November 26, 2014

Blocking roads does not equal free speech

Filed under: culture & social issues,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:16 pm

Ferguson, Day 4, Photo 32.png
Ferguson, Day 4, Photo 32” by LoavesofbreadOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the midst of the protests about the Ferguson grand jury decision, Boston.com came out with an article titled, “When it Comes to #Ferguson, Lots of People Think Their Commute Trumps Free Speech.” Protesters around the country decided, among other things, to block highways. Protesters in Boston, for example, led by the organization Black Lives Matter, blocked the Mass Ave. connector, and police decided to shut down access to the Mass Pike and I-93. Understandably, many people were upset about this. Contrary to what the article and its title suggest, I think these people have a point. The question is not whether commuting trumps free speech, but whether the right of people to use a road trumps the “right” of other people to physically block the road so that no one can use it. In my opinion, it does. Yes, everyone has the right to free speech, but blocking a road goes beyond speech and interferes with the rights of others. No matter what you think about the events in Ferguson and the grand jury’s decision, it’s not okay to express your opinion in a way that harms innocent people. It is not okay to destroy cars, buildings, or property as some protesters have done, nor is it okay to violate people’s right to travel on public roads.

Another thing that’s important to remember about the Ferguson case: contrary to what so many people seem to think, we shouldn’t make it about race. Everyone should agree that it’s wrong for cops to kill innocent people, regardless of the race of the people involved. Police brutality can happen with white cops and black victims, with black cops and white victims, or any combination of races. I don’t have enough information to know for sure whether Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown was self-defense, murder, or something in between. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what happened based on the fact that the cop is white and the young man who died was black. Instead of “Black Lives Matter,” why not “All Lives Matter”? Why not hold protests and demonstrations about police brutality and civil rights in general? Instead of limiting outrage to one race, why not fight for freedom for everyone?

August 9, 2014

Neutral, unbiased language is not racist (my thoughts on #APHeadlines)

Filed under: culture & social issues,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 5:19 pm

You are probably wondering why anyone would even need to write a blog post explaining the above. But reactions to the verdict in the Renisha McBride case demonstrate that apparently, this seemingly obvious truth is not obvious to everyone.

On Thursday, suburban Detroit homeowner Theodore Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting Renisha McBride, who had arrived on his porch drunk and banged repeatedly on the door. She had just been in a car crash and was looking for help from people living nearby. He claimed self defense. When the verdict was announced, the Associated Press had the audacity to tweet: “Suburban Detroit homeowner convicted of second-degree murder for killing woman who showed up drunk on porch.”

Derrick Clifton at Mic.com characterized this as a “particularly galling tweet” which “dehumanized the victim, invoking a long history of ignorance and victim-blaming endured by the African-American community.” In a column on BET.com, Keith Boykin called the tweet “sensationalistic” and “victim-shaming” and wrote that the AP “robbed Renisha McBride of her dignity in death.” Goldie Taylor, someone who was interviewed in Boykin’s column, said that the AP used “code words” that “seemed to be casting a moral judgment on the victim” and reflected a “cultural bias” in favor of Wafer. Rashad Robinson, also interviewed in Boykin’s column, said the AP “stoked the flames of fear and racial tension to sell a story.” Numerous people took to Twitter to ridicule the AP, using the hashtag, #APHeadlines.

I have read this tweet over and over again in my head. For the life of me, I cannot find anything even remotely offensive or objectionable about it. I see nothing “galling,” “ignorant,” or “dehumanizing” about summarizing, without comment or opinion, the basic facts of a case. Clifton criticizes the AP for “reducing the situation to a ‘Detroit homeowner’ who ‘fatally shot a drunk woman’ on his porch.” Well, yes. That is precisely what happened.

The fact that anyone would be even remotely offended by this tweet, let alone so offended that they would expend time and effort ridiculing the AP, boggles my mind.

Boykin contrasts the AP’s headline with that of the Detroit Free Press, which tweeted, “Theodore Wafer convicted of second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm in the fatal shooting of Renisha McBride.” Either of these headlines is acceptable. If anything, one could argue that the Free Press’s headline is biased against Wafer for listing all the crimes he was convicted of when second-degree murder is by far the most significant one. Additionally, Boykin suggested that it would be more appropriate to describe McBride as “unarmed” than “drunk.” I also think that this, if anything, would be a less neutral choice and would arguably create an impression of bias against Wafer.

And then there is the accusation of “victim-blaming.” No one is “victim-blaming” here. There is no debate about whether or not a victim should be blamed. The debate is about whether McBride or Wafer is the true victim. I think there are legitimate arguments on both sides. It is not right to imply, as Clifton and Boykin do, that McBride is obviously a victim of murder and Wafer obviously a murderer. Those who believe Wafer acted in self-defense are not “victim-blaming;” they simply have a different opinion about who the victim is. But regardless of whom you believe was the victim and whom you believe was the aggressor, the AP’s tweet did not take a side on this matter. The AP most certainly is not “victim-blaming” by reporting neutrally and factually (which is exactly what a news outlet is supposed to do).

