Daily Media Links 7/31: Is it dangerous to participate in democracy?, Judge not the media, lest ye be judged, and more…

July 31, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech

Northwest Florida Daily News: Is it dangerous to participate in democracy?

By Tracey Tapp

While being interviewed by the Daily News for the article “Taking it to the Streets” (July 20 edition), I was asked if we were afraid to protest. I was taken aback by the question. Why should we be afraid to carry out our responsibility to participate in our democracy? 

I’ve reflected a lot on that question since the interview. The fact is, some Progressives Northwest Florida members are afraid to be vocal about their views because it could hurt their business or negatively impact their children in school. And to be honest, we do think about our physical safety. Let that sink in. What has our country come to when you can’t express political views without fear for your physical safety? …

Add to this the fact that state legislatures across the country are advancing bills to criminalize public protests. The basic tenants of our democracy – free speech and the right to assembly – are under attack. Let that sink in. Do you want to live in a country where criticizing the government is a crime? 


Liberty Nation: Fox News Reporter Gets Assaulted Before Speech

By Tess Lynne

News host Kat Timpf was preparing to deliver a speech during a campaign event for Ben Kissel, Reform Party Candidate for Brooklyn Borough President, when the assault happened. According to Timpf, the man walked up to her and dumped the bottle of water on her head, then when she turned, he splashed it on her face before running off like the coward he was. In a series of tweets, Timpf said the attack was unwarranted, unexpected and unexplained…

Timf, understandably upset, was not able to give her speech. Perhaps this was the unknown assailant’s agenda in the first place. The right to free speech has taken a beating lately, and it doesn’t look like it’s likely to slow anytime soon…

On Inauguration Day, Antifa spread its message by throwing bricks through the windows of local businesses and pelting police officers with rocks and bottles. This is not free speech – this is violence. These types of tactics have, unfortunately, often succeeded in stopping speeches from the radicals’ opponents. In February, for example, Antifa stopped an appearance of Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos by storming the campus of the University of California Berkley and setting fires in trash cans. Another group prevented Heather Mac Donald from speaking at Claremont McKenna College in California by physically blocking her.

The Courts

Wall Street Journal: Court Rules Against Politician Who Banned Access to Her Facebook Page

By Joe Palazzolo

A federal court in Virginia ruled that a local politician violated the free-speech rights of a constituent she banned from her Facebook page, in a case the judge said raises “important questions” about the constitutional restrictions that apply to social media accounts of elected officials.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge James Cacheris in Alexandria, Va., could buttress a lawsuit in New York alleging that President Donald Trump unconstitutionally suppressed dissent by blocking Twitter users from following his account.

President Trump’s frequent use of Twitter has added urgency to First Amendment questions revolving around the use of social media by public officials…

The lawsuit against Mr. Trump in federal court in Manhattan was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven users whom Mr. Trump blocked.

“We hope the courts look to this opinion as a road map in holding that it is unconstitutional for President Trump to block his critics on Twitter,” said Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the institute.

The Media

Washington Examiner: Judge not the media, lest ye be judged

By Washington Examiner

Conservatives have never been big fans of the legacy news media. For decades, they have watched supposedly impartial journalists present a slanted, agenda-driven version of reality that ignores conservative concerns and eagerly advances left-wing narratives on nearly every key issue.

But, while anger and contempt are understandable responses to this bias, censorship is not the answer. Yet, this week, the Economist released a YouGov poll revealing that 48 percent of self-identified conservative respondents would allow courts to impose fines on media outlets that publish “biased or inaccurate” stories. Only 16 percent can say with certainty that they oppose criminalization of journalistic bias or imprecision.

It is instructive to ponder how, exactly, the state would decide what was true and what false. Would judges decide for themselves, or would there be a central database of facts that they’d use for reference? Who would put together this database, and where would be it stored? One idea would be for responsibility to rest with a Ministry of Truth, which was what George Orwell suggested in Nineteen Eighty Four, one of his two dystopian masterpieces.

Political Parties

American Prospect: Is the Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’ Good Enough?

