If you asked the American Booksellers Association (ABA) what it is, the answer is that it’s a non profit trade group whose task is to help independently owned bookstores, whose advocacy efforts support free expression causes.
Yet this claim is put to the test now that the organization has joined an ongoing outrage campaign to “cancel” Abigail Shrier’s book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.”
In a tweet posted on July 14, ABA denounces the book as “anti-trans” and apologizes to its trans members and the trans and wider “LGBTQIA+” and bookselling communities for including “Irreversible Damage” in the July “white box” mailing that was sent to some 750 bookstores.
The language used in the tweet comes across as nothing short of over-the-top dramatic: the inclusion of the book in the list is described as a “serious, violent, inexcusable (…) terrible incident.” ABA also anticipates that the title showing up in the mailing will have caused trans people “pain” and apologizes for that as well – only to conclude that “apologies are not enough.”
ABA declare themselves as an entity that “caused harm” but that is committed to engaging in dialogue to address that and taking concrete steps that should be announced as soon as in three weeks’ time.
That the apology was indeed not enough was clear from another statement issued by ABA CEO Allison Hill. “We traumatized and endangered members of the trans community,” Hill writes to booksellers, adding, “We erased Black authors, conflated Black authors, and put the authors in danger through a forced association.”
Our freedom to say or write whatever we please in this country is holy to me. It is a rare privilege not only on this planet, but throughout the universe, I suspect. And it is not something somebody gave us. It is a thing we give to ourselves.Kurt Vonnegut
A Colorado judge has stunningly ruled that an artist’s creations are not speech at all and the state is allowed to force a baker to violate his own religious beliefs in order to submit to the demands of a transgender activist.
The ruling from A. Bruce Jones, a judge in the state’s Second Judicial District, came in a lawsuit brought by Autumn Scardina, a lawyer who was born a man and now lives as a woman.
He demanded a cake from Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburban area. He wanted it pink and blue to mark his “transition” to a woman.
Phillips is the baker who earlier was attacked under Colorado’s anti-discrimination law for declining to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex duo. A state commission publicly excoriated him for his faith and likened him to Nazis, an act that ultimately brought a rebuke from the U.S. Supreme Court for being hostile to faith. The court decided that case in Phillips’ favor. 7-2.
Critical to that decision was the fact that evidence revealed that when homosexual bakers in Colorado were asked to create a cake condemning homosexuality, they refused on the grounds it was a message they couldn’t support. The state supported their refusal yet required Phillips to undergo re-indoctrination because he wanted the same control over his messages.
When Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt died on Feb. 10 at the age of 78, it signaled the end of an era where a misogynistic smut peddler could be viewed as a kind of antihero.
It’s hard to laud someone who built his empire by unabashedly treating women like pieces of meat, but as a First Amendment warrior, Flynt won important legal victories while sticking his thumb in the eye of the powers that be.
Over the decades, Flynt took on America’s morality police or anyone he felt to be hypocritical on matters of sex, engaging in what the Washington Post once referred to as “Dirt Bag Journalism.” This involved offering millions to anyone who could prove an extramarital affair with a high-ranking government official, such as in 1998, when he took down then-House speaker designate and staunch Clinton impeachment backer Bob Livingston. In 2017, Flynt offered $10 million for information leading to Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.
Many know Flynt best from the Oscar-winning 1996 Milos Forman film “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” in which he was portrayed as a rakish rogue by Woody Harrelson. The movie went a long way toward softening Flynt’s image as a tawdry yet charismatic freedom fighter, while sanding off the more grotesque aspects of his personality.
To the FBI, he was a person of interest. His 322-page FBI file, obtained by VICE News through a Freedom of Information Act request, contains a wild litany of events involving the Hustler honcho—from John DeLorean’s cocaine bust and an alleged plot to hire a mercenary to kill Hugh Hefner and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, to an alleged effort by Flynt to blow himself up in the Supreme Court, as well as threats to Sandra Day O’Connor and President Ronald Reagan.
His FBI file focuses mainly on his activities in the 1980s, when his behavior was at its most erratic, but also when many of his important First Amendment battles came to a head.
After an unprecedented year of YouTube censorship, the Freedom Forum Institute, a group which states that its mission is “to foster First Amendment freedoms for all,” has given YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki a Free Expression Award.
The homepage for the 2021 Free Expression Awards and Festival states that it recognizes individuals “for their courageous acts of free and fearless expression” and lists YouTube as a “signature sponsor” of the event.
In a video promoting the award, Wojcicki proposed that removing content only becomes censorship when you go “too far”:
“We’re removing content that violates our policies. You can go too far and that can become censorship, and so we have been working really hard to figure out what’s the right way to balance responsibility with freedom of speech.”
During an interview, she then discussed how censorship impacted her personally when her grandfather stayed in Poland after World War Two and was behind the Iron Curtain – a political boundary that divided Europe for more than 45 years and was infamous for the way open contact with those inside the Iron Curtain was heavily censored.
