Free Speech Will Not Save Us

Resolving our culture wars will require more than just classical liberalism.

Comments: 242

  1. "The reasons for that counterprotest include an admirable patriotism and an understandable weariness with the politicization of sports and entertainment." Bunk! These cowardly owners arrived at this Machiavellian solution to get Trump off their backs. Muzzling the oppressed is not patriotism. Making the very people who are being killed, tased, imprisoned at the rate of hundreds, year in, year out, kneel in front of a flag that doesn't respect their right to live in dignity and safety is unpatriotic and racist. Free speech, indeed, will not save us. Critical thought and doing things in a moral way, will. I see hope in the Parkland youngsters. Were the late Ronald Dworkin alive today, he'd be right with them, engaging them, encouraging them. The American education system has failed us. Dworkin was right. We are in this sunken place for lack of uniform education. We need to redo it from scratch, without omissions, and with a renewed vow to turn it into the Great Equalizer it was always supposed to be, free of tinkering by this or that political interest group. Racism - what is is and does - at this late date, should no longer be fodder for debate. But here we are... --- Dworkin on politics in public school

  2. The only way to assure what is taught and how scholars approach the acquisition of knowledge is producing the best outcomes are freedom of conscience and freedom of expression and well reasoned skepticism of established beliefs that supports intellectual freedom. The standards must be well considered rules and methods that all can apply to evaluate how reliable what is asserted.

  3. Casual Observer, Critical thinking skills, an education steeped in the humanities, a deep knowledge of philosophy, logic, from the earliest age and through the learning cycle, fully and equally funded ... All the things neither party ensured remain in place as a right for all Americans and a benefit to our society.

  4. Pop quiz: what party was it that had on one of its official state platforms, a declaration that it rejected the teaching of critical thinking skills in schools? Google it.

  5. Cultural issues are only part of the matrix of suppression in academic circles. Freedom of speech in academia has been curtailed for many years, by the religion of science. Though we must never permit the gains of the enlightenment to be obscured by murky speculation, the time has come to open our minds to realities that offer to expand the limits of what we think can be known. The orthodoxies of science have become as stifling as those of the medieval church. Any curiosity or even evidence pointing to the existence of something beyond matter as we currently understand it is immediately met with the academic scorn of the cult of strict scientific materialism. Look at the story of Harvard’s John Mack, who was torpedoed for suggesting that UFOs might represent something worthy of academic study. There have been others who have explored the possibilities of the survival of consciousness after physical death, and have been shot down without any examination of their work. Mr. Douthat is correct that the illness runs deep.

  6. I am sorry but your entire argument is just without any reasonable foundation. Science is not faith based, it is not based upon beliefs that require trust in some perfect source of knowledge. Science is a method of determining whether carefully considered guesses about reality can be proven to be correct by all the empirical evidence that anyone who tests them can confirm, and the rejection of them when not confirmed by subsequent examinations. It’s a way of knowing about reality without relying upon absolute truths provided by higher intelligences as are religious beliefs.

  7. You do not go far enough, sir. Free speech also includes allowing the methods that make things people say with their right to free speech testable or falsifiable. Free speech means giving people the freedom to test if there is anything supernatural beyond matter or whether UFOS are visiting us. Based on that, the evidence is clear that the supernatural does not exist and that UFO stories are lies and hoaxes. "Researching" nonsense about UFOs would lock up resources more usefully deployed in other areas.

  8. It is ridiculous and sad that in the year 2018 there are still people with a medieval, ignorant mindset that thinks established scientific methods are something to be scorned and feared. The American downward slide into a fanatical Evangeline existence where facts are vilified and untruths are heartily embraced, will spell the end of our nation as we know it.

  9. There is something far more nefarious going on, concerning free speech, that supercedes all other concerns. I would gladly strike a deal with all the free speech advocates, both Conservative and Liberal. You may feel free to have any opinion you wish as long as it is factual. How about that? Our concern, in the present environment, should not be about silencing speech that is counter to our way of thinking, it should be about preserving truth in a public forum. I will listen to anyone's point of view but I draw the line when that point of view disregards the very foundations of civilized discourse. Free speech is no longer free when lies and purposeful distortions are used to gin up your side of an argument. The truth should set the tone for free speech.

  10. A deliberate lie is the discourse equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater and just as catastrophic.

  11. Well you are completely wrong. Telling lies is protected speech because its not the truth of what you say that matters when it comes to the first amendment but rather that you have the right to speak. We all also have the right to investigate whether what we are hearing from anyone conforms to the evidence (don't like to use the word facts because it implies a conclusion).

  12. Exactly CBH - listener beware - fact check

  13. I knew Mr. Douthat had a column in him with which I can agree. The point of freedom of speech is, afterall, speech. We don't, unless we're simply publicity hounds, say things in order to be hired on Fox or shouted down on campus. The point of discussion is not to take sides, or assert power. It's to complicate the issue, or personalize it, to point out that both sides are wrong, or a hundred other permutations. It's not that the culture has no shared standards that would allow conversation. It's the sadder fact that we share a single standard: the standard of the marketplace. And fear, outrage & insult sell better than seriousness, empathy & knowledge. The powerful know this, and are happy to keep us at each others' throats while they govern us. Conversation is not in their interest. "Free speech" is, because they can afford it. Within living memory, our government tried to protect the public forum. It prevented corporations from controlling media markets, it required ideological balance, it outlawed unlimited spending on propaganda & political bribery. With the Supreme Court's decision that money is speech, the force of the law is now on the side of preventing dialogue instead of preserving it. We will never develop common grounds on which to disagree unless we protect discourse from the people (yes, Fox news, yes Mr Trump) who want to prevent it with lucrative hysteria.

  14. Mr. Douthat is saying here in his inimitable way that free speech should be curbed because whenever or wherever it is allowed it's the right that gets creamed.

  15. Alton Ware: I don't think that's what he's saying at all. I think he's saying that speech & debate in America face much bigger obstacles than speakers being shouting down, or football players being fired. I'm sure he would disagree with me on the nature of those obstacles, but I think we agree that the freedom to shout at each other because we can't communicate is not really helpful.

  16. Martin, In general you are right but take away lies and money from public discourse and you get a message that is tilted to the liberal side. Reality has a liberal bias but can be very effectively counteracted with deception and lies. That’s what freedom of speech is being effectively used for and That’s what Alton Ware is arguing. Freedom of speech is a double edged sword and there in nothing inherently objective about it.

  17. Huh? Maybe I read this too fast but the point is lost on me. Douthat states the NFL shut down the ability of athletes to protest violence because the owners have conflicting financial interests. Which he couples with... American universities are dysfunctional because students fight over whether to allow free speech to views they dislike AND the humanities are too liberal and insular. Ergo... self-defined fringe intellectuals with non-liberal ideas need to band together to create their own life philosophy and institutions so that their ideas can gain more traction? The logic doesn't work for me. (Plus I'm not convinced the second coming of conservative thought will save humanity.) What is Douthat trying to say? There is something fundamentally troubling about the current battles over ideas and rules and institutions? Or freedom of expression and religious thought alone does not make for a compelling social movement? The first amendment is weak pillar on which to hang the resolution of social problems? I lost the thread.

  18. Me too.

  19. It was lost on me at first too, but I believe what he is arguing is that the erosion of free speech is more a symptom of larger problems, and that tackling those problems would naturally allow free speech to flourish again. He says that free speech needs a foundation on which to stand or else it will fall apart and argues that is what is happening now, so trying to fix free speech is like trying to plant "daffodils in the most polluted stretch" i.e. focusing on the wrong thing. Also as an aside, the "classical liberals" or "intellectuals" would not describe their positions as non-liberal, they would say the campus activists and the like are actually the ones holding non-liberal positions.

  20. Yes, he's incoherent. But the ending few paragraphs expose his usual thing: secular life isn't enough; everyone should believe in God, preferably the Catholic one.

  21. I’m a liberal who doesn’t have much patience with the trigger-warning bunny-hugger set, but I see where their hypersensitivity might be coming from. The Obama era unleashed a new kind of virulent conservatism that thought it was OK to lie about his birth and stonewall his every initiative. It gave human rights to corporations so that big money could elect favorable candidates. It promoted religion with evangelical zeal, using it to undo women’s rights and to rail against advances in LGBT rights. So remaining politely silent while a conservative zealot spoke at a college campus might have seemed like conciliation, or at least like a kind of tolerance to intolerable ideas. After all, it was these kinds of protests in the ‘sixties that raised public awareness and ultimately led to advances in civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights in the first place. Liberals have nothing to apologize for as long as the spokesman for the conservative Republican Party and commander in chief is an ignorant, small-minded con-man. His very presence means that conservatism is irredeemably polluted, and must not go unchallenged wherever it rears its head. The nature of protests is to disturb the status quo. When black people are arrested for their mere presence in a coffee shop, or are routinely shot by police, it seems a fairly mild gesture to take a knee at a football game. We fought for fairness and freedom for the past century. We know what it feels like. We're not going back.

  22. Like you, Gemli, I am a proud liberal who had little patience with the realm of microaggression and trigger warning, and who tends to think that censorship is more to be feared than offensive speech and writing. But I have usually understood this as a battle between "freedom to" and "freedom from", which tend to exist in uneasy flux with one another. One's freedom to express racist and sexist tropes violates another's right to not be subject to those tropes. The rights of oligarchs to expand their fortunes and influence conflicts with the rights of those to not be taken advantage of or silenced by the process of oligarchs doing so. In the end, the balance is still likely best expressed by the sentiment that "the right to swing my fist stops where your nose begins"; the harm must be specific and demonstrable to curtail a "freedom to". This does NOT lead directly to libertarianism; a harm does not have to be physical--it can certainly be economic, or political, and may call for concerted institutional action to create a "freedom from". What the EU is trying to do with its new internship privacy and personal data regulation falls is a reasoned example. One thing I have a hard time with, though, is the curtailing of expression rights on the grounds it might hurt some other person's commercial,money making ones. The American (Calvinist) tendency to privilege a capitalist's right over a speaker's is, fortunately, not universally shared.

  23. @Glenn. Interest concept of “freedom to” and “freedom from” but unlike physical harm, in the subject of speech, you do not have to listen or read an opinion. You have a choice. But why is it ok to prevent others from listening or reading someone’s opinion, simply because you do not agree ? You can justify it by reasoning that these ideas are bad for society (or the society that you want to live in). If you do not like it, don’t listen to it.

  24. I agree with every point that you make in this fine post. Silence is surrender!

  25. Free speech is different from branding and marketing which is the point of many speakers. Liberalism is about “reasoned” debate, not shouting matches.

  26. This won't be a popular opinion here, but I don't think Kaepernick had any business conducting a political protest on a football field. He is paid to entertain people by playing football at a high level. That is what the crowd is there to see, and they don't necessarily want to be reminded of political debates that they would like a break from. Mr Kaepernick is perfectly free to engage in politics when he is not at work, which is most of the year. He might not get much attention, because there is no sign that he has anything very interesting to say. Pig socks is not the level of debate most people are looking for. There are other black people who are better writers and speakers than Kaepernick. They do a far better job of explaining the African American experience than Kaepernick does. President Trump also has a job to do. War and peace. Jobs and wages. Immigration and trade. That is what he is supposed to be taking care of. The President's comments on the NFL players protest wasted our country's time on a trivial issue. Both Mr Kaepernick and President Trump are feeding their egos and needs for attention rather than doing their jobs.

  27. Yes, sort of -- but playing the national anthem at the beginning of the games ushers politics right into the arena and the job. A big step in the right direction would be to stop this practice. I've never understood why they do this. We don't do it for plays and concerts, and I hope we never will.

  28. If you want to be free to express yourself, other people are going to have to listen to you with forbearance. If you want to live in a well ordered society where all know their place and never complain, you may feel free from disturbances from others but you must keep your non-forming thoughts to yourself. Allowing players to take a knee in protest is a cheap price to pay for freedom.

  29. The massive stadiums are built (and rebuilt) every couple of decades using hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Certainly no politics employed there.

  30. Freedom of speech is sacrosanct to any who want to a country where in’s freedom is not determined upon the power one can bring to bear. Trump’s ability to manipulate anyone into preventing it should be a big issue, but it’s not. A few years back, when issues of free speech, of equality of opportunity, of disparities of wealth or of political power, of risks of war arose, the discussion became great and so did the analyses and debates over the best policies. Since Trump entered the scene, the attention is focused upon him to the neglect of everything that is far more important. Trump’s actual effects upon our country and the world is not being considered in any meaningful way.

  31. “...who want to live in a county where one’s...”

