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Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump's Problem With Free Speech

The billionaire bully chafes at the restrictions imposed by the First Amendment.

Last week Donald Trump had a nice telephone chat with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the autocrat who has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, two years before it broke away from the Soviet Union. According to the Kazakh government, the president-elect "stressed that under the leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev, our country over the years of independence had achieved fantastic success that can be called a 'miracle.'"

One aspect of the Kazakh miracle that Trump surely admires is Nazarbayev's ability to make criticism (and critics) disappear. As Trump's constitutionally contemptuous comments about flag burning illustrate, he supports free speech the same way he supports free trade: with preferential exceptions designed to protect the people he cares about most.

Trump thinks "nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag," notwithstanding two Supreme Court decisions saying such expressive activity is protected by the First Amendment. Both rulings were joined by Antonin Scalia, the late justice whom Trump says he wants to replace with someone similar.

Trump's call for jailing flag burners or stripping them of their citizenship may sound like the sort of knee-jerk patriotism that elevates a piece of cloth above the principles it represents. But in light of the fact that anti-Trump protesters in several cities burned flags after his election, attributing his position to mindless jingoism probably gives him too much credit.

Trump has a long, astonishingly petty history of using the legal system to punish people who offend him. In 1984, for instance, he sued Chicago Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp for calling a Manhattan skyscraper proposed by Trump "aesthetically lousy" and "one of the silliest things anyone could inflict on New York or any other city."

The thin-skinned developer demanded $500 million in compensation for those insults, which seemed like a lot until he sought 10 times as much—$5 billion—in a 2006 lawsuit against Tim O'Brien, a financial journalist who had dared suggest that Trump was not worth as much as he claimed. Although Trump lost both of those cases, he recently told The Washington Post he got what he wanted from his suit against O'Brien: "I did it to make his life miserable, which I'm happy about."

Trump nevertheless thinks it should be easier for him to win lawsuits against people who say things he does not like. "We're going to open up those libel laws," he promised at a rally in February, "so when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post…writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected."

The president actually has nothing to do with writing libel law, which is done at the state level and is any case constrained by the First Amendment—the source of the protection that frustrates Trump. His buddy Nursultan Nazarbayev has no such problem.

In Kazakhstan, the State Department notes, libel is a crime as well as a tort, defendants are required to prove the accuracy of any challenged statement, and "the law provides enhanced penalties for libel against senior government officials," who use the threat of defamation claims "to restrict media outlets from publishing unflattering information." Another aspect of Kazakh law that should appeal to the notoriously sensitive and secretive Trump: "The law prohibits insulting the president or the president's family" and "criminalizes the release of information regarding the health, finances, or private life of the president."

Trump, who argues that "it is not 'freedom of the press' when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false," might also be intrigued by the Kazakh law that makes "intentionally spreading false information" a crime punishable by stiff fines and up to 10 years in prison. But before he comes out in favor of such a truth-promoting initiative, he probably should consult a lawyer about his own potential liability.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • chemjeff||

    Well, this whole article is a bit of question-begging. Just because Nazarbayev wants to silence all dissent, doesn't necessarily mean Trump wants to silence all dissent. In his heart of hearts I think Trump really would like to shut some people up. But just because he had a friendly conversation with Nazarbayev doesn't necessarily prove that to be the case.

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    Well, obviously when previous American leaders talked with the Saudis it means they wanted to execute gay people and force women to walk everywhere.

    It's pathetic that writers like Sullum can't even make a legitimate criticism of Trump without fucking it up and sounding like passive-aggressive teenagers.

  • Quixote||

    What's wrong with silencing a little dissent here or there anyway? Surely even writers like Mr. Sullum would not dare to defend the outrageous "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in America's leading criminal "satire" case? See the documentation at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • Zoidzilla||

    What's wrong with silencing a little dissent? you say that as if you think that the only voices that will be silenced are those you don't like. That's not how it works...

  • Zoidzilla||

    Trump admires dictators that censor and silence the type of underdog opposition dissenters that Trump himself used to be.

    Take a moment to let that sink in. If the establishment had been able to censor journalists and the press to the extent that Trump would clearly like to, Trump himself would never have gotten elected. Just think about that.

    The fact that some of them tried to, and it went against them, should point out the obvious futility of such tactics. Learn the lesson.

    You don't silence dissent by censoring it, you amplify it.

  • BigW||

    Cosmotarians gotta cosmotaire....

  • Zoidzilla||

    Yup, there go them ther cosmotarians complaining about trivial things like YOUR freedom of speech and the free speech of those in the media you agree with. Instead of whinning about the erosion of one of the most fundamental rights that western civilization is based on, why don't they complain about things that matter like...what exactly?

  • ThomasD||

    "...when previous American leaders talked with bowed to the Saudis..."

  • Zoidzilla||

    Point out one statement Sullum made about Trump that isn't true, just one. You can't. Pointing out Trump has no respect for free speech IS a legitimate criticism. The braindead alt-right playbook where you think calling your enemy 'passive aggresive' will somehow serve as a dismissal of their argument is simply not going to work. It always amuses me when alt-right monkeys think that they can cut and paste the same rhetorical tactics that they THINK works against the left ( occasionaly it does ) and just throw that crap at libertarians, were a different animal, find a new strategy. Whinging because you can't handle the truth isn't going to work for you.

    The election is over, put the pom poms away. I understand that people thought Trump was a good monkey wrench to throw into the plans of the elites, but even if...then he is a monkey wrench, he is NOT Excalibur so stop pretending that he is. Stop thinking you have to justify any absurdity of the mans behaviour and narcissism. I swear if Trump came out tomorrow and said he wanted to ban Christmas, there'd be some alt-righter making excuses for it and trying to say that at least it would piss off some leftists, oh and critics would be passive aggresive teenagers. Trump doesn't respect free speech, guess what? that's a problem, you can like him in other ways if you want, but stop deluding yourself that everything he does is somehow right.

