Totalitarian discourse

Charles Krauthammer gives the name for handling disagreements by silencing and punishing those who hold opposing ideas:

The left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition.The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced. [Read more...]

Letting churches endorse candidates?

A commission is recommending to Congress that churches and other  501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations be allowed to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-extemptions.  Here is the report.  Details after the jump.

I decry the politicization of churches.  And yet I also decry the federal government using the tax code to squelch political speech, which seems to me to deserve particular protection under the 1st Amendment.  Which also protects religious liberty, and some religions do emphasize political action, whether from the right or from the left.

What do you think about this? [Read more...]

Suing negative reviewers

You know those user reviews on online sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo, and all those restaurant and travel sites?  Some businesses are striking back at negative reviews by suing the reviewers.

A Fairfax County woman being sued for defamation over negative reviews she wrote on Yelp and Angie’s List must delete certain accusations and is barred from repeating them in new posts, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The preliminary injunction was hailed as a victory by a D.C. contractor, who took the woman to court claiming that her online reviews of the work he did on her home were false and cost him $300,000 in business. He is suing her for $750,000.

“It’s a win on morality, integrity and truthfulness,” contractor Christopher Dietz said after the hearing in Fairfax County Circuit Court. “This is permanent damage. I can’t undo what she did.”

Jane Perez hired Dietz to perform cosmetic improvements in June 2011 on her newly purchased townhouse, but she quickly soured on Dietz and gave him a scathing one-star review on Yelp and a similar treatment on Angie’s List.

The list of accusations over the job were long, but included damage to her home, an invoice for work Dietz did not perform and jewelry that went missing when Dietz was the only other person with a key to her home. Dietz denies those claims. . . .

In Virginia, someone can be found liable for defamation if he states or implies a false factual statement about a person or business that causes harm to the subject’s reputation. Opinions are generally protected by the First Amendment. . . .

Lawyers say legal actions over reviews on Web sites such as Yelp are on the rise, as the sites have grown in popularity and online reputations have become more important for doctors, dentists and a host of other professionals.

Some reviewers and free speech advocates view such suits as attempts to stifle freedom of speech, while business owners say they are being forced to fight back because a false post online can cause serious damage to their businesses.

via Judge says homeowner must delete some accusations on Yelp, Angie’s List – The Washington Post.

Should consumer reviewers have the freedom to say whatever they want?  Or do businesses need some recourse against exaggerating individuals who can ruin their reputation?

China’s decree to journalists & bloggers

We have posted about the conflict between still-communist China and Google.  The “Washington Post” has obtained a translation of the instructions from the Chinese government to its web journalists and bloggers, explaining what they will not be allowed to talk about. From China’s instructions on reporting on Google:

All chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens' discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:

A. News section:

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources.

2. Reposting must not change title.

3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites.

4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting.

5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.

6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic.

2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top.

3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.

4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy.

5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions.

6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

This is what it means to live in a totalitarian country, one that recognizes none of the rights that we take for granted here.


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