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“Free Speech Is Being Weaponized”: Columbia Dean and New Yorker Writer Calls For More Censorship

By Jonathan Turley | December 11, 2020

We have been discussing how reporters, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and key advisers. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Now, Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. That’s right. A journalism dean and writer declaring that the problem is that free speech itself is allowing too much freedom on the Internet and other forums.

Coll’s comments came in a discussion on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he was asked by Kasie Hunt about the need for Big Tech to censor speech. Rather than defend the right of people to express themselves freely, Coll lashed out at companies like Facebook as “motivated, as all companies are, to make money” though at the same time is “acting like a public square.” He decried the failure to have more expansive regulation of free speech and showed little concern or merit for arguments from free speech advocates. Like Harvard academics who recently declared “China was right” about censorship, Coll just assumed that it was self-evident that too much free speech is a bad thing and that these companies need to protect people from harmful or false ideas.

“And yes, Facebook has moved somewhat. They’ve had a better election in 2020 than they did in 2016. They’ve learned to put some brakes on, you know, here and there, but you can’t get away from the fact that their mission is to connect everybody in the world. That’s what motivates Mark Zuckerberg and it’s his passion and he profoundly believes in free speech.”

What is most maddening is that Coll spoke on behalf of journalists in calling for less freedom:

“Those of us in journalism have to come to terms with the fact that free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principle of journalism and what do we do about that,. As reporters, we kind of march into this war with our facts nobly shouldered as if they were going to win the day and what we’re seeing that is because of the scale of this alternative reality that you’ve been talking about, our facts, our principles, our scientific method–it isn’t enough. So what do we do?”

That used to be an easy question. What you do is allow free speech to combat bad speech. What you do is support the right of citizens and journalists to publish without censorship. What you do is to embrace the freedom of expression while reinforcing the need to use that freedom to counter disinformation. Instead, Coll is joining the forces seeking to silence or curtail the speech of others. You do not support free speech by calling for its curtailment. For free speech advocates, it is as compelling as saying that we needed to “save” villages by destroying them in Vietnam. Worse yet, he is doing it in the names of “good journalism.”

December 11, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Over 30 New York scholars and activists spied on by former Mossad agents

Palestine Legal | February 28, 2019

NEW YORK — Palestine Legal confirmed today that a 2017 attempt to scare New Yorkers believed to support boycotts for Palestinian rights with bogus ‘cease and desist’ letters was the work of ex-Mossad agents. The Mossad is Israel’s foreign spy agency.

The New Yorker’s Adam Entous reported on how a private Israeli intelligence firm called Psy-Group spied on supporters of Palestinian rights. “The company said that its operatives drew up lists of individuals and organizations to target,” wrote Entous.

The article profiles UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian, who was targeted by Psy-Group along with eight other Palestinian rights activists.

Before expanding to California, the campaign initially targeted boycott supporters on college campuses in New York, according to the article.

One such attempt was the now-defunct blacklist website outlawbds.com, whose operatives sent dozens of fake letters threatening students, professors and grassroots activists with “legal proceedings” if they did not “cease and desist” from supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) for Palestinian rights. The New Yorker article identifies Psy-Group as the operators of the site.

Screenshot of Psy-Group email

“It’s scary to think that ex-Mossad agents were behind this spying,” said senior staff attorney Radhika Sainath, who advised over 30 individuals targeted by the letters. “The Mossad itself has a history of surveilling, sabotaging and assassinating Palestinian activists around the world.”

The people targeted by former Israeli intelligence agents with Psy-Group include faculty at Columbia University, New York University, multiple City University of New York (CUNY) campuses as well Black, Jewish, and Palestinian volunteers from groups such as Adalah-NY and Jewish Voice for Peace.

“It is disgraceful that professors and students in American public universities are being spied on and intimidated by the former agents of a foreign nation,” said CUNY professor Sarah Schulman, who was targeted by Psy-Group. “Fortunately, the commitment of grassroots Americans to Palestinian rights is increasing everyday, and no level of threatening covert operations can stop it.”

Though outlawbds.com and Psy-Group no longer exist, the tactics and methods they employed —anonymous blacklisting websites, fake profiles used to target or influence people, and smear campaigns—are all still in use by other anti-Palestinian groups, some of which potentially share information with the Israeli government. The largest example is the blacklist site Canary Mission, which has targeted hundreds of students and faculty who advocate for Palestinian rights.

