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Category Archives: Free Speech

Tools for Thinking About Censorship

ReactorMag – “One price of free speech is eternal humility, recognizing that none of us is immune to becoming a tool of censorship if we fail to recognize its manipulative tactics. Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?” This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.) This is not a direct analysis of the current 2023 Chengdu Hugo Awards controversy. But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries. The conclusions here are helpful for understanding this situation, but equally applicable to thinking about when school libraries bow to book ban pressures, how controversies impact book publishing in the USA and around the world, and historical cases: from the Inquisition, to censorious union-busting in 1950s New Zealand, to the US Comics Code Authority, to universities censoring student newspapers, etc. The first and most important principle is that we cannot and should not draw a line between state censorship and private or civilian censorship. Many analyses of censorship start by drawing this line and analyzing state action and private action separately. There are many problems with trying to draw such a line, but the most important is this: The majority of censorship is self-censorship, but the majority of self-censorship is intentionally cultivated by an outside power…”

Politics makes bastards of us all: Why moral judgment is politically situational

Kyle Hull, Clarisse Warren, Kevin Smith. Politics makes bastards of us all: Why moral judgment is politically situational [full text free to read]. Political Psychology, 2024; DOI: 10.1111/pops.12954 – “Moral judgment is politically situational—people are more forgiving of transgressive copartisans and more likely to behave punitively and unethically toward political opponents. Such differences are widely observed,… Continue Reading

The Dignity Index is designed to prevent violence, ease divisions, and solve problems

“The Dignity Index scores distinct phrases along an eight-point scale from contempt to dignity. Lower scores (1-4) reflect divisive language while higher scores (5-8) reflect language grounded in dignity. In its pilot season, a trained group of students supported by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and the Hinckley Institute of Politics… Continue Reading

Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies

The Atlantic [read free] “By now, December’s congressional hearing about anti-Semitism at universities, during which the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT all claimed that calls for the genocide of Jews would violate their university’s policies only “depending on the context,” is already a well-worn meme. Surely there is nothing left to… Continue Reading

Book Banning Goes Digital: Libraries Suspending Their E-Book Services and the Complications It Poses For First Amendment Doctrine

Book Banning Goes Digital: Libraries Suspending Their E-Book Services and the Complications It Poses for First Amendment Doctrine – Catherine E. Ferri.  Stanford Technology Law Review, Stanford Law School. Volume 27  Issue 1.  “Book banning predates the United States and has survived and thrived in a splintered twenty-first century political climate. As the fight for… Continue Reading

“Cast as Criminals, America’s Librarians Rally to Their Own Defense”

The New York Times [read free]: “…As America’s libraries have become noisy and sometimes dangerous new battlegrounds in the nation’s culture wars, librarians like Ms. Neujahr and their allies have moved from the stacks to the front lines. People who normally preside over hushed sanctuaries are now battling groups that demand the mass removal of… Continue Reading

A Brief History of the Grand Old American Tradition of Banning Books

LitHub: “Book banning is a chaotic and illogical business. How a book is received or understood is often subject to the historical moment—and the tastes of individuals. The notion of an objective measure or checklist to decide what is “appropriate”—something far-right school boards have worked to police and enforce—has long been slippery to define. In… Continue Reading

The Chronicle of Higher Education Releases Updated DEI Legislation Tracker

Business Wire: “The Chronicle of Higher Education today announced its updated DEI Legislation Tracker, which is following 49 bills in 23 states to restrict efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion and prohibiting colleges from a range of DEI initiatives. Republican politicians in early 2023 launched an assault on colleges’ diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to recruit… Continue Reading

Protecting Students from Faulty Software and Legislation: 2023 Year in Review

EFF: “Lawmakers, schools districts, educational technology companies and others keep rolling out legislation and software that threatens students’ privacy, free speech, and access to social media, in the name of “protecting” children. At EFF, we fought back against this overreach and demand accountability and transparency. Bad bills and invasive monitoring systems, though sometimes well-meaning, hurt… Continue Reading

International Threats to Freedom of Expression: 2023 Year in Review

EFF: “2023 has been an unfortunate reminder that the right to free expression is most fragile for groups on the margins, and that it can quickly become a casualty during global conflicts. Threats to speech arose out of the ongoing war in Palestine. They surfaced in bills and laws around the world that explicitly restrict… Continue Reading

Read it yourself: All 673 books removed from Orange classrooms

Orlando Sentinel: “These books are among the 673 rejected by Orange County Public Schools this year [read free] for fear they violate a new Florida law that prohibits “sexual conduct” in books available to students. The books were in teachers’ classroom libraries. The books will get another review by OCPS staff, and could be returned… Continue Reading

The lives upended by Florida’s school book wars

Washington Post (read free): “…The battle over what children should be allowed to read in school has riven Florida’s Escambia County School District. It’s part of a national battle, as school book objections surge to historic highs across the country. In Escambia County, the controversy kicked off in 2022, when a high school language arts… Continue Reading