Court Decision Protects Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Centers in Baltimore

In a ruling seven years in the making, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the city of Baltimore to “lay down the arms of compelled speech” it had taken up against pro-life pregnancy centers, once and for all, last Friday.

The decision upholds a series of previous rulings in favor of Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, the named plaintiff who challenged a 2009 city ordinance that forced the city’s Christian nonprofit pregnancy centers to post signage in their waiting rooms saying they do not offer or refer for abortions.

City politicians will no longer be able to abuse their power to silence those with differing messages.

Now, rather than strong-arming their opponents, they must—in the words of the court—“wield only the tools of persuasion” in their effort to appease Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and others in the abortion lobby who backed the law from its inception to its recent demise at the 4th Circuit.

At least 10 pregnancy help centers in the city of Baltimore are being spared the city’s “weaponized” attack on their work—including Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, which opened its fifth location in May 2017, right next door to a Planned Parenthood.

A legal process that has played out since early 2010 has failed to establish even one instance of pregnancy centers deceiving or misleading women into their offices, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the ruling.

“After seven years of litigation and a 1,295-page record before us, the city does not identify a single example of a woman who entered the Greater Baltimore Center’s waiting room under the misimpression that she could obtain an abortion there,” Wilkinson, a Ronald Reagan appointee, wrote.

With pregnancy centers awaiting the Supreme Court’s say on a 2015 California law that forces state-licensed pro-life medical clinics to tell women where and how to get taxpayer-funded abortions, the 4th Circuit’s ruling could play into a number of state and local efforts to curb life-saving alternatives to abortion.

>>> Judge Halts California Law Forcing Pro-Lifers to Advertise Abortions

As Wilkinson pointed out in his decision, the Baltimore and California cases are distinct from one another because of the actual wording of their respective mandates, as well as the nature of clinic licensure in each state.

However, both laws are the result of a hostile effort to silence one side of the debate. That’s why both—as well as those in Hawaii, Illinois, New York City, and Hartford (Connecticut)—run afoul of the First Amendment and could be struck down in the long run.

“A speech edict aimed directly at those pregnancy clinics that do not provide or refer for abortions is neither viewpoint nor content neutral,” Wilkinson wrote. “We do not begrudge the city its viewpoint. But neither may the city disfavor only those who disagree.”

Abortion Fans Neck-Deep in Science Denial

While the decision likely marks the end of the road for Baltimore’s attack on pregnancy centers, it’s also just one of a recent flurry of failed hit jobs from abortion advocates aimed at alternatives to their only solution in an unexpected pregnancy.

In addition to the more significant loss in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, abortion crusaders have recently been dealt two stunning defeats in their all-out war on pro-life centers.

In December 2017, the California Board of Registered Nursing cleared a path for Heartbeat International—a worldwide network of over 2,400 pregnancy help locations, which includes Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns—to educate U.S. nurses on a life-saving intervention known as Abortion Pill Reversal.

>>> Big Victory for Abortion Pill Reversal Training in California

The decision from California’s nursing board came at the tail end of a nearly two-year battle sparked and fueled solely by abortion extremists bent on robbing women of the choice to reject a chemical abortion once they’d started the procedure.

Having successfully saved 400 babies and counting—and backed by a provider network of 350 physicians—Abortion Pill Reversal is consistently and relentlessly decried by abortion devotees as “unproven” and “junk science” despite the fact that it’s responsible for rescuing babies like Giselle, born Dec. 1, 2017.

While the abortion-only ideology is clearly pervasive in California politics, the board of nursing withstood heavy pressure from abortion lobbyists and kowtowing lawmakers alike, choosing instead to agree with Heartbeat International’s argument that Abortion Pill Reversal is both science-based and effective—even though it’s unpopular with the left.

A Big Waste of Time

A third strategy now backfiring in real time is abortion zealots’ ongoing effort to smear pregnancy centers with fake clients and fake online reviews.

Former comedienne Lizz Winstead launched the latest wave of vitriol last summer with her so-called “Expose Fake Clinics” campaign. The campaign not only failed, it failed spectacularly.

In Winstead’s opening salvo, a phony rally outside of a life-saving center in Pittsburgh, a man and his son—a toddler whose life had been saved through the center’s work—interrupted Winstead’s snarling crew and forced them to face the fact that his son was there as a result of the center’s ongoing work.

Winstead’s efforts continued to flounder, but she tried to resurrect the project this fall, this time with a special emphasis on ginning up negative pregnancy center reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo.

Rather predictably—considering 99 percent of pregnancy center clients report a positive experience—the online plank of Winstead’s campaign failed just as spectacularly as its in-person version, with Google removing several dozen fake reviews by late October.

Shades of Winstead’s online crusade continued through late 2017 and into the new year, but Tim Stephens of Extend Web Services—which creates and hosts websites and monitors online ratings for 169 pregnancy centers—said Google has removed hundreds of negative reviews to date, with more reviews coming down every day.

“We’ve finally been able to get Google to take a stand against these slanderous campaigns that are using Google’s own tools to spread false information and attack pregnancy centers,” Stephens said.

“The campaigners thought they were going to lay waste to the online reputations of pro-life organizations, but really the only waste left behind was their own time.”

As the abortion industry continues to spin its wheels in opposition to pro-life efforts, the pregnancy help community continues to celebrate lives saved and families transformed, one woman at a time.