We’ve now reached a state of affairs in which neutral, unbiased language is considered “galling,” and where anything other than being biased against white people is considered racist. All those who ridiculed the AP for the apparently grave sin of not being sufficiently biased and inaccurate should be ashamed of themselves.

Perhaps the most ironic tweet was the following:

First of all, the whole idea of “black Twitter” involves grouping people together by race, and is therefore racist. Second of all, why the pompous gloating about how the AP was “taken down a notch”? That implies that the AP did something wrong, or that there was something righteous or honorable about the hostile reactions of “black Twitter” (whatever the heck that is). Neither of these is the case. Third of all, the AP “put this on itself”? Really? A news organization brought completely unjustified ridicule from hordes of logic-challenged bullies on itself by tweeting a neutral, unbiased headline? Now that is victim-blaming.

November 14, 2012

It’s not about race, it’s about policies (continued)

Filed under: politics by Victoria Liberty @ 5:22 pm

Mitt Romney - Mr. 1% on the hunt for the Soon-to-Haves

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

On Sunday, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote one of the most offensive, inaccurate, mean-spirited, and, frankly, stupid things I’ve read in a while. Entitled “Romney Is President,” Dowd’s piece was at the top of the Times‘s “most read” list for a while and seems to be quite popular, so The Freedom Bulletin feels the need to respond to it. Like what I discussed in my previous post, Dowd’s column is another example of the tendency not to argue against your opponents’ ideas, but instead to ridicule your opponents and assign them completely fictitious motivations and beliefs.

Dowd argues, basically, that Mitt Romney is the president of “white male America,” allegedly the only group of people he cared about when running his campaign.

Continue reading…

November 12, 2012

It’s not about race, it’s about policies

Filed under: politics by Victoria Liberty @ 11:45 pm

Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey - Icons

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

So apparently it’s not enough that Democrats beat the you-know-what out of Republicans last week. They also have to ridicule Republicans based on racist, sexist stereotypes and presume to know, more than Republicans themselves, how Republicans view the world and why they believe what they do.

Am I the only person who is completely, utterly sick of people implying that anyone who dislikes President Obama must be a racist?

For example, CNN columnist LZ Granderson writes:

“Each time I see one of those ‘Take Our Country Back’ signs on someone’s lawn, I want to knock on the door and ask, ‘from whom?’

From whom are you trying to take this country back?

But I don’t, because I already know the answer.”

Continue reading…

April 23, 2012

Twitter death threats against Zimmerman

Filed under: Internet,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:23 pm

The Internet is a great thing. It allows people to find information about almost anything without having to go to a library or bookstore, and allows people (like me!) to express their views who otherwise would not be able to. But that can actually be a bad thing, as many recent tweets about George Zimmerman illustrate.

Unsurprisingly, when Zimmerman was released on bail last night, hordes of angry, often not very intelligent people took to Twitter to proclaim things like, “Ima kill zimmerman myself,” and “I WOULD KILL DA SHYT OUTTA DAT ZIMMERMAN DUDE IF I SAW HIS ASSS,” and “Start Writing Your Will! Justices Has Not Been Served.” *

And those are among the milder ones.

Continue reading…

March 24, 2012

Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground laws

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:59 pm

I don’t know what happened on February 26, when neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Probably the only person who knows exactly what happened is Zimmerman himself. Whether Zimmerman acted out of fear for his life (and therefore in self-defense) or out of racism has been widely debated. Zimmerman claims that Martin punched him, and various witnesses have said that they saw him with a bloody nose and lying on his back on the ground. On the other hand, because Martin was black (and Zimmerman part white and part hispanic), numerous people and organizations assume that Martin was shot because he was black. If Zimmerman decided that Martin looked suspicious because of his race, pursued him, and provoked a confrontation, then that would not only be racist of him, but would likely be murder. But if Zimmerman is telling the truth, then he acted in self-defense and did nothing wrong.

It’s always great to debate the facts known about a case and form opinions about what happened. But the New Black Panther Party went too far when they handed out flyers that read, “Child killer of Trayvon Martin wanted dead or alive.” And Minister Mikhail Muhummud, a regional director of that organization, went too far by saying that Zimmerman “should be afraid for his life.” It is wrong to call for someone’s death when you don’t know all the facts about a case.

It’s also wrong to demonize “Stand Your Ground” laws such as the one passed by the Florida legislature in 2005, giving people the right to use deadly force if they reasonably believe that their safety is threatened, whether they are in their homes or in public places where they have a right to be.

The Martin family’s lawyer criticized this law, saying, “You can’t go pick a fight with somebody and then say, ‘Oh, self-defense.'” But that’s not what the law allows. CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin said, “If you’re the first aggressor, if you are pursuing, you cannot avail yourself of this self-defense claim.” Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley said, “Nothing in Stand Your Ground’ authorizes (you) to pursue and confront.” And Governor Jeb Bush added, “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”

Stand Your Ground laws give people the right to defend themselves with deadly force when someone aggresses against them, instead of having a duty to retreat. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you aggress against someone, you forfeit your rights, and no one should ever be punished for defending themselves against an aggressor.

