Tag Archives: activist

Where Free Speech Ends, Ignorance Begins

At the risk of sounding like a geezer complaining about “these kids today,” back in my college days, when it came to points of view we were unhesitatingly exposed to literature, teachers and on-campus speakers covering the ideological waterfront.

In one instance, the student body was addressed by civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory, radical Irish activist Bernadette Devlin and the conservative writer and critic Russell Kirk — all in the course of a week or so.

Such variety was a common occurrence, and freewheeling, open discussion was encouraged. We didn’t always like or agree with a lot of what we heard or read — from time to time there were vehement protests — but all of it was invaluable. None of us were harmed in the making of our education.

So I was appalled other day when I read about the attempt by Republican Arkansas legislator Kim Hendren to ban from that state’s public schools all books written by the great radical historian Howard Zinn, including his seminal “A People’s History of the United States,” a truthful, lacerating look at the heroes and villains of America — especially the oligarchs and kleptocrats who once again have their heels on the necks of the poor and middle class.

But I also was deeply troubled by the incident at Vermont’s Middlebury College on March 2, when controversial social scientist Charles Murray was invited by a conservative student group and attempted to speak on campus. Here’s what happened, according to the Associated Press:

“Hundreds of students chanted as Murray began to speak Thursday, forcing the college to move the lecture to an undisclosed location. Murray’s talk was live-streamed to the original venue, but protesters drowned it out. The topic, he said, was the divergence of the country’s culture into a new upper class separated from mainstream America.

“Afterward, a group of protesters surrounded Murray, professor Allison Stanger and college administrator Bill Burger as they were leaving, he said. The protesters became violent, with one pulling Stanger’s hair, twisting her neck, the college said.

“After Murray and the two Middlebury staff members got into a car to leave, protesters banged on the windows, climbed onto the hood and rocked the vehicle, the college and Murray said.”

Professor Stanger, by the way, went to the ER and was subsequently diagnosed with concussion. She’s a respected political scientist at Middlebury and a fellow at the progressive New America, and was there the other night because the conservative student group had asked her to provide a counterpoint to Murray’s speech, to interview him from the stage after his prepared remarks. She had prepared some tough, challenging questions.

Many of Charles Murray’s opinions are indeed odious and his research highly questionable, He was co-author of “The Bell Curve,” a notorious book that seemed to link race and IQ. He describes himself as a libertarian, but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls him a white nationalist and reports:

“According to Murray, the relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups… Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists.”

At the beginning of Murray’s attempt to speak at Middlebury, students turned their backs to him and chanted in protest. I probably would have done the same. But to not let him speak and to allow the protests to lead to violence is inexcusable. I realize that this raises all sorts of questions about freedom of speech and academic liberty, the nature of dissent and when and if political violence is ever justified, but looking at what happened coolly — and admittedly, from a distance — it seems clear that this went far beyond the boundaries of civil discourse that especially today must be defended against the barbarians who already have run roughshod, pushing through the gates and seizing the reins of power and governance.

Professor Stanger said it best herself. She wrote:

“To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray.”

And then she quoted James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I can be as guilty as the next person about tuning out and trying to ignore the voice of someone with whom I vehemently disagree. I know, too, that this indeed is a time to speak out against the ignorance and despotism sweeping our nation. Further, I realize that the religious, racial and homophobic hate crimes that have been on the upswing since Donald Trump’s candidacy and election — and increased in 2016 for the second year in a row according to the Southern Poverty Law Center — far exceed in numbers and intensity any violence or brutishness that has occurred on college campuses. No question that they’re more frightening and dangerous.

But, in the words of Andrew Sullivan, “Universities are the sanctuary cities of reason. If reason must be subordinate to ideology even there, our experiment in self-government is over.”

Two sides of the same coin: whether the Trump White House or those who would physically attack a college professor. Their unthinking, unyielding enslavement to a single viewpoint is fatal.

Ignorance begets ignorance and hate begets hate. And like a virus, each can infect without regard to race, gender, creed or political perspective. At a time when those in charge are fueling a pandemic of intolerance we must make sure not to succumb ourselves.