And, should the courts continue to shift the battlefield from government coercion to compassionate persuasion, the pregnancy help community can expect to go on celebrating more and more lives in the coming year.

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Here’s How Bad Left-Wing Antics on Campus Were in 2017

A frequent point I have made in past columns has been about the educational travesty happening on many college campuses.

Some people have labeled my observations and concerns as trivial, unimportant, and cherry-picking. While the spring semester awaits us, let’s ask ourselves whether we’d like to see repeats of last year’s antics.

An excellent source for college news is Campus Reform, a conservative website operated by the Leadership Institute. Its reporters are college students. Here is a tiny sample of last year’s bizarre stories.

Donna Riley, a professor at Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, published an article in the most recent issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Engineering Education, positing that academic rigor is a “dirty deed” that upholds “white male heterosexual privilege.”

Riley added that “scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing.”

Would you hire an engineering education graduate who has little mastery of the rigor of engineering? What does Riley’s vision, if actually practiced by her colleagues, do to the worth of degrees in engineering education from Purdue held by female and black students?

Sympathizing with Riley’s vision is Rochelle Gutierrez, a math education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In her recent book, she says the ability to solve algebra and geometry problems perpetuates “unearned privilege” among whites. Educators must be aware of the “politics that mathematics brings” in society.

She thinks that “on many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness.” After all, she adds, “who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White.”

What’s worse is that the university’s interim provost, John Wilkin, sanctioned her vision, telling Fox News that Gutierrez is an established and admired scholar who has been published in many peer-reviewed publications.

I hope that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s black students don’t have the same admiration and stay away from her classes.

Last February, a California State University, Fullerton professor assaulted a CSUF Republicans member during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The students identified the assailant as Eric Canin, an anthropology professor.

Fortunately, the school had the good sense to later suspend Canin after confirming the allegations through an internal investigation.

Last month, the presidents of 13 San Antonio colleges declared in an op-ed written by Ric Baser, president of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, and signed by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and 12 other members of the council that “hate speech” and “inappropriate messages” should not be treated as free speech on college campuses.

Their vision should be seen as tyranny.

The true test of one’s commitment to free speech doesn’t come when he permits people to be free to make statements that he does not find offensive. The true test of one’s commitment to free speech comes when he permits people to make statements he does deem offensive.

Last year, University of Georgia professor Rick Watson adopted a policy allowing students to select their own grade if they “feel unduly stressed” by their actual grade in the class.

Benjamin Ayers, dean of the school’s Terry College of Business, released a statement condemning Watson’s pick-your-own-grade policy, calling it “inappropriate.” He added:

Rest assured that this ill-advised proposal will not be implemented in any Terry classroom. The University of Georgia upholds strict guidelines and academic policies to promote a culture of academic rigor, integrity, and honesty.

Ayers’ response gives us hope that not all is lost in terms of academic honesty.

Other campus good news is a report on the resignation of George Ciccariello-Maher, a white Drexel University professor who tweeted last winter, “All I Want for Christmas Is White Genocide.” He said that he resigned from his tenured position because threats against him and his family had become “unsustainable.”

If conservative students made such threats, they, too, could benefit from learning the principles of free speech.

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To the Citizens of Iran: We Stand With You

Nothing is as powerful as the truth.

That’s why repressive regimes actively suppress free speech and assembly of their citizens. It’s also why America’s Founding Fathers enshrined these basic rights into our nation’s founding documents.

On Dec. 28, 2017, protesters in Iran’s second largest city, Mashhad, took to the streets to voice their concerns over their country’s economic distress and rising food prices. These protests quickly grew, spreading to dozens of cities across Iran.

Iran’s leaders cannot dismiss concerns about the rising price of goods and increasing unemployment in their country. The Iranian regime received a generous influx of cash in 2015 as part of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal. Iran’s citizens believed these payments would give their economy a much-needed boost.

The truth is that Iran’s government would rather fund terrorist groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas, than meet the basic domestic needs of its people.

Now, as citizens push back and call for change, the regime’s brutality is on display. In attempt to squash the protests, the government has restricted use of internet applications commonly used to communicate and share news.

The government has even at times resorted to using gunfire to disperse crowds. To date, more than 20 protesters have died and more than 450 have been arrested. Additionally, there are news reports of brutal treatment of protesters who have been imprisoned.

Given the regime’s crackdown, the future of these protests is uncertain. While it is unlikely the deep concerns of the Iranian people will be resolved quickly, we do know they will not easily be silenced. The average age of the protesters is 25, meaning the next generation of Iranians long for change.

We’ve seen anti-government protests in Iran before. In 2009, Iranians questioned then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection. The regime took the same actions, which led to thousands imprisoned and hundreds dead.

As the world watched this violence break out, the Iranian people looked to America for support, but our government largely stayed silent.

Thankfully, this administration has chosen a different approach. President Donald Trump has already taken vital first steps, vocalizing support from the executive branch and even implementing new sanctions on five entities who are subsidiaries to the regime’s defense ministry. More sanctions could follow as a direct result of the treatment of these protesters.

I believe the people of Iran deserve bipartisan American support in their pursuit of reforms and a democratic government.

I recently introduced a House resolution that formally stands with the citizens of Iran and calls for a peaceful outcome to the demonstrations. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a Senate version of this resolution that has bipartisan support.

