4 Things That Pissed Us Off in 2017

Serenity now.


Thomas Hawk/flickr

If you like to rage, 2017 was the year for you. There was so much to be pissed off about and Reason was there every step of the way to chronicle what actually mattered.

1. The assault on free speech

No matter which major party presidential candidate was going to win the election last year, 2017 was going to be a bad year for free speech—both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton demonstrated a hearty disdain for it.

Since his inauguration, president Trump has reveled in needling the press and its "fake news." Many in the press have reacted with the kind of sloppy, mistake-laden work that has helped justify his criticism.

Trump's October tweet asking of NBC, "at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License," was nothing out of the ordinary for Trump, but acting on it might have actually violated the First Amendment, crossing a line from a complaint to government action.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai responded to calls to review the licenses of cable news network before Trump himself tweeted about it. "Setting aside the fact that the FCC doesn't license cable channels," Pai said, "these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions."

Trump continued an ignominious tradition of assaulting the First Amendment from the White House (his predecessor prosecuted more government whistleblowers than all his predecessors combined), but free speech also got short shrift in some surprising places.

More than 200 staffers at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization dedicated to protecting constitutional rights, signed an open letter decrying the group's First Amendment absolutism. "Our broader mission—which includes advancing the racial justice guarantees in the Constitution and elsewhere, not just the First Amendment—continues to be undermined by our rigid stance," the letter read.

Then there were the students affiliated with Black Lives Matter who shut down an ACLU-sponsored free speech event at the College of William & Mary because "liberalism is white supremacy." Apparently lost on the students was that the police officers they protest against would be responsible for enforcing hate speech laws.

That is not a theoretical point—hate crimes laws pushed by progressives are now being used to establish "blue lives matter" provisions that enhance sentences for crimes against cops if you say something mean to them. Louisiana already added police officers to the list of people who can be victims of hate crimes, and there's an effort to do the same on the federal level.

There's also the now-fashionable non-argument that because Nazis claim to be for free speech (anyone who takes them at face value is not a critical thinker), supporting free speech means supporting Nazism. The proposition is as preposterous as the suggestion that advocating for the constitutional rights of accused criminals means supporting criminals. Just because an argument is preposterous, unfortunately, doesn't mean it can't be popular, so vigilance about free speech will remain important.

SpringTrippReilly-Life's Elements Photography

2. The war on "sex trafficking"

As much a failure as the war on drugs has been, and despite its increasing unpopularity, not only is the federal government not winding that war down, it's declaring new ones it can't possibly win.

Take the escalation of the war on so-called "sex trafficking." Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown has been at the forefront of reporting on this disturbing new trend.

Brown predicted it in a Reason magazine cover story two years ago, concluding that the results would be disastrous for "perpetrators" and "victims" alike. She was absolutely right. Government agencies have enthusiastically embraced the same failed strategies of the war on drugs to fight a "sex trafficking" threat they have severely overblown.

A pair of bills passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this year while most people were obsessed over whatever the outrage-of-the-week was that week, significantly expanded federal law enforcement powers.

Specifically, the FBI, ICE, and local and state police are allowed to wiretap suspected sex workers or their associates, along with any "consenting adults on any side of a commercial sexual exchange".

The bills also called for a national strategy to suppress demand for prostitution, to treat the sex trade as "gender-based violence," as well as expanding the definition of a gang to include groups of five or more sex workers traveling together, among other provisions Brown reported on.

This fall, the war on sex trafficking extended to a federal crackdown on illegal masseuses. Teen sexters can't be that far behind.


3. Everything about Jeff Sessions

America's 84th attorney general is a true throwback to shitty times. Sessions still believes in the kind of "law and order" nonsense that's largely been debunked over the last two decades—and is committed to using the Department of Justice as a cudgel.

Sessions' master plan for dealing with an opioid crisis that's gained increased news attention in 2017 is to escalate the failing war on drugs. He revived a federal asset forfeiture program that made it easier for local agencies to seize property. He wants to maximize penalties for drug offenders. He ordered a review of all consent decrees, DOJ agreements with local police agencies on reform and oversight.

Sessions recruited local police to assist in immigration enforcement. He pushes the myth that marijuana is a "gateway drug." He continues to fearmonger about crime despite historically low, and declining, rates. He backed Trump's decision to resume sending military equipment to local police. He's tripled the number of investigations into leakers. He wants to bring back DARE.

And the worst part is, if Trump fires Sessions, it'll fuel…


4. The Trump-Russia obsession

No review of 2017 outrage would be complete without the hysteria over potential Trump-Russia collusion.

Democrats have developed many of the conspiracy theories, but it isn't all their fault. Trump spent a good chunk of 2017 making things worse. Terminating FBI Director James Comey, and Trump's subsequent statements about it, helped lead to the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Trump-Russia collusion.

