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Criminally predatory behaviors and defamatory speech

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Tim ChambersPerson was signed in when posted
12-30-2015
02:50 PM ET (US)
Kudos to Paul Hsieh for bringing "Faculty Focus: How Three Professors Banded Together to Beat Back a Free Speech Threat at Clemson" to my attention with his public Facebook post [1]. I wholeheartedly agree with FIRE [2]. Kudos to the three professors who seized an opportunity to stand for free speech on their university campus! However, when you actually read the Grievances [3] you may see that there is more to this story. I did, at least.

The open letter to the students was inspired by the students' demand that the Clemson University Administration would "prosecute criminally predatory behaviors and defamatory speech." Here is food for thought. I thought "defamatory speech" was subject to prosecution, so I Googled and educated myself on defamation law in a couple minutes. :) I refreshed my recollection that written defamation is libel, and spoken defamation is slander. Neither libel nor slander is Constitutionally protected speech. And what lover of free speech would defend "criminally predatory behaviors?!" Defamation is a civil offense, not a criminal one, but the sentence parses correctly. With all that in mind, "to prosecute criminally predatory behaviors and defamatory speech" is not at all an unreasonable demand.

Please hear me out. I'm about to hand you over to professionals who will lead you on an audio journey that you can listen to for yourself. All Americans should be deeply concerned with the increasing trend to trash free speech on our university campuses; however, the Clemson students mentioned one theme of hostility that I have recently heard about and am horrified by. It's the anonymous forum Yik Yak. I simply ask you listen to the Reply All podcast episode "The Writing on the Wall" before you rush to judgement about students who claim they feel threatened on their campuses. It documents abhorrent anonymous behavior that is occurring on American campuses. Podcasts are the best medium for producing empathy. You only have to listen. There are no pictures to distract you. Just. Listen.

And then you can listen more if you wish. [5]

(The Reply All links include transcripts, so you can read if you prefer.)

I intentionally chose to start a discussion instead of blogging about this. I'm the moderator, so I can keep the conversation on topic, and I can keep it civil.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/PaulHsiehMD/posts/10206530236469265
[2] https://www.thefire.org/faculty-focus-how-...-threat-at-clemson/
[3] http://seestripescu.org/?page_id=70
[4] https://gimletmedia.com/episode/9-yik-yak/
[5] Yik Yak Returns https://gimletmedia.com/episode/46-yik-yak-returns/

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