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Sunday, January 12, 2020

What we mean by one-sided

Reviews for the documentary "No Safe Spaces"--an exploration featuring Adam Corolla and Dennis Prager of anti-conservative speech restrictions on college campuses--have divided along expected partisan lines. Conservative publications praise it for exposing anti-conservative-speech biases on campus, liberal publications decry its one-sidedness in criticizing campus liberals as censorious, without considering the problems that racist, sexist, etc., speech causes on campus.

This column is the first I have seen calling the film out for a different one-sidedness: Not engaging with equal-and-opposite efforts by conservative groups and leaders--including the President--against liberal speech. The author labels this "free-speech tourism," waving the banner of free speech when their political compatriots are attacked, while seeking to impose similar restrictions on speakers they find political objectionable. Thus, the film celebrates supposed free-speech champions who have called for de-platforming of liberal speakers and have sued critics on specious defamation claims. In an interview described in the piece, Corolla pleaded ignorance to censorship efforts from the other side, which should show a lack of seriousness or understanding of the project.

The combination of this column and left-leaning criticism of the film reveals where we are: Much of the right is not serious about its First Amendment advocacy, while much of the left does not want to talk about, or use, the First Amendment.

The piece closes on a nice point about free speech:

The doc's inability to grapple with growing animosity toward free speech on both sides of the political aisle shows just how hollow these concerns among conservative "free-speech tourists" are. * If you don't call out your own side or loudly defend the First Amendment rights of your political enemies, you're not a free-speech warrior. You're a free-speech tourist.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 12, 2020 at 04:09 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


Howard, my apologies that this is super off-topic, but since you follow baseball I'm hoping you could shed some light on this.

Why is sign-stealing such a no-no in baseball? It seems like a solid strategy if you're able to decode the other team's signs.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Jan 13, 2020 7:40:30 PM

I haven't seen the documentary or any of the reviews of it except for the one that Howard points to above. Reading that one review, though, its evidence of similar restrictiveness on the right toward speech on the left struck me as rather thin. Given that, the "if you don't condemn both sides you aren't genuine" argument struck me as weak. Maybe there is more support for the claim that the review makes out, and it's certainly true that many people making the claim are driven the political implications of the claim. But I was somewhat underwhelmed by the evidence here.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jan 13, 2020 4:25:49 AM

Actually, I think the crazed quest to find a reason to dismiss the right's criticism shows where we are.

The left absolutely refuses to listen to valid criticisms from the right and hides behind the painfully thin: "but they didn't talk about the right" argument. It's maddening and infuriating and somehow assumes that simply because a show doesn't give "equal time" its criticisms are invalid--which, interestingly is the exact argument leftists make against the right when it argues that the news media presents predominantly negative stories of right politicians.

So, this is the left trying to have its cake and eat it, too. In short, the documentary was never going to be fair enough or good enough to satisfy left-wing critics. You know this; so do I.

And I say this as a left-of-center person.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Jan 12, 2020 7:35:39 PM

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