  • Ron||

    Reason has gotten kind of silly with their guilt by association lately considering that all presidents end up talking to almost all other presidents no matter how bad they are. I change my mind they aren't just silly they have TDS in a big way.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    The same Block Yomomma butt boys who cheered on Obama for beginning the process of normalizing relations with Cuba, which was led by the oldest and longest-running dictator in the world, now criticism Trump simply for having a phone conversation with a dictator. If he completely refused to engage with any dictators, they would probably call him a xenophobic nativist isolationst.

    Doesn't seem to make a whole lot of logical sense, but that's how Professional Fake Libertarians gonna roll.

  • Zoidzilla||

    Trumps relationship with other national leaders is not the subject of the article, his admiration for their police-state approach to silencing dissent is. Yes keep continuing to frame opposition to the President of the United States trying to roll back the first amendment as snowflake tantrum throwing, it's not ridiculous in the least :) If Obama took the same appraoch to the press as Trump is taking, ( he occasionally did) you people would have a shit-attack. Just wait till Trump hands those powers to Obama 2.0

  • Zoidzilla||

    Doesn't want to silence all dissent? oh so he only wants to silence some of it, not too bad after all... get real. Trump sued someone for insulting one of his buildings, just to make the guys life miserable. He has stated his admiration for dictators like Nazarbayev and their disdain for free speech many times.

    Trump has zero respect for free speech, that means zero respect for your free speech. And it's not in his heart of hearts either, but in practice. Any precedent he sets will be used by the future left against you, or have you learned nothing from the past eight years? Did you even bother to read the article?

  • MikeP2||

    Lame, pathetic article. What is it with Reason writers and their panties all twisted up over Trump? FFS, this is on par with a teenager whining about having a curfew.

    "Trump thinks "nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag,""
    People are allowed to have thoughts and express them. Until he proposes 'action', who friggin cares.

    "Trump has a long, astonishingly petty history of using the legal system to punish people who offend him."
    If the 'legal system' thought it was frivolous, then Trump would have been denied the use of it. Following our laws and filing civil action when potentially wronged is what one does in a nation of laws. At no point does that imply "anti-free speech" behavior.

    "Trump nevertheless thinks it should be easier for him to win lawsuits against people who say things he does not like"
    People are allowed to have thoughts and express them. Until he proposes 'action', who friggin cares.

    "Trump, who argues that "it is not 'freedom of the press' when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false," "
    I would guess that 90% of the country feels the exact same way. 'freedom of the press' does not mean freedom to libel or slander. Knowingly publishing false information is a crime and we have seen the "press" publish lots of blatantly false information to further a partisan point. At some point a line is crossed. Where that line is should be open to debate.

  • chemjeff||

    See and I think this type of Trump-defending goes too far in the opposite direction.

    Yes it DOES matter what Trump says, even if he hasn't yet proposed any actions on the matter, because he is going to be wielding a serious amount of power. Sure, no one really gives a flip whether you or I think it ought to be okay to burn the flag. But it does matter if the people who actually have power think it ought to be okay.

    It is true that Trump has authoritarian impulses. But just because he had a nice conversation with Nazarbayev doesn't mean that Trump wants to copy-paste Nazarbayev's agenda.

    "I would guess that 90% of the country feels the exact same way. 'freedom of the press' does not mean freedom to libel or slander. Knowingly publishing false information is a crime and we have seen the "press" publish lots of blatantly false information to further a partisan point. At some point a line is crossed. Where that line is should be open to debate."

    I don't care if 99% feel the same way, appeal to the mob is still invalid.

    There is already a line. It is called "actual malice". And no I don't really think it should be re-opened for debate.

    Please note that as far as the Constitution is concerned, "the press" includes not just credentialed reporters but also random bloggers. It is not for Top Men(tm) to determine if stuff on the Internet is true or not. It is up to individuals based on their own determinations.

  • Mithrandir||

    "I don't care if 99% feel the same way, appeal to the mob is still invalid."

    That's a valid criticism of his argument, as an appeal to the majority is a logical fallacy, but I still agree with the point he is making. Knowingly spreading untrue information or outright lies crosses the boundary of being coercive in my opinion.

  • chemjeff||

    If I say something untrue about you, how is my speech coercive?

  • Mithrandir||

    This is easily demonstrable. Say I choose to run for political office, and you write that as a child, I liked to drown puppies (obviously untrue), that's demonstrably coercive to the public's opinion about me.

  • chemjeff||

    Oh come now. You call yourself a libertarian and you *don't* like drowning puppies? :-)

    But in all seriousness, I'm having a hard time coming up with how words themselves are a form of coercion. Coercion means, basically, compelling you to do something against your will. Why would a false claim made about you compel you to do something against your will?

  • Mithrandir||

    Woodchipping puppies and drowning puppies are two totally different matters.

    It is a significant grey area. I wouldn't call it directly coercive to the person affected, but I would call it coercive to the public's perception of the person's reputation. I can see for some why this wouldn't pass the coercion test, but it does for me.

    I think my analogy works even outside of politics. Consider if the same story was published about a CEO and how a falsity like that could harm his business' bottom line, and eventually his entire career. Same for me even as a financial analyst. If a journalist published something untrue about me that gained wider public acceptance, it could harm my future employment opportunities.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It is a form of fraud attacking a person's reputation. If it was not, the UVA adminstrator would have no case against Rolling Stone.

