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Counterpoint: Banning TikTok Is a Blow to Free Speech

For another point of view see: Point: “Congress Is Right to Call for the Strategic Divestment of TikTok”

The recent move by the House of Representatives to advance legislation forcing ByteDance to divest its ownership of TikTok represents a potentially alarming infringement on our fundamental rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Despite national security concerns, coercing the divestment of TikTok sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the principles of free expression upon which our republic is built.

While it is undeniable that there are legitimate concerns regarding the security implications of foreign-owned platforms accessing some data of millions of Americans, curtailing access to TikTok based on these concerns constitutes an overreach of governmental authority. The current ban on TikTok on federal devices is a reasonable precaution, but the government restricting access to the platform for the public goes too far (and it is a decision for parents for those under the age of 18.)

Former president Donald Trump’s reversal of his previous advocacy for banning TikTok is simply motivated by fears of Meta (Facebook and Instagram) becoming even more powerful. He has a political point — but not a constitutional one. His recent flip-flop on this issue underscores the political nature of such decisions. However, the motivations behind the legislation should not overshadow the potential erosion of individual liberties and the consequences they entail.

Proponents of the legislation argue that it does not amount to a ban, citing Rep. Mike Gallagher’s assertion that the TikTok user experience can continue and improve if ByteDance no longer owns the company. Yet, the looming threat of a complete ban if ByteDance fails to comply underscores the coercive nature of the proposed measures. They really have no choice based on the threatened consequence.

Moreover, the absence of concrete evidence demonstrating the Chinese Communist Party’s use of TikTok for surveillance or propaganda raises questions about the necessity of such drastic actions. While it is conceivable that Beijing could exploit TikTok for nefarious purposes, it is essential to weigh these potential risks against the broader principles of free speech and individual autonomy.

Put simply, banning TikTok violates of the free speech rights of millions of Americans, especially young people just learning to find their voices and form opinions. This may be why President Biden has indicated support for the banning consequence in the legislation while simultaneously having an account for his campaign on the platform. Hypocritical and political can be synonyms.

While TikTok may not be a beacon of free speech in its home country (or even allowed there), the United States has long prided itself on its commitment to protecting the rights of its citizens to express themselves freely, even when it conflicts with governmental interests.

The use of lawsuits as a means of holding social media companies accountable for violating laws is a more appropriate course of action. However, the protection afforded to these companies under Section 230 shields them from many legal challenges, limiting the effectiveness of this approach. If social media companies were subject to the same legal scrutiny as other entities, they might be more inclined to prioritize the interests of their users over their own corporate agendas.

Let’s open TikTok (and other platforms) to this level of legal scrutiny and see how quickly they clean up their act.  Also, we should consider why so many Americans flock to TikTok.  Maybe Americans like TikTok because it has been freer and easier than U.S. Big Tech failing attempts. Maybe Big Tech, with all their money, should just build better free speech applications and get out of the speech police business and, especially, politics.

Furthermore, the potential for government overreach in restricting access to social media platforms sets a dangerous precedent. Granting authorities the power to ban or control speech based on vague notions of national security could pave the way for future censorship and suppression of dissenting voices. It is imperative that we uphold the principles of free speech and individual liberty, even in the face of legitimate security concerns. It seems like well-paid, Big Tech lobbyists have convinced many in the House of Representatives that control of social media needs to reside with the same old incumbent players.

Ultimately, the debate surrounding TikTok’s ownership and access underscores the complex interplay between national security concerns, individual freedoms, and corporate responsibility. While it is essential to address legitimate security threats posed by foreign-owned platforms, any measures taken must be carefully balanced against the broader principles of free speech and due process. It makes no sense to “ban” when transparency continues to be such a major problem throughout U.S. politics.

While the concerns raised by proponents of legislation targeting TikTok are not without merit, the proposed solutions risk undermining the very freedoms they purport to protect. Rather than resorting to bans and coercive measures, policymakers should seek more nuanced approaches that safeguard national security and individual liberties. Failure to do so risks setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the fabric of our democracy.

