Reason Roundup

Biden Applauds Derek Chauvin Guilty Verdict, Condemns Violent 'Agitators and Extremists'

Plus: An anti-tech crusader could be joining the FTC, threats to free speech at Columbia University, and more...


President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on all three charges. Biden applauded the verdict and said that George Floyd's death was "murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism."

Biden said this outcome was a step forward for racial justice, but that Congress should act to pass legislation that would address misconduct in police departments. He said that should be Floyd's legacy—a legacy of "peace, not violence":

Peaceful expression of that legacy are inevitable and appropriate. But, violent protest is not. There are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions of the moment, agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice, who seek to carry out violence, destroy property, and fan the flames of hate and division, who do everything in their power to stop this country's march toward racial justice.

We can't let them succeed. This is a time for this country to come together, to unite as Americans.

Remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were less well-received. As SFGate reported:

Shortly after former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delivered a bizarre speech that immediately angered and disturbed people following along on social media.

"Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice," Pelosi said. "For being there to call out to your mom — how heartbreaking was that?" she interjected. "Call out to your mom, 'I can't breathe.' But because of you, thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice. And now we have to make sure justice prevails in the sentencing. But, you know, that's its own procedure."

Obviously, the idea that Floyd sacrificed his life for justice is a bit presumptuous. Floyd didn't choose to be killed. (The Las Vegas Raiders posted a similarly cringeworthy social media statement.)

Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) cast doubt on the notion that Chauvin's conviction represented some meaningful achievement of justice.

There were also plenty of questionable reactions from the right. Republican Anthony Sabatini, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, described the outcome as "mob justice." Several other conservative commentators echoed this notion.

For a recap of the jury's decision, read Reason's Jacob Sullum.


Columbia University students filed complaints against Dinah PoKempner, an adjunct professor at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights and former general counsel at the Human Rights Watch, after she used the word nigger in an educational setting while discussing "the comparative legal treatment of hate speech." According to The College Fix:

Students attempted to inform PoKempner why her language was out of line, but without success. They ended up taking their complaints to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Institute for the Study of Human Rights.

According to Columbia's faculty handbook, professors should "engage their students in discussions about issues that are contentious and emotionally charged" and "challenge them to reexamine deeply held beliefs." It also notes such discussions should embrace "civility, tolerance, and respect for ideas that differ from their own."

While the complaints about PoKempner are being looked into, Institute for the Study of Human Rights Director Elazar Barkan "acknowledged" students' post-episode "anxiety about the course." Another administrator will handle grading for PoKempner's class for the rest of the semester.

Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education urged Columbia to refrain from punishing PoKempner. "A class discussing what the First Amendment protects will naturally raise the likelihood of hearing or seeing words people find offensive," he said. "While students have the right to criticize those choices or to complain about them, an investigation or punishment by the university would be a marked departure from its commitment to academic freedom."


The Senate will hold confirmation hearings on Wednesday for Lina Khan, an associate professor of law at Columbia University who was nominated by Biden to join the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Khan's appointment is notable because she's a major intellectual proponent of the idea that the federal government should use antitrust laws to regulate major tech companies. She was the co-author of an influential 2017 paper that argued Amazon's multiple market functions—as a platform, a retailer, a book publisher, and a web hosting service—create "anticompetitive concerns."

In essence, Khan is an adherent of the progressive approach to regulating "Big Tech." What's interesting is that many conservatives have also soured on tech corporations and some—Sens. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R–Texas) in particular—have signaled an openness to regulating or even breaking up Big Tech. If the Republicans decline to get behind Khan—or even deride her pro-government, pro-regulation approach—it might show that their stated opposition to Big Tech is just for show. Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah) has suggested that Khan is too inexperienced for the job, which could be his way of saying he's not on board.

Assuming that Khan does get confirmed, she is likely to bolster the Biden administration's misguided efforts to rein in tech companies. Biden previously tapped Tim Wu, a Columbia law professor and close ally of Khan, to join the National Economic Council. This is one area of policy where Biden's views seem to be well in keeping with far-left progressivism, and there's plenty of damage that Wu and Khan can do. How Republicans might respond is something of a mystery, given that petty grievances have caused them to abandon free market principles when it comes to tech.


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