    This is part of the problem with "Reason Staff's" argument. Reckless disregard for the truth is not absolutely protected by the First Amendment, though it is harder to prove (and prove harm) in this country than others. Trumo apparently like to make it easier to prove, but that us not necessarily trashing free speech.

  • See.More||

    . . . that's demonstrably coercive to the public's opinion about me.

    I don't think that word means what you think it means.

    coercive: serving or intended to coerce
    coerce: to restrain or dominate by force; to compel to an act or choice; to achieve by force or threat

    Lying about your past habits does not force or threaten anyone to do anything. While the lie may alter others' opinions, your rights have not been diminished or assaulted (i.e.: you have no right to others' positive opinions of you).

  • Mithrandir||

    "...to compel to an act or choice"

    Like, say, to compel a bloc of voters to vote against you based on a lie?

  • retiredfire||

    "Coercive" may not have been the best choice of terminology but it is undisputed that slander, and libel (false statements in print) are actionable in a civil sense and, in some states illegal.
    Members of "the media" however described, should not be able to escape the consequences everyone else must face.

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    Like may goods, the problem with free speech is, as always: You get what you pay for.

  • Diane Merriam||

    But what he sued over wasn't about facts, it was about opinions. Slander and libel laws also require proof of harm done.

    Public figures especially, due to their prominence, are also required to prove actual malice, not just a factual error that someone might make. They can't sue about a caricature or someone saying their ideas are stupid or even calling them every name in the book sprinkled with an abundance of four letter words.

    If any inaccurate fact can be sued about, then Trump (and a lot of other people) should be sued about the Obama birth dispute. Or say a commenter here might say that so and so is really a paid troller and if they're not, then the commenter should be able to be sued. If I said that you're ugly should you be able to sue me about it? Shoot, then sites like politifact would be a prime resource for proof of inaccurate statements as grounds for a suit, yet I don't recall hearing of any cases where the ones they find even pants on fire false involved.

    Trump's suits are probably closer to terroristic threatening than anything else. He doesn't expect to win them, and rarely does, even if it actually goes to trial. But he costs those who cross him a lot of money in legal expenses and time and it's for the purpose of frightening people away from saying *anything* bad about him.

  • retiredfire||

    All suits in law require proof of harm done. Slander is defined as a "false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation". One's reputation can suffer harm, especially if their reputation, as for a politician, is a part of their ability to succeed.
    There is no reason that "actual malice" should be a requirement, since it goes to the reporter's state of mind - something almost impossible to prove. It should be sufficient to prove that the one making the false statement knew that it wasn't true. How could that not be malicious?
    Yes, opinions are not slander, but some random reporter saying "in my opinion" is not the kind of thing most people react to, while a journalist making a statement, as if a fact, does have some influence.
    We are all covered by the same Amendment and should all be held to the same standards.

  • MikeP2||

    No, it does not matter what Trump says. It mattered during the election so people can decide if they agree or disagree with his opinion on things. Now that he is the President-elect, his opinions are the stuff of interest only. He is a free man in a free country and if he wishes to go up on a soapbox and rail against any topic more power to him. We can choose to throw his arse out in 4 years. Or, if he does something impeachable, earlier.

    The only thing that matters is action. and until Trump proposes and pushes for actual action, these article are just silly childish whines.

  • Tony||

    Just as you no doubt argued about Obama when he said "If you like your plan you can keep it" or 1,000 other things.

    Heard it here first. What the president says doesn't matter!

  • Fairbanks||

    Trump was stating his personal opinion on a topic that is not actionable (as yet) by citizens. Obama was stating as fact a provision of a bill on which citizens could lobby their legislators.

  • MikeP2||

    Yeh, what a politician says, doesn't matter, beyond deciding to vote for them or not. It is a simple premise that you obviously cannot understand.

    Actions matter, not opinions or words of a politician.

    Obama lied when he said "If you like your plan you can keep it". That didn't matter in any real sense. What mattered is the actual fucking legislation that caused people to lose their existing plans.

  • Tony||

    Are you certain you want to maintain the position that it doesn't matters what the president says?

  • Harun||

    Obama has opined about various Final Four brackets and what not.

    Are you saying that when he says he thinks University X will win, that its suddenly law?

  • Harun||

    Obama has opined about various Final Four brackets and what not.

    Are you saying that when he says he thinks University X will win, that its suddenly law?

  • DesigNate||

    Obama as a sworn-in-president actually presenting the bill that would be his legacy to the American people is a fuckton different than the president-elect tweeting random fucktardedness (and just so your tiny little brain can comprehend it, this is not a defense of Trump.)

    Obama bragging how he was going to close Guantanamo on day one or go after the Banks and Wall Street would be a much more accurate comparison. Step up your game brah.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Sorry, but I'm going with "it does matter what Trump says". It doesn't matter as much as actual actions but it matters because

    1) He is going to be the President and will have some power to act. Waiting until he does so to start caring is like standing in the middle of the road while a car comes towards you. Yeah, you haven't been struck yet, and yeah, the car might stop or swerve out of the way, but you probably don't want to count on it.

    2) The President in part reflects the people who elected and support him. If a large fraction of people think it's cool to take citizenship away from flag burners, that's a problem.

    3) The President in part influences the people who elected and support him. If a large fraction of people think it's cool to take citizenship away from flag burners because Trump says so, that's a problem.

    Why are the anti-liberty opinions of people a problem even absent action? Because we live in a sort-of democracy where the opinions of large segments of the population influence policy and action. If we see anti-liberty opinions on the rise, we should be concerned and do what we can to counter their influence.

  • WuzYoungOnceToo||

    See and I think this type of Trump-defending...