BROTMAN: Threats on Campuses Need to Be Dealt With Directly

The recent explosive congressional hearing with presidents from among some of the nation’s most elite universities — Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania  — nearly broke the internet. All three academic leaders could not clearly state that advocating genocide against Jews might violate their campus codes of conduct. Politicians of all stripes — along with students, faculty, alumni and prominent donors — were shocked that what seemed like something defined by a bright line of morality would be portrayed as requiring nuance in response.

Elizabeth Magill, Penn’s president, created the most memorable soundbite while under intense questioning by Rep. Elise Stefanik, (R-N.Y.). When asked by Stefanik whether calling for the genocide of Jews constituted bullying or harassment, Magill soberly replied, “It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman.” 

Within 24 hours, she issued an apologetic video for misspeaking under pressure, but that did not prove to be enough to mitigate the damage by not responding affirmatively. The Penn Board of Trustees accepted her resignation by the end of the week, along with that of its chair, Scott Bok.

Although this controversy has been framed as a debate about protecting the First Amendment and free speech values on campus, more focus needs be made on the actual legal standard that would be applied to the context-dependent decision that Magill indicated would be necessary to consider. Penn, a private university, isn’t covered by the First Amendment, which deals with restrictions on free speech by state actors. Nevertheless, it models its campus code of conduct on the same constitutional principles applicable here.

There is a new Supreme Court precedent that underscores why Magill’s assertion could not be supported as a matter of law. When chants of “Kill the Jews” are made during demonstrations on Penn’s campus or elsewhere, they would not be considered as just angry words but rather as “true threats.” Consequently, like other expressive categories such as child pornography or obscenity, they would not be covered by the free speech protection of the First Amendment or by any university code of conduct that references it as a benchmark.

The central legal issue is whether this phrase (or others, such as “Intifada” or “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”) constitutes a threat that may be punished by a university. The Supreme Court has indicated that the speaker need not actually intend to carry out the threat. Rather, all that must be proven is that the speaker intended to communicate a threat.

Not surprisingly, over the last 20 years, lower federal appellate courts have not followed a uniform standard about what level of intention was needed to distinguish a genuine threat from protected free speech. That’s why the court’s decision in Counterman v. Colorado this year is so important.  The court finally adopted a rule that speech is not protected if the speaker “consciously disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening violence.”

This subjective standard now has been set at a level of “recklessness” on behalf of the speaker, which is a lower threshold than establishing an intent to do harm or knowing that the communication would do harm.

Anyone who defaces campus property with a “Kill the Jews” slogan or leads the chanting of this type of mantra in a public demonstration would be consciously assuming the risk that these words would be threatening violence. Under the Counterman decision, these words clearly are meant to threaten violence (and, in some cases, have been accompanied by physical assaults on nearby individuals identified as Jews, too).

This means that Magill’s response (along with similar ones by Harvard’s Claudine Gay and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth) was wrong on both moral and legal grounds. There is no way to contextualize that genocidal expressions against Jews can be anything other than bullying or harassing threats of violence. They are clearly actual threats — not free speech — and must be dealt with accordingly.

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OLSON: The Shift in Democratic Views on Free Speech — What’s Going On?

Once a solid pillar of American society, free speech seems to be cracking. It used to be an American principle that the everyday American citizen could agree on, a universal given. But recent surveys reveal that this fundamental value is increasingly up for debate, and the speed of this change is alarming.

In a new RealClear Opinion Research poll, nearly half of Democrats are comfortable openly admitting to a stranger over the phone that they support limiting what people can say. A startling 47 percent said that speech should be legal “only under certain circumstances,” and 52 percent of Democrats approved of government censoring social media posts for “national security.” Even more shocking, a third of Democrats believe Americans have “too much freedom.”

By contrast, 74 percent of registered Republicans and 61 percent of independents say speech should be legal “under any circumstances.”

As a pollster, I find these numbers unnerving. People are generally reluctant to share unpopular beliefs with interviewers. That this view isn’t just a silent sentiment but is increasingly becoming mainstream is especially concerning.

Moreover, this ideological shift didn’t take decades; it happened within a few years. According to a Pew Research report released in July that tracks attitudes toward speech since 2018, Democrats and Republicans were at parity on this issue five years ago. So, what’s behind this rapid change?

One cannot help but wonder where these people get their news. What effect are media influence and monolithic news narratives having? What are the sources influencing these views on free speech? I’d wager that these voters aren’t tuning into programs championing free speech.