This has created the perception that there's something wrong with talking to Russia. Better relations with Russia should be welcomed, not feared. The prevailing anti-Russia mood in Washington makes this very difficult, encouraging the Trump administration to escalate the counterproductive, antagonistic policies of the Obama administration.

This has also led, unaccountably, to efforts to lionize the FBI as a friend of liberty and justice, a task belied by its long history. That has opened the door to the censorship of online speech in the guise of ferreting out enemies of the state, bringing us full circle and bringing us little comfort heading into 2018.

NEXT: The Best Sex Work Writing of 2017

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  1. One of these days you cucks will learn that progressives aren’t your friends.

    1. But Russians can be our friends, at least on an individual level. And have you met many Russian women? Hoo boy.

      As for befriending progressives, I didn’t see that recommended anywhere in the article.

    2. On the contrary, progressives and libertarians are natural allies. Progressives agree with us on our two most important issues: open borders and reproductive rights. Meanwhile the GOP has become a white nationalist anti-immigration party that wants to turn this country into The Handmaid’s Tale.

      1. I don’t want our borders to be open to third-world imports from congested sewers.

        People on welfare should be sterilized so that they don’t breed more burdens like themselves.

    3. When SIV tells “Serenity Now!,” he is talking about his new Silkie breed acquisition.

      1. *yells

      2. Oh. I thought he had heard rumours of a Firefly return.

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    6. If only news directors would heed your call, and stop their blind subservience to seeking their cocktail party invites.

  2. This thread got real dumb real fast.

  3. The bills also called for a national strategy to suppress demand for prostitution

    I fear this might be a call for castration.

    1. Best strategy would be legalization

  4. This is the best REASON article that I can recall. Keep up the good work.

  5. Trump’s October tweet asking of NBC, “at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License,” was nothing out of the ordinary for Trump, but acting on it might have actually violated the First Amendment

    At what point is it appropriate to recognize he is basically jerking members of the media around, yourselves included? Unless you want an 8-year Trump reign, something my retirement funds would relish at this point, you would do wise to stop taking his tweets so seriously. The man feeds off of impotent progressive rage.

    1. So basically he’s your average 2008 era /b/tard that idiots don’t know how to ignore or not to pay any heed to his comments? Makes sense really.

  6. This New Year’s Eve menu for progressive marxists = Russian Tofu Nothing Burger smothered in Organic Antifa, with a side of BLM, and for dessert Free Range Illegal Aliens

  7. Come on, guys, there’s got to be a better pissing-off list than HyR came up w here. What about:

    1. How publicizing police brutality just seems to encourage them? Like, THEY got away w THAT, now’s OUR turn!

    2. Publicizing sexting woes seems to encourage thinking of the phenomenon, rather than prosecution, as the problem?

    3. Diversity only where it’s trivial, otherwise intolerance of, not only deviance, but even the normal?

    1. Yeah the Daniel Shaver shooting would have probably topped my list.

      I also agree that we are into each other’s shit waaaayyy tooo much……reality tv and social media is making us less capable of self governance, let alone determining what is or is not our business

      Third, our news media is now dominated by news opinion and speculation…..where most news has a clear ideological bias….which forces most people to choose a side….maybe this is driven by our second point….don’t know….but it too is killing our country’s ability to self govern…..Trump’s tweets are generally horrible but in the grand picture of life…maybe they are just a window into who we are becoming as a people

      1. Agreed. The torture/murder of Daniel Shaver was certainly the most disturbing thing I saw this year. Also agree with your other points. Trump’s tweets are certainly a window into out collective subconscious. In my opinion, we have become a country of assholes (on both sides of the political spectrum) and Trump is King Asshole….for now.

    2. Re item 3

      “Being exclusionary of trans women partners should be an outlier and marginal position for straight men, not some commonplace expectation. These angry declarations that they have some absolute right to not want to be with trans women are just misplaced and inappropriate.” — Zinnia Jones

      It’s not enough th that tolerate trans folks, but cishetero men may need to be foreced to date trans women, lest they think they’d have a right not to.

      1. How mainstream is this position?

        1. psychotic

        2. I’d give it 2 Hihns

    3. Actually #2 shouldn’t surprise me in that it seems to effectively bolster narcotics prohib’n.

      Maybe it’s all part of the phenomenon of corruption breeding distrust, which breeds more controls, which breed more corruption. It’s enough that sometimes I think we’d be better off w censorship or other form of suppression of nearly all news, & possibly the substitution of fake nx saying things are swell. Because the rxn vs. things being perceived as bad makes them worse. If only people didn’t know about drugs or porn or prostitution or foreign wars or whatever, maybe there’d be no attempt to do anything about them.

