slate again) said that it was a lie. Generally pro-life media (The Federalist, Commentary, National Review) said that it not only was it not a lie, it was self-evidently true, which you would know if you watched the tapes, and the only reason to call it a lie was as part of a liberal media scam to keep people from watching the tapes.

I'll put my biases up here, so it doesn't look like I'm hiding them: I'm pro-choice and not conflicted about it. I don't see abortion as something cavalier, but I also don't suspect that the women who have abortions do either. I don't pretend that there isn't something sad about the termination of potential human life but I also don't believe that the moment of conception grants the fetus rights at the expense of the pregnant woman's autonomy. Where that leaves me is, more or less, in the murky moral/legal sphere of Roe v. Wade, where the fetus's rights are in conflict with the rights of the woman and, in general, the autonomous, adult woman wins. If that means that you are going to stop reading now, so be it.

I didn't want to watch hours of tapes to see if what is, at best, 10 seconds of footage were accurately described by Fiorina, so I asked Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist, a twitter pal with whom I share very little in common ideologically and she's even a Cardinals fan (ugh) to send me a link of the specific clip. Someone else jumped in and offered one, which Mollie didn't object to, so I assume it was the right clip. I watched it.

You can watch it for yourself here but I suspect it won't be easy viewing for everyone. The moment Fiorina describes was at about 6 minutes, though I watched all 10 minutes, since I promised Mollie I would.

The full tape has basically three elements: (1) guerrilla interview clips of various officials from Planned Parenthood and Stem Express – PP's organ-sale middleman – discussing abortions, organ preservation and sale; (2) Holly O'Donnell, a woman who claims to be a former employee of Stem Express describing, specifically and emotionally, the time she was allegedly asked to help extract the intact brain of a recently aborted fetus and did so; and (3) generic footage from other sources of what are purported to be aborted fetuses.

The footage from category 3 was on screen – and you can see the fetus's leg twitch – while the former employee got to the part of her story where she discussed being asked to assist in cutting out the brain. So, if you read Fiorina's statement again, it is literally true. When Slate or Vox say that "the tape doesn't show that" they are dodging a little. There is a fully-formed fetus; there is evidence of nerve activity; someone is talking about extracting a brain. Calling Fiorina's description a "lie" doesn't fully capture what the tape shows. Arguably, by calling it an outright lie, you steer people away from watching the tape and judging for themselves.

But to say that means that Fiorina was telling the truth, or that Slate/Vox are lying themselves is not honest at all. What the left-wing "factcheckers" are saying is that Fiorina is being intentionally deceptive, carefully choosing words that literally describe the tape while misleading the listener into thinking other than what it is. I would argue that Fiorina is implying that the tape contains footage of an abortion, in progress, during which someone gives the instruction to cut out a fetus's brain. That it is a person recalling her experience over archival footage of an allegedly aborted fetus is not a small difference. Either the tape contains a violent surgery on a still-live fetus, or it contains a person reporting it secondhand. Fiorina told the truth in the incredibly circumscribed way a big brother on a road trip is telling the truth while he waves his finger a half-inch from the face of his agitated sister, as he chants "I'm not touching you" after his parents have admonished him to stop touching his sister.

Both sides more or less concede this. Buried in all the factchecker articles is a sentence something like this: "The third Human Capital video has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table … It also has an interview with Holly O'Donnell,… [who] says that, in her former job, she was once instructed to procure the brain tissue from the remains of an aborted fetus.". Likewise, buried in all of the defenses of Fiorina is something like this: So: Fiorina may have misstated things a bit, since the relationship between the footage of the kicking baby and the horrific actions described in the interview is more one of video illustration rather than video documentation of the incident itself.

If I had to choose from the binary of true/false, I would say Fiorina's statement was false. If I'm being generous, I think one could argue that Fiorina's statement was truthy because, if you are passionately pro-life, an aborted fetus plus the testimony of someone who is wracked with guilt over having participated in abortions in the past isn't significantly different from actual footage of doctors discussing cutting out a brain as the fetus lies, exposed, before them. If I were being less generous, I'd say that if you find the contents of the tape sufficiently appalling that it would motivate people who see it to reject abortion or, at least reject funding for Planned Parenthood, it isn't a big deal to oversell what the tape actually shows with a delicately parsed description.

I understand why opponents of abortion want the videos shared widely. In the same way I, as an opponent of the death penalty, instinctively think video of a man drooling and convulsing as the execution drugs ravaged his body would motivate people to forbid execution by the state. After watching this video, and my own lack of reaction to the video, I'm no longer convinced that's true for either abortion or the death penalty.

Other drafts of this post had more detailed descriptions of the video, but you can watch the video. If you think abortion is akin to murder, a doctor describing fetal organ extraction the way a mechanic might talk about loosening a rusty bolt will be disquieting (if you are pro-choice you'll probably have my reaction, and it will sound like ordinary people talking shop). Despite my caveats above I don't think Ms. O'Donnell is lying; I believe she is emotionally devastated. The video is sad. But nobody at Slate or Vox or the Washington Post or anywhere else said that the videos weren't sad. What they said was that there wasn't video of an abortion in progress, in which doctors casually talked about brain extraction. That's what Fiorina was clearly implying at the debate. It is a specific, compelling image. And it isn't on the tape. So to me, to Vox, to Slate, Fiorina's statement was a calculated lie.

But I don't think I was the audience for Fiorina or the tapes at all. She said what she said during a primary for the Republican presidential nomination These tapes are meant for people who are already pro-life, to spur them to action, and that's the audience that candidates in a GOP primary debate are talking to. To that audience, the distinction between what Fiorina said was on the tapes and what they'd find if they actually watched is small beer. To them, Fiorina told the truth.

These worlds won't, and probably can't, be reconciled.

In Roca Labs Case, FTC Takes Novel Stand Against Non-Disparagement Clauses

Last week Adam ably covered the Big Bad News for our old customer-threatening lawyer-suing pink-paste-purveyor Roca Lab: the Federal Trade Commission has sued it for unfair trade practices in violation of the FTC Act.

Most of the FTC's complaint is routine and can be summarized as "Roca Labs sells crap and lies about it." One part, though, seems novel: the attack on Roca's habit of using non-disparagement clauses to threaten customers who give it bad reviews. The FTC's third claim directly addresses that:

64. As described in paragraphs 12-42 and 44-52, in numerous instances, Defendants have used in the sale of their products, and purported to bind purchasers to, contractual provisions that prohibit purchasers from speaking or publishing truthful or nondefamatory negative comments or reviews about the Defendants, their products, or their employees.

65. Defendants’ practices as described in paragraph 64 have caused or are likely to cause substantial injury to consumers that is not reasonably avoidable by consumers and that is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition.

66. Defendants’ practices as described in paragraph 64 therefore constitute unfair acts or practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a) and (n).

This sounded novel to me, so I reached out to the FTC for comment. On Monday, one of the FTC attorneys on the case confirmed "[t]his is the FTC’s first case alleging that a seller’s use of non-disparagement provisions is unfair under Section 5 of the FTC Act." The FTC's press release on the case also mentions that theory.

The FTC's aggressive move reflects continuing nationwide pushback against companies that use nondisparagement clauses as a method of deterring negative consumer feedback. California recently banned such clauses in consumer contracts, and Congress considered, but as convention requires did nothing about, a nationwide ban.

Why the interest? Probably because of the Streisand Effect. Roca Labs isn't the only company that's made headlines with splashy and foolish non-disparagement bullying against customers. Internet bauble-seller KlearGear flamed out in 2015, and the bumptious MedExpress hit the pavement hard and wound up paying attorney fees. Even obscure small businesses have found themselves thoroughly media-stomped when they've tried to invoke such non-disparagement clauses.

A non-disparagement clause in a consumer contract reflects a business you can't trust. But if you've signed one unknowingly, now you have more leverage — if you're threatened, the FTC's suit against Roca suggests that the FTC may view the enforcement of such clauses (at least in extreme cases) as an unfair business practice.

Meanwhile, Roca Labs has entered a stipulated temporary restraining order with the FTC. This stage — preliminary relief — is often where the FTC kills your company dead by convincing a federal judge to issue an order freezing all operations and assets. By stipulating, Roca Labs' attorneys may have been able to negotiate the terms of the order to be a little less onerous. But the order is still a grave development for Roca. It prohibits Roca Labs from making many of their core marketing allegations about their product, prohibits them from invoking their non-disparagement clauses or threatening customers who complain about the product, freezes all corporate assets except for use in normal business expenses, gives them 10 days to provide an accounting of assets, and allows the FTC to take expedited depositions about their products and assets. The order permits Roca Labs to continue to pursue its previously-filed frivolous defamation lawsuits, but with this FTC case those suits have become unwinnable. This is a devastating order.

Revisiting The UN Broadband Commission's "Cyberviolence" Report

So last week I talked about the UN Broadband Commission's "Cyber Violence Against Women And Girls" Report. After looking at some of their sources, and after some more thought, I think I was too uncritical of it. So, I'd like to make a few more observations about why it's troubling to me as a free speech advocate. After that, I'll briefly address why I didn't do better in the first place.

The UN As A Vehicle For Human Rights Abuse

In my first post I already explained why I think we must carefully scrutinize any UN-promoted restriction on speech: the UN has a very mixed record on speech and is heavily influenced by forces that promote a "balance of interests" approach or even a "no blasphemous speech" approach.

I should have emphasized that it's worse than that. The UN and other multinational organizations are increasingly plagued by authoritarian regimes trying to set up ostensibly neutral rules that would allow them to suppress dissent. China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia recently pushed for a UN agency to have more authority over the internet, and in turn cede that control to member states. This would make it much easier for totalitarian regimes to stop online dissent and find dissenters. Also, I did not emphasize clearly enough that the global experience with blasphemy law shows that it is disproportionately used against ethnic and religious minorities in countries with authoritarian governments, and should be seen less as a sincere effort to protect the good name of Mohammed and more as a way to increase state power over those minorities.

In short, when it comes to potential speech restrictions, working with the UN carries substantial risk that the rules you propose will be used abusively by the strong against the weak, and by totalitarian governments against dissenters. If you find that improbable, consider what use, say, Saudia Arabia could make of a very flexible international norm against online "harassment," given their brutal enforcement of narrow sexual norms.

Wait, LYNDON LaRouche? Lyndon LAROUCHE?

In my first post I noted and expressed concern about the report's odd assertion about the relationship between video game and movie violence and real world violence:

There is widespread representation of VAWG in mainstream culture, including in contemporary and popular music, movies, the gaming industry and the general portrayal of women in popular media. Recent research on how violent video games are turning children, mostly boys, into ‘killing zombies’ are also a part of mainstreaming violence. And while the presentation and analysis of this research is beyond the scope of this paper, the links to the core roots of the problem are very much in evidence and cannot be overlooked.

But I didn't read the footnote and look at what they cited for that proposition. Always read the footnotes! The footnote leads us to this monstrosity, a mish-mash of every 1990s trope about how movies and games are turning our kids into killers, combined with 1980s tropes about Dungeons & Dragons, not to mention tropes about psychiatric treatment:

It may well be that the children on Ritalin, on Prozac, Luvox, and other psychiatric drugs, are walking human time bombs.

This is a real thing, in the article, which is cited as support for that "killing zombies" remark in the UN report:

In a press release Feb. 1, 2000, Midway Games reported the “top ten in killer games,” that is, the leading U.S. video-game sofware companies, as ranked in order of their unit sales:
1. Nintendo of America, Inc.: Manufactures Pokémon, Game-Boys, and equipment for satanic video games.

2. Electronic Arts, Inc.: Produces Road Rash, which features a hit and run, criminal assault on police.

3. Sony Computer Entertainment: Equipment for satanic video games. Was a defendant in the lawsuit on behalf of the three girls killed by video game addict Michael Carneal, the 14-year-old shooter in Paducah, Kentucky.

4. Midway Home Entertainment: Mortal Kombat, Doom, Quake.

5. THQ, Inc.: Summoners, which deals with evil sorcerers, satanic monsters.

6. Acclaim Entertainment: Hard Core Wrestling (such as nails in head, strangulation), Hard Core Revolution, and Real F’n Wrestling.

7. 989 Studios (Sony): Produces Everquest. (In this, followers of the god Cazic-Thule inflict “pain, misery, violence, torture, living sacrifice.”

8. Activision, Inc.: Soldier of Fortune (assassination, race war).

9. Namco Ltd.: Soul Calibur. In this, “The Evil Seed is loose, threatens to swallow souls in its chilling wake.”

10. Hasbro Interactive: Official U.S. distributor of Pokémon (abbreviation for “Pocket Monsters”), the killing game designed for toddlers beginning at 2 and 3 years old; Dungeons and Dragons, the medieval satanic and magic fantasy game; Risk II, a “ruthless quest for world domination". One of the Hasbro Board members is Paul Wolfowitz, the co-head of George W. Bush’s team of foreign policy advisors.

The source is written by Michele Steinberg, a former fraud codefendant of Lyndon LaRouche, whose obsession with the just-a-coincidence-they're-Jewish ""Wolfowitz cabal" infects even her discussion of video games.

The report is full of other footnote foolishness as well (like citing a file on somebody's hard drive as a source). But this citation . . . well. As some advocates have criticized how women are treated in video games and online, they've faced claims that they aren't just hostile to bad behavior, they're actually hostile to the whole hobby of gaming and to its entire culture. It's hard to imagine how the UN Broadband Commission could have done a better job making that narrative more credible. Steinberg's article is a shotgun blast of crazy discredited nonsense and culture-nannying dressed (utterly unconvincingly) as science. I will spare you the parade of links showing (1) how violent crime trended down strongly while movies got more violent and video games got more everywhere, (2) how schools are safer than they have been in years, and (3) how multiple studies disclaim a connection between movie or game violence and real-world violence.

This is the equivalent of submitting a serious proposal to Congress advocating for changes in the federal budget and, for the proposition that the NASA budged should be reduced, linking to sites that claim that the moon landing was faked.

One bad citation wouldn't normally destroy the credibility of an entire report. If any one can, this one does. It's used to support a drop-in that violent movies and video games are something the UN might want to look at. It is so freakishly inappropriate that I can only imagine four scenarios: (1) there are no sensible people involved in the preparation and approval of the report, (2) any sensible people involved with the report did not read the report any more carefully than I did, (3) the people behind the report believe this Jack Thompson/Tipper Gore/Jack Chick malarkey, or (4) the people behind the report don't particularly care about the reliability of the sources for their pronouncements. Whichever one is true, I wish I could take a mulligan on calling it a "thoughtful approach to a serious problem." But I did what I did.

Expansion of the Meaning of Words

In my prior post I noted that the report had some strong rhetoric, but didn't spent much time questioning it. As Scott Greenfield pointed out I didn't ask how the Commission was proposing to define "cyber violence." I didn't ask that because it seemed like a pointless project; absent some specific new law or policy to which the definition would apply, it's a theoretical exercise.

But then I remembered that I've groused before about how our rhetorical approach to categorizing speech can have long-term effects on how we think about whether it should be permitted and even on how we treat it legally.

Seen from that perspective — that the report is not offering mere hot air, but proposed norms — it's considerably more troubling than I suggested.

Here's how the report at page 6 defines cyber violence against women and girls, or Cyber-VAWG:

Cyber VAWG includes hate speech (publishing a blasphemous libel), hacking (intercepting private communications), identity theft, online stalking (criminal harassment) and uttering threats. It can entail convincing a target to end their lives (counselling suicide or advocating genocide). The Internet also facilitates other forms of violence against girls and women including trafficking and sex trade. Not only does commercialized sex on the Internet drive the demand for the sex industry overall, it also allows traffickers to use the legal aspects of commercial sex on the Internet as a cover for illegal activities. Some of the main uses of the Internet by traffickers include: advertising sex, soliciting victims on social media, exchanging money through online money transfer services, and organizing many of the logistical operations involved in transporting victims.

Let's take these one at a time.

"Cyber VAWG includes hate speech (publishing a blasphemous libel)." This is rather incoherent. Does "hate speech" refer to hateful speech about women as a class of humans? It's not clear — and in America, the only "hate speech" against women that would fall outside the protections of the First Amendment would be speech falling into traditional exceptions: true threats, incitement to imminent serious harm, and so forth. What's "blasphemous libel?" Well if anyone would know, it would be the Canadians, but it seems even they don't.

