bookmark_borderIn defense of Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser’s tattoos and political views

With almost no sports happening at the moment, the NFL draft last month was a huge story. In New England, a large amount of attention has focused on kicker Justin Rohrwasser from Marshall University, who was drafted by the Pats in the fifth round.

According to a profile in the Boston Globe, Rohrwasser has numerous tattoos, including an American flag, one that reads “don’t tread on me,” another that reads “liberty or death,” and another that resembles the logo of a group called the Three Percenters. This group advocates for small government, freedom of speech, and gun rights. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Three Percenters are an “anti-government group,” meaning that they “advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines.” The Three Percenters, however, have characterized themselves as “very pro-government, so long as the government abides by the Constitution.”

Additionally, on Twitter, Rohrwasser has expressed support for President Trump, Ayn Rand, and psychologist Jordan Peterson. According to one of his college coaches, Jim Fleming, Rohrwasser wore a red “MAGA” hat at school and expressed conservative beliefs, particularly about economic policies, in conversations.

What is wrong with this, you may ask? In my opinion… absolutely nothing!

Yet because of his political beliefs, Rohrwasser has been inundated with criticism online, accused of being a racist and a bigot. This is an example of self-proclaimed “liberals” displaying qualities that are the very opposite of the tolerance they pretend to espouse. Rohrwasser has done nothing wrong by having, and expressing, conservative (or libertarian, or however one wishes to characterize them) beliefs. He has every right to get a Three Percenters tattoo. He has every right to “like” and retweet whatever tweets he wants to. There is no rule that every person must have moderate, mainstream, middle-of-the-road, politically correct views. To condemn someone for having non-traditional views is the true bigotry here. This is bullying, plain and simple.

As Rohrwasser’s high school coach, John Barber, put it: “For him to be called a racist thug and a Nazi and Hitler, it just turns my stomach, because that’s not who he is. They don’t understand the full story of who he is, just want to take something out of context and destroy a kid, which wasn’t called for.”

Continue reading “In defense of Patriots kicker Justin Rohrwasser’s tattoos and political views”

bookmark_borderNo need for journalists to apologize for being journalists

I began this post a while ago and did not have a chance to finish it until now, so it’s a bit out of date. Despite this, I am still going to weigh in with my thoughts on a controversy in which student journalists at Northwestern University apologized for… practicing journalism.

This situation arose when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited campus, and many students decided to protest. Some of the protesters voiced their opinions peacefully, while others decided to climb through the windows of the lecture hall and forcibly push their way inside to disrupt Sessions’ speech. Two student reporters with the Daily Northwestern had the audacity to interview people in the crowd outside. Afterwards they also used a school directory to look up phone numbers of students involved in the protest and ask them if they would be willing to be interviewed. Additionally, during the protest, a student photographer took pictures of the clash between protesters and police and posted these to Twitter.

“I snapped into the journalistic response of making images,” the photographer, Colin Boyle, explained. “I was just trying to tell the story of what was going on… If something happened, God forbid, I was the only camera that was non-police-owned in that area, to my knowledge.”

Sounds reasonable to me.

However, student activists quickly began making a brouhaha, complaining that the publication of their names and identities might enable the university to punish them for their actions. As a result, the paper redacted a protester’s name from their story and Boyle deleted any tweets with photos showing protesters’ faces.

The Daily Northwestern‘s editorial board apologized in an editorial, which read,

We recognize that we contributed to the harm students experienced, and we wanted to apologize for and address the mistakes that we made that night. Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Those photos have since been taken down.

In my opinion, the newspaper has absolutely nothing to apologize for. They made no mistakes by covering the protest; the true mistake was to take down the content and to apologize.

When someone chooses to participate in a public protest, they are protesting, well, publicly. And integral part of participating in a protest is the fact that you are in public, and therefore will be seen and potentially photographed by people. It makes no sense for a protester to object to being photographed. If anything, protesters should want as much media coverage as possible, since drawing attention to one’s message and cause is the main purpose of a protest.

Additionally, the students who disrupted Sessions’ speech deserve to be punished, and anything that makes it easier for them to be identified and held accountable for their actions is a good thing, not a bad thing. Disrupting a speech is not OK. It is not fair to the speaker or to the people who have come to hear the speech. For a mob of people to drown out the views of a person with whom they disagree is bullying.