      I even think we might be better off if we had total secret gov’t: a few venal people ripping the rest of us off secretly, maybe even “disappearing” a few people they disliked. Since nobody’d know about it, nobody more would want to get in on the act. Limited gov’t?not nice, but limited.

  8. Here’s a fifth: false equivalence between a sitting president exercising his constitutional right to criticize media and a former president actually wiretapping and using the apparatus of the state against the media. One is an actual assault against the first amendment; leave it to reason to fail to understand which.

    p.s. Remind me under which president reason was subpoenaed. Like Ed I’m struggling to recall…

    1. Aye, Democrats have;

      Used the IRS to go after those they don’t agree with.

      Used the DOJ to fund those they do agree with through plea deals.

      Used the FBI/NSA/CIA to fucking WIRETAP the opposition party’s presidential candidate.

      Used dozens journalists to get heads up on everything from debate questions to upcoming leaks.

      Meanwhile, Trump talks on Twitter. I’m really getting sick of Reason’s bullshit.

  9. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai responded to calls to review the licenses of cable news network before Trump himself tweeted about it. “Setting aside the fact that the FCC doesn’t license cable channels,” Pai said, “these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions.”

    Considering he literally and singlehandedly destroyed the internet this year, you’re not doing yourselves any favors citing Pai’s words.

    1. The online chimp-out over somebody reversing a useless Obama-era policy — that was in effect for all of two years — has been the most cringeworthy thing to watch this year.

      It boggles my mind how the whole goddamn internet got sucked into what was basically a bunch of sleazy negotiating tactics between NetFlix, Comcast, etc. as if it were some new global holy war.

      Granted the FCC shouldn’t even exist, but this guy has done nothing to earn the public enemy status he’s been given.

      1. Agreed. But then again, this is how an increasingly insane, low-info public deals with things now, especially on the internet. If one doesn’t fall lockstep with the prevailing assumptions, attempts to personally destroy that person will ensue. The most rabid attacks typically come from those who do t really know much about the issue.

      2. The FCC has on balance been a disgrace and a public disservice since its inception. It blocked FM radio technology for years at the service of fearful AM radio owners, and delayed cell phone technology for possibly decades by tying up spectrum in useless arcane rules. They need to start over with a clean sheet of paper, and not one soul who has ever worked there – the entire culture is rotted top to bottom. It should by rights be called the Federal Blackout Commission, and its charter read ‘denying new technology to the public whenever possible’.

  10. There’s also the now-fashionable non-argument that because Nazis claim to be for free speech supporting free speech means supporting Nazism.

    Hitler was a vegetarian
    Hitler wanted to exterminate the jews

    Gweneth Paltrow is a vegetarian
    Gweneth Paltrow obviously supports the extermination of the jews


    Noted: the source of the above twitter-linked Non-Argument has been frequently published in the pages of this magazine. Readers often had a field day pointing out his glaring logical failures.

    1. I had no idea Berlatsky was such a prolificReason contributor. Weird ’cause I know the byline. That’s pretty bad that he can’t even draw my attention while working in the genre of “what wrong things does this asshole have to say about things I have knowledge of and strong opinions on?”. Usually I eat that shit up.

    2. That actually would not surprise me about Ms. Paltrow. She’s pretty far left into the fascist side…

      And there is probably a correlation between vegetarianism and fascism.

  11. “Hate” laws are arbitrary laws and run against the overall grain of individual liberty and the Constitution. The hate law proponent’s position is diametrically opposed to equal treatment under the law, no matter how much they insist otherwise.

    Also very alarming is the group of ACLU members who voiced opposition to “free speech absolutism” by moving the goalposts on what that term refers to. Almost nobody is a free speech absolutist, and even the most principled free speech advocates do not include harassment, direct threats, fraud, etc as free speech. Essentially, that group of ACLU people wants to further limit free speech to only certain ideas.

    1. The American Civil Liberties Union is now trashing both the 1st and 2nd Amendment. They are very close to joining a long line of organizations and ideas that have been subjugated by the left so they can use up all of its past credibility.

      1. By close, you mean that penetration has happened…

      2. The actions of many ACLU people in the last year have not been encouraging, and yes, it’s starting to look like they are indeed being ideologically co-opted. Not good at all.

      3. Watch it or you will find yourself on the SPLC hate group list.

  12. Here’s one that should annoy the crap out of everyone… facebook admits to censoring and deleting accounts at the direction of the US and Israeli governments.

    1. “facebook is a private corporation and their right to not host content trumps your right to criticize them for doing so”


    2. This is also known as fascism.

  13. #Kochsuckerssaywut?

    2017, and you are indicting what Hillary would have done so as to excuse what Drumpf did.

    1. Hillary would actually have had the government do stuff to Republicans/conservatives, not just stay stupid stuff on twitter (though I’m sure she would also do that, as she regularly does, albeit not in the braying manner Trump does)

      1. One amusing aspect of 2017 is upper-class liberals and their representatives ending the year complaining that they’d have to pay more taxes.

