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Italian Americans Ask Montco to Restore Columbus Day Holiday

Monday is Columbus Day. But not in Montgomery County.

However, it was standing room only at the Montgomery County Commissioners meeting Thursday as about 40 people packed in to show their opposition to the county doing away with the Columbus Day holiday.

Mike Marino, former chairman of the Board of Commissioners and former district attorney, spoke on behalf of Italian American groups that included the Sons and Daughters of Italy, the Holy Savior Club, M.S.S. Lodge, the Mount Carmel Club, and the Knights of Columbus as well as a board member of Americans of Italian Heritage.

Marino said he does not oppose recognizing other groups and their heritage with holidays, but he asked the county to restore Columbus Day to recognize the contributions of Italian Americans.

“If this county truly believes in inclusivity, in equity, they’ll give us our day back,” said Marino. “It’s appropriate. It is fair. It is just. It is simply the right thing to do.”

Lawyer Al DeGennaro spoke on behalf of Americans of the Italian Heritage PAC. He asked the county commissioners to reconsider their decision to remove the holiday, noting that other area counties, including Delaware, Chester, and Berks celebrate Columbus Day.

And lawyer Francis Recchuiti spoke about the many contributions of Italian Americans to the county, the state, and the country. He also debunked claims that Columbus had slaves and was a murderer.

Republican minority Commissioner Joe Gale supported the effort, reminding the board he opposed the canceling of Columbus Day in 2021.

“Unfortunately, this is just one example of a cancel culture designed to erase our country’s history,” said Gale. “What you see here as the cancelation of Columbus Day as an official Montgomery County holiday, you see it in Philadelphia with the removal of the Frank Rizzo statue.”

Gale said the county replaced Columbus Day with Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery.

Commission Chair Val Arkoosh sought to downplay the removal of Columbus Day from the county calendar as a day off for employees. She said it was to match most of the school district calendars and denied that it was in relation to adding Juneteenth as a holiday. And, she said, employees are free to use a personal day to celebrate Columbus Day if they wish.

Christine Flowers, a local pundit, and immigration lawyer said, “As someone who spent most of my formative years in Montgomery County, having attended Merion Mercy Academy, Bryn Mawr College, and Villanova Law School, and as a woman who is extremely proud of my Italian roots, I am appalled and disgusted with the soft bigotry shown by the leaders in Montco. I call it ‘soft’ bigotry, but it is actually the most insidious and noxious form of hatred towards an ethnic group that has given so much to this great country.

“As an immigration attorney who deals on a daily basis with members of many indigenous communities, I am also aware of the rich heritage reflected in their languages, cuisine, and customs. Knowing them personally, I would suspect that none would support the erasure of my heritage out of some misguided respect for their own. My outrage is personal, my sorrow is for those who live in Montgomery County, unfortunate enough to live in a place where bigotry is now as official as the holidays.”

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U Penn Ranks Near Bottom in Campus Free Speech Survey

The University of Pennsylvania is America’s oldest university. It was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740.

But Franklin, an outspoken writer, printer, and one of the men who fomented the American Revolution, might have been disappointed to learn Penn is in the bottom five universities in the country for free speech. In fact, it came in second to last, ahead of its fellow Ivy League competitor Columbia.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), in partnership with College Pulse, released its third annual College Free Speech Rankings on Wednesday. Ranking the speech climates of 203 of America’s largest and most prestigious campuses, FIRE gave the University of Chicago top marks for the best campus climate for free speech.

“That so many students are self-silencing and silencing each other is an indictment of campus culture,” said FIRE Senior Research Fellow Sean Stevens. “How can students develop their distinct voices and ideas in college if they’re too afraid to engage with each other?”

A spokesman for Penn did not respond to a request for comment.

It was the largest survey on students’ free expression, with 45,000 students included, according to FIRE. It found many students are afraid to speak out on their campuses while others want to cancel the voices of those who do not share their points of view.