  32. Ross argues an apocalyptic vision of civilization, basically that it’s going to hell, that the career down that infernal path appears to be unavoidable, and that one may as well commit one’s soul (or whatever) to immutable verities, such as the maleness and blondness of God. His basic argument isn’t that free speech will not save us, but that NOTHING will save us but a return to “true” verities. Yes, yes, I understand that he writes superficially today of free speech on campuses and gridirons, and his apparent argument is that all this palaver over the right to speak one’s mind means very little in reality if what fills one’s mind lacks real insight and substance. But he filters what some seek to say by a set of assumptions that determine substance, and those filters strain out what doesn’t conform to a very definite idea of healthy “community” based on HIS convictions. I like all the palaver over free speech, because I subscribe to very few immutable verities, and those few don’t focus on the maleness and blondness of God. In any search for “truth”, we see innumerable strands of spaghetti thrown up against the refrigerator to see which actually stick. Without all those strands, it’s far more likely that we’ll end up with one man’s version of “truth”, and genuflecting before a tall, blond, blue-eyed god who also was inexplicably in life a Middle Eastern Semite with more than a ration of African blood in him.

  33. I normally disagree with you but this is pretty good stuff! Thanks.

  34. Campus speech wars notwithstanding, our problem is hardly free speech but too much speech, enabled by the Internet, ubiquitous mobile devices and the desperate need for eyeballs for advertisers. Americans often have the attention span of a butterfly in a field full of flowers. We flit from one colorful story flower to another, scarcely remembering what happened the day before. And so we easily lose track of the big picture. So here's a few reminders: Our education system, families and government are too often failing our children. Our infrastructure is crumbling and we are well behind the developed world, including China, in high speed rail. And so we fly, using twice the carbon per passenger mile. Our health care system is by far the most expensive, but we have worse health outcomes, both harming our global labor competitiveness. Our carbon output per person is 3 times the global average, speeding our way to devastating climate change. Out tax code was just changed to further advantage the wealthy, while leaving the rest with ruinous national debt. And it appears that our President is actively engaged in an international organized crime network, laundering stolen public assets into private real estate, yachts, art and other assets. Other than that and a few other details, everything is fine.

  35. But it is still the greatest country in the world to live for me. And I was not born and raised here. But it fits me. Freedom is a precious thing. Europe is an option for many, but too structured and predictable life for me.

  36. On a local level here in Florida, the recent activities of students from Parkland seems to refute your argument. Organized as a protest against Publix, a large grocery retailer and supporting a pro-gun advocate for governor, students used their First Amendment rights, including speech, assembly and petitioning for redress of grievances against Publix’ support for the GOP candidate. The result? Publix heard it from an aroused public in response to the Parkland students and the grocery chain pulled all campaign financing for the candidate. These students wisely defined how to use their free speech and other First Amendment rights. They will be the future and we need them now.

  37. Correction, JT...Public pull funding from ALL political candidates and causes. And, actually, I think that that is a move that more companies need to take...They should not be involved in our political debates, Citizens United notwithstanding. But that is a different issue.

  38. I don’t think so, The Owl, you see it is cause and effect in this Publix case. The uproar by the public was a direct result of the grocery chain openly supporting a candidate favored by the gun lobby. The statement by the company about withdrawing all political funding was a way of saving face but it’s clear, it backed down after students used their free speech rights through a vigorous campaign.

  39. Mr. Douthat I kept waiting for you to get to the point, and all you left us with is: "But sometimes the problems are bad enough that the procedural approach isn’t a solution. And with due respect to the First Amendment, I think this may be one of those times." You did not explain what a solution might be. If you are trying to say that neither the far left nor far right is open to conversation with one another, I agree with that point. However, contrary to the title of this column, it is free speech that is exactly what will save us, because without it, all we are left with is an authoritarian state. Free speech gave us Civil Rights, free speech gave women the right to vote, free speech gave women the right to choose, free speech gave us the right to marry whom you love, and free speech gave us a free press. I could go on and on about free speech, because it is one of the most valuable rights we have. This country was born in protest, and because of those liberals who were willing to protest and speak out. So when I see someone taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem in protest to how racist this country has become, I applaud that protest. It is also a protest of enforced patriotism, which is a step closer to fascism. Why can we not have a conversation about that between liberals and conservatives?

  40. The point, obscured in Mr. Douthat's deliberately confusing prose, is that Douthat rejects the very things you note that free speech has given us. Were Ross to clearly say what his solution to the problem of free speech is the Times would fire him.

  41. RD is right about underlying causation. We've reached a point in this country where there is just nothing left to say. Reason or facts change no minds. The Right in particular lives on an island of argument in bad faith and the Left increasingly is writing them off as fundamentally evil. The problem is that we really fundamentally dislike moving-towards-hate each other and it is entirely the wealthy puppetmasters of the GOP who are responsible.

  42. Let’s take away the NFL’s tax exempt status. Until they are not playing in my dime I will always encourage protest at NFL games.

  43. Number one, the NFL is no longer tax exempt. Number two, even when the NFL OFFICE was tax exempt, it didn't receive any revenue. All that went to the individual teams, which have always paid taxes on their profits. So you don't have to protest or encourage protest any more.

  44. NFL is a total scam. They need suckers who have been robbed of their genuine community so that they will buy tickets to feel like they are part of something. That's another reason to encourage protest. Or the covering up of brain injuries. Wonderful example for the children.

  45. Yes, but tax dollars still go to building them giant fancy stadiums. Heck, even to build them new ones when they tire of the stadium they are using at the time.

  46. Another excellence piece by the indomitable Ross Douthat. There is no particular point I wish to disagree with, but one I wish to elucidate: With the great cost of college and my paucity of billions I am, unfortunately, not sending my last youngster, into the bosom of higher education to listen to controversial speakers of any denomination. The kids can debate ideology or politics like I did, for free in Vietnam's humid air or the rathskellers of a state college campus. Spending money on a Milo Yiannopoulos or the equivalent of Julian Assange seems like sacrilege to the sacred dollars I have committed to pushing my progeny toward a shrinking middle class. So in my case pragmatism is principle.

  47. "... an admirable patriotism?" Oh, Mr. Douthat, why is patriotism admirable? Who said it should be? These N.F.L. owners aren't patriotic; they're greedy capitalists who want a huge profit margin that comes with as little capital outlay for labor and ancillaries as possible. And the ancillaries include, with few exceptions, heavily taxpayer-funded stadia. The N.F.L. owners also lug around the baggage of "a typical conservative cluelessness about black grievances...and the toxic identity politics that Donald Trump is constantly encouraging." The owners see their employees not as human beings in the context of citizenship and due process but as chattel, owned and mortgaged and appreciated or depreciated on whim. The N.F.L. playing make-up is roughly 70% black. But the owners' appreciation of the value of their majority-labor force is non-existent, feudal and punitive. Accompanying that duffel bag of "cluelessness" is the owners' inability to understand history as their players do. They've never lived close to the edge where a casual wave may be interpreted, in a rolling-by squad car, as a gang signal, a prelude to violence. And exactly what does "The Star-Spangled Banner" celebrate? Or, more precisely, whom? I say that the national anthem represents a nod to white supremacy and that every owner knows and endorses that concept. It has been written elsewhere that the National Football League is a grand planation with the players as field hands--literally. Mr. Douthat?

  48. You missed something. It is the admirable patriotism of the boycotting fans that Mr. Douthat refers to, not that of the owners who, as you note, are in it for the money. And of course the "chattel" players make millions of dollars. So much for indentured servitude.

  49. There will even more boycotting "fans" now. That should make everyone happy! Now question to J Waddell: how many millions of dollars is sufficient to have your ability to express legitimate grievance squelched? How much would you sell out for?

  50. Not one single player has had his ability to express grievances, legitimate or otherwise, on his own time. If they really feel they’re selling out, they can always quit.

  51. the issue of kneeling for the anthem at the start of a football game is not an issue of free speech. the NFL is a private organization (although it does get an anti-monopoly dispensation from the government) and as such it has every right to control the speech of its employees. if they dont like it they can quit. free speech is only an issue when speech is constrained by one of the many layers of government. free speech is the most important of our freedoms. we all like to at one time or another rail against the stupidity of the government or a politician. what we dont want is to have to worry about one of our neighbors or children over hearing us and turning us in to the authorities.

  52. And there should be no problem with telling store employees to say "Happy Holidays," right? The First Amendment may not apply. I'm honestly unsure if employers have carte blanche to police an employee's speech, or if some limitations apply so long as the work itself is not affected. That said, the ideal of free speech can go beyond the First Amendment. We hold the value that people should be allowed to voice their opinion and grievances without undue punishment, private or public. Both sides make this argument, that a business should not go out of business just because it refuses to serve a gay wedding, that a Google worker shouldn't lose his job over his opinions on hiring women programmers, etc. No, this ideal doesn't hold legal weight, but it does have some societal pull.

  53. I do take issue with the idea that a private organization has the absolute right to control the speech of the people who toil for it. How far does that right go? Is it only when the employee is "on the clock"? As we know, today most corporations/employees believe everyone is "on the clock" 24/7. Is it only when people are representing that entity in an "official" capacity? What does that mean? Where is that line drawn? As I've written in a few other comments here, it is a peculiarly American concept that the free expression rights of one individual can be subservient to the economic profit-making rights of another individual or entity. Without even attacking the "corporations are people" trope, this is not an universally held notion.

  54. Right. Like the NFL wouldn't seek "public" protection if the players ever did quite and formed their own league.

  55. I find myself wanting freedom FROM speech nowadays. The constant arguing, oneupsmanship, bloviating rhetoric makes me literally feel sick. I get queasy, have a headache and am nxiety-ridden a lot of the time. The only way to deal with it is to unplug from it all and yet I can't...its got me in its grip. It seems that everything, all of our institutions, are in crisis. Somehow we have got to work our way through this not knowing what the outcome will look or be like.

  56. Ann, you might try learning to spend one entire day completely away from worldliness. Long. long ago, it was suggested that every seventh day would be a good idea. That seems realistic.

  57. Thank you Harold.

  58. Mr. Douthat, you suggest that free speech will not cure polarization, or problems in academia, big-time sports, or race relations. Is "cure" a relevant bar? It also won't make us all healthy, stop climate change, or end violence against women. Is free speech a cure? No. Is it required to progress? Yes. Lack of free speech makes all of these problems worse whether it's limiting what a doctor can tell a patient because of religious pressure, or what a scientist can report because of political pressure, or silencing woman who have been abused by powerful men, or fining athletes who are useful props for a racist president, or trying to quiet just about everyone with a different opinion in academia. More free speech may not be the total cure of any of our most pressing problems but the increasing lack of respect for free speech is making many of these problems harder to address. The #metoo movement is a good example as it demonstrates that more free speech may not be sufficient for a "cure" but it is necessary for improvement.

  59. Once those in power controlled every narrative, and avoided the contradictions of logic and false statements in their beliefs. Once, those who are white claimed political cover, like wolves in sheeps' clothing, pretending to be defenders of valor and virtue, as statues of bronze were placed on public pedestals to honor their willingness to fight fo narrow privilege and a rigid social order controlled by violence imbued in their authority. Once they attacked Harriet Tubman and offered $40,000 for her death or capture, because she made way with a few runaway slaves who the men offering the bounty could kill without fear. Now comes new voices of this tradition, drawing upon Justice Taney and SC's Sen. Tillman, lifting up White Citizens Councils and Justice Powell's 1971 memo, with Nixon, Reagan, and Atwater strategy, in the modern era fueled by talk radio that smears student survivors and separates liberty from freedom; a police officer's knee or bullet is acceptable but a silent knee in peace is not--as false equivalencies and payoffs reign and children are lost during their internment. Now comes Ross, his indignation reversing facts to fit ideology, in a narrative that is a simple grab for power, creating connections where none exists. In history, America's white supremacists by any name built power through imaginary threats and flag wrapping their response. And deflecting. So we speak of free speech--not missing, lost or dead children. Free speech--not blood spilled.

  60. Walter, that is an excellent response. I wish that it could be read by all. Free speech should mean responsible speech. To rationalize injustices should not be protected free speech. Too often we use our intellect to rationalize our prejudices.

  61. "The owners aren’t interested in standing up for their employees’ right to protest because their bottom line is threatened by Americans exercising their rights and turning off their televisions or ditching season tickets." I can't believe the NFL is losing money because so many conservatives are disgusted with the way the African American players have knelt instead of standing during the national anthem. That is so far fetched as to be laughable. No, the real reason is likely the concussion issue, the fact parents would like to get their kids to play, and watch the more wholesome soccer. But boycott a sport that still appeals to so many in this country because of a Trump-inspired culture war? I don't think so. Or maybe the drop off is in people disgusted with the phony patriotism of Donald Trump who equates love of country with saluting the flag at professional football game? Yeah, the same president who evaded the Vietnam draft 5 times, attacked John McCain, and every day thumbs his nose at the constitution by attacking the free press, crossing the separation of powers, violating the emoluments clause, and groveling before Evangelicals to gain their support by violating the separation of church and state, is a huge patriot. Donald Trump loves to exercise his own freedom of speech by shooting off his mouth whenever he opens it--he just doesn't want those who would criticize him to have the same freedoms.