The House is expected to pass legislation this week that supports the rights of Iranians to free expression.

At this critical time, it is vital to lend our support to the Iranian people and their pursuit of freedom. As protests continue, we, as Americans, need to join together and say one thing to the brave citizens of Iran: We stand with you.

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What I Learned From The Heritage Foundation’s New Leader

The Heritage Foundation announced with some fanfare Dec. 19 that with the new year Kay Coles James would become president of the leading policy research organization, which turns 45 in 2018.

For some of those outside the Beltway and on behalf of one of the fastest-growing voting populations, millennials, permit me to pose the questions: Who is Kay Coles James, and why should we care?

In 2003, I attended the funeral of E.V. Hill, the great Baptist pastor, while I was a student at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. I remember sitting in the audience at West Angeles Church of God in Christ when it was announced that the White House had sent a representative on behalf of President George W. Bush. Much to my surprise, Kay Coles James, then director of the U. S. Office of Personnel Management, stepped to the pulpit.

I was awestruck because this lady was someone I greatly respected and admired as a young conservative. Little did I know that I would end up working in the same administration, much less have the honor of Kay’s taking me under her wing as one of the many young African-American conservatives she has mentored along the way.

When Kay founded The Gloucester Institute and restored Holly Knoll, that beautiful house off Virginia’s York River that once belonged to celebrated educator Robert Russa Moton, I visited her home for one of the earliest meetings of what she called the First Saturday Group.

Dozens gathered at Kay’s invitation to foster dialogue about the future of conservative thought in the black community. I distinctly remember her giving everyone a chance to speak on political matters without judgment or ridicule. She created a safe place for us.

As Kay developed programming for her organization, it became clear to me that her intent was to bring back the best of the days of true diversity—diversity of thought, background, life experience, and even race. She would state her mission: “The Gloucester Institute provides an intellectually safe environment where ideas can be discussed and transformed into practical solutions that produce results, and a site to train and nurture emerging leaders.”

Kay at her core is a solutionist, one who believes conservative principles can uplift not tear down, encourage not stifle, and create opportunities not pacify the status quo. She does more than talk about the issues of the day; she wants to find solutions to the problems, and turns to millennials to make them a part of the conversation.

She once told me at dinner: “Paris, I am doing all this for you, for your generation, for the next generation of leaders in our movement. It is not about me.”

The author embraces Kay Coles James after speaking at a Dec. 18 event in her honor. (Photo courtesy Paris Dennard)

The nation and the world need Kay’s voice at this time, in this position, using the prestigious platform at The Heritage Foundation. We need her leadership to fight for and promote the timeless American principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

Kay is uniquely qualified not only because she knows Heritage, having been on its Board of Trustees since 2005. She also has an impressive resume at least 2 miles long, has advised every modern Republican president, and has even been on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” But those things are not as important as the fact that she is a strong woman of faith and a loving mother and grandmother.

Her best quality is that she listens, and seeks understanding. She brings people together, and is honest and unwavering in support of the black community. She has made significant investments in the lives of young college students across this country through her work at Gloucester.

At a time when free speech by conservatives on college campuses is under attack, Kay Coles James has visited campuses to challenge failed liberal ideas and eloquently articulate the heart of a committed conservative.

On several occasions, Kay asked me to be a judge during her “Great Debaters” programs. Students would research a topic then have to debate it on the spot from either the affirmative or negative perspective. The pride she took in seeing healthy intellectual rigor exercised through this competition was inspiring. She challenged these students to dig deeper, anticipate the hard questions, and test their own arguments.

Kay, who as a child lived in public housing in Richmond, Va., has challenged the conventional assertions of what it means to be liberal and conservative. She has proved that conservative principles can work for everyone. With faith, opportunity, and hard work, you can sit on corporate boards, serve governors and presidents, and then lead the foremost conservative public policy organization in the world.

In the new year, she will guide a leading think tank’s independent policy research, and her influence and ability to speak truth to power will be of tremendous value to Congress and the Trump administration.

President-elect Donald Trump trusted Kay so much that he asked her to serve as a key figure on his transition team. State governors know her. Leaders on both sides of the aisle, at all levels of government, know her. Thousands of college students, especially at historically black colleges and universities, know her.

For many years, Kay would have students in her Emerging Leaders program participate in personal and professional development training. She was focused on the whole individual, inside and out. All these people, like myself, have come not only to know her but to trust her.

And now many more will come to know and trust Kay’s wisdom through her new work and leadership at The Heritage Foundation.

I have no doubt that Kay will help raise a new generation of conservative, solution-based, independent thinkers. They, like others before them, will come to respect the fact that she, first, listens and, second, acts to make things better—not just for the black community and for millennials, but for the entire nation that she selflessly has devoted her life to improving.

Kay Coles James is nothing less than an unapologetic force for good, and Heritage is blessed to have her as president.

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The History of Fake News in the United States

Fake news isn’t suddenly ruining America, but putting government in charge of deciding what news is fake will.

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, numerous media outlets ran stories claiming that many websites had published false stories that helped Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

Since then Left-leaning opinion writers have called for a solution to this alleged epidemic. The New York Times reported last January that Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Google will team up with legacy media outlets to fact-check stories and curtail the proliferation of “fake news.”