"Identity theft:" well, sure, identity theft is illegal, and can be used to harass. I'm not sure that it's more a concern for women than for others, even online. And I'd want to point out that a satirical account in someone else's name, used to mock them, is protected speech, not "identity theft."

"Online stalking (criminal harassment):" Yes, both harassment and stalking can be criminal. Under U.S. law, at least, it requires proof of repeated unwelcome contact with intent to put the target in fear.

"Uttering threats." Yes, true threats are illegal. That means threats that a reasonable person would take as a serious statement of intent to do harm.1

"It can entail convincing a target to end their lives (counselling suicide or advocating genocide)." Well, trying to convince someone to kill themselves is horrific and can be a crime outside the First Amendment. Talking about genocide is something completely unrelated, and under U.S. law is only a crime if it involves a true threat or incitement to imminent lawless action.

"[Sex trafficking discussion]" Well, sex trafficking certainly can involve terrible abuse of girls and women. But the assertion that criminalizing prostitution protects women generally is, and should be, a subject of vigorous debate. Also, note how the passage about sex work treats money transfer and advertising as part of violence against women.

Why would you call something "violence," when it's not violent? Usually it's to co-opt the legal and social norms associated with violence. It's like when you re-define "terrorism" so broadly that you can use the resources and power of the anti-terrorism fight to, say, police DVD piracy.

I'm fine with improving our ability to detect, stop, and punish true threats, which I think are legitimately termed violence. Harassment and stalking, given a principled definition, are at least violence-adjacent. I'm fine with problems like identity theft being treated seriously. But — here, even before specific laws have been proposed — I'm skeptical about and hostile to the expansion of the word "violence" in an effort to dramatically increase anyone's police power, let alone the UN's.

Some of the rhetoric offered by Anita Sarkeesian in support of the report suggests that is the aim of at least some supporters:

Through her work with Feminist Frequency as the star of a video series critiquing depictions of women in the media, including video games, Sarkeesian also found herself caught up in the GamerGate firestorm. "I have been a target for three years non-stop," she told those in attendance, "of egregious online harassment in all levels."

She defined this as not just the violence that the group has formed to combat, but also the "day-to-day grind of ‘You're a liar,' ‘You suck' … making all of these hate videos on a regular basis to attack us and the mobs that come from those hate videos."

Some of the abuse Sarkeesian has described constitutes unlawful true threats and actual harassment and stalking. Not all of it does. Calling her a liar or saying she sucks is protected speech, unless it's directed in repeated unwelcome communications directly to her (like phone calls and emails). Videos saying that she sucks are also protected by the First Amendment, unless they contain true threats or incitement to imminent lawless action. This is not the first time she has conflated genuine threats of violence with criticism (as have some of her detractors, in the other direction).

I was right in saying that we need to scrutinize any specific proposed laws or policies that arise from this report. But I was wrong to downplay the rhetoric as mere rhetoric, and to say it was premature to criticize it. On a more serious look, the report's rhetoric suggests an effort to use the language of violence to cover non-violent and protected conduct. That is of particular concern since it is directed at the UN.

Those are not the only things wrong with the report, but those are the ones that strike me most forcefully. In discussing the Commission's references to foreign concepts of free speech, its invocation of zero tolerance, its suggestion that companies would be required to abide by particular codes, about how industry codes can be used against the people they are supposed to help, and by noting that the report relies on questionable sources about "revenge porn" law, I was right.

It's Easy To Get It Wrong.

I screwed up. I didn't blow a closing argument or put the wrong pacemaker in someone or crash a car, but I offered my thoughts without exercising due care. The easy reason was that I rushed, because I was busy. The harder reason is that some of my attitudes colored my approach.

I expected that the report would not be read, that its contents would be overstated and distorted, and that it would be treated as an open and explicit call for censorship because of the people involved with it. I wasn't wrong to think that. But I was wrong to let that thought stop me from a more careful examination, and to allow myself to breeze by the implications of the rhetoric while looking for the specific proposals that weren't there. If I had looked at it from a "is this rhetoric bad or not" standpoint, instead of a "imagine the reaction to this" viewpoint, I would have gotten it right.

I'm likely to get things wrong again. I'll do my best to make them right again. And naturally, it would be pointless to write to please any audience.

Edited to add: I was invited to talk about this on CBC radio, with the results here. Be kind; it was 4:30 in the morning.

A Few Comments on the UN Broadband Commission's "Cyber Violence Against Women And Girls" Report

Update: Further information suggests I was far too benefit-of-the doubt here, which is what happens when you write fast and when you generally despise some of the people involved. Some of this is still right, but regard the conclusions and characterizations with skepticism. Taking a second look. See, e.g., the fact that they cited this [footnote 118] for the video game discussion I cite below. When I'm wrong I'm wrong. Will revisit.

The United Nations Broadband Commission For Digital Development has released a new report called "Cyber Violence Against Women And Girls: A World-Wide Wake-Up Call." You can find it here.

I have a few comments about it from a free speech advocate's standpoint. I am not going to talk about it from a cultural standpoint. Any post here about gender-based harassment generates bad behavior, as I've long noted. I am aware that there is a political controversy over whether online harassment of women is understated or overstated, whether discussion of such harassment is a feminist plot to steal our precious bodily fluids, and so forth. My view is that online harassment of women is a problem and a legitimate subject of discussion, but I am uninterested in that discussion today. I'm interested in a discussion of the free speech implications of this report. If you are a person who feels that it would be morally wrong not to share your views on those subjects whenever physically possible, and that it would be like unto fascism for even one post not to showcase those views, please go elsewhere to one of the innumerable other venues for that discussion. Thank you.