The fear of counter-narratives is palpable. California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently labeled free-speech advocates Joe Rogan and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson as “micro-cults” after reporting that he was worried his son was listening to them and others, suggesting an underlying apprehension toward people with large platforms and viewpoints that cannot be easily controlled.

Of course, as anyone familiar with their content knows, the worst Newsom has to fear is his son learning to make his bed or adopting Petersen’s rule, “Stand up straight with your shoulders back,” from his book “12 Rules for Life.”

Events like suppressing of the New York Post’s coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop in 2020 may have given some Democrats a taste for power. Do they now see a long-term electoral advantage in controlling speech and information?

While some Democratic voters appear to champion governmental control over speech, would they feel the same if a Republican were in the White House? The allure of controlling narratives might seem enticing now, but the pendulum of political power never stays still.

Not all hope is lost. Some media outlets are sounding the alarm on this worrisome trend. The New York Times Editorial Board published an article decrying cancel culture last year. The board stated, “For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.”

The Times Editorial Board commissioned a poll that found 55 percent of respondents reported holding their tongue over the past year because of a fear of backlash. Furthermore, it found that Republicans were more likely to self-censor than Democrats. As the editorial concluded, almost in disbelief: “The full-throated defense of free speech was once a liberal ideal.”

The rapid shift in the views of Democrats against free speech is alarming. It raises critical questions about the influences reshaping these perspectives and the speed at which this change is happening. It’s a conversation we need to have, openly and honestly, before it’s one we can no longer have.

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COOPER: A Call for Diversity of Thought on Twitter

Early in December, Project 21 — an organization that aims to elevate Black conservative and libertarian voices — sent a letter to Twitter owner Elon Musk requesting a meeting to discuss free speech on the embattled social media platform.

This came days after the NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network requested a meeting of their own to curb what they describe as a rampant rise in White supremacy on Twitter. The claims made by these groups are without merit and most likely motivated by a failure to maintain ideological control over Twitter.

The letter expressed Project 21’s support for Musk’s vision of a “digital town square” that allows citizens to exchange their opinions online. While Musk’s goal of a free and fair social media platform has enraged Americans on the left, as more information is released regarding the partisan internal corruption at Twitter, it is clear that the abuses were extensive and that reform is needed.

Publicly released documents known as “The Twitter Files” vindicate many on the right who were decried as all but deranged when they claimed Twitter was censoring their content.

For example, Dan Bongino, a prominent conservative voice and host of “Unfiltered” on Fox News, had his account shadow-banned by Twitter. The same can be said for Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk, whose account was censored multiple times in the last five years without explanation. The Twitter Files now prove these claims of unfair treatment were justified.

But it gets worse. After the newest release of the Files, we now know that the actions weren’t made by rogue mainline Twitter employees. It was Twitter’s leadership. Turns out there was a direct correspondence between senior Twitter executives and the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign in the lead-up to the 2020 election. The executives agreed to “handle” potentially damaging facts that were revealed about Hunter Biden and his laptop. One consequence was the October 2020 New York Post laptop story being suppressed on the platform.

The political effect was quite substantial. The Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics released a survey in August showing that 79 percent of respondents believed that “truthful” coverage of the laptop story would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election.

Project 21 seeks to meet with Musk to ensure that Twitter maintains its commitment to free expression. Free expression on the site will have a long-term effect on Black Americans. Conservative voices of Blacks like Candace Owens (suspended in 2018), Brandon Tatum and Second Amendment advocate Colion Noir likely will allow their voices to bring their center-right messages — unencumbered by authoritarian censorship — to a Black population that continues to shift further to the right.

It’s no wonder the NAACP is attempting to paint Twitter as a White supremacist haven. Unfortunately, the revelations of Twitter’s suppression have not drawn the ire of Americans on both sides of the aisle. History has shown repeatedly that speech suppression — in any form — is a tool used by those who seek to hold power and force their opposition into submission. 

While those on the left will continue to raise a ruckus watching their prized political tool get a much-needed facelift, Americans — no matter what party they vote for — will benefit greatly.

Society operates best when ideas can be freely exchanged without fear of censorship, shadow-banning or doxxing. Musk’s aggressive action to overhaul Twitter is a great start, but we still have a long way to go to undo the damage other media and social media outlets have done to public discourse.