Whatever happened to Trayvon Martin, whether George Zimmerman is at fault or not, is undoubtedly tragic, but it is not the fault of Stand Your Ground laws and is not a reason to chip away at the right to self-defense.

December 31, 2011

Ron Paul and the racist, homophobic newsletters

Filed under: politics by Victoria Liberty @ 9:53 am

Ron Paul

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Now that Ron Paul is finally considered a legitimate presidential contender in the top tier of candidates, people are naturally looking for any way they can to tear him down. Apparently, the best thing they could find, and the thing that a disturbing number of people are starting to make a big brouhaha about, is several newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s, called the Ron Paul Survival Report, Ron Paul Freedom Report, and Ron Paul Political Report, which contained some arguably racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic comments.

Among the contents of these newsletters were things like “95 percent of black males in that city are semi-criminal if not entirely criminal,” and “it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist, philandering Martin Luther King,” and “I’ve laid bare the coming race war in our big cities, [and] the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS.”

Now, I have heard and read things that are more bigoted than anything in these newsletters. The newsletters do not, to my knowledge, actually state anything to the effect of, “black people are inferior to white people.” But the main problem with the Paul-bashing is that Paul consistently denies knowing the content of these newsletters, let alone writing them. Not exactly known for being phony, he has never, as far as I have heard, said anything even remotely racist in public. Or, says his former aide for 12 years, Eric Dondero, has he ever said anything racist in private. Dondero split with Paul because of disagreements about foreign policy and has been very critical of him on his blog, so if he had any bias it would be against Paul.

Plus, Paul’s policy positions – based on the belief that people should have the freedom to live as they please as long as it does not violate the rights of others – are friendly to people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations. Paul believes that the government should treat people equally without regard to the demographic groups to which they belong, and that people should be free to form any relationships that they wish to, without government labels or licenses. As Wes Messamore points out at the Daily Caller, Paul has denounced overzealous law enforcement, mandatory minimum sentences, and their effects on African-Americans, and mentioned his friend, African-American economist Walter Williams, as a possible running mate. When it comes to homophobia, certainly it would make more sense to pick on Republican candidates Rick Santorum (who supports anti-sodomy laws) or Michele Bachmann (whose husband allegedly believes in “curing” gay people of their gayness) than Paul.

As an example of how widespread the anti-Paul bias is, a surprisingly ignorant and illogical CNN blog entry (or at least an ignorant and illogical headline) interprets a book that Paul actually did write, “Freedom Under Seige,” as “criticiz[ing] AIDS patients, minority rights and sexual harassment victims.” In the book, Paul writes that people with AIDS often have AIDS because of their own decisions, and that they do not have the right to force other people to pay for their treatment. This is completely true, and completely consistent with Paul’s libertarian ideology. He also writes that federal laws against sexual harassment are unnecessary because employees are free to quit their jobs. I do not agree with this, but it is completely consistent with Paul’s central belief that the government should be small and allow free markets to solve problems whenever possible. And Paul decries the tendency to create separate sets of rights for different groups, such as racial minorities, children, employees, and the homeless, pointing out that, “White people who organize and expect the same attention as other groups are quickly and viciously condemned as dangerous bigots. Hispanic, black, and Jewish caucuses can exist in the U.S. Congress, but not a white caucus.” Far from “criticizing minority rights,” this statement sums up the very essence of both libertarianism and diversity – the rights of all individuals to be accepted, treated equally, and treated as individuals.

Yet even though there is nothing homophobic, anti-Semitic, or racist about Paul, far too many people speak of him as if he is the leader of the KKK or the National Vanguard or something. Those who declare their support for Paul are treated as if they made an embarrassing faux pas. And as Salon’s Steve Kornacki describes, nearly all of his campaign rivals have made despicable comments about him in recent days, with Bachmann and Mitt Romney saying he will not be allowed to become the GOP nominee, Newt Gingrich saying he might rather vote for President Obama, Santorum saying he would have to take “a lot of antacid” to vote for him, and Jon Huntsman running an ad about him entitled “Unelectable.”

When Kelly Clarkson announced her endorsement of Paul on Twitter, people responded by saying inaccurate, condescending, and just plain rude things like:

  • “Now THAT is how you get someone to unfollow you on Twitter…and in your career.”
  • “its good that you dont want women to have the right to choose & think ppl should die in the ER”
  • “oh my god I’ve never been more disappointed I thought you were smarter wow”
  • “It does concern me a little that you support Ron Paul given his hateful views towards Jews…it did kind of rub me the wrong way”

Fellow singer Michelle Branch bravely agreed with Clarkson, and she was met with a storm of similarly obnoxious comments, such as…

  • “ron paul is a homophobe! how could you EVER support him? when you used to sell records, you had so many gay fans. #sad.”
  • “supporting ron paul means supporting racism and homophobia, you both need to stop.”

It is beyond me how people can find it sad or disappointing that someone endorses a pro-liberty politician. Even if a celebrity endorsed a politician I hated, I wouldn’t personally attack them or insult their intelligence. And, if I disagreed with someone’s opinions, I would criticize those opinions, using logic and reasoning. But I guess that takes more effort than calling someone a homophobe, an anti-Semite, and a racist.

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