Any Report From Any UN Body About Speech Warrants Scrutiny

I don't trust the UN on free speech issues. You shouldn't either. In a world where Iran wins a seat on the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, people who care about women's rights should also be skeptical. Pro-censorship forces continually pressure the UN for international laws and norms restricting speech — for instance by demanding laws outlawing blasphemy. Allow me some unabashed American exceptionalism: that's a bad thing. The United States' vigorous approach to protecting free speech and rejecting blasphemy laws is good, and foreign norms that encourage blasphemy laws often used to persecute religious and ethnic minorities are bad.

The UN's response to calls for censorship is mixed. Occasionally sensible officials have recognized the role of censorship (and especially blasphemy laws) in promoting oppression of the weak by the strong. But just as often the UN produces troubling rhetoric like this from the Secretary-General:

"Freedoms of expression should be and must be guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice, common purpose," Ban told a news conference.

"When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others' values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way."

The UN also has a pattern of avoiding discussions of censorship that might offend member states and uttering windy statements about how freedom of expression must yield to various sensibilities.

So: I submit that a report by the UN on an issue touching upon freedom of expression deserves close scrutiny. The report does not require special scrutiny because it is about harassment, or the treatment of women: it requires scrutiny primarily because of its source.

Scrutiny Means Actual Scrutiny, Please

But "scrutiny" means actually reading the report and not relying on shrill and partisan summaries and characterizations.

I read the report with an eye towards evaluating what specific policies the Commission is advocating. Taken from that perspective, the report is more respectful of freedom of expression, and less aggressive about potentially censorious policies, than I feared.

Like any UN report — strike that, any report ever — this report contains a lot of nonspecific rhetoric. It also contains very troubling discussions of violence and threats against women, both online and off. They are worth consideration apart from the discussion of free speech issues.

General Concerns About How The Commission Views Free Speech

The report contains rhetorical references to the potential conflict between free speech and policing online conduct:

In the context of cybercrime, stakeholders, including the UN system have noted the need to balance rights. Groups such as APC have cautioned that in the name of spurious measures to “protect” women online we need to be weary of censorship, and that efforts should strive to “balance rights to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom from violence and harassment for all individuals in constitutional, civil and criminal law.”

That's a general value statement, not a policy. But it implies a non-American understanding of rights. It invokes Censorship Trope Five: balancing speech and other rights. Other countries take an occasionally ad-hoc "balancing" approach to speech — that in any particular circumstance whether speech is protected depends on whether the right to speak is outweighed by some other interest. The American approach recognizes categories of unprotected speech (like true threats) but forbids the government from "balancing" speech outside those categories. So: unsurprisingly, the Commission is taking an international approach to speech rather than the American one I support.

Concerns About the Broadband Commission's Specific Policies

I suspect some people will characterize the report as advocating censorship. That's a misleading characterization. There are UN reports that openly advocate for abandoning American-style free speech norms and "balancing" free expression with various rights. This isn't such a report; it's not advocating for broad speech codes. The report spends most of its time focusing on progress within existing frameworks. But it does have some proposals that trouble me as a free speech advocate.

The report proposes a "multi-level approach" to online threats against women, made up of "sensitization" (that is, changing cultural norms about what conduct is socially acceptable), "safeguards" (working with industry to develop methods of protecting people from online threats) and "sanctions and compliance" — where the action is.

Here's the parts that are worrying.

First, rhetorically, the report advocates a "zero tolerance for violence against women" mantra. I understand and share the anti-violence sentiment, but experience teaches that framing a response to a problem as "zero tolerance" leads to terrible results. That's not a problem with "women's issues," it's a problem with any perceived social ill. Telling people to take a "zero tolerance" approach effectively tells them to suspend critical judgment when addressing a problem. It doesn't lead to treating a problem seriously; it leads to treating a problem anxiously. When applied to something as complicated as the internet, that's potentially disastrous.

Second, the report advocates building relationships with private companies and helping them to develop methods to deter, stop, and report online threats. That's fine; private companies are private and are not bound by the First Amendment. Twitter is no more bound to tolerate online douchebaggery than Nordstrom is to let me shop naked. But the report suggests that the Commission (as one would expect) doesn't really grok private industry. It seems to envision a partnership of mutual values, as opposed to a partnership that persuades private industry that it is in their economic interest to prevent online threats and harassment. More alarmingly, the report seems to advocate government regulations requiring online platforms to take particular approaches to harassment prevention. The devil there could be in the details: regulations could easily amount to content-based censorship.

Third, I believe the report does not sufficiently consider how the industry measures it advocates can be used to suppress speech, including (perhaps even especially) women's speech. The call for more transparency in how online platforms implement anti-harassment programs is sensible. But nobody ever build an automatic system that internet users can't manipulate. Anti-harassment protocols will always be used disingenuously. That doesn't mean industry shouldn't try; it means there should be more critical thinking about whether they will help or hurt. I'm particularly concerned about pushing industry to unmask anonymous speakers more easily, a terrible idea that I think will more promote harassment than prevent it. The report refers approvingly to some such measures without, I think, adequate attention to their risks to free expression and to safety.

Fourth, the report makes gratuitous and controversial claims about the dangerousness of expression. Specifically, it is receptive (credulously, I submit) to the notion that there's a causal relationship between video game and movie violence and real-world violence:

Core roots of mainstreaming violence. There is widespread representation of VAWG in mainstream culture, including in contemporary and popular music, movies, the gaming industry and the
general portrayal of women in popular media. Recent research on how violent video games are turning children, mostly boys, into ‘killing zombies’ are also a part of mainstreaming violence. And while the presentation and analysis of this research is beyond the scope of this paper, the links to the core roots of the problem are very much in evidence and cannot be overlooked.