However, intentionally misleading news has been around since before the invention of the printing press. In fact, our Founding Fathers grappled with this very issue when they created our system of government. They saw that while it was tempting to censor fake stories, ultimately the truth was more likely to be abused by an all-powerful government arbiter than the filter of unimpeded popular debate. Attempts to weed out factually incorrect news reports can quickly morph into fact-checking and manipulating differences in opinion.

Fortunately, there have been few serious calls in the United States for official censoring of political news or media, in contrast to most of the world, including Europe. Freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and even the freedom to be wrong make America great and exceptional. In addition to preserving liberty, our free-wheeling tradition gives the United States an edge in adapting to the increasingly decentralized media landscape that is a natural product of the Internet Age. Most importantly, it produces a more critically informed populace in the long term.

The Founders and the Free Press

The Founding Fathers were well aware of the power of the press, for good or ill. After all, many of them, such as Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine, were newspapermen and pamphleteers. The revolutionary ideas they disseminated throughout the colonies found eager readers, putting them high on King George III’s enemies list.

Three years after the Constitution was ratified, the American people amended it by adding the Bill of Rights, which included the First Amendment and its protections of the media. However, the Founders understood that a free press was not an entirely unqualified blessing; some had reservations.

Elbridge Gerry, who was present at the Constitutional Convention, lamented how con artists in his home state were manipulating the people. “The people do not [lack] virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots,” Gerry said at the convention. “In Massachusetts it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute.”

The Founders saw that while it was tempting to censor fake stories, ultimately the truth was more likely to be abused by an all-powerful government arbiter than the filter of unimpeded popular debate.

Benjamin Franklin also warned about the power of the press, which the public must put so much trust in. In a short essay, Franklin explained how the press acted as the “court” of public opinion and wielded enormous unofficial power.

For an institution with so much influence, Franklin noted that the bar for entry into journalism is remarkably low, with no requirement regarding “Ability, Integrity, Knowledge.” He said the liberty of the press can easily turn into the “liberty of affronting, calumniating, and defaming one another.”

The Founders wrote constitutional protections for the press with open eyes, as their written remarks record. Yet, the evils that come through the occasional problems of a free press are heavily outweighed by its benefits. Lies may proliferate, but the truth has a real chance to rise to the top.

Thomas Jefferson said that the most effectual way for a people to be governed by “reason and truth” is to give freedom to the press. There was simply no other way. He wrote in a letter to Gerry:

I am […] for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.

Liars and scandal mongers may occasionally have success in a system without censorship, but truth was ultimately more likely to be found when passed through the people as a whole. Jefferson wrote:

It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation between the abuse and the wholesome use of the press, that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate, with the discrimination between truth and falsehood. And hitherto the public judgment has performed that office with wonderful correctness.

Despite full knowledge of the media’s often unscrupulous power over public opinion, the Founders chose to grant broad protections to a decentralized press, opting to place their faith in newspapers checking one another with more efficacy and less risk of bias than heavy-handed government crackdowns.

When the Federalist Party passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts under President John Adams to clamp down on “false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government in the midst of the “Quasi War” with France, there was an immense backlash. A few journalists were arrested, but the governing party was crushed in future elections and ceased to exist shortly thereafter. In the United States, press freedom would become an almost unquestioned element of American culture and policy.

Things worked out differently across the Atlantic. In France, a popular uprising, stoked by a rabid press, led to mob violence, tyranny, and oppressive censorship. Revolutionary scribblers initially brought an end to the Old Regime and the royal restrictions on speech, but freedom of the press didn’t last. After the monarchy was crushed, the revolutionaries censored the press even more ruthlessly than had the Bourbon kings. The radicals argued that press freedom was leading people astray and impeding their revolution.

Maximilien Robespierre, leader of the Jacobin party, called journalists “the most dangerous enemies of liberty.” Robespierre and his allies in the French government created a state-sponsored newspaper to counter what they saw as the media’s lies. Then, seeing that even that was not enough to prevent alternative opinions from growing, began to arrest and execute those who opposed the policies of the government. Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror” gripped France for more than a year, during which 16,594 official death sentences were handed out.

In the mid-20th century, the American press became more centralized and the country opened its media sector to many of the same problems that had plagued European media.

Calls for liberty ended with censorship and ultimately the guillotine for unbelievers. Clearly there was a difference between the American and French regimes and cultures, both nominally standing for liberty, but arriving at radically different ends.

A Frenchman who was a keen observer of both systems explained why freedom of the press worked out so differently in these sister republics.

Tocqueville, the United States, and France

Alexis de Tocqueville caught on to why liberty of the press worked so much better in the United States than in his home country. One system was almost entirely free from suggestions of government censorship and the other perpetually in danger of falling prey to the “instincts of the pettiest despots.”

Americans understood, wrote Tocqueville in his book “Democracy in America”, that creating a government body with the power to assess the truth in media would be far more dangerous than any system of press freedom. They instinctively knew that:

Whoever should be able to create and maintain a tribunal of this kind would waste his time in prosecuting the liberty of the press; for he would be the absolute master of the whole community and would be as free to rid himself of the authors as of their writings.

In other words, the creation of such an official “court” to oversee media truth would logically end in absolute tyranny. Tocqueville concluded that “in order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.”

Fortunately, America had a diverse and highly decentralized press from the beginning. Not so in France, which had a highly centralized press both in terms of geography and number of media organizations. Therefore, Tocqueville wrote, in a centralized media environment such as France, “[t]he influence upon a skeptical nation of a public press thus constituted must be almost unbounded. It is an enemy with whom a government may sign an occasional truce, but which it is difficult to resist for any length of time.”