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BACKER: Which Costs More and Scares You Less — Halloween or the 2022 Election?

Many Americans will spend October stoking fear and building tension, with no shortage of blood-curdling screams. Then there’s Halloween.

Over two years, more than $9 billion will be spent on Election 2022. Money will be thrown at Americans to get them to choose between political candidates and parties, just like it will be spent on Marvel costumes, candy corn and the rest. Between the midterm elections and Halloween celebrations, U.S. spending will total upward of $20 billion, dominating public discourse.

While Halloween spending is driven by market demand and impervious to criticism (as it should be), election-related spending drives some people crazy. Spending money to promote your ideas is far scarier than Halloween to those whose ideas your particular spending may oppose.

Campaign finance “reform” is now a priority of the Democratic Party, with End Citizens United spokesman Adam Bozzi claiming “it’s both good policy and good politics.” (Side note: End Citizens United, as a nonprofit organization, does not disclose its donors.)

The left’s insistence on shutting down free speech and free association is strangely obsessive when it comes to politics. It seems like only speech and association that has to do with the electoral system and the democratic process are worth condemning, despite the fact that they form the very foundations of our democracy.

What is democracy but your freedom to organize and communicate on behalf of your ideas? And yes, meaningful communication requires spending money — something Democrats have no problem with so long as their ideas are communicated.

But, as long as you’re not spending money on politics, it’s quite all right. And, yes, a Marvel Halloween is quite all right. Consumerism is a good thing, just like money in politics is a good thing. In fact, American politics needs more money in it, not less, because political spending is associated with the free flow of ideas. It reflects public discourse in the idea marketplace, with the most popular ones (like Marvel) dominating the discourse while the least popular ones (sorry Green Lantern) ultimately fade away. Similarly, candy choices with the most appeal attract the most consumer dollars, while the organic alternatives get thrown away.

That’s the whole point. The market is the ultimate freedom: Taking the product of your own hard work (or that of your parents) and spending it on whatever ideas — or candy — you may choose.  In politics, good ideas attract money, just like sugary candy attracts the most kids.

Winning candidates and political parties draw attention from donors large and small. Of course, losing ones (i.e., Michael Bloomberg) can flood the political system with billions of dollars, but money is no guarantee of victory. Bloomberg knows that better than most, and plenty of candy ideas are just as flawed. But some people liked Bloomberg, and the “top 10 worst candies ever” list is admittedly rife with my childhood favorites!

So why shouldn’t we be free to choose, in any marketplace, what’s right for us?

No amount of money will get Americans to embrace ideas that aren’t actually popular, just like you can’t pay me enough to eat Hot Tamales for Halloween.

The amount of money in politics is a barometer of civic engagement writ large, and civic engagement is inherently beneficial to democracy. A democratic system can’t function without it. The more money spent, the more people are engaged, and the more ideas compete to curry favor in the marketplace. Like in the U.S. economy and on candy shelves, competition leads to greater consumer choice and personal freedom.

Here’s a tip leading to Election Day: Don’t listen to those crying wolf about political spending. Keep dressing up as Spiderman, keep eating your Skittles, and keep contributing to American democracy.

Free speech and free association are every bit as sweet as candy corn.

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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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The PGA Tour’s Sportswashing Problem in China

On the heels of NBC’s Beijing Winter Olympics coverage, in which the network faced criticism for publicizing a sporting event staged by an authoritarian regime, numerous sports and entertainment organizations are facing renewed scrutiny over their relationships with China.

That includes professional golf’s PGA Tour, an organization whose close ties and extensive business investments with China have only recently come to light, raising potential legal and regulatory problems for the PGA Tour, which enjoys tax-exempt status courtesy of the American taxpayer.

China has long had a complicated and even strained relationship with the game of golf–going back to the days of Chairman Mao, who in 1949 denounced golf as “a sport of millionaires” and banned it from being played in China. As recently as 2015, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) banned its members from joining golf clubs, warning expulsion awaited anyone who defied the ban.

In recent years, however, CCP leaders have warmed to the game, presumably because of the big revenue tournaments can generate for China and the international prestige the game could provide the abusive regime. Indeed, the Beijing-based Shankai Sports in 2018 signed a 20-year contract with the PGA Tour Series-China, a development tour similar to circuits run by the PGA Tour in Canada and Latin America.