    Uh, point of order: Calling someone on their bullshit does not constitute a defense of the target of that bullshit. It is simply a criticism of bullshit. Why are you defending bullshit?

  • retiredfire||

    Maybe you, chemjeff, should note that the wording of the Constitution places freedom of speech, for we plebes, in the same sentence, and with the same qualifiers, as freedom of the press.
    The Founders didn't draw a line that excluded someone, purporting to be imparting knowledge, from any other restriction placed on free speech, as in slander. If anything, the idea that the knowledge is intended, through mass means of communication, to reach more than those within earshot, extra care should be exerted to ensure that the information is truthful. Instead we get less.
    The addition of the "actual malice" requirement (only the thought police could determine that) is from a court decision and wholly unsupported by the text of the document.

  • ||

    Sorry Jeff but I put you in the troll column when you argued "Yeah, maybe Hillary is an awful crook but we really don't know what Trump will do."

  • chemjeff||

    Oh one more thing

    "If the 'legal system' thought it was frivolous, then Trump would have been denied the use of it. Following our laws and filing civil action when potentially wronged is what one does in a nation of laws. At no point does that imply "anti-free speech" behavior."

    Umm, attempting to chill free speech is certainly against the ethos of free speech. Trump has made it clear that if you "unfairly" criticize him in print, he will try to make your life miserable by engaging in legal action against you, even if his odds of winning are low. So this causes people to self-censor, fearing ruinous legal bills. It's the same as when some on the left try to get certain individuals fired for "wrong ideas". The idea is to get individuals to self-censor. Both are contrary to allowing people to speak their minds.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    So this causes people to self-censor, fearing ruinous legal bills.

    This is why all the press coverage and tweets about Trump are so positive and uncritical, right? /sarc

    Seriously, as a strategy to suppress negative coverage, his libel suits seem to be failing miserably. Maybe someone should introduce him and you to the mysterious workings of the Streisand effect.

  • Ron||

    your statement reminds me of Obama's we will put a boot to the neck of those who disagree and then he proceeded to spy on journalist. it also reminds me of the lefts anti Citizens united stance. So who is really chilling free speech here is it Trump or those he kept out of office

  • ||

    Of all of the things he said last night this is what they choose to publish. I called it last night. They were going to nit-pick one thing he said wrong and ignore everything else. Taken as a whole I am not sure there is anyone out there who has a better set of policies.

    This flag burning shit is going to fall on its face anyway.

  • ||

    This flag burning shit is going to fall on its face anyway.

    All trolling and distraction from his real agenda. The man knows he can't ban USA flag burning, nor would Congress even try to pass a measure.

    He may be uncouth, but he's not stupid, and neither are most of his advisors thus far.

  • Number 2||

    To my knowledge, for all his "chafing" over free speech, Trump has never proposed or supported a constitutional amendment to cut back on First Amendment protections. I cannot say that about his recent Democrat opponent who won the popular vote and was supported by "respectable" establishment figures, including other Republicans. Please note that her position is supported by a wide variety of allegedly-respectable academics, journalists and others who claim that they find Trump "terrifying."

    As long as Trump does nothing but "chafe" and does not seek to re-write the Bill of Rights like Hillary Clinton wanted to do, let him chafe all he wants.

  • BigW||

    Yeah, and Hillary literally fucking proposed an amendment that would have made criticizing her illegal.

    But never mind all that.... bbbbbut Trump!!

  • Mithrandir||

    The topic of libel and slander is certainly an interesting one. You generally aren't free to spread outright lies and I think there is sound reasoning for that. At a certain point, slander/libel becomes akin to coercion and force.

    Mr. Sullum uses the following line as a back-handed insult to Trump, "it is not 'freedom of the press' when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false". However, is this statement not factually accurate? Generally, you aren't allowed to knowingly spread outright lies.

    I appreciate this as a topic of discussion, and Trump will almost certainly be legitimately horrifying on aspects of legitimate free speech (i.e. flag burning), but I think Mr. Sullum does himself and his argument a disfavor by criticizing Trump for a statement that is in all honesty generally true.

  • chemjeff||

    " Generally, you aren't allowed to knowingly spread outright lies."

    Yeah you are, unless such lies actually cause material harm, or constitute "actual malice".

    We tolerate lies in the press because the proposed solutions to eliminate the lies - government Truth Police squads policing the media and the Internet - would be worse than the disease.

  • Mithrandir||

    "We tolerate lies in the press because the proposed solutions to eliminate the lies - government Truth Police squads policing the media and the Internet - would be worse than the disease."

    That's not true. This is a false dilemma with an insinuated Nirvana Fallacy thrown in. The false dilemma is presenting "Truth Police squads" or "Tolerating lies in the press" as the only two possible solutions, while insinuating no perfect solution exists, thus we must do nothing for the Nirvana Fallacy.

    The solution, in my opinion, that is better than the status-quo is placing a greater emphasis on Tort law for this. In this way, individuals who feel they have been harmed by libel or slander can bring their case to court without the need for "government Truth Police". I don't have a problem with someone who thinks a reporter has outright about him/her bringing their case against the reporter in a court of law to determine if material harm has been caused.

  • chemjeff||

    I don't have a problem *in general* with people bringing libel cases to court either.

    I do have a problem with people using their positions of relative power to attempt to stifle criticisms against them by forcing their critics to endure legal fees to defend themselves against baseless accusations ("the process is the punishment"). I am very much in favor of anti-SLAPP efforts.

    You're right it wouldn't necessarily lead to "truth police". But given where things are headed, I don't think it's terribly unlikely either.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    I do have a problem with people using their positions of relative power to attempt to stifle criticisms against them by forcing their critics to endure legal fees to defend themselves against baseless accusations ("the process is the punishment").