France never really changed. It continued a cycle of crackdowns on the free press as new regimes took power. Instead of decentralizing the press of the monarchical regime, each successive set of revolutionaries seized the central apparatus for their own purposes. In 1852, when the Second Empire under Napoleon III took power, the government said
that censorship would be implemented for public safety.

A petition message to the legislative body concluded: “As long as there exists in France parties hostile to the Empire, liberty of the press is out of the question, and the country at large has no wish for it.”

Though President Trump has caused concern by calling members of the press “enemies of the people,” his threats against the press come through mockery and rebuke rather than official sanctions. Presidential media hating has been around since George Washington was in office, but there have been few serious proposals to actually crack down on reporting.

By contrast, the press is treated quite differently in France, where citizens are placed on a 44-hour legal media blackout on the eve of elections. As USA Today reported, in the days leading up to the French presidential election, the media were warned not to report on data leaks from candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign. The French election commission said that the leaks likely contained some fraudulent data, i.e. “fake news,” and any reporting on it or even passing it along on social media could lead to criminal charges.

Jim Swift of The Weekly Standard pointed out the obvious: “This is censorship, plain and simple. In the Internet Age, reporters and citizens around the globe can share information—be it about the Macron hack or not—on Twitter, Facebook, or on their websites. The French press and citizenry? Repressed.”

But The New York Times praised the reporting ban, and emphasized the benefits of the centralized French system over the more freewheeling ones in Britain and the United States. In a recent article, The Times noted:

The contrast may have been amplified further by the absence of a French equivalent to the thriving tabloid culture in Britain or the robust right-wing broadcast media in the United States, where the Clinton hacking attack generated enormous negative coverage.

“We don’t have a Fox News in France,” said Johan Hufnagel, managing editor of the Left-wing daily Libération, according to The New York Times. “There’s no broadcaster with a wide audience and personalities who build this up and try to use it for their own agendas.”

A similar scandal occurred in the United States when Wikileaks published thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee that cast the Clinton campaign in a negative light. Yet, there was no censorship of the information; the American people would not have stood for it.

Who has the better system? Since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, France has gone through five republics, two empires, and four monarchies. Despite the bumptious nature of American politics and media, it would be foolish to bet on France’s fifth republic outlasting America’s first.

Americans have been lucky to have a decentralized media through most of their history and a culture that strongly embraces the idea of a truly free press. Those arrangements have had a long-lasting impact on American institutions and have made the country resistant to authoritarian impulses. However, in the mid-20th century, the American press became more centralized and the country opened its media sector to many of the same problems that had plagued European media.

Some glamorize the era in which a few television companies and big newspapers became media gatekeepers, similar to the model that currently exists in France. This nostalgia for “more responsible” journalism ignores the fact that some of the most egregious fake news blunders were perpetrated by an unchecked centralized press. Perhaps the worst offense of all came from The New York Times.

The New York Times and the Fraud of the Century

Today, a 30-foot-long bronze wall stands in Northwest Washington, D.C., and on this wall is the simple image of a wheat field. It is a monument to the victims of The Holodomor, a monstrous genocide committed by one of the most ruthless and authoritarian regimes in human history.

In 1932, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, frustrated that he could not crush Ukrainian nationalism, ordered that grain quotas for Ukrainian fields be raised so high that the peasants working the fields would not be left with enough food to feed themselves. NKVD troops collected the grain and watched over the populace to prevent them from leaving to find nourishment elsewhere.

As a result of these policies, as many as 7 million Ukrainians died of starvation in 1932 and 1933.

But while Stalin was conducting an atrocity with few equals in human history, The New York Times was reporting on the regime’s triumphs of modernization.

Walter Duranty, the Times Moscow bureau chief, won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence for his 1931 series of articles on the Soviet Union. Pulitzer in hand, he proceeded to perpetrate perhaps the worst incident of fake news in American media history at a time when Americans relied on the Times and a handful of other large media outlets to bring them news from around the world.

Duranty’s motivation for covering up the crimes taking place in Ukraine has never been fully ascertained. However, it undoubtedly gave the Bolshevik sympathizer better access to Stalin’s regime, which routinely fed him propaganda.

While privately admitting that many Ukrainians had starved to death, Duranty sent numerous reports back to the United States praising the good work of the Soviet government. He reported that there had been some deaths from “diseases due to malnutrition,” but called the suggestion that a widespread famine was taking place “malignant propaganda.”

These reports were highly influential in the United States and had enormous impact on U.S.-Soviet relations. Historian Robert Conquest wrote in his book, “The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine”, that due to the perceived credibility of The New York Times, the American people accepted the fraudulent accounts as true.

Sally J. Taylor wrote in her book “Stalin’s Apologist” that Duranty’s reports helped convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to extend official diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government in November of 1933. She wrote: “[A]lmost single-handedly did Duranty aid and abet one of the world’s most prolific mass murderers, knowing all the while what was going on but refraining from saying precisely what he knew to be true.”