The free thinking argument, that blows away the notion of illegal prostitution, is that of pornography. Pornography, or porn, is nothing more than prostitution that has been state-sanctioned, taxed, filmed, and distributed. However, because it is taxed — politicians have generally left it alone — until now. Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill Tuesday that calls for all smartphones and tablets sold in the Beehive State to have adult content filters.
If one is truly for freedom, outlawing consensual acts between adults should be resisted — even if these acts involve the swapping of bodily fluids. And, although the state claims the right to kidnap and cage people for engaging in these consensual acts, it does not mean they are somehow immoral.
The Free Thought Project has long objected to the prohibition of sex work as it creates crime, sends sex workers into dangerous situations, and outlaws one of the oldest professions in the world. While the prohibition of sex work is bad enough, the governor of Utah passing a law that will filter out legal pornography on all tablets and smartphones sold in the state is outright tyrannical.
If someone wishes to access porn on their device, they must first get permission from their cellphone provider and they will be put on a list of people allowed to view porn.
According to House Bill 72, the so-called filter would “prevent the user of the device from accessing material that is harmful to minors on the device; enable certain users to deactivate the filter for the device or for specific content; and notify the user when content is filtered.”
Cox said the move would send an “important message” about preventing children from accessing explicit content on the Web.
“We really want to empower parents,” Cox said. “If nothing else it sends an important message.”
But blocking pornography on 100 percent of devices in the state does absolutely nothing to “empower parents.” There are already programs and filters available to empower parents to block porn on devices and they are free. All this law does, as the ACLU of Utah put it “infringes upon the general public’s First Amendment rights to freely access the internet.”
Federal prosecutor Michael Sherwin appeared on CBS News’ 60 Minutes on Sunday where he admitted that he charged as many people as quickly as possible regardless of the evidence to put a chilling effect on the 1st Amendment rights of Trump supporters.
“After the 6th, we had an inauguration on the 20th. So I wanted to ensure, and our office wanted to ensure that there was shock and awe that we could charge as many people as possible before the 20th,” Sherwin told CBS News.
He added: “And it worked because we saw through media posts that people were afraid to come back to D.C. because they’re like, “If we go there, we’re gonna get charged.”’
Sherwin made it clear that the feds went after people who had gone viral regardless of whether they perpetrated any violence or committed any actual crime.
“So the first people we went after, I’m gonna call the internet stars, right? The low-hanging fruit. The ‘zip-tie guy,’ the ‘rebel flag guy,’ the ‘Camp Auschwitz guy.’ We wanted to take out those individuals that essentially were thumbing their noses at the public for what they did,” Sherwin said.
“If you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle,” declared New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in a 2018 column bluntly headlined “Let’s Ban Porn.”
In this, as in many things, Douthat was ahead of the conservative intellectual curve by a year or two. And in this, as in many things, he was dangerously wrong.
In due course, Douthat has been joined by the folks at the Christian journal First Things, who have taken up the anti-pornography banner as part of their peculiar subvariant of a resurgent interest in nationalism among traditionalist conservatives. In last year’s manifesto, “Against the Dead Consensus,” a clutch of First Things friends and familiars reject “economic libertarianism” and “the soulless society of individual affluence” and add that they “respectfully decline to join with those who would resurrect warmed-over Reaganism.” Which makes it all the more disconcerting when they turn around and immediately kneel before the scolding ghost of Ed Meese.
As attorney general, Meese sought to deliver on Reagan’s 1987 threat to “purveyors” of obscene material that the “industry’s days are numbered.” It was Meese who pulled together the first National Obscenity Enforcement Unit. (One surprising and familiar name also crops up in the tale: then–assistant attorney general and recent Libertarian Party vice presidential pick William F. Weld, who was given the task of bringing together various agencies for the task force.)
Meese’s bill of grievances against the relatively constrained pornography of his day—which he credited in a speech to a report from a federal Commission on Pornography convened the previous year—will sound alarmingly familiar to readers of Douthat and First Things. He asserts “that violence, far from being an altogether separate category of pornography, is involved with almost all of it; that there are empirically verifiable connections between pornography and violent sex-related crimes; that the pornography industry is a brutal one that exploits and often ruins the lives of its ‘performers’ as well as its consumers, and that the ‘performers’ often include abused children and people plied with hard drugs; that whether or not it is directly imitated by those who consume it, pornography has a deleterious effect on what its consumers view as normal and healthy.”
The effort was, in some sense, successful. By 1990, the Department of Justice had managed to use obscenity statutes to force seven national porn distributors out of business. But the decades that followed were boom times for porn as the industry moved into new forms of distribution, so the success was far from permanent.
In a rare moment of sanity in 2011, the Justice Department shuttered what had come to be known as the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, resulting in the delightful Politico headline “Holder accused of neglecting porn” and a harrumph from peeved conservatives, who vowed to reverse the Obama administration’s decision as soon as they could.