    The solution to that is pretty simple: courts can and should award legal costs, and in egregious abuses, damages, to the defendants.

  • retiredfire||

    "Loser pays" tort reform would solve that problem.

    Did I just hear a bunch of lawyers' heads explode?

  • Rational Exuberance||

    There really is no fixed rule that works; the only way is for judges to do their job and award costs on a case-by-case basis. Maybe legislation could encourage them.

  • ||

    Problem is, the bills still have to be paid until the case is over. Maybe you can get reimbursement, after getting the award and the losing side running your bills up even further with appeals. But you have to have the financial wherewithal to get to that point. The vast majority of us don't.

  • BigW||

    Fuck, fake news is almost directly calling for the establishment of the Ministry of Truth...

  • Azathoth!!||

    I'm dreading what this place is gonna become when the man actually is in office.

  • Swiss Servator||

    I can't wait. Then we can talk about actual stuff going on, rather than trying to guess, speculate, dread or anticipate whatever.

    Real easy to point out the statist crap in a bill, executive order, regulation, etc.

  • Rich||

    Well said.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "The billionaire bully chafes at the restrictions imposed by the First Amendment."

    And this makes him different from the vast majority of the Liberal Left, the balance of the Republican establishment, and much of the media (both new and old) how, exactly?

    No, Trump is not going to be a Constitutionalist, Libertarian President. We weren't offered such a choice. Not even, when tou get right down to it, by the Libertarian Party, assuming that voting for a third party meant jack.

    The entire would-be ruling class of the country would be vastly improved by an application of tarr and feathers.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Relatively speaking, I prefer an "opening up of libel laws" (whatever that means) to overturning Citizens United, which is what the other major candidate was promising and, unlike Trump, was likely to achieve.

  • Ron||

    I wonder if Trump did suddenly try to over turn citizen united the left would come to their senses and start proclaiming it a good decision.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    The left might oppose him out of spite, not because they have "come to their senses".

  • Deli-bro||

    Wrt "i just sued him to make his life miserable," there couldnt be a better encapsulation of why we need tort reform.

    Also, hopefully the SC continues to strike down ridiculous shit that rolls their way from the executive

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Wow! reason.com finally managed to not do a "but but Hillary" for an article criticizing Drumpf.

  • Private Chipperbot||

    You must be new here.

  • John Titor||

    "DURR HURR John Oliver said Drumpf was funny so I'm going to repeat it like a half-brained parrot."

  • Flakfizer is Ballet, Jr.||

    Trump thinks "nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag," notwithstanding two Supreme Court decisions saying such expressive activity is protected by the First Amendment. Both rulings were joined by Antonin Scalia, the late justice whom Trump says he wants to replace with someone similar.

    Any chance this statement was made in the "Flag burning sucks!" sense, not in the "There ought to be a law!" sense?

  • Tony||

    Gee I dunno, what's your definition of "allowed"?

  • Hail Rataxes||

    The part where he called for people to lose their citizenship as a punishment suggests not.

  • Flakfizer is Ballet, Jr.||

    I missed his follow-up comment. My bad.

  • Harun||

    Don't take him so literally.

    He probably included that part to rile up the press for sure.

    Obama did this, too, with his "stray voltage" strategy.

    Anger the opposition with vaporware policies/stories, etc.

  • ||

    Where's this article linked at?

  • Bronson, Missouri||

    Tip: You want to attract people to the libertarian way of thinking. Libertarians or future libertarians often have a contrarian streak to them. They also balk at hyper-emotional dreck.

    Zig when everyone else zagging. Hyper-emotional anti-Trump worst case scenario garbage is peddled by every MSM outlet, every leftist site, and most mainstream conservative sites. Maybe try something different?

    Go contrarian. At least try it out until he starts actually doing bad stuff. What's the worst that could happen?

  • ||

    Reason were posting several Trump hit pieces a day for the last year. It's like they were trying to keep up with WaPo or NYT.

    I'd rather see them post more articles about the Trump transition team, his picks, and what that means for libertarians, instead of fluff seemingly trying to claim that Trump is anti-free speech and approves of Duterte's attempted purge of drug users by shooting them down in the streets, based on the flimsiest of evidence.

    It's always about what Trump says, when it's something that 'might' actually turn into something bad once Trump is sworn in. I mean come on, the guy is a loudmouth brash talker. It's what he does. But I don't remember any mentions of Trump, on paper, being a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment or his dovish foreign policy ideas. At least a couple of things there that might turn out to be good, based on actual words written on his campaign site.

    I mean, maybe it's just me, but I'm a lot more concerned about Trump picking Jeff Sessions for AG and who he might pick for SOS than I am about some bullshit that Duterte claims Trump said or his flag tweet that may or may not have been trolling.

  • Bronson, Missouri||

    Yeah, it's repetitive, it's lazy, and I think for most of us it's just boring. I can turn on the TV at any time (or just go to Starbucks) and hear beltway-type hyper-ventilating about the imagined future horrors of Trump. Already , it's just rehashed, warmed-over nonsense fear-mongering.

    And it might be a real risk for Reason. They should be doing something better, smarter, different than everyone else. Seems like lots people just skip to the comments anyway. If better libertarian publication comes around and those comments go over there, where is Reason?

  • Hail Rataxes||

    90% of current commenters aren't interested in reading a libertarian publication. It's what you're constantly bitching about.

  • Bronson, Missouri||

    What am I constantly bitching about? Where is that 90% coming from? That's just a poor quality comment right there. Unclear. Makes no sense.