While it is unclear what relationship Psy-Group had with active Israeli intelligence or government agencies, coordinating with a foreign government to secretly spy on people in the US may violate federal laws. The Israeli government has itself encouraged and funded such activities to covertly undermine the movement for Palestinian rights.

March 8, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pakistani Lawyer Representing Victims of Drone Strikes Prevented From Speaking in U.S.

Center for Constitutional Rights | April 9, 2012

Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar has been invited to speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, but the U.S. government is failing to grant him a visa.

The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, is important to the Summit because of his work providing legal aid to victims of CIA-operated drone strikes. Akbar filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has been a critical force in litigating and advocating on victims’ behalf.

While Akbar has traveled to the United States in the past, he has not been granted permission to return since becoming an outspoken critic of drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed hundreds of civilians. He was previously invited to speak about drone strikes at Columbia University in New York, but he never received a response to the visa application he filed in May 2011. One year later, he is still waiting for a response, and he has been unable to get an answer from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as to why his application is being held up.

“Denying a visa to people like me is denying Americans their right to know what the U.S. government and its intelligence community are doing to children, women and other civilians in this part of the world,” Akbar said. “The CIA, which operates the drones in Pakistan, does not want anyone challenging their killing spree. But the American people should have the right to know.”

The CIA’s secret drone program has killed hundreds of people in Pakistan with no due process and no accountability. Akbar represents families whose innocent loved ones have been killed and maimed in these drone attacks.

“Shahzad is the voice for these poor tribal people who have had no recourse,” said CODEPINK co-director Medea Benjamin. “It’s outrageous that our government is trying to keep him from speaking at the Drone Summit.”

“The Obama administration has already launched six times as many drone strikes as the Bush administration in Pakistan alone, killing hundreds of innocent people and devastating families,” said Leili Kashani, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “By refusing to grant Shahzad Akbar a visa to speak about this abhorrent reality in the United States, the Obama administration is further silencing discussion about the impact of its targeted killing program on people in Pakistan and around the world.”

The Drone Summit’s organizers vow to keep pressuring the U.S. government to grant Akbar a visa.

April 10, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Santorum warns of “Eurabia,” issues call to “evangelize and eradicate” Muslims

By Max Blumenthal | Al Akhbar | January 5, 2012

… In 2007, a few months after Santorum was ousted from the Senate in a landslide defeat, he accepted an invitation from right-wing provocateur David Horowitz to speak at “Islamo-Fascism Campus Awareness Week.” As I documented in my video report on Horowitz’s appearance at Columbia University that year, “Islamo-Fascism” week was a naked ploy to generate publicity for the frenetically self-promoting Horowitz while demonizing Muslim-Americans as a dangerous fifth column who required constant government monitoring and possibly worse. The event was so extreme that even Jewish groups like Hillel known for promoting Zionism on campus rejected it.

There is no video documentation or transcript of Santorum’s speech at Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” event. However, I was able to find a transcript of a speech Santorum delivered at Horowitz’s invitation in March 2007. During his address, the ex-Senator declared the need to “define the enemy,” but he made little effort to distinguish between the general population of Muslims and violent Islamic extremists. If anything, he seemed to conflate the two.

Here are a few of the remarkable statements Santorum made at Horowitz’s event:

“What must we do to win? We must educate, engage, evangelize and eradicate.”

“Look at Europe. Europe is on the way to losing. The most popular male name in Belgium — Mohammad. It’s the fifth most popular name in France among boys. They are losing because they are not having children, they have no faith, they have nothing to counteract it. They are balkanizing Islam, but that’s exactly what they want. And they’re creating an opportunity for the creation of Eurabia, or Euristan in the future…Europe will not be in this battle with us. Because there will be no Europe left to fight.”

We should “talk about how Islam treats homosexuals. Talk about how they treat anybody who is found to be a homosexual, and the answer to that is, they kill them.”

“… the Shia brand of Islamist extremists [is] even more dangerous than the Sunni [version]. Why? Because the ultimate goal of the Shia brand of Islamic Islam is to bring back the Mahdi. And do you know when the Mahdi returns? At the Apocalypse at the end of the world. You see, they are not interested in conquering the world; they are interested in destroying the world.”

“The other thing we need to do is eradicate, and that’s the final thing. As I said, this is going to be a long war.”

The Islamophobic rant Santorum delivered at an event organized by a known bigot. … Full article

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment