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What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech

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Ulrich Baer wrote an article in the New York Times: 

What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech

Here’s the article, rewritten with the mistakes extirpated:

 

Written by Caleb Powell

April 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Currently We Are Trying to Steer Clear from Blogs on Blasphemy

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Last month an editor from The Express Tribune asked me if I wanted to write a blog on United Airlines barring two girls wearing leggings from boarding. I responded:

Dear XXXXX,

This article is interesting, and it seems just absurd that an airline would ban anyone for wearing leggings, however I’m not sure if I’m the right person for it, I’m much more interested in writing about a different topic. The #HangAyazNizami hashtag is exploding ever since he was arrested. Blasphemy is one of the more important issues in Pakistan, and the extremists are pulling down the entire country with their ideology. I also realize how sensitive the issue is, and would be respectful both of Islam and its followers in the context of speaking against judicial executions. This goes back to the dialectic between fundamentalists and Salmeen Taseer for his support of Asia Bibi. I would examine compulsion in religion and how this contradicts punishment for blasphemy. Let me know if you’re interested.

Thanks,

Caleb

But The Express Tribune responded thus:

“Currently, we are trying to steer clear from blogs on blasphemy.”

We know the danger, as the BBC reports, “At least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.” This goes back to Rushdie and Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who wrote on topic:

“No blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer.”

Then Pakistan then experienced another tragedy. A young student, Mashal Khan, was murdered on campus.

“Students beat classmate to death while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar'”

PEW reports that 64% of those in Pakistan support capital punishment for those who blaspheme, and section 295C of the Penal Code also mandates the penalty. So it’s not mere cowardice to avoid polemics if you are on the ground in Pakistan.

We fight those who support blasphemy laws, for they are at the forefront of the dialectic between benevolent humanity and the evils of religious chauvinism. We also fight those who obfuscate in their condemnation, out of cowardice, ignorance, or complicity. Many in Pakistan and the West are guilty (a tangent that runs too deep for a short blog).

Therefore, those who have freedom of speech, non-Muslims and Muslims alike, must challenge the evil of blasphemy laws and recognize many “blasphemies” are actually not evil at all, but calls for tolerance.

To double down on the above, just like I have no desire to burn the American flag, use racial slurs, or mock the religious, I also claim my right to criticize the United States, culture, and religion. Those who criticize are often falsely accused of being unpatriotic, racist, and blasphemous when in fact they are pushing ideas that will help humanity progress. That’s why not enough can be written in support of free speech and against blasphemy, whether secular or religious.

Such evil ideology can only flourish in a vacuum of speech. From Mao’s China to North Korea, those who control speech control society. And right now, in Pakistan, evil is flourishing.

Pakistan, we realize the danger you face and we support you, but please write about blasphemy. Be convincing, be strong, be courageous, spread the risk. We who have speech support you.

Written by Caleb Powell

April 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

Milo Yiannopoulos, Vida Rz, and the Right to Be a Bigot

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How should we respond to a bigoted post on social media?

Facebook:  My Facebook “friends” include liberals, conservatives, libertarians, etc. Many post political views that warrant exchanges. Often hatreds erupt, and underlying this is free speech’s relation to “hate speech.” The former covers the legality of speech, the latter relates to ethics.

(This post is not primarily about Facebook protocol, but here I’ll mention I rarely block or unfriend anyone, making exceptions for pornbots, solicitors, and the rare tool. I try to welcome, respect, and engage with those whose views clash with mine, and hope the feeling is mutual.)

The Milo Effect:  Recently I wrote an article at The Express Tribune Blogs on Milo Yiannopoulos where I defended our right to express our hatreds, and made clear this does not condone bigotry:

“Let’s face it, most of us hate something or someone. Whether it’s broccoli, rush hour traffic, Trump, conservatives, liberals, terrorists, dictators, bigots, or anti-free speech fascists. I claim my right to excoriate that which I hate, and you should too.”

Free vs. Hate Speech:  The Milo brouhaha highlights the current dialectic regarding speech. In Bangladesh, speech inaccurately deemed “hateful” can get a blogger murdered. Thus we debate “hate speech” in the marketplace of ideas. Example:  Vida Rz’s joke.

The Joke:  Unlike SJWs, who shut down and ban speech, the Alt-SJWs seem to double down on bigotry. I tried to engage, to see if Vida and her friends would consider the context of Charlie Hebdo or Raif Badawi, I mentioned that my grandfather was born in Iran (we’re Mizrahi), and to support Iranians’ rights should mean something. 

Did Raif Badawi get 1,000 lashes so Vida Rz could use “free speech” to call Muslims goatfuckers? I told Vida and company:

Bizarre, folks. As if Raif Badawi and dissidents in Evin prison fought for the right for free speech so dingbats like you can make bigoted unoriginal jokes. Fair enough, it’s the marketplace of ideas. If you want to fight bigotry, it’s quite simple, don’t be a bigot back, don’t play the SJW perpetual game of Tag, You’re Racist.” 

The result?  A few people supported me, but mostly I got called a “pussy” and an “SJW.” Vida proclaimed her right to hate Muslims b/c “they” wanted her dead. She didn’t quantify. (I linked to the post, but it has since been deleted)

Final word:  We’ll stand by the Westboro Baptist Church’s constitutional right to say “God hates fags,” but we’ll use the same right to condemn bigotry. We reject the Neo-PC SJW authoritarianism party line and don’t need the self-imposed censorship of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” Why? Because we recognize that only free speech can destroy bad ideas, and you can’t do that from a safe space.

Written by Caleb Powell

March 21, 2017 at 8:46 am

Trump’s Muslim Ban

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muslim-ban

The media went on overdrive when Donald Trump, immediately after inauguration, followed through on his promise for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims”. The New York Times reported: 

“The president’s order… suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”

When The Express Tribune asked if I wanted to write a blog on the Muslim ban…more

Written by Caleb Powell

February 27, 2017 at 6:23 am

Posted in Express Tribune

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I Think You’re Totally Wrong at Northwest Film Forum

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film-jacket

Our movie, I Think You’re Totally Wrong:  A Quarrel, releases this February. The film will play at these venues:

(James Franco, director, 87 min)

NW Film Forum:
Wednesday, Feb 08 at 07:30PM
Wednesday, Feb 15 at 07:30PM
February 22, USC, Los Angeles, CA 7 pm, Ray Stark Theatre
February 24, U. of Richmond, VA 3 pm
February 25, Virginia Tech, VA 3 pm
Feb 27-28. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
March 1, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
March 6, Brown University, Providence, RI
March 7, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
March 8, Boston University, Boston, MA
March 10, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
March 12, Tuscon (Loft Cinema), Arizona Festival of Books
March 21, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
March 22-23, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
March 29-31. Furman University, Greenville, SC
April 1-3, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
April 4-6, Gemini Ink, San Antonio, TX
April 7-8, Austin Film Society, Austin, TX
April 11, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Loosely based on the book of the same name, writers David Shields and his collaborator and fellow-combatant, Caleb Powell, decide to put their friendship on the line by spending four days together in a cabin in the Cascades. The men barely make it down the driveway before an argument breaks out. On the drive to the cabin, things degenerate even further, as they variously debate the idea of life versus art.

On the first day of shooting, an actual fight breaks out over what and who can be talked about in the course of the film with the director getting dragged into the mix along the way. As the three men, and their respective egos, circle and jab at each other, you wait for someone to get punched in the face. The gladiatorial aspects of the film are only a beginning, as the weekend continues, something altogether more surprising happens — genuine and real communication.”

“More than a deconstruction of the buddy film, I Think You’re Totally Wrong assails the divisions between reality and fiction, documentary and life, with subversive glee.” – DOXA Documentary Film Festival

January 2015:  “That it is outrageously entertaining, as is the rest of this talking book, constructed out of four days’ worth of unceasing dialogue between two old friends and sometime rivals, should go without saying.” Saul Austerlitz, – Boston Globe

March 2015:  “Their extended verbal jam session is one of the most spontaneous literary artifacts since Jack Kerouac unloosed ‘On the Road’ during an amphetamine bender.” – John Murawski, Charlotte Observer

Interview with Massachusetts International Film Festival
Interview with Word and Film

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Written by Caleb Powell

January 30, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Can Muslims Live with Trump in the USA?

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trump-eric

On Muslims and Trump, from the Express Tribune Blogs:  Seattle is the most liberal city in arguably the most liberal state in America. And folks here are in a state of rage and catatonic shock – they’ve refused to attend school and marched through downtown blocking traffic, as one of their leaders, Jamila Prayapal, announced,

“We will have to fight for social justice as never before.”

…Many conservatives aren’t “racist, xenophobic bigots”, and to treat them so is not only wrong but harmful. If we believe in the aphorism that it takes “two to fight”, we liberals must engage. The winners won’t change, the losers must….For liberals, if we wish to return to our values, we must disassociate ourselves from the authoritarian elements of the “social justice” movement, the calls for censorship, witch hunts, safe spaces, and the groupthink that’s taking over media and our universities. If we can, then the Alt-Right and White Nationalists will be the last bigots standing….more

 

Written by Caleb Powell

December 18, 2016 at 8:14 am

How Media Inadvertently Helped Trump

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trump-victory

On April 6, 1994, a missile shot down an airplane carrying Hutu leaders Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprian Ntayamira in Rwanda, unleashing the ethnic majority Hutus against the minority Tutsis on a campaign of mass murder. As the atrocity spread, the world debated the nuances of the word ‘genocide’. Three months and at least half a million deaths later proved that, yes, it was genocide. Semantics matter. During the 2016 US election, mainstream media’s refusal to correctly identify bigotry, while perhaps not as egregious as mislabelling ethnic cleansing, has contributed to Donald Trump’s victory. Semantics matter.

Trump’s detractors, and count me as one, remain perplexed. We can’t blame the Republicans, they won. We may ponder hypothetical scenarios: what if Gary Johnson had run a stronger campaign and pulled votes from Trump? Or Jill Stein simply ceased to exist? But this does not explain how the media alienated voters.

Consider Roxane Gay’s post-election analysis in The New York Times:…(more)

Written by Caleb Powell

November 25, 2016 at 8:15 am