Though Duranty’s reporting was a lie, The New York Times never questioned its authenticity and dismissed charges that their reporter was cooking up false reports. Famed British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote of this willful self-deception in his autobiography:

If the New York Times went on all those years giving great prominence to Duranty’s messages, building him and them up when they were so evidently nonsensically untrue […] this was not, we may be sure, because the Times was deceived. Rather it wanted to be so deceived, and Duranty provided the requisite deception material.

In the more centralized national media landscape of the mid-20th century, a fraudulent story like that published in the Times was both more likely to be believed and less likely to be debunked.

The Truth Cannot Be Centrally Planned

But America’s evolving media landscape is again moving toward decentralization. And, fortunately, the First Amendment is a mighty weapon against the suffocating and stultifying suppression of speech that frequently occurs in other nations.

The system the Founders created and intended for the United States was one that they hoped would lead our civilization to the truth. We have acquiesced to the fact that there will always be a great deal that the smartest and the wisest simply don’t know. No earthly, impartial arbiter has the capacity, or should have the capacity, to determine absolute fact for us—especially in the realm of politics, philosophy, and man’s relation to man.

For all the uncertainty and chaos that an unfettered media seem to engender, Americans have been best at ultimately veering closer to the truth than any other people. The First Amendment is one of the greatest of many gifts the Founding generation bequeathed us and has been a truly defining feature of American exceptionalism with few comparisons around the globe.

Through all the angst over fake news, fraudulent journalists, and media hyperbole, the American republic will survive. In the end, fake news peddlers will only damage their own reputations and bring doubt on their reporting. Fortunately, our freedom isn’t dependent on the musings of the White House press corps. It hinges on the Constitution and the liberty it was created to protect.

This article originally appeared in the fall edition of the Insider.

The post The History of Fake News in the United States appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Appeals Court Rules Bakers Must Pay $135,000 for Not Making Wedding Cake

A husband-and-wife baking team must pay a $135,000 fine for declining to make a cake for the wedding of two women, Oregon’s second-highest court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a decision by a state agency that led to the fine and forced Aaron and Melissa Klein to close their bakery.

The court ruled that baking wedding cakes is not “speech, art, or other expression” protected by the First Amendment. The judges said the state did not “impermissibly burden the Kleins’ right to the free exercise of religion” because it compelled the Christian bakers only to comply with “a neutral law of general applicability.”

Oregon law prohibits businesses from refusing service because of a customer’s sexual orientation, as well as because of race, gender, and other personal characteristics.

“We are very disappointed in the court’s decision,” Michael Berry, deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, which represents the Kleins, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Friday. “I think that punishing people for their religious beliefs is … not American, and it’s wrong.”

“It does not matter how you were born or who you love,” one of the lesbians, Laurel Bowman-Cryer, said in a written statement following the ruling. “All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores.”

Boyden Gray, former White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, argued the Kleins’ case. Gray told the three judges that the state violated the two bakers’ rights to free speech, religious freedom, and due process.

The Kleins had owned and operated Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.

>>> Bakers Accused of Hate Get Emotional Day in Court

After the Kleins declined in 2013 to make a cake for the wedding of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, citing their Christian religious beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, they also faced protests that eventually led them to shut down their bakery.

In July 2015, an administrative judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that the Kleins violated state law by discriminating against the Bowman-Cryers on the basis of their sexual orientation. The judge ordered the Kleins to pay the $135,000 for physical, emotional, and mental damages to the two women, as The Daily Signal previously reported.

Brad Avakian, Oregon’s elected labor commissioner, had affirmed the heavy damages against the Kleins, the Oregonian reported.

Berry, the First Liberty attorney, said his legal team is deciding how they will move forward, which could mean appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court.

“We’re evaluating our options at this point, obviously in terms of whether we are going to appeal, etc., and we’ll discuss all those options with Aaron and Melissa Klein and decide on the best course of action for them,” Berry said.

In a written statement, Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to protecting religious liberty, said the Kleins are being denied free speech.

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others,” Shackelford said. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We are disappointed that the court ruled against the Kleins.”

Berry said the Kleins’ situation is an abuse of their religious freedom.

“I think it’s a sad day for our Constitution and for the rule of law in this country when a family-owned bakery can be put out of business simply for trying to follow their religious beliefs,” he said.

The post Appeals Court Rules Bakers Must Pay $135,000 for Not Making Wedding Cake appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Problematic Women: Taylor Swift Isn’t Allowed to be Happy

According to New York Magazine, Taylor Swift isn’t allowed to be happy having a successful year in 2017—or thank fans for wishing her a happy birthday.

“I love you guys so much,” the pop singer shared on Instagram. “I couldn’t have asked for a better year, all thanks to you. Thanks for all the birthday wishes. Can’t wait to see what 28 will be like. See you on tour.”

But because Swift is “a straight, white, multi-millionaire pop star,” New York Magazine had a problem with her post.

“Congrats to the now 28-year-old Taylor Swift for being the only person who seemed to enjoy 2017,” the magazine tweeted, along with a column sarcastically listing “highlights” from the year, such as Trump getting sworn in as president, the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people, and the hurricanes devastated parts of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

In this week’s episode of “Problematic Women,” The Daily Signal addresses New York Magazine’s inability to be happy for Taylor Swift, as well as Rosie O’Donnell’s strange attempt to break the law. We also take on Hillary Clinton’s latest “What Happened” theory, E! news host Cat Sadlerand quitting her job over a pay dispute, and crown a group of Harvard sorority sisters who are vowing to continue recruitment despite it violating the schools’ “non-discrimination principles” our Problematic Woman of the Week.