  62. As I wrote in response to gemli, Christine, it is a peculiarly American idea that the commercial rights of one individual can supercede the free speech expression rights of another individual if the latter are seen to eat into the profits of the former. No other first world nation that I know of thinks those rights are even. But in the United States, the idea that athletes can be penalized by an employer and a league for expressing a political viewpoint unrelated to the actual conduct of that employer's actual business is actually debated seriously. We have extensive free speech rights, but have often required they be abandoned at the workplace door. This is not the case in most of the rest of the economically advanced world, where workers have considerably greater protections. And we need to examine (Social Darwinism? Calvinism? Citizens' United? Private election funding?) why it happens here.

  63. Yes, and now that the dinosaurs on the Supreme Court have forced all employees of workplaces into arbitration clauses, rather than preserving their class action rights, we have even fewer rights than we did last week. MAGA, indeed.

  64. The Constitution, Mr. Ribotsky, only speaks the the GOVERNMENT passing laws to restrict the freedom of speech, religion or assembly. It says nothing about the rights of private individuals to do so, nor does it say anything about the rights of employers to require a certain behavior of their employers. Your understanding of our Constitution and the implications of the rights and limits imposed thereby is woefully lacking, sir.

  65. Ross has tried to reach a conclusion about the general importance of free speech to our society based on the difficulty of deciding a few cases. It is way too complex an issue. One cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater. (Duh) But universities have cancelled speeches of inflammatory speakers because of potential violence arising from protesters who elect to supersede the free speech rights of the speaker. The speaker can still give his speech in another venue. NFL players can find another forum to express their grievances. And you may yell "fire" out in an open field, just not in a theater. Practical considerations can indeed push Free Speech into a different forum than the speakers might wish, but it cannot wipe out that requirement. But there are cases where "Free Speech" simply cannot override other considerations simply because there is no other forum. In the Citizens United case, acutely relevant to the present discussion, the Supreme Court has decided that Free Speech outweighs all other considerations. They are wrong! That decision blatantly destroys the ability of individual citizens to have an equal voice in selecting the candidates that they vote for. There is no other appropriate forum. That is a much better example of how Free Speech cannot reign supreme in a democratic society.

  66. America's problem is not freedom of speech but an inability to listen. I don't know if America can be saved but if it can it will be by listening to what the other side is saying. Mitch McConnell may be honourable but he is the most destructive American on the planet. When Mitch didn't allow a hearing on the Garland nomination I believe he ended America's last hope and the shutting down of Elizabeth Warren my hopes for America ended. The tree has fallen in the forest and nobody heard it crash.

  67. It is interesting that Mr. Douthat fails to mention that suppression of ideas on college campuses is not just liberals silencing conservatives - it's also conservatives seeking to silence liberals. Consider, for example, the "Professor Watchlist" web site, dedicated to "naming and shaming" professors who, in the minds of conservatives, are pushing a radical liberal agenda. This identifies professors for right-wing activists to harass. Is this so very different than left-wing students heckling speakers pushing a radical right-wing agenda? What we have is an epidemic of people so convinced that their beliefs are the nations's only hope that they feel justified in silencing their opponents. Enforcing free speech rights in the name of discussing the issues is the best way out of this morass. It's certainly better than forcibly silencing those with opposing views. P.S.: To those mentioning Justice Holmes' quote that one can't shout fire in a crowded theater - this came from the Supreme Court's decision in Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919). That case held that persons passing out leaflets criticizing the draft could be imprisoned for obstructing the draft. I'd suggest that we don't want to go back to the days when expressing unpopular ideas could result in imprisonment.

  68. Very well put. The problem is not procedural at its root but rather reflects the fraying of the underlying social contract. Every social cycle has both its positive and negative qualities, and we seem to reap the positive at the beginning of the cycle and wrestle with the negative at the end. The American melting pot initially brought together diverse energies from a wide variety of cultural sources that blended together to create often amazing and unexpected synergies. But the melting pot is more about surfaces than depth. In our current difficult times the imperfect patchwork nature of the American quilt has come to be the dominant social reality. We are strangers tossed together rather recently in historical terms who lack the deep levels of mutual trust that only lengthy and organically intertwined relationships can sustain. The pressure of contemporary challenges has driven us apart and is overwhelming our democratic institutional framework, which requires at least a minimum of trust and cooperation to function successfully. All of this is made much worse by the fact that our common national culture increasingly seems to consist of little more than commercialized hedonism and a shallow quest for endless amusement.

  69. In reality the particular examples used by Douthat have nothing to do with the First Amendment (a/k/a "Free Speech") -- which only applies to governmental restriction on speech (by the federal government in the Bill of Rights, by States through the Civil War amendments). Neither events at private universities (where most of Douthat's incidents have occurred) nor at the NFL (except for Trump's outrageous interventions) relate to government action. But Douthat is exactly correct that the problem is much deeper - a culture in profound crisis, with the appalling (non-majority) election of a person who personifies almost every malignancy that has grown among us as our supposed (bitterly opposed by probably a majority) leader.

  70. Free speech has been under assault since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision equated free speech and money. Free speech has been further eroded by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and the Citizens United decision that accorded corporations the citizenship status that allows them to spend as much money as they wish to practice "free speech". The Supreme Court apparently didn't consider a lack of free speech when there is no money. As things now stand in 2018, there is no free speech without money. If you have money, you have the ability to speak freely. If you have no money, you cannot speak.

  71. Should we not note that the NFL, an employer, is only regulating employee speech in the workplace, as do many, if not most private employers. These athletes are free to protest anything they want on their own time, and if there were an attempt to regulate that, a very different issue would be presented.

  72. I wholeheartedly support the players' message and protest. However, as much as I would like their message to be heard and effectuated, unfortunately, they are not empowered to do so while they are employed with their corporate team. Each team has owners and a Board of Directors, who make corporate policy. Players, having reported to work like any other employee, are contractually obligated to follow their employer's policies and all material terms of their employment agreements. Those contracts spell out the boundaries of acceptable conduct as long as the player is the face and agent of the team. The law has long upheld the employer's ability to restrict an employee's exercise of 1st Amendment free speech during whatever time frame is defined as "work." Apparently, in this instance the NFL players' union has not negotiated a different result for the players. Further, the players haven't filed a lawsuit, asking those portions of their contracts to be declared null and void. Unless and until either occurs, as with any other employee,the player is duty bound to comply with the contract. Any player who doesn't like the contract and corporate policies can choose to disengage employment within the contractual provisions. In the meantime, in the appropriate forums outside of employment, I hope the players will fully and frequently exercise their 1st Amendment rights, using their wealth, prestige and fame to do so.

  73. "Free Speech Will Not Save Us" It did in the 60's Ross. Thanks to the hundreds of thousands of protesters, some of who lost their lives we have a strong civil rights bill. And let's not forget how those anti Vietnam war protests help to shorten the war. Without our free speech we have nothing!

  74. The NFL packages its media deals in violation of the antitrust laws. They are allowed to do this because Congress gave the NFL an exemption in the Sports Broadcasting Act. Ironic that the NFL is allowed to exercise free speech the way it wants to but doesn't extend its players the same privilege.

  75. Gratifying to see Mr. Douthat has recognized the complexity of our problems with speech, especially here in the era of social media. But as far back as Plato's "Republic" we have the devilishly difficult problem of lies and their consequences. Plato would have banned poetry because of its fictional component, but in today's arena of free speech absolutism, there is no penalty for conscious lies, and a large percentage of our voting citizens have neither the desire nor the skill to check facts. Yes, "Free Speech Will Not Save Us," and could in these perilous times endanger us, as now seems the case. Worst of all, no remedy seems close to hand, unless our political leaders suddenly discover such antique values as honor and probity. Not likely.

  76. Ross wants to bring back religion. That's not likely The big threat on the horizon, only getting attention on the fringe, is some form of singularity (humans merging with AI and the web). In less than 50 years the definition of what it means to be human is going to change radically and all of the issues of today (assuming we don't have a world ending nuclear war) will seem insignificant. In the meantime, yes. More free speech. Of course.

  77. To save us from our severely corrupted modern world, Douthat says (perhaps rightly) that free speech alone will not complete the task. He calls us back to the superior morality of the catholic church to save us from a spirit of, "An incoherent mix of ambitious scientism and post-Protestant moralism and simple greed." To demonstrate the need for spiritual renewal, our present social environment is set over against a, "A classical liberalism that only wants to defender its own right to argue". If this is an accurate depiction of the liberalism at work in American culture today, perhaps what we need is a recommitment to a more robust liberalism that emphasizes individual freedom and responsibility, rationalism, equality, democracy and the rule of law. But I think more likely that Douthat's is just a straw man liberalism pieced together so he can argue that our social problems are so profound we must flee to the salvific embrace of organized religion. The other shoe to drop of course is it is only one religion is efficacious in his mind.

  78. Free speech does not require that one silences one’s adversary by shouting him down but rather that one overcomes the frailties or faults in the arguments or positions of one’s adversary by reasoned debate. The model is the alleged market place ideas. That is what we should be striving to engage in. It’s difficult to do that when billion dollar corporations control the megaphones but we must continue to strive to do that and to turn around thenwrong head position fo the Supreme Corporate Court that allows corporations to use their unlimited resources and eternal life to shout us all down and support the most divisive and corrosive groups in order to divide and conquer. Ross, as usual, wants to ignore the elephant, both figuratively and, in the form of the GOP literally, the ability of corporate wealth and religious leaders who are bank rolled with our tax dollars to silence us all.

  79. Seems to me all this shouting down business was started by the TeaBags at Obama's first run for president. Am I close, or did I miss something? I don't remember much in the way of really bad manners prior to that. Where were you when all that began, Ross? Busy doing that republican thing - you know, - making "labels" for everything and making sure everyone learned the label FOR everything?

  80. Tribalism teaches us to dehumanize, for which the only antidote is empathy. Empathy requires understanding, which requires learning, which requires asking questions, which requires listening, which requires not talking. It's not a complete solution, but it's a good place to start. So, tell me, what do you think?

  81. And the point is? We should curtail free speech?

  82. It almost reads that way. "Free speech alone won't solve all our problems, so why bother with it?"

  83. It's almost impossible to grasp your columns because they jump from one slick generalization to another, from beginning to end. Readers jump in and try to grab one or two points to comment on, but the overall "meaning" of your columns slips through their fingers. I put meaning in quotes because it's never clear that your columns have a core meaning. They seem to be an assemblage of your assumptions and pet points modified a little to apply to the supposed topic of the column. Here's an example. Your definition of a university is, "An incoherent mix of ambitious scientism and post-Protestant moralism and simple greed would still be the ruling spirit." So universities have an excessive regard for scientific inquiry (how much science is too much?), uphold a single secular morality derived from a single tradition (have you talked to any actual college faculty or students recently?), and are committed to ripping off students (do you know that faculty don't set tuition rates?). Magically, these incoherent elements coalesce in a powerful "ruling spirit." Sorry, Milo! I would ask a student who stated your generalization (or anything similar across the political spectrum) to prove it. I wouldn't dismiss it because the generalization doesn't fit the rigid ideological categories allegedly enforced by universities. I would ask the student to argue the point of view and provide evidence so the class and I could evaluate it. Luckily for you, you're held to a lower standard of proof.

  84. I actually read his criticism of colleges as being a criticism of how donor dollars have twittered the missions of colleges away from liberal arts and toward being being "hedge funds with libraries." However, it is difficult to to discern what exactly he is trying to say. Maybe he should learn to use thesis statements in his essays?

  85. BE, Thank you for that. I was beginning to question if that there was something wrong with me.... because every time I read Ross, I have a very hard time figuring out what he's talking about.

  86. 'Follow The Money' to find out why decisions are made. I'm guessing the primary motivator of football organisation decisions is 'will we win or lose - MONEY !?'

  87. Right - when NFL fans made their decisions to not buy tickets and to not watch games on TV, the team owners realized 'there go profits'..........and the players realized 'there go million dollar per year salaries'.

  88. It simply cannot be over stressed that the legality of the "hecklers veto" on so-called "liberal" college campuses is both unique to public educational institutions and is also a direct consequence of conservative public officials seeking to silence student dissent over free speech, civil rights, and the Vietnam war. Whether defending Milo Yianopolous or Charles Murray, these arguments amount to lazy cherry picking at best, or cynical dishonesty at worst.

  89. The absence of free speech will condemn the United States to a dictatorship, of that we can be certain. Trump himself has confessed to labeling the mainstream media as "fake news" to discredit accurate stories about his countless misdeeds. More fundamentally, it is a serious mistake to describe what is happening in the United States as a battle between liberals and conservatives, It is a struggle for the survival of our nation and our democracy. It is a battle between Trumpists and those who care sincerely about the future of our country. Trumpists have no respect for the Constitution, no respect for American traditions and cannot distinguish the Apprentice Reality TV show from truly governing our nation. Trumpists live in a closed-in fantasy world where Trump will always be a decent man no matter how many people he shoots on 5th Ave. That millions of American's could be conned into believing that Trump and the powerful manipulators behind him would look after their welfare is testament to the strength of the entrenched Fox/Breibart propaganda machine, which is the voice of the super-wealthy right wing extremists that have taken over our country. The United States is now just like those so-called Banana Republics that have undergone a right wing coup. We need free speech for certain. Agreed that It is not enough, as is said here, because we also need an electorate committed to voting in order to save this nation, not from conservatism, but from outright fascism.