        1. Far more amusing, you defending Republican tax increases! And $1.5 Trillion in new debt!
          Trump did say you’d defend him from even commiting murder in broad daylight, And you stood by that.
          But the Trump team was just destroyed by BANNON, in a stunning new book.

  14. 1. The assault on free speech

    Did you consult Shika Dalmia on this one? She believes that violence against speakers she disagrees with is perfectly acceptable.

    Did you consult Elizabeth Nolan Brown? She doxed a man on Twitter and harangued his employer to try to get him fired for jokingly telling her to make him a sandwich.

    Did you consult Katherine Mangu-Ward who stood by those two individuals, endorsed their views, and continues to pay them as Reason staff members?

    1. No, that’s totally free speech. Dalmia doesn’t advocate violence against “people she disagrees with”. She advocates it against evil Nazis who everyone except Nazis disagree with.

      And ENB was only fighting back against oppression. That man deserved everything he got and worse because of his active support for Patriarchy.We need more standup women like this at Reason, and I intend to publish exactly that in 2018.

      Also, consider carefully whether or not you want to side with Nazis and cisheteropatriarchal scum. Nice IP address you have there…

      –Katherine Mangu-Ward

  15. Ladies and Gentleman, the massive, over-inflated dirigible known as the Hihndenberg has ascended to a height of 10,000 feet over this comment thread and spewed self-aggrandizing, pedantic bullshit all over everyone who’s participated in it….also known as anti-gubbmint goobers. Nothing to see here. Unless you want to be covered in it’s bullshit and perhaps kill a few braincells in the process, i suggest you move along to more current articles.

    1. What are your specific disagreements with Mr. or Ms. Hihndenberg? At this point, your behavior is far worse than what you accuse him or her of. I cannot find his or her name on this page. .

      Verbal aggression is legal. But it conveys the same mentality as physical aggression. We libertarians have a core principle, Non-Aggression, which causes me to report yours to Reason.

      May your tortured soul find peace, by the Grace of Almighty God.

      1. Try the David Nolan sockpuppet instead, Dumbfuck Hihnsano.

  16. I read anti-free-speech blather from otherwise ‘nice’ people every time I open facebook. It’s getting so I just can’t stand to read any of those stories which mention free speech. They just don’t get it. Perhaps we have to educate young people more effectively on the implications of restricting free speech, but even baby boomers are delusional on these points. The righties want to jail people for flag burning or failing to stand for the pledge of allegiance. The lefties want to outlaw insults to minorities.

    1. No surprise there. I read Fakebooks alleged policy, which contravenes its opening premise that your page is yours. No… it’s not. Halfway through is language that effectively means policy is whatever they deem it to be at any given moment on a purely elastic basis, and they don’t even need a real person outside the company to feign objection – they can imagineer their way to some objection allowing taking your page down at any moment, and you the “owner” of your page have zero recourse. That is what fascism looks like, attitudinally speaking.

  17. I can’t believe political agitprop didn’t make the 2017 list. Does anybody believe the ‘incite the right’ event in Virgina was anything but an inside operation to provide the excuse for the left to take to the streets? Yes, there are right wing loons out there, but WHO organized them? The unholy union of anarchists and fascists did, so they could commit arson with cans of hairspray, wield pillowcases loaded with bricks and more… as the AntiFa signs distracted the cameras and gave them political cover.
    In case you think otherwise, that event was a continuum of Ferguson, where an attorney general threatened an entire police force with federal review and a so called “civil rights” investigation if they dared to remove the anarchists from their streets and return law & order. You might recall that roughly 80% of those arrested during the feigned outrage had come in from out of town. The common link is suspected to be Soros money, but there are enough layers between him and the paid goons that plausible deniability is rock solid, and no jury will ever scratch the man.
    Count me as one American pissed off that our own DOJ sided with anarchists and attempted to set the nation on fire.

    1. Did you just try to say some one organized anarchists?

  18. According to the NYT on Dec. 30th:

    “During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton… two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role. (Note, NYT using unnamed sources, as usual). The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.”

    I doubt many Americans give a damn about whether the Russians colluded with Trump himself to defeat Hillary, or passed on hacked Hillary emails to the Trump campaign, but they sure as hell ought to be scared, BE REALLY SCARED, when the FBI begins investigating presidential candidates during an election on the basis of what some Australian spooks told them.

  19. When people are asked to use gut instinct to stop real but rare horrors, relying on racial stereotypes and other biases tends to rule.

    Is that why the cops pulled a gun on my friend the day I moved him and his babby mamma into my town. It’s strange how one of the other regulars at the Wellness Center died of a drug overdoes latter that night in the Wellness Center bathroom.

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