By Michael Winship / Moyers & Company

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Twitter cuts ties with firm believed to help police spy on activists

Twitter is doubling down on its commitment to opposing police use of its data for surveillance. The social network has severed its contract with Media Sonar, which produces surveillance software used by 19 local government agencies.
The social media giant cut Sonar off in October as part of its commitment to opposing the use of its data by companies that offer mass surveillance tools to law enforcement. Media Sonar was guilty of doing so, Twitter confirmed to the Daily Dot on Friday.

Media Sonar’s access to API, Twitter’s public platform for developers, was shut down, and Twitter told the Daily Dot that if they try to create more, “we will terminate those as well and take further action as appropriate.”

Media Sonar’s sales representatives pitched the cloud-based surveillance program as being “specifically designed for law enforcement” and their promotional material contains “an effective list of high frequency social media terms that can help identify illegal activity and threats to public safety.”

A copy of their material was obtained by the ACLU who discovered that much of the terminology contained on the list pertained to anti-police brutality movements, such as Black Lives Matter. A separate column for Mike Brown-related keywords was included in the 2015 material.

The list also contained keywords of questionable quality. For example, under the gangs column, Media Sonar included keywords like “CEO,” “beat,” and “RIP.” All of these are words apparently can establish a user as potentially being up to no good.

Other interesting choices include placing “dissent” as a potential keyword for police evasion and crimes against police and “brother” as a potential keyword for human trafficking. Phrases that attract children are, according to Media Sonar, “IWSN,” which Media Sonar believes means, “I want sex now,” much to the chagrin of the Injured Worker Support Network.

Misunderstanding of youth culture aside, Media Sonar’s products were purchased by 19 local law enforcement agencies for at least $10,000 each between 2014 and 2016. The promotional material that the ACLU found was actually sent to the Fresno Police Department.

Media Sonar worked by using an artificial intelligence program to “analyze context, phrases and emoticons” “as predictive features” and was pitched as a way to “avoid the warrant process” to learn more about an individual’s social media profiles. Media Sonar also showed trends with individuals that ranged from the products they like to locations they are often tagged in.

Many feel that this kind of software should not be in the hands of law enforcement, because it would offer them the ability to track down and target protest organizers and activists. Twitter has expressed its “commitment to social justice” and claims to be on the lookout for companies like this.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Black Lives Matter Activist Announces Bid for Baltimore Mayor

Image: Time Magazine

Mckesson announced his campaign Wednesday night.

Prominent Black Lives Matter Activist DeRay Mckesson will join the race for Mayor of Baltimore, he announced on Wednesday.

Mckesson, 30, stepped into the already-crowded mayoral contest just minutes before the filing deadline, the BaltimoreSun reports. He announced his run as a Democrat in a statement on Medium.

“It is true that I am a non-traditional candidate ,” Mckesson wrote. “I am an activist, organizer, former teacher and district administrator that intimately understands how interwoven our challenges and our solutions are. I am a son of Baltimore.”

More from Time.com

Posted by Libergirl

New Orleans Actor & Activist Wendell Pierce on the “Greatest Crime” in Wake of Hurricane Katrina

Posted by the NON-Conformist

Actress Ruby Dee Dead At 91

 

Image: CBS Los Angeles

Ruby Dee, an acclaimed actress and civil-rights activist whose career spanned stage, radio television and film, has died at 91,  her daughter said.

Nora Davis Day told The Associated Press on Thursday that her mother died Wednesday night at home in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Dee, who frequently acted alongside her husband of 56 years, Ossie Davis, was surrounded by family and friends, she added.

More from CBS Los Angeles

 Posted by Libergirl

Maya Angelou, Poet And Author, Dead At 86

 

Image: Kris Connor/Getty Images

Author and poet Maya Angelou. who rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, has died. She was 86.

Wake Forest University announced Angelou’s death in a news release Wednesday.

More from CBS Los Angeles

Posted by Libergirl

Happy Birthday, Nina Simone! A Tribute to the Jazz Legend

Images: Parade Magazine

More from Parade Magazine, read her bio HERE!

Posted by Libergirl