  • ||

    Sounds like trolling to me.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Whereas your comment accusing Sullum's piece of hyper-emotionalism made sense.

    I guess if you're extremely autistic it might have.

    What share of commenters would you say reflexively defend Trump? Perhaps it is more like 95%.

  • SugarFree||

    It's less than 50%. The ones that don't slobber all over Trump have mostly given up arguing with cultists.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    But I don't remember any mentions of Trump, on paper, being a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment

    Maybe that's because he thinks there should be secret government lists of people who don't have 2A rights.

  • Harun||

    I thought someone explained to him to not do that.

    Schumer will get him to do it, though.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Libertarians or future libertarians often have a contrarian streak to them.

    Except when they see their own most sacred cows zig-zagging to the slaughter.

  • ||

    Every voter, without exception, HM, is a Single Issue Voter. Freedom and Liberty are concepts and states of perceptual being, not issues.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Indeed. However there is an entire mythology here in which once one undergoes the apotheosis into Libertarianhood, one is free of all cognitive bias. I refer you to the epic poems that make up the Sarcasmic Cycle of the larger Hit 'n Edda trilogy.

  • Mickey Rat||

    So, Sullum, are the lawsuits and ruling against Rolling Stone over the "Jackie" story chilling of free speech and should be thrown out? If not, why not?

    Trump may wish to weaken defenses against slander and libel and that may be bad policy, but it is not an outrageous view that such fraud is not absolutely protected by the free speech clause.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    You mean the ruling that meets the standard Reason approves of and Trump disapproves of?

  • Rebel Scum||

    One aspect of the Kazakh miracle that Trump surely admires is Nazarbayev's ability to make criticism (and critics) disappear.

    Um...wut? Because suing for libel is the same as killing, I suppose.

    As Trump's constitutionally contemptuous comments about flag burning illustrate...

    Which is irrelevant bc the supreme court settled the issue and there is no way in hell he would ever be able to get away with doing anything tangible about it anyway.

    I need not read further.

  • ||

    "...surely admires..."

    And he wants to shoot suspected drug users down in the streets.

    Get back on your meds Jacob. This is just embarrassing.

  • Sevo||

    "For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn't vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again.
    What kind of president will Trump be? It's a tad too early to say, isn't it?"
    [...]
    "The Trump Era hasn't even started yet. The media should wait for something to actually happen before it declares the end of the world."
    http://nypost.com/2016/11/20/k.....al-crisis/

    A tabloid writer calls Sullum, Welsh, etc on BS

  • ||

    The only reasonable position on Trump, IMO, is to not assume anything and wait to see. Trump has never held public office. I've been saying for the last year that we don't know what Trump will do, he's a complete unknown and he's unpredictable. That's both scary and exciting at the same time. I'm not jumping to any conclusions.

    The guy said at one time that all drugs should be legalized. He seemed to then walk that back, but he was running for President, and so it's sort of meaningless.

    The one thing I will jump to conclusions about is that there's no way Trump could be worse, and probably not as bad, as Hillary would be. We dodged a huge bullet on that one. Maybe we ran straight into another bullet while dodging, but for me, I'm waiting to see.

  • Sevo||

    "The one thing I will jump to conclusions about is that there's no way Trump could be worse, and probably not as bad, as Hillary would be."

    The votes that count were cast by those who found one candidate worse than Trump. That's right, folks, one candidate stank worse than Trump and the electorate told her to get lost.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If you don't want me to think you're a fucking moron, stop using formulations like, the restrictions imposed by the First Amendment.

  • ||

    Too late, Brooksie. The TDS in Sullum is clouding his normally sharp writing. Cosmosis is a thing to behold...

  • Tony||

    What the fuck are you even talking about? Aren't you people supposed to be skeptical of government regardless of which orange-faced cretin is in charge of it?

    This thread is an embarrassment to libertarianism, but I'm sure you understand if I didn't expect any better.

  • ||

    Oh look, Tony has awaken from his drunken stupor once again to blabber on the intertoobz and prove that his reading comprehension level is zero.

  • ||

    Oh look, Tony has awaken from his drunken stupor once again to blabber on the intertoobz and prove that his reading comprehension level is zero.

  • Tony||

    I am comprehending that criticizing Trump is evidence of being a "cosmotarian," which is apparently bad. Where am I wrong?

  • ||

    "Where am I wrong?"

    Bad trolling or not sentient? I'm going with both.

  • WTF||

    Where am I wrong?

    How big is the universe?

  • ||

    I am comprehending that criticizing Trump is evidence of being a "cosmotarian,"

    No. Making a poor argument on the flimsiest of hearsay and supposition, just because Sullum despises Troomp's policies (and, arguably, the man personally). That's TDS.

    Make arguments on what the man actually SAYS and DOES, not this Central and Eastern Asian bedwetting Robby Horseshit.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I'm thoroughly skeptical. But do you really think arguments like "One aspect of the Kazakh miracle that Trump surely admires is Nazarbayev's ability to make criticism (and critics) disappear." are really good arguments?

    An argument against Trump's stupid babbling about flag burning is better, if only because he actually said that.

    You see the difference, right?

  • ||

    What the fuck are you even talking about?

    Can you even find Kazakhstan on a map, Tony, without the benefit of Google? (Spoiler Alert: I can!) Do you even Kazakh, FTM? Can you tell me one, JUST ONE, thing about Kazakhstan without Googling (Spoiler Alert: I can!)

    No?

    Then STFU.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • ||

    Common mistake. All the Antipodes look the same to them.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Why would they want to?

    /Australian

  • tarran||

    If you don't want me to think you're a fucking moron, stop using formulations like, the restrictions imposed by the First Amendment.

    The first amendment does impose restrictions though:

    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.