The top colleges for free speech behind the University of Chicago were Kansas State, Purdue, Mississippi State University, and Oklahoma State University. With Columbia and Penn at the bottom of the survey were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Georgetown University, and Skidmore College.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate, holds degrees from Penn’s medical school and its business school, Wharton.

“Students and speakers at colleges and universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, deserve to have a platform to speak freely and have open and honest conversations. As Pennsylvania’s next senator, Dr. Oz will push back on cancel culture by protecting the First Amendment and defend individuals’ freedom to say what they see,” said Brittany Yanick, communications director for the Oz campaign.

A graduate of the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine said he was surprised by the results of the survey. He also asked DVJournal not to use his name for fear of repercussions.

Several other Penn alumni contacted by DVJ declined to comment.

Stevens told DVJournal that cancel culture and social media play a role in creating an anti-free-speech environment on campus. But students also fear what professors might think of them or that they might receive lower grades if their views do not jibe with a professor’s. Some 40 percent of students are uncomfortable disagreeing with a professor—in public or a written assignment, the survey found.

The FIRE survey began in 2020 with 55 colleges and universities. This year it surveyed 203 campuses in 49 states, with only North Dakota not included.

Stevens said the group hopes to continue each year and increase the data available to researchers.

Students were asked how comfortable they felt talking about their opinions, he said. And even some students at the more liberal end of the spectrum, who comprised the majority of those surveyed, were fearful.

While the goal is to let prospective students and parents take this indicator into account when selecting a college, FIRE also hopes to make university administrators more aware of this issue, Stevens said.

Some administrators contacted FIRE after previous reports to see what they could do to improve their scores, he said.

While the rankings rely heavily on student responses, each school’s speech code rating also factored into the scoring. Most schools without any policies that imperil free speech rose in the rankings, while those with restrictive speech codes fell, according to FIRE.

This year, FIRE also took into account which schools sanctioned faculty for their speech or disinvited guest speakers based on viewpoint since 2019, giving the institutions that did lower marks.

Self-censorship is pervasive across top-ranked and bottom-ranked schools alike; 63 percent of respondents worried about damaging their reputation because someone misunderstood something they said or did. Disturbingly, an equal percentage said that students shouting down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus was acceptable to some degree.

Other findings from the report include: Conservative students are most likely to feel they cannot express their opinions freely, with 42 percent reporting that they “often” feel uncomfortable speaking freely, compared to 13 percent of liberal students. Some 40 percent of students are uncomfortable disagreeing with a professor — in public or in a written assignment. And the three most difficult topics to discuss on campus are abortion, racial inequality, and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

FIRE is a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia that is dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought.

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COUNTERPOINT: ‘More Speech, Not Enforced Silence’

Editor’s note: For another opinion see Point: Mad About Joe Rogan? Be Madder at Streaming Monopolies

My name is Michael, and I am a recovering talk show host. And I rise in defense of Joe Rogan.

I make this confession reluctantly, knowing it could mean cancelation, condemnation or  — horrors! — becoming the topic of a CNN news panel. (Please not Jim Acosta — anybody but Acosta!)

But I cannot stand by silently any longer. Too much is at stake. No, not Spotify’s stock price or comedian Joe Rogan’s jaw-dropping $100 million licensing deal. What’s at stake is the idea of free speech as a social good.

While we’re making confessions, allow me another one: I’ve never listened to a minute of a Joe Rogan podcast. Based on media reports, he’s either holding wide-open conversations about COVID-19 public health policy with an eclectic mix of experts and celebrity guests; or he’s spreading anti-science disinformation while posting recipes for how to make bootleg ivermectin in your toilet.

Either way, my view is the same: Let him talk.

I’m with Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis on this: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

This used to be a given in American society. A decade ago, when I was still on the air — in liberal Boston, Massachusetts, no less — we still looked down on the thin-skinned losers demanding to be protected from ideas that made them feel icky.