  90. We have free speech, but no other freedom. We can talk and write all we like, but we have no economic security, no freedom from violence or excessive and unfair taxation, an injustice system, racism and sexism. Our vaunted "freedom" is nothing but empty words. I'm tired of all the noise and all the yak yak yak. Give me real freedom. Give me equal rights with all citizens. Give me fair taxation, affordable health care, affordable housing, affordable child care and elder care. Stop looting our savings and taxing our homes and incomes until there is nothing left. Tax the rich. We have no freedom in this country. It's a feudal system. You can scream and talk all you like, but until we have justice it's just words, words, words.

  91. Those "politically incorrect" pundits you mention often have not much to say aside from insults, vitriol and exaggerations. Today, with all too powerful partisan media like Fox harkening back to the antics of the 18th/19th centuries, real free speech requires honest, respectful dialogue by its proponents. As long as they adhere to that model they're on the high road, e.g. Skokie, Illinois and the ACLU. While Trump trashes honest media for his personal purposes (as candidly admitted by him) he merely raises the stakes. Free speech will out. It always has.

  92. EMiller writes of "all too powerful partisan media like Fox". How is Fox more powerful than CNN and MSNBC? Would you restrict the rights of viewers to choose their own news sources? Would you prefer news using a model such as Russian state-run newspapers Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News)? In Russia, the people say, "There is no Pravda in Izvestia and there is no Izvestia in Pravda”.

  93. Yes, I think Mr. Douthat is correct. He has done a much better job here of skewering both left and right where they each justly deserve it, as well as the plutocracy and others. Good column.

  94. Censorship rears its ugly head. At a panel discussion at George Washington University, Mr. Baquet was blunt about why he’s going all Mike Ditka on the social media accounts of his employees. It’s vital, he says, to institutional credibility. He wants to be able to say of Times coverage that “we’re doing this because it’s journalistically sound, we’re not doing this because we have a vendetta or [because] we’re trying to take him out, and I can’t do that if I have 100 people working for the New York Times sending inappropriate tweets.” It’s an eminently sane argument—even if rooted in the premise that the Times will be discredited by more honesty about what its reporters really think.

  95. NFL's attitude is rooted more in the Republican concept of ownership privilege. Just as conservatives of the 60's thought store owners should be allowed to choose which race can sit at their lunch counter, so too in the NFL the owner is the master, and the players who toil to make their profits are commodities. Republican philosophy is not only a racial thing, though the trope of that weed is a strong one. It is more a worship of the corporate over the individual; all wage earners are inferior to their corporate masters, and while all are humans are "equal" some are "more equal" and the ultimate metric of human worth is literally, human worth measured in price tags. There has been a rot in American values due to conservative political philosophy. Sad.

  96. .....1860's conservative thought is more like today's GOP, Ghost. Grand Old Plantation 2018

  97. I see a direct parallel.

  98. The kneeling during the National Anthem is not a free speech issue. If it were, we'd be saying all the football players and all the cheerleaders could protest or advocate for whatever cause they wanted during the National Anthem ritual.

  99. When people speak and listen only to those like views it validates their views and gives them a sense of belonging to a community of like minded people. While one is saying what one wants it is not what freedom of speech is about. To enjoy the challenge of listening to and sharing dissimilar views and so to consider what we know and think in a different context is actually enjoying free speech, free expression, freedom of conscience, and the freedom to change one’s mind. When that has value, the tolerance of considering different views and the willingness express different views is important and most people will accept it even if they disagree with what is accepted.

  100. Dutch, Finns, Norwegians, live among like-minded people, yet they have much more freedom than we do. A country like ours which has become mired in ideologies is one that has no freedom. We are all constantly fighting a status quo in which we have no rights at all. There is the rich elite, and the rest of us. We are like helpless brats throwing tantrums, whose parents ignore them. Until we have economic security and freedom from violence in this country, our "freedom" is nothing but noise. In a decent country, where people have real freedom, people do not need to protest so much.

  101. So, what are the "substantive" approaches to finding solutions to the societal problems you enumerate in academia, Silicon Valley, and professional football? Can you at least enunciate a substantive argument to help solve one of these impasses? Or, is the basic construct you have provided, that "free speech" is only a "procedural" tool, incorrect and self-limiting? Evolving constitutional law has furnished many examples of "speech" which is, or is not, deserving of protection in our society. This can ably serve as a starting point in our attempts to reach some real solutions in those problem areas. To simply abandon the concept of "free speech" itself is defeatist and an easy way to avoid the difficult conversations that must be made.

  102. Mr. Douthat is on a roll in the last couple weeks, and he continues this weekend. I liken the free speech problem to the "Repeal and Replace" dilemma of Obamacare. Free speech advocates attack their institutional enemies just as the House Republicans attacked Obamacare, passing symbolic repeal, after symbolic repeal. When they got real power to do so, they failed in large part because they and America at large realized there wasn't anything to their campaign besides bomb-throwing rhetoric. I see no parallel to the NFL protests. NFL players creating awareness is not the same as students or trolls shouting down their enemies in the name of free speech. But, if the current university system were disposed of by either left or right, neither side would know what to do. They are not institution builders, they are screamers and disrupters. Spectacle for its own sake that only ever repeals the freedom of others.

  103. Mr. Douthat seems to think that the problems we face as a culture are too big to solve with free sepeech. Those problems are not going to be solved by repressing speech either. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr Douthat believes the Catholic Church should have been able to repress the freedom of speech expressed Saturday by the voters of Ireland. Democracy, even in a Democratic republic, cannot be without freedom of speech.

  104. For its own employees, the Times has now chosen a different approach. “We consider all social media activity by our journalists to come under this policy,” the memo warned. “While you may think that your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram, Snapchat or other social media accounts are private zones, separate from your role at The Times, in fact everything we post or ‘like’ online is to some degree public. And everything we do in public is likely to be associated with The Times.” Remember, when NFL players take a knee, they do so in the uniforms of their employers, in a workplace paid for by their employers, and before a TV audience provided by their employers. By contrast, while someone might be identified on, say, Twitter as a Times reporter, it’s not a Times platform. In this sense, a reporter posting on Facebook is more akin to Mr. Kaepernick’s appearing at, say, a Black Lives Matter rally, off hours and out of uniform.

  105. Given the reasons why the players are protesting (and the ever-increasing evidence validating those reasons), the question of whether to support those players is simple -- morally speaking. It's a shame that some folks confuse themselves over such an easy question. They say it's because of money. But the rest of us know it's only because of themselves.

  106. Playing the national anthem at the beginning of each game makes patriotism part of the job, and that in itself is wrong. If you don't think players should be able to express their political opinions by kneeling, then stop making patriotic display part of a job that in all other ways has nothing to do with politics. Forced displays of patriotism are the emptiest kind. If you want to take politics out of football games, cut out the anthem.

  107. The anthem is not "political" because it does not advocate for an issue or position. Rather it is a common expression of our solidarity, black or white, liberal or conservative, for our country, people, and the defenders of our freedom. If you find that political, then I'm not sure what you would exclude from the category.

  108. No, let the players take a knee in protest.

  109. @MFW You state that the anthem is an expression of national solidarity and is not political. My question is: To whom is it a symbol of solidarity? It depends on your perspective as to whether the national athem is political. The national anthem is the symbol or the representaion of a nation and its political system. During Apartheid, Black South Africans did not cheer the national sports teams or recognize that national anthem. Why? Because the anthem represented a political system and a country that denied them their basic human rights. To the oppressed minorities, the playing of the oppressors' anthem is a constant reminder that they are denied full and equal participation into the system/society. It is hard to claim an anthem is an expression of solidarity when after that player takes off his sports uniform and then walks out of the stadium or arena, he can be subjected to dehumanizing interactions and possibly life threatening assaults by those who wear police uniforms or by ordinary citizens ...simply because of the color of that player's skin. Until there is true equality...stating the anthem is an apolitical expression of national solidarity is patently false. And by forcing Black athletes to forego protests of systemic inequities, reinforces the notion that Black free speech doesn't matter and that Blacks are indeed second class citizens.

  110. Ross, hadn't you heard? Taking a knee doesn’t matter. Demonstrating in public spaces doesn’t matter. Letters to the editor don’t matter. Petitioning lawmakers doesn’t matter. Even op-eds or their electronic equivalent don’t matter - unless they are delivered on Fox & Fiends. Nothing matters except one thing: as today's interpretation of the first amendment has it, not only is money speech, but it is the dominant currency thereof.

  111. Freedom of anything only works when people know and care enough to exercise those freedoms responsibly. "Liberal democracy," as we call it, is contingent on the maintenance of a robust civic culture via social norms. Part of the burden of possessing freedoms is that you must respect them by knowing when it is appropriate to exercise them. That, in turn, requires people to understand what role they play in society. And this is where we have a problem; before our Constitution guaranteed the right to free speech, it declared certain humans to be "three-fifths of a person". Much, if not most, of the country doesn't even think the consequences of this history can be felt in the present. But hey - that's a subject for the humanities, right? Humanities aren't having an existential crisis. They are under sustained, systematic attack by the capitalist class, who understand that the humanities disciplines teach students the importance of distrusting concentrated power. We still have every reason to be here, and students who want to study, but the state and federal government don't want to fund our programs because we've come to believe, as a society, that is our sole providence on this Earth to be worker bees for gigantic multinational corporations. You're so close to seeing it, Ross. It's staring you in the face. Keep it up and you'll hear the whispers in the back of your head, soon: "Marx was right."

  112. What I hear you saying in your article reminds me of that classic Monty Python skit about The Argument. Paying to argue and the only retort from the "professional" is " no, it isn't" or "yes, it is". As the ability for us collectively to have meaningful debates with well informed points and counterpoints seemingly has disappeared in favor of the "drop the mic" moment, I fear the re-tribalization of our culture threatens to create an ungovernable population. What is man-made can be man-unmade, and I feel as though, as you point out, "A classical liberalism that only wants to defend its own right to argue... will end up talking only to itself.[sic]", will indeed become the new normal for all tribes unless there is a path to salvation of civil discourse that respects all well informed positions. Simply saying "no it isn't" or "yes it is" has to return to the annals of comic misanthropy.

  113. People can't argue properly anymore because (a) that's not on the corporate-drafted standardized tests, and (b) because our brains are like the rest of our bodies in that they are what they eat (i.e., getting a ton of tiny amounts of trivial information by tapping your smartphone all day is a poor substitute for in-depth reading of books and academic papers).

  114. I have never worked for an employer who would tolerate political or religious protests in the workplace - period. Every NFL player has his free speech before and after the game. To compare the NFL owners seeking to keep divisive political acts out of their place of business to left wingers attempting to silence speech in the public square is an abusive comparison.

  115. I agree with you. Except that I have never worked for an employer whose business model depends on "performers" entertaining hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people while making money by selling patriotism. Perhaps if the NFL had not monetized patriotism, you'd have a point.

  116. Have you ever worked for an employer which the Department of Defense subsidizes to parade you in "patriotic" propaganda parades, in support of causes with which you might disagree? That is what's actually happening to NFL players. They are being forced into overtly political (yes, the military IS political - its funding, its recruitment, its deployment, everything about it) marketing stunts and you're complaining that they're being political about it.

  117. Seb, all businesses try to associate with people, groups and events that they think enhance their product and the NFL is no different. Ever work for an employer that tries to get employees volunteering for various causes and the photos are in the paper with the company name? I don't know why you think that makes political statements by employees in the workplace ok.

  118. The problem is that Americans - the real Americans that generate advertising revenue and ticket sales - think free speech is only a right and not a responsibility. It was written to prevent Congress, specifically, from silencing the expression of political opinions - but it implies that we all, we the People, expect those views to be articulated without hindrance. The scenario in which the President of the United states has used his bully pulpit twitter account to suppress this silent articulation of angst, this scenario is frightening.

  119. Can you envision a scenario where the NFL fans are forced to buy tickets to games when they had stopped because they did not want to watch a few millionaire players behaving like prima donnas? How about a scenario that forced NFL fans to turn their television sets to the game although they did not want to watch the few millionaire players behaving like prima donnas? That's what the NFL owners responded to: the loss of revenue that provides the million dollar+ salaries for the players.

  120. On one hand you have universities struggling with a difficult and at times complex balance; on the other we have the President of the United States, openly hostile to the free press, and promising to "open up" libel and slander laws. These things are not equivalent.

  121. "But if every protester suddenly fell silent, the atmosphere in elite academia would still be kind of awful — and not only from a conservative perspective." Wouldn't it be strange if students and instructors at universities dealt with their own disciplines? Between teaching, doing research and serving as advisers to graduate and post-graduate students, faculty would seem to have enough to keep them busy. Students have more than enough in their course material to keep them busy too. But what about that vibrant academic and intellectual community? Firstly there is no reason that this should be in a university.This model is very much today a US one, fueled by students paying such high tuition that they want their money's worth as a college experience. Those students who have to work and might be married with families, usually concentrate on study. Those students in countries which heavily subsidize higher education tuition usually also want to stick to their topic and not endanger their support. Does this harm the university experience? Does it make for worse chemistry or math or sociology? Not in my opinion. In my classroom there will be no politics and nothing extraneous to the discipline being studied. There is also no "free speech". My rules and they have worked for 4 decades.