    So it's not inaccurate. ;)

  • Swiss Servator||

    YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASS....any law.

    *breaks staff on bridge*

  • TheZeitgeist||

    Ultimately Trump's capacity to abuse constitutional rights will be limited, as with any modern President, by his bureaucratic enablers. Obama is good example of that between the IRS and DoJ.

    Think likes of Lois Lerner commits felonies and pleads fifth in name of Trumpian vendettas? No. That makes him safer, than, say, Hillary Clinton - who has same tendencies, and would've had a lot more wink-wink 'support' from the bureaucracy.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Waked and Baked!

  • John||

    It is amazing how Trump keeps trolling his opponents and dominating the newscycle and they seem utterly unable to understand what is happening to them. Trump isn't going to ban flag burning much less strip people's citizenship away as punishment if he did. Trump said that because he knew his opponents would lose their minds over it and spend the next newscycle talking about how great flag burning is. He made the national conversation about flag burning and how his opponents are for it. Next week he will say something else that will get his opponents to take a position that makes them look unpatriotic and irrational.

    The way to beat Trump is to ignore him and be as reasonable as possible. Without his opponents' outrage, he has no ability to dominate the newscyle. Fortunately for Trump, ignoring him and refusing to engage in self defeating bouts of smugness is something that his opponents are incapable of doing.

  • ||

    I didn't know that there's any authority granted by the Constitution to strip an American of their citizenship. Of course, there's no authority granted by the Constitution to strip Americans of any of their Constitutional rights, but the government already does that every day. Maybe they'll just add that in some regulation or secret list.

  • John||

    The only authority to strip someone of their citizenship is if they are naturalized and it turns out they achieved it by fraud. That is what they did with several of the Nazi war criminals who showed up living in the US as citizens. The courts ruled that since their citizenship was obtained by fraud, it was void. That is the only way i know of to take someone's citizenship.

    The fact that Trump said he wanted to take people's citizenship is pretty strong evidence he was trolling his opponents. It is so over the top and so unlikely to happen, I find it hard to believe it wasn't added for effect. And they keep taking the bait. They just can't help themselves.

  • ||

    Right, but there's no authority to strip a natural born citizen of the USA of their citizenship. You can jail them or whatever, but they're still a citizen. I also believe it was just trolling.

  • John||

    There is no authority to take away the citizenship of someone born with it. You would have to amend the Constitution.

  • ||

    What they've been doing instead is just making regulations and secret lists to slowly strip all Americans of their guaranteed constitutional rights. What the fuck does 'guaranteed' mean? I guess to government stooges it means guaranteed unless we feel like removing them, you know, for common sense reasons. We've went down a slipper slope.

  • tarran||

    They just can't help themselves.

    Over the weekend, I read Cody Wilson's "Come and Take It" and he makes that very same point.

    He would publish a video of something new, like firing a AR-15 built around a 3d-Printed plastic receiver, and that night Rachel MAddow would be showing the video and hyperventilating over the danger it posed to her viewers, thereby publicizing his company.

    He claims that Trump is an expert at using the media's habits and tics to manipulate them into doing his bidding.

  • LightTheScandalabra||

    I agree that we'd be better off if we ignored him, since it's glaringly obvious that nothing he says can be trusted. People were upset when past Presidents broke campaign promises, or flip-flopped... And this guy is doing that multiple times per month.

    I think his motivation, however, is not to get rise out of his opponents. What drives Trump is adulation and fear. He Cannot. Get. Enough. of the sense of being pat on the back and a "Yeah Mr. Trump, you tell it like it is!"

    To suggest he is engaged in some kind of sophisticated sociological scheme is giving him far too much credit.

    If the media did grant your wish and stop covering his ridiculous statements (which they very well might- I can't see this keeping up for four entire years), there is a very good chance IMO that Trump will then turn to getting that attention via much more consequential means- Military actions, policies, more extreme picks for top jobs... Anything, anything to get that attention he so desperately needs.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Aren't you people supposed to be skeptical of government regardless of which orange-faced cretin is in charge of it?

    I shouldn't, but I will.

    Fuck the government.

    But- if you're going to have one, let it be rule of law, not personality-cult-ism. Pro or con.

    FYI- Trump is not the President, yet. When he is, he will not be the repository of dictatorial powers, nor will he be in a position to rule by whim. Should we be skeptical of his actions, as President? Yes. Should we be dreaming up reasons to fear him? No.

  • John||

    Trump is not the President, yet. When he is, he will not be the repository of dictatorial powers, nor will he be in a position to rule by whim. Should we be skeptical of his actions, as President? Yes. Should we be dreaming up reasons to fear him? No.

    I am now in complete agreement with Brooks. 2016 really is the year of living bizarrely. You are exactly right. I don't care what Trump says or thinks. I care what he does.

  • ||

    Among the more bizarre things are the left suddenly caring about federalism and executive power. You can't even make this shit up.

  • Tony||

    The left isn't the threat right now, in case you didn't notice the outcome of the election.

    Let's just see if the people here can keep up.

  • ||

    Tony, do you just intentionally want everyone to think you're an idiot, or are you really that clueless? You didn't even reply to my comment, you just blurted out some non-sense in your typical fashion.

  • Tony||

    Every article critical of Trump starts with breathless defenses of the man and changing the subject to "the leftists" by commenters. It's just the credibility of libertarianism at stake, no biggie.

  • Sevo||

    "...It's just the credibility of libertarianism at stake, no biggie..."

    Hey folks! Shitbag here might not call us libertarians if we don't agree to his bullshit.
    I'm certainly worried!

  • DesigNate||

    How long has he been posting here and he still doesn't know what a libertarian or the NAP is?