By Eliza Newlin Carney

In a new package of bills and in a series of aggressive procedural maneuvers, Democrats in the House are sounding themes that have the potential to resonate powerfully across the ideological spectrum. These themes include the message that the system is rigged in favor of moneyed interests, and that ethics abusers must be held to account…

 A key element of the “By the People” plan is a proposal to match low-dollar campaign donations with public funds. The package draws a sharp line between Democrats who have spelled out a proactive democracy agenda, says Sarbanes, and Republicans who reject such reforms. Democrat Dick Durbin, of Illinois, has also introduced small-donor legislation in the Senate…

Democrats will continue to refine their message in the months ahead, and it remains to be seen whether ethics, accountability, and special interest money ever move closer to the top of their agenda. But party leaders overlook such issues and possible reforms at their peril. “Unless you un-rig the game,” says David Donnelly, president and CEO of the campaign reform group EveryVoice, “you are not going to get the kinds of comprehensive and far-reaching proposals that the Democrats suggested this week.”

The States

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Bait-and-switch

By State Sen. Rob Schaaf

Several of us in the Missouri Senate have fought to restore transparency, proposing common-sense legislation that Missourians widely support. However, those who prefer secrecy have blocked this legislation, and the governor has chosen to take their side, claiming that transparency can expose political donors to ill treatment by those who disapprove of their donations. He now calls supporters of transparency “people who support donor intimidation,” slandering the millions of Missourians who support transparency but obviously oppose donor intimidation…

Some of my colleagues and I have offered a compromise, proposing that small donations to such groups be exempt from disclosure and that only the largest donations to such groups be disclosed – those exceeding $5,000 per person per election cycle. Under this plan, at least those donations that most threaten to corrupt the political process would be disclosed. But Gov. Greitens refused to support even that most basic of measures. In his view, Missourians have no right to know who is bankrolling the careers of their representatives in government.

U.S. News & World Report: House Speaker Turns to Ballot Measures Over Legislature

By James Nord, Associated Press

South Dakota’s House speaker plans to put two ballot measures before voters that would ban out-of-state political contributions for ballot questions and raise tobacco taxes to improve tech school affordability, an unorthodox move by a high-ranking lawmaker well-positioned to sway state policy.

But Mark Mickelson, a member of a famous South Dakota political family, has proven unpredictable since joining the Legislature in 2013. The Sioux Falls Republican said he’s taking the measures to the voters because it’s unlikely they would prevail in the statehouse.

A similar contribution cap bill failed this year…

His initiative would prohibit contributions to ballot question committees from nonresidents, out-of-state political committees and entities that haven’t filed with the Secretary of State’s office for the preceding four years.

Experts have said such measures are unlikely to survive a legal challenge, and critics argue they would restrict free speech.

New York Times: Why Outside Groups Aren’t Spending in the New York Mayor’s Race

By J. David Goodman

Other dynamics are at work this time around, according to consultants and interest groups who spent heavily last time and have, so far, remained on the sidelines. For one, new city legislation after the last election imposed rules on outside spending, including that advertisements and mailings show not only the name of the outside group paying for the message, but also the group’s top funders. That caused consternation among some potential donors, particularly among real estate interests.

And that some of those who became involved in campaigns last time were questioned by state and federal investigators during the inquiries into Mr. de Blasio’s fund-raising during the 2013 campaign has also dampened some voices. (No charges were filed as a result of the investigations.)

“They’ve been dissuaded, or chilled, by some of the reaction to 2013 spending,” said Scott Levenson, the president and founder of the Advance Group, which ran an independent spending campaign against Christine C. Quinn, then the City Council speaker and the presumptive favorite for mayor.

Louisville Courier-Journal: ACLU of Kentucky: Quit blocking constituents on social media, Gov. Bevin

By Phillip M. Bailey

The ACLU of Kentucky is asking Gov. Matt Bevin to stop blocking constituents from his official social media pages and to open those internet forums to the hundreds of people currently prohibited from engaging him on those accounts.

As the Courier-Journal reported in June, Bevin has blocked roughly 600 accounts – many belonging to Kentuckians – from his official Facebook and Twitter pages, limiting their users’ ability to see his posts or engage him in conversation.

ACLU officials told Bevin, a Republican, in a July 11 letter that such actions are a violation of those individuals’ free speech rights under the state and U.S. Constitution…

On Friday afternoon, Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger disputed the idea that it’s unconstitutional to block people who behave inappropriately on social media.

“Blocking individuals from engaging in such inappropriate conduct on social media in no way violates their right to free speech under the U.S. or Kentucky Constitutions, nor does it prohibit them from expressing their opinion in an open forum,” Maglinger said in a statement to the Courier-Journal.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco


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