  122. How does education and society advance when people / students are frozen into such limited expectations?

  123. To Scott Johnson Education advances just fine in my classroom in my field. And it will advance just fine in my colleagues fields. My students come to university for an education in field X or Y. This too will advance society. Why should political discussion take place in a university? Or in my classroom? How does that advance society. That should be taken someplace else.

  124. "The reasons for that counterprotest [against the kneeling athletes] include an admirable patriotism ..." The "patriotism" of Mr. Trump, the NFL owners and the other counter protestors is anything but admirable. They believe only white Americans are real patriots. They believe one must worship the flag and genuflect before the military. They have it all wrong. In America the military reports to civilians. The flag is important because it stands for free speech, the rule of law, etc. And real patriots are skeptical, independent, thoughtful, decent and tolerant.

  125. And real patriots pay opposed to Donald and the Grand Old Phonies who love to bankrupt the national treasury with their billionaire tax-cut welfare programs.

  126. Of course free speech in itself is not a solution: it's a precondition for solutions to be worked out. It's not superstructure but an essential part of the structure. Yes, the recent movements to suppress free speech (by the Trump administration, by the NFL, by some on college campuses) are motivated by deeper problems in society and culture, and we're badly in need of ideas to solve those deeper problems. But even the best ideas won't help us if they can't be freely expressed and rationally debated. We're caught in a vicious circle, but getting everyone to agree on norms for free and respectful discourse (and protest) may be our best hope for starting to break out if it.

  127. This op-ed is wordy nonsense trying to make connections where none exist. Of course the NFL is making a business decision. If you notice the penalty for kneeling during the anthem is a fine. This places them in a win-win situation regarding revenue - possibly. The decision itself also creates an entirely new issue. Some players who didn't care to take a knee may now choose to do so in order to send a message to the owners. The central problem with having Kaepernick as a bellwether to this movement, is that as a football player, he is essentially expendable. A crisis for the NFL will come when someone who commands ratings - a Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers - decides to do the right thing. Veteran players need to show some back bone. I'm praying for some mass kneeling. Suppression of free speech has nothing to do with patriotism.

  128. "...tolerance and magnanimity are virtues that our society...need[s] to cultivate. But...these virtues depend on deeper forms of wisdom and consensus, and they can’t always sustain themselves in cultures and institutions that are simply going bad...the idea of free speech is part of a superstructure that can easily be pulled apart from below by contending factions, or crumble when its cultural foundation disappears... "...sometimes the problems are bad enough that the procedural approach isn’t a solution. And with due respect to the First Amendment, I think this is one of those times." Staggering - and despairing - are the effects on this reader of Mr Douthat's contention that the basic predicates for free speech are so eroded as to preclude realizing the benefits widely understood for centuries to be derived/derivable from its exercise. That Mr D would express it IMO warrants its being considered by thoughtful and fair minded persons. Worsening these effects is that Mr D offers no suggestion that anything might even begin restoration of these predicates; nor is any such apparent. "O tempora o mores."

  129. You certainly (still) have free speech as a citizen. Not necessarily as an employee. It’s been this way as long as I can recall. Employers set rules for expected behavior of their employees as it relates to their clients or customers. No one knows how many calls or emails the NFL teams received from their customers that stated they didn’t like to turn on a football game and see what they perceived as their traditional actions , players standing and saluting our flag during the anthem, being hijacked for a political protest. The NFL responded as is their right to do so. They changed their policy. Accept it and move on or write/call them and let your opinion be known. I for one want far less politics thrust upon me and not more especially at expensive to view sporting events. This week the protest is about this topic but next week it could be about abortion, gay marriage or immigration. Where will it end? So NFL players, show up, suit up, stand up and follow you company’s policies. Outside of work, protest 24 by 7 if you want. Just let me watch the game, enjoy the anthem and forget politics for a few hours. This has worked well for years!

  130. Norville, I'm sure it's worked well for years......for You. Interesting how you say you want to just forget politics. But it was Trump (and his trusty sidekick, Pence) who have done all they can to politicize this. And you take his side. And then you say you want to just "forget politics for a few hours". It's amazing how many Trump supporters are suddenly well-versed in employment law. I'm sure that you would feel the same way if players were forbidden to wear MAGA hats. How about you play the anthem at home, right before the game, and while you're at it, pay particular attention to the phrase "land of the free". I highly doubt you've ever had to worry about the possibility of experiencing what happened to a Milwaukee NBA player recently for taking up two handicapped spaces outside a drug store. Six cops were at the scene, and they were clearly out-of-control and spoiling for a confrontation. They shouted at him and surrounded him like a pack of hyenas, and proceeded to throw him violently to the floor and taser him (of course, the police version is that they "decentralized" him (whatever that means) and he was lowered to the floor "in a controlled manner")...What a despicable coverup. Unfortunately, incidents like the one above (or worse) happen regularly to people with a skin color other than white. This is the reality many American citizens face. You can choose to acknowledge or ignore this. As they used to say on football broadcasts, "You Make The Call"!

  131. Where would we be without freedom of speech especially on college campuses. We would still be a country where slavery and Jim Crow is still practiced; where women are still chattel with no rights to an education, control over their bodies, or a right to their own money let alone the ability to vote; and a nation where LGBT people could be fired, denied housing, and otherwise discriminated against. The civil rights movement, womens rights movement, LGBT rights movement, and the battle to end the Vietnam war all started on college campuses and in churches across the country. We are who we are because of free speech. As for the NFL, the national anthem needs to go. You can't play the anthem and then tell NFL players they have no right to protest while it's played. The NFL chose to monetize patriotism to help attract more soldiers and to help Americans feel good about the troops they have largely ignored. A veteran told Colin Kaepernick that kneeling down before the flag wasn't disrespectful and he would have a greater understanding than the hypocrites who don't stand for anything other than their sports and beer. Conservatives and liberals may not disagree but free speech gives us a chance to persuade each other and perhaps meet in the middle. The day we stop talking to each other is the day we're truly in trouble. Free speech allows us to evolve as new information becomes available. That's what makes America great.

  132. Prior to 2009, the NFL Operations Manual required teams to be on the sidelines for the playing of the national anthem EXCEPT for primetime televised games, when the teams would emerge from the locker rooms AFTER the anthem had been played. There is no reason this latter approach should not be the norm going forward for ALL games. Furthermore, the military should stop paying the NFL for the flyovers and the service personnel handling outsized American flags on the field prior to games. The NFL has monetized patriotism, just as it has monetized sex (the cheerleaders), violence (the game itself), and the physical well-being of its players (CTE).

  133. A compelling article. Some great lines including "a performative and commercialized Americanism that parodies healthy civic life". Required robotic responses to Anthems and Pledges have always been anathema to my own sense of freedom and independence, the things these are supposed to honor. The shallowness, the hollowness of those gestures before sporting events and the continued compliance of most attendees is one of the most ovine behaviors of Americans. I am profoundly uneasy in those situations. If we want to depoliticize sports, why on earth are we playing an anthem and requiring everyone to stand? Just start the game. And yes we need much more than just free speech, though free speech is a prerequisite to solving our problems democratically. A much greater cultural emphasis on thinking and reflection before speech would be welcome. The recognition of the corrosiveness of libertarian ideology to democracy, to decency and justice would be welcome. The repudiation of profit as the prime or only measure of good is essential. The recognition that cooperation can be far more effective than competition in many areas of the economy could lead to far greater prosperity and advances in science that benefit humanity, not tethered to some CEO living the high life. Yes, a good deal more than free speech is needed.

  134. I think its time we eschewed playing the anthem before commercialized sporting events, anyway. What's the point of it anyway? They're not civic rituals, but moneymaking entertainments...

  135. Long past time. The national anthem before a game is kind of disgusting when you really think about it.

  136. Dominants assume what they say is either common sense and plain talk or on behalf of an established consensus afraid to speak up. Subjugated assume what they say is unheard, scoffed at, and wonder what free speech means in a dominant history that blames its victims and punishes them for what they endured, even welshing on forty acres and a mule. For most of our history, the subjugated have been without voice and few of conscience able to hear them. In the past speaking out could be a lynch mob death sentence. And those who did speak loudly and freely spoke against them. On our way to a more perfect union, there's been progress, such as fairly consistent federal enforcement of First Amendment rights in the courts, in public education, media, and, unfortunately, in politics where money is protected speech. The dominants interpret federal intervention to be advocacy on behalf of the subjugated that's unfair to dominants. The subjugated see federal initiatives as begrudging, political and temporary. Among dominants free speech is a tool for chest-thumping provocation. Among the subjugated it's speaking truth to power. This isn't a collision between the two. It's two mega- supertankers passing in the night. We shouldn't forget that free speech is also the right to hear. If anyone's listening that is. Free speech isn't for agreement. It's for disagreement.

  137. An alternative is to cancel the anthem and/or let the players remain in the locker room until after it finishes. This, in my opinion, diminishes the players. It would also create new, unforeseen, unwanted consequences down the road because it wouldn't end there. Ill will begets greater ill will. This is a proxy war fought on a surrogate battlefield over societal rifts that are never going to be resolved, much less addressed, at football games. When Kaepernick first took a knee, it was a courageous, sincere gesture for which he has paid a steep price. He made a sacrifice for a greater cause. Who didn't respect that? Now, it's degenerated into test of wills bereft of purpose. For now I guess the players are "winning" though it is increasingly apparent that the victory is an empty one.

  138. Apparently you are forgetting the courage of black students in the south who stood in the face of actual harm and virulent derision - requiring protection of federal troops - in order to achieve the radical relief of an appropriate public school education. Or, more recently, the momentum of the #metoo movement, which has brought to bear significant pressure against powerful men to call them to answer for inappropriate behavior that for far too long was considered if not their due, an unfortunate cost of doing business with the rich and powerful. Neither of these cultural sea changes began fully formed and voiced. They started with just a few people standing up initially. Colin Kaepernick, like the early champions of school desegregation and proper penalties for sexual harassment/assault, was most certainly not respected by all - hence the ongoing debate. But, at the same time, the ongoing debate is evidence of its effectiveness in raising the consciousness of the nation, while indeed a "test of wills," it is most certainly NOT "bereft of purpose." If it were, why are we here discussing it?

  139. Until a few years ago, players did not come onto the field until after the anthem was played. Them the military decided to start paying NFL owners big bucks for the right to use the players as promotional props for their recruiting efforts. Going back to the status quo ante would in no way diminish the players. It might just help a little in beginning to diminish the ridiculous fiction that football has anything to do with patriotism.

  140. Is it really so difficult for a college to inform their students that you may not physically attack visiting speakers ? You may not shout them down. You may not swear at them. After all no student is forced to attend the talk by the visiting speaker. As for players in Professional Sports. Take out ads or run one during one or more of the games. Otherwise, accept you are an employee and you must follow the rules or face the consequences.

  141. The First Amendment says that the Government cannot impede speech. So while employers can tell employees not to engage in certain speech while at work, the President of the United States telling citizens that they cannot protest is a violation of their 1st Amendment rights. One person refusing to listen to another (or shouting down another) is not a violation of anyone’s right to speak. And of course people who don’t like to hear certain speech are free to ignore it or in the case of the NFL, speak about why they disagree with the players protesting and/or change the channel. As I see it, the problem with the current NFL situation is that the Government (the President) has sought to restrict speech - which our Constitution forbids. And the lense through which the new NFL rules (which forbid kneeling during the National Anthem) are viewed is now muddied by the President’s actions.

  142. VP, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Trump is not Congress.

  143. The President of the United States did not tell the owners of NFL teams they had to restrict speech. The NFL fans sent a message to the owners - we don't pay big bucks to come to a game and watch prima donna millionaires showing lack of respect to our flag. Large numbers of fans quit buying tickets. Larger numbers of fans quit watching the games on TV. Would you prohibit NFL fans from exercising their rights to not pay for tickets, to turn their TV sets to other channels?

  144. The problem seems to be that a segment of the population believes that honoring icons or symbols are what determines patriotism and love of country. Since this is the main problem I believe I have an answer to this dilemma and it should work for the owners, fans and players. The players come onto the field and just before the anthem is sung they turn on command, salute the flag, put their hand over their heart and then bow their heads and kneel down. Once they have shown respect for the flag by saluting it and having hand over heart, no longer can anyone question their patriotism or love of country. Just make sure that when this takes place they spell my name correctly.

  145. Why play the anthem at all at a sporting event? The Olympics = yes, but if it's Cleveland vs Boston? We want to watch (or play) a game. I love the National Anthem and tear up almost every time I hear it, but have come to believe it has no place before every sporting event.