Listen in our weekly podcast below.

The post Problematic Women: Taylor Swift Isn’t Allowed to be Happy appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The State Government Agency That Spied on Citizens

A new report on a government spying operation conducted by partisan bureaucrats should outrage and scare Americans everywhere.  It shows what can happen when, as the report says, partisans “weaponize” a government agency and use its powers to advance “political goals.”

Americans already have seen that when federal bureaucrats such as Lois Lerner or Samantha Power do that with the fearsome power of the IRS and our intelligence agencies, we face a threat to our liberty and the democratic process that is unparalleled in our history.

The 88-page report by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel details the notorious “John Doe” investigations that went after almost every conservative, nonprofit organization in Wisconsin (the state chapter of Club for Growth among them) for supposed violations of campaign finance laws.

Except that there were not any actual violations of the law, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  The court shut down the prosecutions in 2015, calling the legal theory under which the prosecutors were pursuing the case “unsupported in either reason or law.”

The state’s highest court used the word “amazing” in describing the “breadth” of documents seized by prosecutors through numerous, wide-ranging subpoenas and search warrants.  This included “virtually every document possessed by the [targets] relating to every aspect of their lives, both personal and professional, over a five-year span.”

The report from Schimel, a Republican, has an unbelievable list of 218 subpoenas and search warrants issued in the investigation–and this is only a “partial” list.

Prosecutors treated conservative organizations as if they were dangerous drug cartels or mob operations. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court said, they executed search warrants against the personal homes and families of the leaders of these nonprofits in “pre-dawn, armed, paramilitary-style raids in which bright floodlights were used to illuminate the targets’ homes.”

Here is the meritless theory behind the investigations: Any support for issues important to Gov. Scott Walker, such as the bill reducing union power over state government employees, was illegal “coordination.”

As the state Supreme Court said, however, our democracy is supposed to assure the “unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.” Instead, the prosecutors’ theories “would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.”

Meet John Doe

These investigations tried to criminalize political speech and political activity protected by the First Amendment.

The John Doe harassment was conducted by the state’s now-defunct Government Accountability Board–the agency responsible for elections and ethics matters–and local prosecutors, led by unrepentant Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm.

As this writer previously reported, the motive of Chisolm, a Democrat, was apparently very personal: His wife was a steward for the teachers union at a local high school and was upset over the union bill sponsored by Walker, a Republican.

The accountability board, known as GAB, was broken up into two separate agencies by the Wisconsin legislature after this debacle, and its former longtime director, Kevin Kennedy, the chief miscreant behind this abusive behavior, retired. Kennedy was part of the state’s elections bureaucracy for nearly 40 years.

Until this report, we only knew about two John Doe investigations.  Amazingly enough, however, Schimel’s investigators discovered a third and secret case, not revealed by bureaucrats, when they searched the former offices of the accountability board.

What Schimel labeled as “John Doe III” went even further that the John Doe I and John Doe II investigations.  According to his report, it “collected hundreds of thousands of private emails from dozens of Wisconsin Republicans (and at least two national conservative leaders, Ed Gillespie and Leonard Leo).” Gillespie, a Republican, just lost the governor’s race in Virginia; Leo is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group.

The John Doe III investigation gathered over 500,000 personal emails, which the report says were found in “unsecured boxes” in the basement of the board’s former offices. Thousands of private emails from Wisconsin Republicans also were found in several folders on computer servers marked “Opposition Research,” the report says.

In other words, the state agency that was supposed to be the nonpartisan regulator of elections and ethics in Wisconsin was staffed by bureaucrats who labeled Republican legislators as the “opposition” and saw nothing wrong with using the legal process to secretly obtain their personal email communications.

Getting Personal

How personal were these emails, and how far removed were they from having anything to do with elections, campaigning, or fundraising?

Schimel details some of the emails his investigators found on pages 67 and 68 of his report.  They include over 1,000 emails among members of a private Bible study group that met at a church in Middleton, Wisconsin; an email between parents discussing a daughter’s need for an OB-GYN; an email about prescription medications; and “dozens of emails sent to, received from, or regarding radio talk show hosts Mark Belling, Vicki McKenna, and Charlie Sykes.”

That means that emails from this writer, a guest numerous times on McKenna’s radio show, very well may be in this collection.  A leading conservative voice in Wisconsin, McKenna went after the Government Accountability Board and its abusive tactics in the John Doe investigations.

Schimel also found that the John Doe investigators “obtained, categorized, and maintained over 150 personal emails between state Sen. Leah Vukmir and her daughter, including emails containing private medical information and other highly personal information.”

These emails were found in one of the folders marked as “Opposition Research.” Vukmir plans to challenge U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, next year.

Leaks to the press by individuals involved in the John Doe investigations sparked Schimel’s probe.

When the courts ruled against the prosecutors, they issued orders that the prosecutors and bureaucrats no longer could review, examine, or access any of the documents they had seized. The Wisconsin Supreme Court later ordered all of the information destroyed and all seized property returned to its owners.

The Leak

Despite those orders, the London-based Guardian newspaper published an article in 2016 linking to 1,500 pages of documents under seal from the John Doe investigations. The leak occurred just 11 days before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to consider the prosecutors’ petition for it to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision ending the prosecution.