Contrary to the words used in the Daily‘s editorial, the anti-Sessions protesters did not experience any harm as far as I can tell, nor were they traumatized. How is it traumatizing that a person with whom you disagree is giving a speech? How does it cause harm? Anyone who did not wish to hear Sessions’ words could simply have chosen not to attend his speech. If anyone was harmed or traumatized, it would be Sessions and the people who went to the lecture hall hoping to hear him speak. The protesters went out of their way to cause a conflict. They are the aggressors in this situation, not the ones traumatized or harmed. They do not have a right to avoid punishment for their actions, and the newspaper and its reporters should not have modified, redacted, or taken down any of their reporting to accommodate them.

bookmark_borderMore anti-lockdown protests around the country and world

ABC News has more coverage on the protests – now happening across the country and world – against governments’ coronavirus-related restrictions on people’s freedoms.

On Monday, rallies took place in Augusta, Maine and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“My constitutional rights are essential,” read one sign in Augusta.

“My rights don’t end where your fear starts,” read another in Harrisburg.

“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” read a statement by Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, one of the organizations behind that state’s protest.

To all of these sentiments, I say… right on!

In a disturbing act of censorship, Facebook deleted events planned for California, Nebraska, and New Jersey after state governments complained.

According to the ABC News article, similar pro-freedom protests have taken place in Baghdad, Beirut, Israel, Mumbai, and Paris.

It’s great to see people around the world standing up to the fear-based, authoritarian views of the majority and fighting for freedom.

bookmark_borderPelosi calls anti-lockdown protests “unfortunate”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the recent protests against authoritarian, coronavirus-related government policies “unfortunate.”

Speaking on Fox News, she said: “That is really the answer. Testing. Tracing. Treatment. Shelter in place… But, you know, people will do what they do.” She added, “The fact is, we’re all impatient. We all want out. But what they’re doing is really unfortunate.”

I could not disagree more strongly. There is nothing “unfortunate” about people bravely fighting back against tyrannical governments. That is especially true when the government policies being protested against are endorsed as necessary and appropriate by the majority of people.

The anti-lockdown protests do not have to do with people being “impatient.” They have to do with people believing (correctly, in my opinion) that the government’s lockdown orders are morally wrong and violate people’s rights.

It may well be true that the measures Pelosi lists – shelter in place orders, testing, contact tracing, and treatment – are the best ways to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus. But what she does not take into account is that reducing risk is not necessarily the most important value, to be maximized at all costs. Individual rights and liberty matter as well. It is OK for the government to take away people’s freedom of movement in order to slow the spread of the virus? How about to ban people from transacting business, thereby destroying their ability to make a living? And to what extent is it OK to take away people’s privacy through attempts to trace and monitor who they come in contact with?

People can legitimately come up with differing answers to these questions. Those with minority views on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic deserve to be heard. Their opinions are just as valid and important as those of the majority. Pelosi is wrong to presume that her opinions are automatically correct and that her values are the only ones that matter.

The fact the America has such a small-minded, unimaginative, and intolerant Speaker of the House is truly unfortunate.

bookmark_borderMore protests against government overreach around the country

My heart is cheered at the news reports of protests all over the country against state governments’ authoritarian, anti-liberty actions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Michigan, protesters held what they described as “Operation Gridlock” to express their opposition to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order.

In Texas, a “You Can’t Close America” rally took place outside the State Capitol in Austin. “It’s sad how easily, with the snap of a finger, they’ll just shut down society,” said protester Dave Litrell, “and it’s even more sad that most of the people just acquiesce.”

In Indiana, protesters rallied outside Governor Eric Holcomb’s residence to criticize his executive orders closing businesses and directing people to stay at home. (Looks like one had an awesome picture of Ron Paul according to a photo in this article.) Protester Andy Horning said, “I’ve got kids who want to live a good life. I don’t want to bequeath them a Venezuela. I don’t want to bequeath them a North Korea.” One sign read, “My freedom does not end where your fears begin.” It would be hard to say it better than that.

Similar protests have taken place recently in California, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“Free people make their own risk assessments,” read one sign in New Hampshire.

“Quarantine is for sick people,” said Eric Moutsos, a protester in Utah. “When you lock healthy people away, that’s tyranny.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the protests: “People are frustrated, we’re anxious, we’re scared, we’re angry. Look, if you have partisan divisions splitting this nation now, it’s going to make it worse… This is no time, and no place for division. We have out hands full as it is. Let’s just stay together, and let’s work it through.”

But this statement does not really acknowledge the protesters’ dissenting viewpoints. It’s not that people are anxious or scared or angry… it’s that people believe the government’s policies are wrong. Cuomo makes no attempt to listen to the protesters’ arguments or to understand where they are coming from. He essentially says that everyone should simply have the same opinions as him and follow the policies that he and other governors enact. But the whole point of the protests is that not everyone supports those policies. Cuomo does not acknowledge that people can read about and think about the issues and have different opinions than he does. He does not acknowledge that people can have different ideas about how best to work through the situation and what values should be prioritized.