  146. For once I agree with--and am grateful for--Ross's contribution. But as a lifelong Democrat and godless socialist, I know his solutions will not be ones I want to see. I am waiting for someone to PLEASE suggest some solutions to the moral ills that Ross correctly identifies that take us forward instead of backward. Surely our best thinkers can think of ways to create community and social cohesiveness other than sending us all back to church. National (or international) service is the only idea knocking round that makes sense to me, but that never seems to get any traction. Ironically we desperately need the help that the universities ought to be providing.

  147. We live in angry times, spurned on by a privileged, spoiled, infantile president, who loves to tweet taunts at all hours of the night. Perhaps freedom of speech and, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” need to be updated for the 21st century. Or, perhaps the problem is that people don't want to take into account all the words in the 2nd Amendment and leaders don't want to denounce heinous speech. You have the right to say whatever you want, but that doesn't mean that President Trump should say you're a fine person when you give a Nazi salute or that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell should meekly stand by and say nothing. The idea that we have a president who egged on NFL owners about football players taking a knee and that the NFL owners actually decided to fine players for this act is much more frightening then visiting lecturers getting booed. A president is using his immense power to censure protests. Think about that, Mr. Douthat.

  148. Mr. Trump is accustomed to speaking on behalf of the great majority of people who have NO voice in public affairs. Did you also hate it when the previous president used his immense power as a media icon and man-god to promote rap music - with all its violence and abuse of women - by inviting its headliners into the White House more than once? Or was that acceptable simply because you happened to like him?

  149. This article is pretty classic Douthat - make a trivially true point to the tune of "speech isn't enough on it's own" and then add the illusion of depth in commentary by introducing another trivially true proposition to the tune of "we must have positive visions instead of attacking other people's". On the matter of banalities, what this piece fails to grasp is that it is precisely the blunt, anodyne nature of the act of kneeling - which merely 'raises awareness; the most amorphous of activism's objectives - which causes concern. If this already warrants suppression, people dread to think what would happen when black people create platforms for their "own idea of what education and human life itself are for" in Mr. Douthat's words. Classical liberalism doesn't stop at some abstraction of freedom. There are the frameworks for what life is for (and in them, the enshrinement of Mr. Douthat's right to practice Catholicism, especially should it become unfashionable in the modern orthodoxy!) and fairly reasonable outlines and justifications for them on how we should treat people. But Mill or Douthat or any singularly brilliant chap can only write universal (ergo necessarily blurred around the edges) philosophies and the work of adapting them to present contexts must be done by present peoples. This work is what is happening in campuses right now, not the postmodernist death spiral fever dream that alumni use to vindicate "back in my day" declarations.

  150. Bravo! I'm a professor who doesn't teach political science. I, like most of my colleagues, keep my political points of view to myself. That's appropriate. But, the conversation in the classroom is encouraged to be free and open with rules that one must listen to the other and make rational responses if warrented. Perhaps Ross should spend more time in classrooms actually listening. My classroom experience isn't unique.

  151. The football players are employees of the team. If they don't like the working conditions then then should quit.

  152. ...unless of course if the working conditions are unconstitutional or unacceptably repressive.

  153. So becoming unemployed is your solution to the problem of having unpopular opinions?

  154. Freedom of speech was never an end. It was and is an essential means to a well functioning society. So don't just be silent while those you disagree with speak. Also learn what you can from them and teach via your speech what you can.

  155. I'm really tired of this discussion about the football players. People have a right to express or not express their patriotism in any way they want. People should not be forced to express patriotism at all, and they certainly should not be forced to express it in the way other people think it should be expressed. There are many ways to express patriotism. We not only have freedom of speech, but we also have the broader freedom of expression, as well as freedom to have our own ideas, points of view, etc. The conservative compulsions to be conventional and to conform are truly vapid and tiresome.

  156. Here is my proposal for how we as a society can do a better job honoring free expression and perhaps becoming more tolerant of one another. Let's pass laws that stipulate that no one can be fired or sanctioned by an employer or a school for expressing their political or social views, as long as they do it on their own time. At the workplace, the employer should not be required to provide a platform for their employees to vent--no matter how sympathetic the cause may be. But, on their own time, an employee's livelihood or future should not be threatened for expressing his or her opinions--no matter how noxious their ideas--because to do otherwise is to coercively suppress unpopular ideas.

  157. Charles, I would support such a law if it also stipulated that an employer could not force an employee to express, or appear to express, the employer's political or social views while at the workplace. It's gotta work both ways.

  158. Thank you!!! That is completely correct!

  159. From the Supreme Court West Virginia Board of Education v Barnette 319 U.S. 624 (1943): "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." This ruling clarifies that government officials cannot force how one expresses patriotism - which is pretty much what Mr Trump is asking for: a certain class of citizen (NFL players) must stand in a certain way to show respect for the anthem and flag. The President opined that if you did not care to do patriotism the way he prescribed, that the NFL player should probably leave the country. His position - adopted by the NFL owners - requires a forced expression of nationalism in an environment of paid-for pageantry patriotism.

  160. The NFL is a corporation, not a group of free people gathering to play a game. Many professions require specific behavior at work. When police and fire responders are in a ceremonial capacity, they must wear specific uniforms, stand, walk, sit, salute in prescribed formations and stand at attention for the national anthem. Free speech at your place of employment can get your fired with no legal recourse. So as a reminder the NFL is not a game in some park, it is a real business.and the business can make its own rules.

  161. Considering the NFL as a corporation, the context of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission 558 US 310 (2010) is of interest. Citizens United found that corporations enjoy the same First Amendment protections for political speech as do individual persons. With the finding that money is speech in this context, teams or their owners have thus contributed generously to political campaigns (both parties) although a majority of those donations have been to Republican candidates or Republican PACS. It could be argued that the owners' limitations on "employee" behavior imposes desired political expression from the NFL owners operating as a corporation and thus is compelling an employee to express patriotism that meets another "person's" (Citizens United corporations as persons) political platform. Police officers are government agents empowered to enforce laws and maintain safety. They are not equivalent to a football player in terms of employment with a private sector corporation that lists itself as a recreation/live entertainment business on its required financial reporting forms.

  162. Yes, indeed, and it is a business that makes unreasonable demands of its employees and customers (as if the NFL really considers the fans customers anymore). Instead of calling itself the NFL, why not the National Military Recruitment League (NMRL)? Oh, I noticed that the league is fining the players (employees who can pay whatever given their salaries). If the NFL were truly serious they would terminate unruly employees.

  163. In resolving free speech conflicts, common sense goes a long way. I think Mr. Douthat abandons free speech rights too easily. Take the NFL. Kneeling during the anthem was Kaepernick's means of protesting racial injustice. But the perceived dishonor to the flag was deemed intolerable by Gooddell. There are many other ways to protest racial injustice other than by kneeling during the anthem. NBA players have worn protest shirts and the NBA is fine with them, but does not allow anthem protests. What works in the NBA would probably work in the NFL. Compromise is a virtue. Unfortunately, it is overlooked by Mr. Douthat and too many others.

  164. I want to clarify your post. Yes, Goodell found the 'perceived' dishonor to be 'intolerable'--but from a business standpoint only. He has a league to run, and the controversy over the knee-taking is not helpful. Nowhere have I read that Goodell personally feels that players are disrespecting the flag. He believes the players should stand, but he doesn't believe players who don't stand are dishonoring either the flag or our country. There's a difference.

  165. This is such a shallow view of the situation. He "has a league to run" ignores the fact that without the multitude of black athletes who are protesting there would be no league. He is ignoring the talent at the expense of the future of the league. #NFLBoycott

  166. As a Canadian I find it particularly ironic that flying the Confederate Battle Flag is considered patriotic especially at GOP political rallies.

  167. In school I never questioned or even thought to question why our coach said the Our Father with us before football and basketball games, nor why the National Anthem was played before every sporting event. I was a very patriotic young man, as evidenced later by seven years as an Army officer. I am still patriotic, as much as possible given the lunatic-in-charge and recognition that about 35% of the citizens think he is somehow ok. But I no longer believe the National Anthem has any place at a sporting event. We play sports because we love the sport, not for love of country. Save the Anthem for the Olympic Games. My $0.02.

  168. Ross Douthat makes some good points for thought; however, in regards to the issue that started the latest round of this controversy: the NFL is a business, not much more. There is no reason to play the national anthem at a sporting event, any more than there would be reason to play it when I go buy a mop at Walmart. JC

  169. Yes Ross makes an important point about the larger problem an issue in America which is both a loss of shared values and changing standards. Re the NFL and national anthem though, a national sporting event like the NFL, NBA or MLB have been and continue to be more than a commercial exercise equal to a visit to the mall or Walmart. Those sports leagues and teams represented a shared American experience that brought everyone to the same place no matter their socioeconomic place. So, people do stand and salute or recite the Pledge at NY Yankee games and stand at NY Knickerbocker games. Oh, and by the way it’s not just an American thing. On a recent trip to Spain to watch Barcelona play their La Liga rival from Valencia, before the game started a song was played, sung even shouted by the fans , the Catalan regional anthem which connected all 90,000 people in the stadium. Perhaps it’s naive to expect, hope for in this day and age that there are areas of common connection - but Walmart isn’t it that’s for sure.

  170. The national anthem is played at NFL games because the armed forces pays the NFL to play it - as a recruiting tool.

  171. Sadly, Mr. Douthat is correct. Free speech will not save us because there is increasingly little in the way of shared values to be saved. Many of us recoil at Starbucks kicking people out if they fail to spend enough money. Others recoil at having to share an otherwise pleasant space with people they find distasteful. Many of us want a commencement ceremony with traditional pomp and circumstance. Others wish to enjoy commencement in a manner that befits their own, distinctly different values. Perhaps more fundamentally, many aspects of sharia are fundamentally at odds with the classical liberal foundations of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. There comes a time when the diversity we've been told to celebrate dissolves into mutual disrespect and warring political factions. The common ground on which we have stood is vanishing.

  172. "Truth", like much of everything else in this infantile nation, is measured only by how much money it garners.

  173. Samuel, You are so correct but I hope I am wrong when I use the past tense. I believe there is no common ground and there is no United States of America and there will never be again. "Extremism in the defense of .............." has destroyed a once great country.

  174. Extremism is antithetical to liberty.

  175. America's problems have never been free speech it has been an inability to listen. I am old enough to remember the 1964 GOP convention and Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan. I have been saying it can happen here for 54 years. Now that it has, for those who don't remember. America didn't listen then, they didn't listen in 1980 and they didn't listen in 2016 and they still aren't listening.

  176. There is nothing inherently bad about "taking a knee." In another culture than American football it could even be the respectful thing to do. Free speech is as American as football, and every single person on every side of this argument values his own freedom of speech, and would react badly to any attempt to limit himself or herself. Still, this was marketed as an insult to America and the Flag. It was done in a ceremonial way on national TV, designed to put the insult in-your-face. So, a lot of people reacted as if they'd been insulted. That isn't free speech. That is, "Insult me? You . . ." and we are off to the races. Does someone like Trump glory in "You've been insulted! What are you going to do about it?" Well, yeah, it is a moment made for a guy like him. Thing is, it was an insult. It was meant as an insult. Trump is actually right about that, for once. The cause being asserted is important. Asserting it by national insult is counterproductive, and only feeds things like Trump.

  177. how do you know that taking a knee "was meant as an insult"?if YOU felt insulted, that response is yours to own. I see taking a knee as a kind of prayer that the nation will live up to its credo that ALL men are created equal.

  178. I never saw it as an insult and I don't see the evidence that it was meant as an insult. And an insult to whom, exactly? The United States? The NFL? Veterans? You? I saw it as a quiet "remember" amidst a business organization's attempt to appropriate patriotism for its own glorification.

  179. Who marketed the protest as an insult to America and the flag? Certainly not the players. No, it was Donald trump and the right wing propaganda machine that did that. There was no insult to America, the flag, the military, or anyone else in this protest. Trump glories in manufacturing insults, then riling his base by baiting them with lies, conspiracy theories, and appeals to their prejudices, grievances and belief in their victimhood by left wing "elites" in government, having channeled the far right wing movement that has been intent on making America into its own image since the late '70's. He didn't originate their tactics; he just ran with them. Only Sarah Palin came close to having his combination of ignorance of democratic ideals and intellectual foundations, demagoguery, skill at playing the media, and disinterest in the truth or exhiting any kind of ethical compass, that was uniquely suited to taking their movement into the White House. Mr. Douthat is right about this - we need to reclaim our political moral compass. And protecting and defending the right of free speech, including protest, for *all,* not just for one's own demographic, is essential to that goal.

  180. It was both surprising and fitting to me that when Antonin Scalia died it was revealed that his best friend was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was also indicative of the divide, the Great American Schism of the early 21st Century, that pervades while offering nothing positive for the future, except here, where there existed two highly intelligent members of society who could agree to disagree. Isn't that the essence of freedom of speech, this agreement to disagree; to let someone say things that will strike some of the listeners as the worst thing they've ever heard? Isn't that a fundamental tenet of democracy, to give voice to opposing views and see with whom the majority agrees; perhaps even to perform that seemingly impossible miracle of compromise where appropriate? We are now caught in a cultural bloodbath and unless we can limit both sides from calling on the worst of their cultural police to protect us from hearing what the other side has to say, it may even turn into a virtual bloodbath. Some will surely protest that there is false equivalence in defining this problem, but they couldn't be more wrong- this has become a crusade in which both sides seem hellbent on silencing the voices on the other side and it seems the more "wrong" each side may be to the other, the more militant both sides have become. That is not part of the definition of democracy; that's part of the definition of revolution.