I'm not saying that proposition has no evidence supporting it, but at a minimum the evidence is controversial and subject to question. It's troubling that a UN report would present such a one-sided and frankly alarmist view of an issue so directly connected to speech.

Fifth, in reviewing various responses to online harassment, the report is insufficiently focused on the distinction between plausible laws and implausible laws, noting them both approvingly. But all laws are not alike. For instance, the report approvingly cites "revenge porn" laws. But some such laws are so badly drafted that their drafters have conceded defeat. In citing authorities, the report does not attempt to distinguish between advocates of revenge porn laws who attempt to frame laws that will pass constitutional muster and advocates who are effectively seeking to change legal and constitutional norms to accommodate their revenge porn laws. The distinction is meaningful, and the report's uncritical approach to content-based censorship proposals concerns me. Even when it appears to be rhetorical rather than substantive (like the introduction's puzzling reference to "blasphemous libel" as a form of violence against women), it's a danger sign.

Be Skeptical

The report is not the orgy of censorship that ideological enemies will claim. It's a thoughtful approach to a serious problem. But careful examination of any resulting policies is warranted.

Postscript: Scott Greenfield not unreasonably asks how the Commission defines violence or threats against women. I don't think it seriously attempts to do so. It lists some undefined subcategories of conduct that can be violence. This would be more of a concern to me if the report proposed specific laws against undefined violence. Once the Commission attempts a definition, or offers a specific policy that requires a definition, I'll critique it.

Let's Applaud Wesleyan's Student Censors For Honesty

Earlier this week I covered a tumult at Wesleyan, where students claimed to be silenced by a student newspaper op-ed they didn't like.

The student op-ed criticized the Black Lives Matter movement in a manner that strikes me as more bootlicking than racist. This yielded a cringing and cringeworthy apology from the Wesleyan Argus' staff (bad) and a vocal commitment to free speech by Wesleyan's President (good).

Some Wesleyan students have responded with a petition and list of demands, which 171 students and alumni have signed as I write this. Here's a hard copy in case it gets disappeared. Edited to add: looks like critics are editing it to satirize it, so look at the hard copy instead for an accurate view of what it looked like.

I like the petition. I like it because the students aren't pretending to be anything but censorious: it's honest.

The students signing the petition agree to "boycott" the Argus, "recognizing that the paper has historically failed to be an inclusive representation of the voices of the student body." So far, this is a call for responsive expression, which is fine. From there it gets scary. "Most specifically, it neglects to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color and we are doubtful that it will in the future." In context, it appears that "safe space for the voices of students of color" means "a newspaper that won't print anything that this particular group of students of color finds objectionable," an aim worthy only of our open scorn.

"This boycott includes recycling the Argus," the petition continues. What does "recycling" mean? It means taking and throwing away copies of a free student newspaper so that others can't read content you don't like, and it's a nationwide problem, as the Student Press Law Center documents. People who respond to student paper content they don't like by trashing the paper to suppress it are thug trash, and it's nice of them to sign a self-identifying petition.

The petition goes on to demand that Wesleyan defund the Argus until their demands are met. Those demands include "Monthly Report on allocation of funds and leadership structure" (that is, more intensive control of a newspaper by student government), "Required-once a semester- Social Justice/Diversity training for all publications (Via Elisa Cardona/SALD office)" (meaning mandatory ideological conformity training on publications via school administration), and "Open spaces dedicated for marginalized groups/voices if no submissions: BLANK that states: 'for your voice” on the front page" (meaning, quotas for expression by particular predefined groups, somewhat like the thankfully-abandoned and Orwellian-named Fairness Doctrine).

Bear this in mind: Black Lives Matter is an explicitly political movement with explicitly political goals. Many of those goals — like questioning and monitoring disproportionate police violence against young black men — are worthy. But the notion that there is only one correct way to think about a political movement is monstrous and un-American. Wesleyan is a private school; they can abandon basic notions of free expression and turn their school into a training ground for ideological conformity if they want to. But isn't it thoughtful of these students and alumni to say exactly what they want, without equivocation? They've thoughtfully provided a list of people never to hire.

"Your Speech Silences Me:" A Trope The Kids Learned From Us

As befits an old fart, I spend a lot of time ranting about how young people today are just terrible, particularly about freedom of expression. If I avoid being a cloud-shouting caricature, it's because I admit this is my generation's fault: young people are just adopting the awful values that we taught them.

Today's example is the notion that speech silences us.

Yesterday I mentioned a free speech tumult at Wesleyan University, where a student op-ed criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement led to controversy. Scott Greenfield wrote about the dispute as well, and we both picked on one particular student for saying that the op-ed ought to be censored because it "silenced" speech:

The biggest problem with treating this as a freedom of speech issue is that this speech actively silences other speech.

This proposition — "this isn't free speech, it's silencing speech" — is simply an iteration of Trope Six: "this isn't free speech, it's [other invented category]."

It's also something the student could have picked up from us — and by "us" I mean the community of adults who talk about politics and free speech. The student has applied the lesson to complain about "conservative speech," but could have picked it up from listening to people complain about "liberal speech." Our student has listed to people saying "you called me a racist and that stifles my free speech" and simply reworked it a bit to "you spoke like a racist and that stifles my free speech."

This shouldn't be a surprise. For years we've been indulging in the "Speech Is Tyranny!" and "criticism is censorship" tropes. We complain that "you can't say [x] any more," where [X] is some conservative viewpoint. What we mean is that we cannot say [x] without being criticized, perhaps in very harsh terms. We call it things like "systematic silencing":

Powers revealed that in "The Silencing," she focuses on the attack on free speech from the media and on college campuses.