  • John||

    Federalism and states' rights are just dog whistles for racism. Everyone knows that Tony. The Left has been telling us that for decades.

  • ||

    And growing executive power is a great thing, as long as their guy is doing it. Now it's bad. Hypocrites like Tony can't grasp such a concept.

  • Bra Ket||

    The left won't cease being a threat till they get jobs and families and treatment for whatever emotional issues they have.

    I wonder how many of us would be ruined if the SJW life-destruction-squads took an interest in our posts here and somehow got our personal info?

  • DesigNate||

    You really did think that Democrats would hold the presidency forever, didn't you?

    I mean, you must have to have been on your knees worshiping Obama as he expanded the scope and power of the executive even further than what Shrub did.

    (Here's a clue asshole: Don't come into OUR house pretending that we haven't been arguing against executive overreach for 15+ years.)

  • Tony||

    So bitch at the ones genuflecting before Trump.

  • Sevo||

    "So bitch at the ones genuflecting before Trump."

    Yeah, we promoted SIV to 'spokescritter'
    Fuck off, shitbag.

  • Harun||

    So, would you be willing to revisit Obama actions and discuss if you think they were good or bad?

    Say, the IRS targeting political groups, then slow-walking requests for info, trashing hard drives, etc.

    Seems like a legit litmus test.

  • The Last American Hero||

    The Left is always a threat. They dislike the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth amendments. They believe in "Free Shit", lack knowledge of basic economics, and are willing to put people in the gulag for thoughtcrime.

  • ||

    Exactly. Obama already tried that and there were a number of things he wanted to do by executive whim, including killing the 2nd amendment. He failed miserably at that and he had the full support of the media. Trump won't be able to get away with as much bullshit as Obama did, let alone the really scary stuff that the left are suddenly concerned about now that their guy is going away.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    So it's not inaccurate. ;)

    Sloppy writing, or sloppy reading? I would prefer a clarification, at least, on exactly whom the restrictions fall upon, and some sort of acknowledgement that the powers of the President are not whimsical.

  • tarran||

    If you read the text as written, the restrictions entirely fall upon the federal government. It's not allowed to pass any legislation that abridges freedom of speech or of the press (literally any publishing activity)

    The U.S. legal system naturally has a different position: that it is possible to regulate these things without abridging them. It also declares things like flag burning to be 'expressive acts' that fall under the umbrella of the things the first amendment protects from abridgment.

    Trump publicly proclaims that "we" are going to change the rules. People freak out and assume he's claiming he's going to do it single handedly. But of course, he could merely be announcing his intention to go to congress and request that they pass laws that pass constitutional muster and if they don't he will accept the courts' decision on their constitutionality. This is, incidentally, what Trump wants. He's fomenting the same Clinton/Obama derangement syndrome that the democrats have used to distract and rope-a-dope their opponents into ineffectiveness.

    Does Trump chafe at the restrictions? I'm sure when he bitches about the freedom of the press to publish lies he doesn't like, he is being sincere. The implication the author is making, that he wants to jail people or disappear them as Nazarbayev does, is pretty hyperbolic and unsupported by any evidence.

  • Bra Ket||

    Wait Trump tweeted something about flag burning?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The left isn't the threat right now, in case you didn't notice the outcome of the election.

    You know what I noticed? Slicing the electorate into ever-smaller constituencies, and attempting to bestow upon them ever-larger, contradictory and conflicting sets of "rights" was not a winning strategy.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If you read the text as written, the restrictions entirely fall upon the federal government. It's not allowed to pass any legislation that abridges freedom of speech or of the press (literally any publishing activity)

    All true and reasonable. I thought about that after I made that original comment.

    What set me off, of course, was Sullum's (or, possibly some anonymous headline slinger's) obligatory characterization of Trump as "billionaire bully" and imputed Maximum Leader status.

    On the news earlier, somebody was pointing out Trump's apparent affinity for retired generals, leaving implied but unspoken the prospect of our obvious and inevitable slide into rule by military junta.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Hells yeah! I am coming out of the Retired Reserve...I want, at least, to be military governor of my county.

  • J Ortega y Gasset||

    While Trump seems entirely Trump-centric, he didn't get elected president by virtue of voting for himself. I think of Trump as essentially professional wrestling meets politics. While it seems it's all about him, it's really about telling simple stories for fans. Trump doesn't worry me. It's the legion of bloodthirsty fans who think government goons in brightly colored tights should metal chair-smack journalists while chanting "Shut the Fuck Up."

    If I can borrow a quote from Gladiator:

    I think he [Trump] knows what America is. America is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of America is not the marble of the Senate, it's the green screen of reality television. He'll bring them death...and they will love him for it.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Public utterances of the President ARE significant. For example, in a August 21, 2010 radio address to the nation, President Obama demonized "shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names" for running information campaigns to accomplish a "corporate takeover of our democracy".

    Lois Lerner and a cabal at the IRS took that as marching orders to use the IRS Code to harass and silence scores of conservative and libertarian 501(c)4 groups.

  • John||

    They certainly can be. But I find it a bit unlikely that there are many Trump supporters in the civil service waiting to follow his cue when he says "will anyone rid me of this meddlesome priest".

  • Mainer2||

    Didn't Obama also call out specific people in a speech....Sheldon Adelson, I believe. That is a lot more significant than some generalized bloviating about flag burning.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    "Normalizing relationships with absolute dictatorships like Iran and Cuba is awesome when it's done by a president we worship, such as Block Yomomma. So much as even talking to a dictator on the phone is completely horrible though when it's done by a president we hate, such as Trump."

    -Professional fake libertarian cosmo dipshits

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