President Trump, to his credit, had good things to say about the protesters. “These are people expressing their views,” he said. “They seem to be very responsible people to me.” He also tweeted his support:

These pictures from the protests make me proud of my country. My views about individual rights, particularly in the context of the pandemic, place me in the minority, but reading about and watching videos of the protests makes me feel that I am not alone. I hope that there will always be true patriots like these, bravely fighting for freedom.

bookmark_borderProtesting is labeled a “non-essential activity” in North Carolina

On Tuesday, over 100 people gathered in Raleigh, NC to protest against the state government’s stay-at-home orders. The group organizing the protest, ReOpenNC, characterizes (correctly, in my opinion) the restrictions on people and businesses imposed by Governor Roy Cooper as unconstitutional.

“You are in violation of the executive order,” a cop told the crowd. “You are posing a risk to public health. If you do not disperse, you will be taken and processed at Wake County jail.” Although most protesters eventually dispersed, one protestor, Monica Faith Ussery, was arrested and charged with violating the stay-at-home executive order. “I have a right to peacefully assemble,” she said.

After the protest, the Raleigh Police Department tweeted in response to a question, “Protesting is a non-essential activity.” In a separate statement, they wrote “More important is the health and wellness of all who live in our community… We simply want everyone to be safe during this very serious public health crisis.”

I don’t know about you, but I find it disturbing that the government can ban a fundamental First Amendment right simply because it is not essential. Ms. Ussery has a point: the First Amendment explicitly prohibits the government from making any law abridging “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” In other words, protesting against government policies is precisely what the First Amendment was designed to protect. Health and wellness are important, but the government’s primary job should be to protect people’s freedoms. When a fundamental right can be taken away merely because it poses a risk to public health, then we are not living in a free country.

bookmark_borderAdditional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney

The Straight Pride Parade that took place two weeks ago inspired a wide variety of reactions from politicians, judges, law enforcement officials, and others. Here is a summary of these developments and my opinions on them:

Battle between Suffolk D.A. and judge

36 people who protested against the parade were arrested for crimes such as disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on police officers. For 20 arrestees charged only with the first two crimes, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office attempted to drop the charges, but Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott ordered them to be arraigned anyways. This did not please Suffolk D.A. Rachael Rollins, who successfully petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court to overturn the judge’s decision. “By compelling arraignment in every case, the judge punished the exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest,” Rollins said in a statement. “At my request, prosecutors used the discretion constitutionally allocated to the executive branch to triage cases and use our resources most effectively to protect public safety… For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record—I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”

But from what I observed at the parade, the protesters were not merely exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. They were attempting to prevent the parade marchers, whom they vastly outnumbered, from exercising theirs. Screaming at, swearing at, taunting, and insulting people for expressing a minority viewpoint is not free speech; it is bullying. Some protesters against the parade went so far as to openly advocate violence. According to the Boston Herald, an Antifa member named Jon Crowley said that violence was the only appropriate response to the parade. “We’re covered in black so when we attack these guys we can’t be prosecuted,” Crowley said. “They are fascists, 100%. How else are you going to get them to shut up?”

News flash: you do not have a right to get people to “shut up” when you disagree with their views. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment. People who attempt to silence and bully those with unpopular views should, when their actions rise to the level of breaking the law, be prosecuted as zealously and punished as severely as the law allows. Situations like what happened at the parade are the least appropriate situation for prosecutors to consider dropping charges. Also, contrary to what D.A. Rollins implied in her statement, public safety should not be the most important priority of the D.A.’s office; justice should be. And the most important part of justice is standing up for the rights of individuals (such as the parade marchers) against those who would trample on them (such as the jeering mobs of protesters).

John Ciccone, editor of South Boston Today, expressed his thoughts in an emailed statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: “It is the opinion of this newspaper and the overwhelming majority of readers heard from on this matter that the position and action Suffolk County DA Rollins has taken is absolutely wrong. In regard to the members of the so called ANTIFA organization, DA Rollins’ actions encourages the thug like violence of that group, who routinely have denied the rights of free speech and legal and peaceful protest of those they disagree with, not only in Boston during last weekend’s incidents, but in cities all across the nation. Those members of ANTIFA should be made an example of and be prosecuted to the full extend of what the law allows and if found guilty, given the maximum penalty. The message sent out should be loud and clear that they will not be allowed to come into Suffolk County and attack civilians and members of law enforcement without paying a heavy price for those actions.”

Continue reading “Additional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney”

bookmark_borderStraight Pride Parade protesters demonstrate intolerance and hypocrisy

On Saturday, August 31, a Straight Pride Parade and rally took place in Boston. This provided an opportunity for so-called liberals to take to the streets and demonstrate their intolerance and hypocrisy.