Schimel’s extensive investigation concluded that the leak, a criminal violation of the law, came from inside the Government Accountability Board.  From the particular documents leaked and the timing, it was clear to the state attorney general that the motivation was to attempt to influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. The high court, though, ultimately refused to take up the case.

Schimel notes that “only someone with an intimate knowledge of the case, a knowledge of campaign finance law, and familiarity with the leaked documents would know which documents to leak that would respond directly” to issues raised in the petition seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schimel also was able to determine the leak did not come from the Wisconsin courts or any of the district attorneys. The source was the accountability board, but that agency so mismanaged–through incompetence or intentional conduct–the handling of all of the documents in an unsecured, unmonitored setting that Schimel could not determine the leaker’s identity with the amount of proof required to win a criminal conviction.

The evidence, however, seems to point to Shane Falk, a former attorney at the accountability board. In his report, Schimel recommends action against a long list of individuals, including referring Falk to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, which oversees the licensing of lawyers and disciplines those who violate ethics rules.

Schimel also recommends initiation of contempt proceedings against nine individuals for violating various court orders issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the lower courts, including for leaving “hundreds of thousands of confidential documents” in the basement of the former board offices “in violation of a Supreme Court order.”

Among the nine are employees, lawyers, and investigators of both the Government Accountability Board and the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office, as well as the special prosecutor hired to help run the case—Frances Schmitz, a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer.

Prejudging the Evidence

Kennedy, the former head of the accountability board, also is on this list. To its great shame, the National Association of State Election Directors last year gave Kennedy an award despite all of the evidence of his wrongdoing and misbehavior in the John Doe investigations. The fact that Kennedy now is on the board of the U.S. Vote Foundation, a nonprofit voting rights organization, tells you everything you need to know about that entity.

Here is the bottom line, according to Wisconsin’s attorney general, after his review of the evidence in the case, including emails exchanged between prosecutors and Government Accountability Board lawyers:

GAB attorneys had prejudged the guilt of Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating and this dramatically influenced their ability to give competent legal advice.

GAB attorneys did not act in a detached and professional manner … they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the governor himself. … Because the attorneys for GAB (none of whom were experienced criminal prosecutors) prejudged the evidence and what it meant, they had difficulty accepting that their interpretation of the law was wrong.

The Government Accountability Board’s attorneys refused to accept the legitimacy of court rulings against them, too, labeling the rulings as a “bad joke” and “pathetic” and indulging in conspiracy paranoia.  One of the board’s lawyers, commenting on an adverse ruling, said: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but something does not smell right here.”

In his report, Schimel writes that the

words and actions by individuals supposedly part of a ‘non-partisan’ governmental body demonstrate … that some or all of these individuals did not maintain the kind of objectivity that is expected of officials legitimately investigating potential civil campaign law violations.  Indeed, it is to the Legislature’s credit that it disbanded GAB following this sordid tale.

This “sordid tale” of government spying on private individuals is a stain on Wisconsin’s reputation.  It should serve as a warning to the public about the dangers of out-of-control, unaccountable government bureaucrats who abuse their power and threaten Americans’ freedom to participate in the political process.

The post The State Government Agency That Spied on Citizens appeared first on The Daily Signal.

College Republicans Say Conservative Speaker Was Treated ‘Unfairly’ at Southern New Hampshire University

Conservative activist Matt Walsh came to Southern New Hampshire University at the request of the SNHU College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, but Walsh and College Republicans believe his speech was not treated fairly.

Walsh is a conservative columnist for the Daily Wire, a news website run by Ben Shapiro.

As the day of the event approached, events occurred, for which Walsh apologized to his audience at the end of his remarks.

Walsh described the actions taken that undermined the event. He claimed that the staff turned attendees away, that protesters tore down nearly all of the posters and advertisements for his speech, and that a professor lectured Walsh about being a “white privileged male”—then walked away when he sought to respond.

Walsh issued his full statement on his official Facebook page:

The Daily Signal reached out to Ruby Murphy, the executive director of the SNHU College Republicans and a senior studying justice studies and forensic psychology.

Murphy issued this statement regarding the incident:

At Southern New Hampshire University, there are many events that occur daily across our campus. Most of our events are free; however, it’s a common practice to reserve a “ticket” online to ensure your spot.

Most events end up having plenty of space for students who haven’t signed up, and those students are warmly welcomed into those events.

The SNHU College Republicans hosted a free, private event featuring our guest speaker, Matt Walsh. Prior to this event, the time slot for the opportunity to reserve a ticket was minimal and was closed out more than 24 hours before the event occurred.

The SNHU College Republicans hung up flyers across campus advertising Matt Walsh coming to speak to our students. Many of these flyers were ripped down by other students.

The SNHU College Republicans’ executive board asked our school for reimbursement for the money that was spent on printing the flyers. We were turned down.

The only factor that differentiated this event from all other events on our campus is that students of our university were turned away from available seats.

Students who were genuinely interested in our event, who even presented their student ID, were turned away at the door because they never reserved a ticket.

The College Republicans’ executive board even tried to compromise with [the campus public safety office] by offering to hold onto those students’ IDs until the event ended, in case the students caused a disruption.

This idea was also turned down. It is unclear why the SNHU College Republicans’ event has been treated unfairly, compared to all other events that take place on our campus.

The university and the SNHU College Republicans have since then held a reconciliatory event with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, to help resolve the issue.

 

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