"It's a systematic silencing that is going on," Powers said. "And they use the same tactics. I also am not talking about disagreement. I'm not talking about people being civil. I'm talking about these are people who will not have a debate. They will attack you: 'You are racist. You are misogynist.' It's never about what the actual issue is."

"And it's really impinging people's ability to debate issues, because there is no debate. They tell you there is no debate because you're a racist."

So. How can we really blame our angry Wesleyan student for using a rhetorical trope we have taught him?

I look forward to the protestations that's different. Surely not every cry "you're silencing me" is the same. But just as we should use critical thinking to evaluate this student's claim that speech silences him, shouldn't we also think critically about our own claims to be silenced by criticism and what we term "call-out culture"?

I may not buy the argument that the Black Lives Matter critique silences anyone (though I do find it nauseatingly bootlicking). But neither do I buy that it silences the author to tell him that it's ignorant, or racist. Rejecting the former but buying the latter seems to depend on a magical view of speech: that most speech encourages more speech except for a set of magically debilitating words (like "racist" and "sexist" and so forth) that destroy it. That purported dichotomy deserves scrutiny.

Imagine some examples. If I tell a gay person that they are outside of God's love and going to Hell unless they repent, and they call me a bigot, have I encouraged speech and they silenced it? If you're an HBD fan and tell black people that they are inherently intellectually inferior and they call you racist, have you encouraged speech and they've suppressed it?

To put it rudely, are we really buying the premise that being a dick encourages speech but calling someone a dick suppresses it?

I find that unpersuasive.

Willful Paranoia: The Classic Excuse for Willful Paranoia #IStandWithAhmed

American lives are controlled by the thuggishly mediocre. The best measure of their control is this: when called out on their mediocre thuggery, they can comfortably double down.

Ahmed Mohamed, a bright and curious ninth-grader in Irving, Texas, learned that to his regret this week.

Ahmed made a clock. He likes to make thing and repair things and tinker with things, apparently. Last weekend he built a digital clock out of a circuit board and a power display and a digital display. There is, I suppose, a chance that I could do that without electrocuting myself, but I wouldn't bet on it.

In his head, Ahmed lives in an idealized world he learned about in robotics club: a world where individuality and curiosity and initiative are appreciated. Or at least he did. But this week he found out that he actually lives in a different world, a grim real world controlled by school administrators and cops who are deeply suspicious of individuality, if not openly hostile. Ahmed lives in a world where children's lives are limited by the stupid, ineffectual fear of the petty and the ignorant. He lives in a world where school administrators strip-search thirteen-year-old girls to look for ibuprofin and suspend eight-year-olds for making pretend finger-guns while playing cops and robbers. He lives in a world where police arrest seven-year-olds for bringing a nerf gun to class and perp-walk twelve-year-olds in front of their peers for writing "I love my friends" on a desk with a marker.

In that world, Ahmed's clever clock didn't earn him admiration. It earned him a trip to the principal's office, a contemptuous and skeptical interrogation by an officer of the Irving Police Department, a suspension, and a trip in handcuffs to a juvenile detention center — because a circuit board with a time display must be a bomb, or at least intended to look like a bomb.

Actually nobody thought the clock was a bomb. The school didn't think it was a bomb. The police admitted they never thought it was a bomb. The police admitted Ahmed never suggested it was a bomb, or that he meant for anyone to think it was anything but a clock. But grown-ups detained, interrogated, arrested, and handcuffed Ahmed because they couldn't conceive of why a kid would build his own clock:

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

Did the putative adults pestering Ahmed do it because his name is Ahmed Mohamed and he's brown? Maybe. “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” said one officer mysteriously upon seeing him. But on the other hand, this is the era of zero tolerance and of institutionalized paranoia and of petty little people using fear to hold on to power. This is what our kids' lives are like, and we've decided to accept it. Schools are safer now than before, but we've decided to feed on the fear the media feeds us and accept that they are more dangerous, justifying harsher treatment of kids. Kids are safer than ever, but we've consented to being constantly terrified about various menaces to them. Cops are safer, but we've decided to accept their narrative that they are the targets of an unprecedented war, and hand them the power they say they need.

My mother was a school administrator, and there are many decent and concerned school administrators. But to be blunt, school administrators were generally not the kid who built his or her own clock at 14. (Cops were generally the kid who beat up the kid who built the clock.) There are two ways for school administrators to deal with the unfamiliar, the unknown, the different: they can try to learn about it, and even nurture it, or they can react to it with fear and suspicion. We've told school administrators and police "we choose fear, and we want you to choose fear too."

Cops and school administrators are utterly confident in our support when they abuse someone like Ahmed. You can see it in the response of principal Dan Cummings:

I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited. Also, this is a good time to remind your child how important it is to immediately report any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior they observe to any school employee so we can address it right away. We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students.

In other words, faced with a freakish overreaction by the school, and the suspension and detention of a student for building a clock that nobody ever thought was dangerous, the school's response is to remind students that some items are prohibited (even though nobody says the clock was), and to exhort students to report "suspicious" items and behavior. In response to a public saying "you're paranoid," the school's response is "you're goddamn right I am, and you should be too."

When I was a kid, schools and cops generally didn't do anything about bullying. Now they profess to be very concerned about it, and there are elaborate programs in place that purport to combat it. But educators and cops either don't grasp, or don't care, that their culture of fear encourages bullying. Detaining and humiliating a geeky kid who built a clock, and following up with a self-justifying "if you see something, say something" warning, sends an unmistakable message: different is suspicious. That's a bully's attitude, too.