The protesters chanted things such as “Boston hates you,” “go away,” “f*** you,” and “Nazi scum, get off our streets.” They ridiculed the fact that fewer people attended the parade than the protests against it. And they ridiculed the classical music that played as rally organizers waited for more supporters to arrive, saying “Your music is 500 years old, just like your values.” (What does how old values are have to do with whether they are right or wrong?) They taunted police officers, asking “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” (as if protecting an unpopular minority against a bullying majority is a bad thing). They pointed their middle fingers as the parade made its way down Boylston Street and as the rally began on City Hall Plaza. One protester screamed, “What do you have to be proud of? What have you done?” (Can you imagine what the reaction would be if someone asked this of gay pride demonstrators?)

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bookmark_borderStop & Shop strike: free speech or bullying?

Workers at Stop & Shop have been on strike for the past week as their union battles with the company over pay, health insurance, and pension benefits. Picketing outside the stores, workers have been trying to get customers to shop elsewhere until the dispute is resolved.

One such customer was NHL legend Ray Bourque, who had the misfortune of having to pick up a prescription at the grocery store’s pharmacy. “Shame on you,” a striking worker yelled. (The stores are being staffed by skeleton crews of temporary workers and employees from corporate headquarters.) Afterward, Bourque tweeted that he had crossed the picket line “mistakenly” and “apologized immediately” on his way out.

In my opinion, Bourque has nothing to apologize for. People have a right to shop where they want to. I’m not necessarily opposed to what the union is asking for, and in general I’m strongly in favor of higher pay for blue-collar workers such as the cashiers, baggers, deli associates, butchers, bakers, and all the employees who make grocery stores run. Supporting the union by boycotting Stop & Shop for the duration of the strike is a great thing to do. But it’s not mandatory. There is a wide array of reasons why someone would choose Stop & Shop over another grocery store – perhaps there is no other store with comparable prices or with the exact product someone needs, or perhaps there are no other grocery stores within a reasonable distance. Heck, maybe there are some people who believe the union’s demands are unreasonable and want to show their support for the company. Although showing support for the strike is great if one is so inclined, no one is obligated to pay more or sacrifice hours out of one’s day in order to do so.

The union has every right to make public statements discouraging people from patronizing Shop & Stop stores. And it’s okay for picketing workers to hold signs saying “don’t cross the line” or similar slogans. But to yell at, shame, or insult individual people for crossing the picket line crosses the line from free speech to bullying. Customers should be free to decide for themselves whether to support the union, or not. No one deserves to be yelled at, shamed, or insulted because of where they buy groceries.

bookmark_borderAnti free speech bullies strike again

On Saturday, anti free speech bullies staged another shameful display of intolerance in Boston. About a year after 40,000 people decided to protest against a small free speech rally on the Boston Common, a similar demonstration of bullying happened at City Hall Plaza, where 300 members of “Stand Against Hate Boston” attempted to drown out about 30 free speech advocates.

According to news reports, the counterprotesters’ goal was to disrupt the rally and to shout down its speakers. They chanted “cops and Klan go hand in hand” at police officers. One berated a reporter who was attempting to interview a rally attendee, shouting “There aren’t two sides here; they’re Nazis.” Anti free speech protest organizer Peter Berard said, “We’re trying to show that Boston is no place for their hate.”

These words and actions are completely hypocritical.

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with the views expressed at the rally, but disrupting the event and attempting to drown out its speakers goes well beyond expressing your own views. It is an act of aggression and intolerance against people whose only crime is holding different opinions than you.

By openly stating that Boston is “no place for” the free speech rally, the protest organizer displayed his intolerance for anyone who happens to hold different beliefs from him. So did the individual who yelled at the reporter that “there aren’t two sides here.” Even if the rallygoers were Nazis, which they aren’t, there are always two sides, and to claim otherwise is the ultimate in bigotry. The entire point of freedom of speech is that there is a variety of possible opinions on every issue, and everyone should have the opportunity to make their views heard. Counterprotesters openly voiced the sentiment that their opinions are the only legitimate ones and that people with different opinions do not belong in the city of Boston. I can’t think of anything more intolerant or more hateful than that.

Even the coverage by the Boston Globe was biased, with the words “free speech” appearing in quotation marks within the headline and throughout the article. Obviously, the reporters are perfectly welcome to question the opinions expressed at the rally. But to question what the rally is even about? For every political event, protest, or rally that I can remember, the media has simply taken at face value the event’s stated topic. To refuse to do so here conveys a tone of contempt and ridicule that is not appropriate for a news article. Saturday’s event was not a “free speech” rally. It was a free speech rally. A concept that too many people in Boston and beyond don’t seem to understand or value.