  181. Trumpism is reveling in the propagation of blatant lies. It is a public mental illness.

  182. Jerry, On Monday May 21 , 2018 the court decided 5-4 with Neil Gorsuch delivering the majority opinion that the first amendment was conditional and people like NFL players truck drivers and those who were employed had restricted 1st amendment rights.

  183. This one is a no- brainer. Freedom of speech is not about content (with a few exceptions), its about access. The absolute right to speak your mind no matter what anyone else thinks and to not be threatened by those in power (the government) because you do so. Like I just did with this blog. I think if you look at the history of Supreme Court's decisions regarding the first amendment you will come to the same conclusion. The suspected political orientation of the Justices played no role in this. Whatever suspected political bias you might think they have, they have shown fidelity to the first amendment.

  184. I cannot fathom which "shared values" Douthat thinks are in danger of vanishing. It certainly isn't the shared value of democracy, which rests on the principle of not suppressing opposing viewpoints. But then, I don't understand Douthat's claim to be "saving us" from something. At times, he seems to perceive a threat from the Fury called secularization -- released by the Pandora's box of Constitutionalism -- as eroding the appeal of Religion, hence denying the necessity of Salvation. I don't agree that the purpose of Law is to nurture a society in which souls will be able to find salvation, but then, Douthat doesn't ever say that so directly, either.

  185. Yes, perhaps that is the answer: Democracy. Allow other viewpoints to be expressed, and if you don’t agree with those “other viewpoints”, vote against them on Election Day.

  186. The intersection of big time sports and patriotism is also questionable. The National Anthem was not an issue before 2009 when the NFL was paid by the military to have the players on the field for the NA. This was done to bolster recruitment. Is there something special about sporting events that attracts super patriots? Like any other contrived problem this will soon dissipate and be replaced with some other issue equally nonsensical.

  187. Yes, the issues go much deeper, but the NFL players are asking for legitimate rights while right-wing campus pundits express dangerous ideas that have little evidence. The NFL issue is pure greed on the part of owners. They want players to cease being human. It is a workers' rights issue. Workers in the US long ago gained the right to protest, although many states and businesses continue to fight the rights of labor. As for the freedom to speak on campuses, many right-wing speakers express ideas that are academically questionable to say the least. They lack evidence that any grad student needs to right a paper, thus why would they be allowed in places of learning. I can express whatever ideas I want, but if I want to be invited to speak at Yale, or publish in a refereed publication, they need to have evidence to back them up. Furthermore, NFL players that kneel during the anthem are protesting a real problem. Most right wing pundits that pose as academics create their own problems and then publicize their questionable reasons.

  188. "But sometimes the problems are bad enough that the procedural approach isn’t a solution. And with due respect to the First Amendment, I think this is one of those times." This could be a quote from almost any would-be authoritarian. The "problem" must be solved by giving up on our rights (whatever those might be) and putting our faith in the hands of people who know better.

  189. I think Douthat is asking for us to actually deal with the big underlying problems like race, sports, and education, rather than arguing about whose free speech is being gored. No one's rights are being threatened in doing so, only our fear and reluctance to bring reason to needed debates. What Douthat doesn't recognize is that such "conflict management" requires agreement on serious rules for fair fighting, in other words, good process.

  190. (to verb in NC) I think your understanding of Ross's statement and my understanding of it are not in sync - I never inferred from it that he's calling for a rollback of First Amendment rights. Just a recognition that the preservation of these rights, and the exercising of them, are not by themselves sufficient to pull together a society torn apart by the forces of polarization that are besieging America right now.

  191. Conservatives, in particular, say they don't want their entertainment "politicized", by which they mean they don't want to see any Black man calling attention to police profiling and brutality aimed specifically at them. Those couple of minutes before the start of a game, when some may take a knee could cause such distress as to spoil the fun for the next few hours? I don't believe it. Rather than deprive American citizens of their right to free speech, why not do away with the playing of the inherently political National Anthem itself? We don't hear it before the start of a movie or play, no TV show begins with it, no form of entertainment, besides sports, that I can think of requires its performance. Unless we are willing to subscribe to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment in every instance we should not require a person to stand before a flag and song that are supposed to symbolize our right to speak our minds. Let these players exercise their rights or remove the ceremony from the event; the choice seems obvious to me.

  192. The price of admission to a sporting event in America should be limited to dollars. Attendees should not be required to participate in a contrived expression of subservience cloaked in its equally shallow image of patriotism. Eliminate the Star Spangled Banner from the beginning of all sporting events; and bring back Take Me Out To The Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch. The somber rendition of God Bless America that has replaced the lighthearted renditions of Take Me Out To The Ballgame is simply too redundant.

  193. The Houston Symphony does (complete with giant American flag) before concerts (so odd).

  194. It is Texas

  195. " some extent I share it: There is no doubt that tolerance and magnanimity are virtues that our society’s warring factions need to cultivate." I think this is more important than your final conclusion allows, particularly in the face of the guy in the White House who wants people to leave the country because they take a knee during the national anthem during a football game. People argue for tolerance on both sides of a divide, and we are like warring fans at the game, wedded to our favorite team (some more fanatical than others). We appear unwilling to let loose of the combat, whether about football, the national anthem (maybe stop playing it a football games?), guns or abortion. Somehow the other side never seems to quite understand--a proposition well-known to politicians who rely on the wedge.

  196. Free speech is the first step toward reason and harmony. How else do we realize what are the dimensions and extent of problems? How else do we realize that we are facing a catastrophe, and had better do something about it. How else does one discover perhaps the most useful principle of intellectual growth: I learn much more from my enemies than from my friends. C'mon. You've read the classics. The cure for bad speech is more speech, better speech. Justice Brandeis. Sort of. That's the first step. And then, once we realize what the problem is, and its gravity, then we set out to get smart. That's the second step. Not the first one, as you seem to think.

  197. The real issue is not the level of free speech one is allowed but the how much humanity and civil rights one loses when one is an employee. The courts have made it increasingly difficult to distinguish employment from slavery where all the rights to one's body, clothing, medical needs, gender identity, ideas, and opinions are owned by the company. As an employee, people cease to exist as a private individual. Since most of us need to work to survive, we sign our rights away in a lot of fine print. That is the issue here. Employer vs. Employee rights.

  198. Nicely put.

  199. So what's the alternative Mr Douhat who as usual is full of critiques but offers no credible alternative. Liberal democracy of the J. S. Mill variety may be the most imperfect system in the world but it's superior to all the alternatives as Churchill pointed out. As with most things it's a matter of degree. In modern mass society no one has an absolute right to anything. Absolute freedom for the wolf means death for the sheep. All around us are constraints on human behavior that are necessary to keep the social fabric intact. Universities don't allow neo Nazis or the KKK to hold rallies on their premises because they're a threat to social norms and public order. As for the NFL, as we all know it's all about money.

  200. John: There is no single credible alternative beyond improving tolerance in our public spheres. I do not know how we legislate that. The tensions you mention are old and too many people think that freedom/liberty is confined to what they want: ("Positive and Negative Liberty," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Our first amendment is its own cultural mess: ("The Soul of the First Amendment," by Abrams, Yale Univ. Press, 2017) . Other modern developed nations do not take such extreme views of the proposition--this is not to say they are better, but some of them are less tolerant of public intolerance (this includes the UK).

  201. I support the players right to protest- especially given the importance of the issue (how can BLM be controversial?) - but what about the owners' right to control their "product" - the players, when on the sideline or field, are after all, employees at work. I do not support the "fans" who react negatively to the player's kneeling - one of my students, a veteran, told the class "my unit didn't ever think 'we're fighting for the flag' - we thought we were fighting for the freedoms it and we represented - and that the players are exercisung") but the conservative fans' reaction is real, especially to the owners P&L. Wouldn't a reasonable solution have been for the owners and the keague to invest (significantly) in a medium such as ads in diverse media in which players could use their well-earned celebrity to get their message heard, leaving the game and time event as it is: entertainment and sport. In a sense the players are using the owners' free speech. I do not condemn the players - I just think it is a terrific conundrum because they are, after all and in very real ways, employees on the clock at the moments that they're choosing to exercise "their" free speech.

  202. The thing is most stadiums are tax payer funded, so it is a public-private hybrid. Second the owners are following the president’s request, so this is a bit more complex than the owners free speech.

  203. How about stopping conflating patriotism with cheap symbolism.

  204. Douthat's comments are mostly on target, except for one: it's false equivalence to group Google's "firing an engineer for 'wrong-think'" with the other left-wing protests. Like many companies, Google's policy is to ensure that under-represented groups (women, minorities) get considered for jobs and promotions. There's plenty of evidence that women, especially, get socially excluded from the "in" groups in tech companies and silicon valley generally. Susan Fowler's memo about Uber and Emily Chang's book "Brotopia" lay out the bro culture. James Damore challenged Google efforts to keep Google's culture free from the frat-house environment pervasive elsewhere and as a management employee who interviewed candidates for other positions, how could he be counted on to treat women equally? Instead, he had a chip on his shoulder. So Google was objectively justified in firing him.

  205. from where i sit, both problems stem from the dogma thst the market is the arbiter of right and wrong. when capitalism became our religion, we lost our way.

  206. You are right, the market system is amoral, mob mentality. It’s often decided by what is cheaper for immediate costs and not what is right or wrong or sustainable for the future. Which is why it needs regulation when it goes astray. Too many confuse capitalist markets for democracy.

  207. Markets only work when they are regulated. Regulation is only fair if it is democratically created. On the other hand, the Chinese have a different take on this.

  208. "If you want a healthy culture of debate, it’s not enough to complain that Marxists and postmodernists are out to silence you; you need your own idea of what education and human life itself are for." Indeed the nature of higher education has changed. All schools, even schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, are now basically polytechs. The parents and students just want the student to be trained to get a good job in nation where the financial divide between the haves and havenots has made "genteel" poverty impossible. The faculty remember an older model (left over from an older mission related to training clergy and civilizing an aristocracy ) where universities tried to get their students to think about what it means to be human, to be a member of society, what are their rights but also what are their responsibilities. But since we do not have a coherent vision of these any more, this just can not be done, and anyway our students are no longer future ministers and lords who either need this for their job or have so much wealth that they didn't need to focus on job training.

  209. I part with Mr. Douthat when he invokes the Google case. The issue there is the creation of a hostile work environment, and since work is essential to survival, more rigorous standards of conduct must must be applied. The law broadly recognizes the uniqueness of the workplace in the overwhelming power given to employers.

  210. Yet another Douthat straw man argument. No free speech/First Amendment will not magically solve all of our problems. But it is far better to have free speech/a strong interpretation of the First Amendment than to narrow/restrict free speech/First Amendment. Free speech is a core foundation of democracy. The First Amendment is a core foundation of our democracy. The NFL is a business - the once extremely successful business model that is now beginning to crumble: the brain damage issue that won’t go away no matter how much NFL tries to cover up, young people are generally less interested in sports (the once very successful ESPN model that is also in trouble), the billionaire owners have always been allowed to collude and violate anti-trust laws, to violate the rights of its star employees - the players. But the NFL has the right to restrict the free speech/legitimate protest rights of its employees/players - there is no constitutional right to play NFL football. The NFL will appease its conservative and non-political fans, but will alienate its more liberal fans and its minority communities fans. The NFL was going to lose either way, but it chose the morally wrong, but perfectly legal/constitutional (other than the anti-trust part) path - that’s not news for a bunch of billionaire owners. The outrage is that we have a President who openly and constantly attacks free speech/First Amendment. He even recently said that the protesting players should be thrown out of the country.

  211. No Mr. Douthat, Free Speech alone will not save us, but the corollary, NOT having Free Speech, might just sink us, once and for all.

  212. Douthat wrote: "But they also include a typical conservative cluelessness about black grievances, a performative and commercialized Americanism that parodies healthy civic life, *and the toxic identity politics* that Donald Trump is constantly encouraging." Wow! After years of hearing Conservatives denounce Liberals for "encouraging identity politics," I almost fell out of my chair after reading a Conservative admit that they're just as guilty of that venal sin too! Proclaiming oneself a Christian values voter is as much identity politics as being a Black voter (or a Latino voter, or a Feminist voter, or a LGBT voter). Refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple is as much of a proclamation of your own identity as it is for the couple who's trying to buy the cake. Banning travellers from Muslim countries is identity politics, because it's based on the premise that we're not a Muslim country. The algorithms of gerrymandering are based on identity politics. Racial profiling people of color by cops, mortgage lenders, is a form of identity politics. Cursing in the supermarket at strangers who look different than you do is a form of identity politics. Creating political ads that portray people of certain races/religions in negative ways is a form of identity politics. (Remember Willie Horton?) The Right has been using identity politics (and has indeed been driven by it) for as long as the Left. "Defending" mainstream American values is identity politics!