The PGA-China deal has led to criticism that PGA Tour is providing cover for a government accused of widespread human rights abuses by partnering with them on high-profile golf events. It also faces regulatory and legal scrutiny as the PGA apparently failed to disclose it in recent tax filings.

“Today, under the dictatorial rule of Xi Jinping – a neo-Maoist thug – the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour include annual treks to Shanghai, China for the WGC-HSBC Champions and Buick LPGA Shanghai,” Pro Golf Weekly’s Jeff Smith recently wrote in an article titled “Where’s the Sportswashing Outrage With Communist China?”

“How evil is the current regime in relation to Mao?” Smith continued, referring to the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. “Last year, the United States officially accused China of committing crimes against humanity, which had engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group.”

The PGA deal in China establishes a direct connection between the golf organization and China’s government. Financing came from Yao Capital, a company whose principal is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory group to the Chinese government, which is in the midst of a five-year plan to develop the country’s sports into a $740 billion industry by 2025.

China has proven a difficult place to do business in for many American companies, with CCP leaders having a long history of pressuring them to conform to the nation’s principles and to avoid criticizing its policies.

China’s strong-arm tactics toward the NBA are well known. When Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s freedom in 2019, China stopped broadcasting the team’s game. The Rockets and the NBA quickly distanced themselves from Morey’s comments and issued apologies all around.

Even LeBron James, perhaps the biggest name in the NBA, has felt the need to publicly side with China. Now, fans fear the same will happen with the PGA.

“Decent people everywhere root against the power and influence of Communist China, which means hoping for the worst for CCP stooges like LeBron James,” said longtime sports journalist and podcaster Gerry Callahan. “Does golf want to see the PGA become the ‘Pro-Genocide Association?’” Callahan asked.

Those concerns have been heightened in the wake of a report from a public-integrity organization in Washington that the PGA is refusing to disclose details of its financial dealings with Shankai Sports.

Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project, said that as an organization with tax-exempt status from the IRS, the PGA Tour is required to file financial disclosures regarding its business dealings in China. But the PGA’s tax filings for 2018 and 2020 do not contain any disclosures about its transactions involving Shankai or Yao, Anderson told InsideSources.

In a statement, PGA Tour spokesperson Laury Livsey said the filing isn’t required because the China tour is a separate entity.

“The PGA Tour established a separate entity, based in Beijing,” Livsey said. “The PGA Tour’s Form 990 only relates to the tour’s activity, and the activity of a subsidiary would not be reported on the PGA Tour’s Form 990. In any event, it is not a requirement that organizations identify or disclose ancillary contracts or deals.”

Anderson doesn’t agree, and his organization is filing a complaint with the IRS about the PGA’s lack of disclosure.

“At the end of the day, if you have a serious operation outside of the United States and you’re a non-profit, you have to disclose that operation, and in detail: The number of employees you have, the companies you have contracts with,” Anderson said. “The PGA says they’ve found a loophole, but they haven’t.”

It is tempting to dismiss a topic like golf as just fun and games. But foreign policy experts say the Chinese regime sees it as something else: soft power.

“As China’s economy has grown in recent decades, so, too, has its desire to advance its soft power objectives around the world, including in sport,” said Craig Singleton, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.

“Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 summer Olympics was a watershed moment for China, representing the country’s return as a so-called ‘great power.’ Since then, and culminating in the most recent 2021 Olympics, Beijing has methodically invested in sport, entertainment, and international fora as a means to positively shape global perceptions about China.” Singleton added. “Beijing’s soft power investments are also intended to offset criticism of its hard power capabilities, namely China’s ongoing efforts to modernize its military and its intimidation of Taiwan.”

Will pro golfers who oppose China’s anti-democratic policies, its takeover of Hong Kong, or its threats against Taiwan be forced to remain silent or find themselves forced out of the league?

That type of arrangement is part of China’s playbook, James Carafano, vice president for national security and foreign policy at The Heritage Foundation, said in an interview.

“The Chinese purposefully look to take any national or international institution and essentially make it an extension of Chinese power and influence,” Carafano told The Daily Signal, which is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.