The answer to “I don’t like what that guy is saying” was still, “Then change the damn channel!”

Now the goal is to shut down the channel, to force Spotify to dump Rogan or die tryin’. And how embarrassing that the effort to de-platform a performer is being led by “artists” like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

As legal scholar Jonathan Turley put it, “Artists against free speech is like athletes against fitness.”

Some have turned the focus on the technology itself: Podcasts have no FCC regulation, social media allows too much false information to flow freely, tech companies have too much control.

But arguments about monopolies and access are meaningless without an audience that demands free speech and open discourse. And based on polls — and the passion of Rogan’s opponents — that’s where we could be headed.

The climate on college campuses is so bad, just half of students say they feel comfortable voicing disagreement with their professors or peers, according to a new Knight-Ipsos poll. That same poll found that, among Americans as a whole, 60 percent support a government-imposed ban on ideas and opinions deemed racist or bigoted.

A Government. Ban. On. Ideas.

A decade ago, that was good for three hours of mockery on my radio show. Today, it’s the view of the majority.

That fact is far more frightening than any tech monopoly or debate over Section 230 regulations.

Grab a copy of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel in defense of free speech, “Fahrenheit 451” — while you still can. You’ll be reminded that the reason books were banned in this fictional future wasn’t because of government tyranny. No, books were banned by popular demand. The citizenry demanded a “safe space,” free from upsetting thoughts and ideas.

Far too many of my fellow citizens are demanding the same today.

Censorship is cowardice. Cancel culture is crybaby crap. You hear an opinion you don’t like? Put on your big girl panties and deal with it, Francis.

Oops. Sorry about getting so saucy. As I said, I’m a recovering talk host.

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CHERRY: I Reject Whoopi Goldberg’s Apology

Personal Disclosure: My mother’s maiden name was Goldberg. Nevertheless, I have no knowledge of any family relationship to Whoopi Goldberg.

Whoopi Goldberg had the chutzpah to claim that the Holocaust was only about “man’s inhumanity to man.” Goldberg also claimed, and this is the really controversial bit, that the Holocaust was not about race since both the victims and perpetrators were White.

Just because the bad guys said that the Holocaust was about racial purity doesn’t mean they were right.  Just because the bad guys successfully convinced lots of folks that the Holocaust was about racial purity, still doesn’t mean they were right.

Ms. Goldberg later clarified her comment and acknowledged the Holocaust was also about race.  She then apologized for any unintentional hurt feelings.  I reject her apology because I don’t believe she needed to offer one. I think we, as a society, need to have room to revise our arguments in order to fine-tune our beliefs. Maybe I’ve been reading too many Socratic dialogues, but I was taught that the path to truth involves intellectual exchange, not cancellation or suspension.

When Goldberg said the Holocaust was not about race, she might have reminded her viewers how fuzzy the term “race” is.  When my father arrived in this country in September 1939, just after the Nazi invasion of Poland, he, like all European Jews, was not ascribed whiteness by the Christian culture of America. Our “off-White” status did not get bleached until after World War II when Nazi “science” became discredited. As modern scientists have subsequently explained, the idea of race is a human construct without a biological basis.

Had Goldberg known more about Holocaust history, she may have reminded her viewers that in May 1940, Heinrich Himmler drafted a memo entitled, “Some Thoughts on the Treatment of the Alien Population in the East.” Himmler recommended scouring Poland to locate children who appeared to be “racially first class,” kidnap them, transport them to Germany, and have them raised as proper Aryans.  All this despite the Nazi rhetoric that Poles, like all Slavs, were racially inferior to Aryans. In other words, when it came to raising future German soldiers for their delusional visions of world conquest, the Nazis were happy to ignore their racial theories.

Goldberg misspoke a truth of which she was unaware. She quickly clarified and apologized. That the leadership of ABC is so beholden to the worst impulses of cancel culture which penalizes people who are engaged in civil discourse is the real cause for an apology.


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