We're expected to give cops and administrators the benefit of the doubt. I don't: I think they are like any other human beings. There are some good and some bad. Some care, and some are doing what they do to increase their own power. But even the well-intentioned who participate in a culture of fear are blameworthy. To them, I say this: you say you're trying to protect our children. But instead you've devoted your career to making the world a worse place for them.

Terrorist clock? Or birth of a new libertarian? DON'T FEED THE WOODCHIPPER!

Terrorist clock? Or birth of a new libertarian? DON'T FEED THE WOODCHIPPER!

A Market Solution To Academic Snowflakes

For years I've been grumbling about the rise of the imagined right not to be offended.

It's not going away. If anything, feelings of entitlement not to be offended are growing, especially in academia. The University of California is considering enshrining a right to be free of "expressions of intolerance," defined as meretriciously as you'd expect. Chancellors of great universities announce that free speech requires feeling safe. Too many students seek not just to disagree with ideas but to prevent ideas they don't like from being uttered in their safe spaces at all.

Plenty of folks and institutions — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for example — are devoted to pushing back against this attitude.

But what if they're taking the wrong approach? What if the market is the right way to deal with the imagined right not to be offended?

Snowflake U.

Imagine a world in which the market lets people decide whether to be special snowflakes — people wtih an actual protected right not to be upset or offended.

As the University of California's proposal shows, the legions of school administrators are perfectly capable of creating Snowflake Schools, where the administration vigorously defends students' rights to be free of offense. What if we let them?

Take, let's say, Brown University. They're already on FIRE's red light policy list, and frankly I enjoy making fun of them. Brown could decide to take on the mantle of a Snowflake School. It could openly declare that its students have a right not to be offended. It could enact policies accordingly, and discipline students and faculty who cause any offense through their speech and actions. Brown could display the snowflake symbol on their letterhead and web page. They could even vigorously rebrand themselves to attract students who don't want to be offended — I don't know, they could rename their teams The Blizzards or something.

Students, staff, and academics could then vote with their feet. Do I want to go to an acknowledged Snowflake School? Maybe I do, and will wear the snowflake badge proudly. Maybe I don't — either because I don't want to get expelled for offending someone, or because I'm embarrassed to go someplace that marks me as a snowflake.

Other people could vote, too. Do I want to hire someone who chose to go to a Snowflake School? You might, but I wouldn't. Do I want to date a Snowflake? Do I want a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant who wears a Snowflake U. sweatshirt?

The Department of Snowflake Studies

But wait! Isn't the snowflake/non-snowflake decision too binary, you ask? Won't schools that make a choice always be riven by snowflake vs. non-snowflake conflict, with some schools lurching back and forth?

Perhaps. That's why we can implement market forces within schools as well.

Imagine: "Snowflake Choice" schools have a Snowflake Registry. Students, staff, and academics can choose to sign up for that registry, or refuse to. Only folks on the registry can assert a right not to be offended, and pursue offense-related grievances. If you're on the Snowflake Registry, you are subject to full punishment for causing offense. If you're not on the Snowflake Registry, you're subject to punishment only with respect to self-selected Snowflake Classes and Snowflake Activities and Snowflake Departments. You might get kicked out of Professor Feels' classes but not Professor Grownup's classes.

Once again, this lets market forces take hold. Do I want to take history from a professor on the Snowflake Registry, knowing I can get kicked out of her class if I offend someone? Or do I want to sign up for a class taught by a professor not on the registry? Do I want to major in a Snowflake Subject, or a non-Snowflake subject?

Transcripts, naturally, would reflect status. I'd be able to see if a job applicant only took classes from Snowflakes, and act accordingly. I'd be able to see if an applicant's major was in a Snowflake Department. I'd be able to notice if a student got all As from non-Snowflake teachers but Cs from Snowflake-teachers, and draw appropriate conclusions.

Every Snowflake Is Unique

A few caveats are important. First of all, non-Snowflake status would not be a defense to accusations of genuine misconduct. A physical assault is not mere offense, nor is a true threat.

Second, Reverse-Snowflakes would find no solace. A Reverse-Snowflake is someone who thinks they have a protected right not to be told they're offensive, someone who thinks that they have a right not to be called an ass when they act like an ass. That's whingy and unprincipled nonsense. Such people should sign up for a Snowflake School, since that's what they fundamentally are.

Let A Thousand Snowflakes Melt

The virtue of this approach is choice. The struggle between Snowflakes and Non-Snowflakes would remain, but rather than a struggle to control institutions to impose their viewpoints, it becomes an individual struggle.

Non-Snowflakes may worry that the market would operate in a way they don't like — that the market would favor Snowflake Schools and Snowflake Majors and huge drifts of graduating Snowflakes. Maybe. But if that's the case, do we deserve any better?

If You Disagree With This Post, You're Joining A Bullying Lynch Mob

We name things based upon how we feel about them. We also feel about things based on how we've named them.

Politicians understand this. When they want to downplay the invasion of a sovereign nation, they call it an "uncontested arrival." When they justify torture of the sort that we hanged people for within living memory, they call it "enhanced interrogation technique." Language manages attitude.

Politicians and priests intentionally deploy language to guide thought. But we all do it unintentionally every day, shaping the culture with the language we choose.

This can lead to unintended consequences. We may mean to say that words should be rebutted with other words rather than with official coercion, and that the best response to speech we don't like is more speech. But the words we choose can subtly promote the understanding that words are violent acts, and therefore something suitable for regulation.

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