  213. While debating free speech is worthwhile, such arguments seem surreal when we are currently separating children from their parents as part of what our government labels a " severe deterrence" program. We then compound that obscenity by losing track of those children. The only certainty is that in 10 years or so, conservatives will be arguing that however abhorrent it may have been, the times demanded this action. Nevertheless the directors of the program will be promoted because of their professionalism.

  214. Ross, You are over thinking the issue. Just accept that we are in a New Dark Age. We have two basic world views that are diametrically opposed. Unless and until some common paradigm emerges, we be in a tug of war with our fellow citizens. The other end of this New Dark Age will most likely be that human kind will find itself is an authoritarian police state and/or a protracted set of wars. Something akin to a high tech Sparta may develop. The only thing I see that can save what we call The American Experiment is for there to be a Second Great American Civil War. One of the two diametrically opposed world views in this country needs to become ascendant and that will not happen through the ballot box but only after a lot of blood and pain.

  215. Yes, indeed, the freedom of speech and "honest" debate should be granted to all right and left-leaning individuals so long as the debates do not deteriorate into a fight between dogma and belief on one side and science and data on the other. Freedom of speech does not grant individuals or institutions their own "alternative facts." The epidemic proportion of using made up information that suits the needs of the right-wing demagogues does not make for a good debate. So, the real issue is not whether everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and honest debate but where do we draw the line of "honesty" which is sorely lacking among most of the right-wing debaters. Right?

  216. This article was well meaning but it ignores the pernicious effects of social media, especially the financial ones. Using the media to attract attention to make money is very profitable. Fox News would be much less successful financially if it had fewer commentators saying outrageous things. I am convinced that many conservatives are overjoyed when they are banned from speaking on a college campus – all the better for book sales. I am thinking about someone like Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos who clearly say the most outrageous thing possible to optimize the attention and one supposes the financial rewards. While this sort of behavior is common across the entire political spectrum, it seems to have become a money-making tactic used by certain types of people on the right. The phrase of ‘triggering liberals’ minimizes the level of vitriol that people will go to just to garner a bit of attention.

  217. Why is the national anthem played at games anyway? The pressure on everyone eo stand and put your hand over heart is also an infringement on our right to express our patriotism in the way we feel is most appropriate. In my high schoo, kids whose families were Johovah witnesses we're exempt from the pledge of allegiance and standing for the flag, acknowledging to rights, of speech and adherence to their faith. If we stood to salute the Constitution, that would be better.

  218. It is interesting how Mr. Douthat plays identity politics when he thinks he can speak for all conservatives while denigrating every left leaning individual. The people protesting are acting as individuals not in allegiance to some particular club. They believe their own liberty is at stake when some powerful individuals want to take it away. When "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is threatened people are allowed to protest peacefully. The disrupters at speaking events are just that, and are not there to preserve Constitutional rights. They prefer mayhem or chaos. Instead of laying out a position's merits, the arguments dissolve into stand offs, with more than two ships passing in the night.

  219. The NFL uses the flag for commercial purposes and promotes itself through jingoism. Their notion of “free speech” is freedom to exploit the flag for their own bottom line. In contrast, players kneeling before the flag are emphasizing fealty to the flag’s noble symbolism for ideals of which the NFL is not even dimly aware.

  220. Douthat decries the lack of " morality" and a" higher purpose"in universities and I wonder what he means by that. I suspect it is some kind of religious education. The purpose of man is to live the few years he has to live in harmony and justice. And these ideals can be pursued if students want to. The problem is that society is fixed more on material success than on achieving those goals. Hence the dilemma of universities, and between the practical and the ideal, I give you one guess which wins out,

  221. Regarding taking a knee, kneeling is a sign of respect, obeisance, deference. It was something I did when I attended Mass. If the NFL players wanted to show disrespect for the flag they could have done that in any number of ways. This "controversy" is another episode of the ongoing DJ Trump reality TV show. It also gives him a chance to stoke the base. Roger Goodell and the NFL are happy to have a distraction from the concussion issue. The issue which is driving the protest, the disproportionate death rate of black men at the hands of the police, is not being discussed.

  222. Upheaval in the economy makes for social discord. In U.S. history we are living through a time that has striking parallels to the 1870's through the early 1900's. The underlying causes are not the same, the dislocations are similar. How anyone could have thought that major population increase in a comparatively short period of time combined with an unprecedented re-arrangement of age cohorts would not lead to social disarray is astounding. At the same time the world economy is going through fundamental reshaping: the emergence of long-suppressed Asia, the very re-definition of work with the waning of 19th century industry with the newest technologies of which computerization and developing artificial intelligence are just a part, but an important one, how else could there not be anger and social and intellectual disarray?

  223. This is a good conversation I work and make very good money. My employer prevents me from having a voice in social media around things that could hurt business- ie this dumb administration, this environmental apocalypse we are perpetrating, or the bad local government or corporations that abound in NYC. I have made a decision to comply in order to provide for my family and pay for ridiculous college tuition. That decision happens millions of times across corporate America- suck it up we told. So it becomes a very sticky - bite the hand that feeds you - debate in the NFL. The best thing to do would be to quit and start a better league or team made up of dignified owners that respect workers rights. That will never happen... ... so as long as they cash their paychecks - suck it up.

  224. In 1934, A German football club was forbidden to play for 12 months on account of they did not give the Nazi salute when they entered the field. What goes around . . .

  225. This right-wing nut's cheap argument is so boring.

  226. A wake up implies spring, when the birds start their chirping that will last all morning long. We have the great chirper in the White House, flew in just about the same time Neptune turned its corner on the detrimental light of winter, the first magnitude Fomalhaut in the Pisces degrees, (the eye of man). We haven't had free speech for so long we certainly are not qualified to intelligently talk about it. The owners have it wrong about the fans being turned off by the players protests, because everyone in the arena knows the time is right for all to be playing to a new tune anyway. None have witnessed the degree of mutable Air (communication) that is directly ahead and waiting for us . Mercury’s star in Gemini, Aldebaran the other eye, is there to transform the way we think and communicate, a restoration in the making as some have already found out, a new understanding, of why this is not the time to be getting caught with your pants down.

  227. Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, in the early 1960's, stood up to white racist Americans and rich business owners when he stated that any business, restaurant, hotel, motel or any other institution that refused equal service to his Black Packer Players, would be "off limits" to all Green Bay Packer business in the future. Unfortunately, we don't have real men like Lombardi anymore in leadership positions in the college and sports industries, who will stand up to racism against Blacks. Africans were brought here with chains around their necks to serve as slaves in American society. They have fought for freedom and civil rights just like any of us Whites would have done. They have made America Great long before it became a codified racist coded slogan. They have been incarcerated, hung, burnt, slit open, humiliated, and discriminated against in housing, voting, health care, and employment. They have so many talents that have made America a wonderful place to live, including music, sports, dance, cuisine and many others. The people who should hide in the locker rooms during the national anthem should be the racist few who figuratively "spit on the American flag" with their subterfuge of American Democracy by making it harder for Black Americans' votes to count by supporting Voted ID, and gerrymandering of Congressional districts. Yep, that's you Scott Walker and all of you Republicans! Have a thoughtful Memorial Day celebrating your racist "laws".

  228. I found this column , like other recent ones by Douthat, to be utterly incomprehensible. When compared with the clear ( and clear eyed) style of Bruni and Kristof, I find a thesaurus to be more fluent than Douthat. Moving on.

  229. As so often, I have to read Douthat's column three times to get it, but I do get it.

  230. Damnit, in the world do you describe the backlash against a protest which is clearly about racially biased police brutality, as "admirable patriotism"?????? What in the world is patriotic about it? What is admirable about it? Let me help you with that: NOTHING. It has nothing to do with patriotism, unless you think it is America's mission to shoot black people at traffic stops. Jeez.

  231. Douthat: "I admire the principle of this position of 'a commitment to the letter of the First Amendment and a broader culture of free speech'... But it’s also important to recognize that these virtues depend on deeper forms of wisdom and consensus..." Douthat is on the right track but he, like so many others, overlooks the historical wisdom that is the basis of enlightened societies. It is called the "Social Compact", namely, that for every right ensured for an individual, the individual has a concomitant responsibility. For example, the right to free speech has associated with it the responsibility for SELF-censorship under the circumstance where the net effect of the speech would be much more harm than good. It is so American to be fixated with our rights because of our history and what was enshrined as a matter of law in our Constitution. But our Founding Fathers were well versed in the enlightenment and embraced the notion of a social compact as the basis of governance. The reason that we do not have a Bill of Responsibilities is that that the expectation of self-control cannot be a matter of law, but of morality and conscience. During their time, religion was foundational and they did not feel the need to have religion's moral teachings be spelled out in the Constitution. It is ironic that the Founding Fathers would scorn much of today's debate over free speech that neglects the deeper principle of a social compact and consciousness of self-control.

  232. At American universities, deplatforming and violent protests are rare and happen more to liberal speakers than conservative speakers. Let me say it again: at American universities, deplatforming and violent protests are rare and happen more to liberal speakers than conservative speakers. New York Times. Dear, old gray lady. Why. Why do you keep letting your columnists talk about this tired, completely untrue point? What do you gain? What good do you think you're doing? Why?

  233. Can you give us examples of liberal speakers getting shut down? We can provide a whole list of conservatives getting shut down.

  234. Brilliant.

  235. Ross You are obviously unfamiliar with the rules governing NFL players. By contract they get Tuesday (most weeks) off to conduct personal business. This would be the proper time to make a protest. Spend the day in talk radio or march in the streets. Game day is a work day. Most working Americans know that when at work and on premises of the employer you have to abide by certain rules of decorum. For example let’s suppose a newscaster from say ABC news elected to not wear a shirt on the newscast to promote the free the breast movement (yes I know it’s absurd). The players have a venue, it’s called their off day. All would be well if they utilized it.

  236. If the terms of employment, as expressed by the players contract, can, or does, prohibit some conduct which is symbolic rather than physical- the difference between taking a knee and a DWI-what’s different between that and and employer of accountants, doctors, grocery clerks stipulating that discussions about politics, race, salary levels at the business are prohibited? Yes, those employees can discuss those subjects away from work but, I would argue, you don’t check your opinions at the door of your employer. An employee may be bound to protect company information of a proprietary nature but expressing your ideas on site would seem to be simple to understand.

  237. In forty years spent in the workaday world I have never had an employer require that I stand for the national anthem in the middle of the work day. Make no mistake, this is both a political and a marketing ploy on the part of the owners, to maintain their favored station in Amercan commerce. From time to time I have been asked to participate in a political event that my employer supported. On such occasions I have been given the option to opt out, with no negative repercussions. The solution here is to play the game, and skip the anthem.

  238. That’s not how protesting works. You don’t protest when it is convenient for you. You protest during time of maximum exposure when people will take notice. High school students walk out of school to get noticed. Professional athletes protest most effectively by doing so when the camera is on them. If you want them to only protest on their days off, you are effectlvely telling them not to protest.

  239. We have already politicized sports by making them jingoistic. Why do we play the national anthem at games? Once I attended opening night at the Metropolitan Opera and I was shocked and disgusted when they played the national anthem. I felt like my palace of international culture was soiled by nationalism, and degraded. Perhaps because I realize that this is not a good country, and not one worth celebrating or praising. The NFL protesters are heroically protesting the injustice, racism and violence in our country. Until we have a safe country where all people feel secure, we cannot call ourselves free. Free speech won't make us free. Only laws which impose taxation on the rich, affordable health care, and equal justice for all people. Until we have equality imposed by law, we will have justified protest.

  240. "...this is not a good country..." is I fear likely to offend and, in the process, push aside the larger and immediate question, to this native-born American in his eighth decade and whose grandparents migrated here shortly before 1900. Have events - probably well symbolized, but not exclusively, by the Trump presidency - rendered a canard that which until fairly recently was the presumption and fervent hope/expectation of those described on the base of the Statute of Liberty as well as their descendants: that America was/is a way better country than most - if not all - of the rest and that, with the good will and effort of all those here and to come, would become the best? To be clear. I believe that to be an entirely fair question, confirmed in good part for example by the re-ascendance of fascism in much of Europe and other forms of authoritarianism in different places. And I am sad that while I don't want what I've described to be a canard, I not only don't know the answer but neither do I know whether my children and grandchildren should stay here and strive - and possibly fight - to validate that presumption and hope.

  241. Your palace of international culture? I thought it was merely an not-so-opulent opera house that hosts a business dedicated to the genre. Perhaps there is where you drifted off the line in making reasonable arguments.

  242. The government won’t save us. The idea that morality can be imposed via legislation is absurd and the pursuit of those ends, no matter how well intentioned, always have unintended negative consequences. In my experience, when arguments like that are presented by a member of the liberal upper middle class it is less about pursuing social equity and more about pursuing an anxiety free existence in an isolated, expensive urban enclave.