It is clear the PGA Tour has tried to minimize, if not outright conceal, their business relationship with China for years, and judging by their recent statement, they continue to downplay their close ties with the CCP. It is time for the non-profit, tax-exempt Tour to fully disclose the extent of their business dealings with China. If they refuse, the IRS and federal regulators must investigate to see if the Tour’s actions violate federal law.


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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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MOONEY: Free Speech Suit against Teacher’s Union Could Boost Labor Reform

A Pennsylvania court may strike down a labor law that is clearly unconstitutional, but elected officials shouldn’t wait on the legal system to rectify state law with Supreme Court precedent, the lead sponsor of pending legislation said in an interview.

Since the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas is now expected to rule on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s “fair share fee” law, state Rep. Kate Klunk, a York County Republican, sees an opportunity for her colleagues in both parties to “end the confusion” without delay. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that under the First Amendment government workers who are not union members cannot be forced to pay union fees.

The decision affected about 5 million workers in 22 states including Pennsylvania. But Klunk is concerned that too many public employees remain largely unaware of their rights despite the Supreme Court ruling. That’s why she’s sponsoring HB 2042, which would require public employers to notify nonunion members and new employees that they do not need to make financial contributions to a union as a condition of their employment.

“In my conversations with teachers and municipal employees, they are primarily concerned about doing their job whether it’s in the classroom or in another setting and they are not well versed with employment law,” Klunk observed. “Sometimes they don’t understand what they are signing, and they don’t have someone sitting there with them to go through the process.”

The first notification of employee rights would be sent out 30 days after Klunk’s bill becomes effective. From that point forward, notifications would be sent out annually every January. Klunk’s bill would also repeal the “fair share fee” law that is no longer enforceable after the Janus decision.

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court directed the Lancaster Court of Common Pleas to evaluate constitutional claims made against Pennsylvania labor laws that now conflict with federal law. A Lancaster judge had previously ruled that a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Education Association was moot after the union agreed to stop collecting fees from nonmembers.

“The courts want this issue of fair share fees settled,” Klunk said. “But we can do this much quicker legislatively, and we can do it in a matter of two to three weeks. I’d say we have all the more reason to do it now that this case has been kicked back to the Lancaster court. These cases are going to continue to play out until there’s some kind of finality. My bill strikes fair share fees from the books so they cannot be included in future contracts. We can end the confusion.”

The PSEA, the largest public employee union in the state, and its affiliates have inserted fee provisions into at least 20 collective bargaining agreements signed since the Janus decision, according to the Fairness Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Harrisburg.

“The Supreme Court made clear in 2018 that public employee unions cannot force nonmembers to pay a union,” Nathan McGrath, president of the Fairness Center, said in a press statement. “But Pennsylvania law still says unions can do just that. And almost four years after Janus, PSEA and its affiliates have continued to write illegal fair share fee provisions into teachers’ collective bargaining agreements. Our clients want to force PSEA to respect the Supreme Court ruling.”

The Fairness Center represents retired Chester County teacher Jane Ladley and Lancaster County teacher Chris Meier in litigation they filed against the PSEA more than seven years ago. Both teachers raised religious objections toward paying the union. They also both had a right to send their fees to a charity rather than a union. But the PSEA rejected their charities of choice. After the Janus ruling, the union agreed to return the money to the teachers. But Ladley and Meier continue to seek definitive court action that would strike down the fair share fee law. The Lancaster court could potentially deliver that ruling.

On Tuesday, Klunk’s bill was among four of the labor reform bills the committee approved, which means they are all eligible for a full vote in the House. One of the other bills (HB 844) would protect the privacy of public employees so their personal information like their Social Security numbers, addresses, and phone numbers cannot be shared in the collective bargaining process. Another bill (HB 845) calls for greater transparency in the collective bargaining process while another (HB 2048), known as paycheck protection, prevents public employers from deducting political action committee (PAC) contributions from public employees’ wages using public payroll systems.

Nathan Benefield, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, offered the following comments:

“Pennsylvania should not have unconstitutional laws on its books. Nor should we use taxpayer-funded payroll systems to collect campaign cash. Correcting these problems will empower public employees and help ensure fairness in government. It’s encouraging to see House lawmakers moving to protect employees’ private data and shine the light of transparency on deals that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”


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