Entries Tagged 'Censorship' ↓

National Coalition Against Censorship: When Can Speech Be Punished?

American free speech advocates have consistently defended the right of individuals to engage in offensive speech, including speech which many observers might deem “hate speech.” In the wake of the riot on Capitol Hill, many critics have argued that the violence was sparked by comments made by President Trump and some of his allies, and that therefore they should be prosecuted or otherwise punished. Assuming that the violence was caused by speech, can free expression advocates support punishment for the speaker while still supporting the legal protections for “hate speech” or other offensive speech?

Short answer: Yes.

“Hate speech” laws seek to punish opinion. Punishing opinion is, and should be, forbidden. No person or group that happens to hold power at any given time should be permitted to determine what others are allowed to think. However certain narrow types of speech that go beyond mere expression of opinion can sometimes be unprotected by the First Amendment.

Why Is Hate Speech Protected?

There is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment; hence, there is no legal definition of what, precisely, constitutes “hate speech” in the United States. However, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does have a hate speech provision (Article 20), which states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence shall be prohibited by law.” As a result, many other countries have outlawed “hate speech.” Under those laws, a book by bell hooks has been confiscated in Canada for including what authorities deemed to be anti-male hate speech; Catalan protesters in Spain have been fined for burning photographs of the king of Spain; and a British citizen was convicted for exhibiting a poster after the 9/11 attacks which depicted the Twin Towers in flame and included the words, “Islam out of Britain – Protect the British People.”

As these examples make clear, “hate speech” laws permit the punishment of the mere expression of an opinion deemed offensive. That’s why such laws are unconstitutional in the United States, for the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that “the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.”

When Is Offensive Speech NOT Protected by the First Amendment?

Speech which is merely offensive is always protected by the First Amendment. However, some types of speech which are often conflated with “hate speech,” but which go beyond expressions of opinion can, in limited circumstances, be unprotected by the First Amendment.

Let’s talk about incitement to violence and harassment.

Incitement to violence, including incitement to racial violence, is not protected by the First Amendment. This is a very narrow exception; mere advocacy of violence cannot be made criminal “except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Three elements must be met: (1) the speaker must intend to cause violence, (2) he or she must intend that the violence occur immediately, and (3) the violence must be likely to occur immediately.

The distinction between incitement and “hate speech” is illustrated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Wisconsin v. Mitchell.  In that case, several young Black men were discussing the movie Mississippi Burning, which is about the Civil Rights Movement. One of the men said, “Do you all feel hyped up to move on some white people?” and, when a young white boy approached, said, “You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white boy; go get him.” The group then assaulted the boy, and the speaker was charged with assault, plus a hate crime enhancement. Was Mr. Mitchell’s speech “hate speech”? It’s arguable. But his speech was much more than the mere expression of opinion; it was a call to immediate violence. 

Harassment is distinct from “hate speech” because it goes beyond mere expression of opinion and targets a particular person for harm. The threshold for speech rising to the level of illegal harassment is generally quite high. Anti-harassment laws often refer to speech directed at a particular person, based on the victim’s race, religion, or other group characteristic, and which has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with, for example, a student’s educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. 

These exceptions to the protections of the First Amendment are very narrow, but they are well established. Civil libertarians and supporters of free expression–including protest, writing and art–can and should support the right to express hateful opinions, but can draw a clear line that no one has a right to incite a riot or to harass another person.   

See this primer at NCAC.org

Large turnout for Angelica Mercado’s reception

Even though there was a private party in the Everist Gallery (making a bunch of noise and disrupting the gallery talk, imagine that, poor planning on the Pavilion’s part) there was a huge turnout for the reception. Unfortunately I did NOT see the video that I posted to my site the other day being displayed in the exhibit. I’m wondering if this got censored from the exhibit? If so, NOT GOOD. First off, besides the fact there was NOTHING offensive about the video, that is neither here nor there, it is a publicly funded facility, not just local funds but Federal and State grants. Also, the building is owned by the taxpayers of Sioux Falls. Censorship is unacceptable in public facilities.


Mayor’s Public Input Diatribe last night proves he has NO Clue what the 1st Amendment means

Shortly after the city council meeting last night I sent the city council and the mayor an email reminding them of the language of the 1st Amendment, I highlighted this part;

‘or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.’

Why did I send them this? Because after public input last night the mayor went on a diatribe about how he has been trying for six years to eliminate public input and has not succeeded (FF: 51:00). He said that it was not ‘productive’ and they shouldn’t have to listen to it.

What astonished me the most is that the mayor of South Dakota’s largest city has no regard for the US Constitution or the 1st Amendment. Pretty scary that a person who rules over a city of 178,000 people thinks freedom of speech at a public meeting should be squashed because ‘he doesn’t like it’.

Call a waaabulance! (but don’t call a regular one, it might not show up.)

In a little over 11 months this nightmare of closed government will hopefully be over for the citizens of Sioux Falls, and we can hopefully go back to ruling as a Democracy and bring a little sunshine back to city government.

Building Collapse Video disappearing act

Friday afternoon I noticed that a new episode of Inside Town Hall appeared on the City of Sioux Falls You Tube page. It was the normal setup. City councilor Kiley had on the Director of 911, Matt Burns (SFPD) and the chief of the fire department to talk about their working relationships. The one thing I noticed when I started viewing the video was that it was 44 minutes long (most episodes are 30 minutes). While there was nothing revealing in the show itself, right at the 30 minute mark it went into a 14 minute (muted) video of the building collapse rescue efforts. There were several breaks in the video and it looked professionally shot, at one point it seemed also a drone was used (or shot from a fire truck ladder).

I gathered that this video was probably shot by City Link crew. While I commend them for doing this, it also got me thinking about a lot of other angles.

• What did it cost to have a city film crew on site for that long?

• While we won’t film parks board meetings, somehow the city found it necessary to film this event?

• Why would the city not do an investigation when they had this kind of crucial footage, which included them marking the cracks in PAVE’s wall, a crane holding up the wall, and pulling away the damaged car?

• Was the footage turned over to the insurance companies and OSHA?

• Why shoot this video (which included the rescue of the apartment dweller being pulled from the wreckage) when we don’t send a film crew to every fire rescue event?

• Were they planning on using this video as some kind of propaganda?

• And lastly, why was this posted to YouTube and now has disappeared from the site?

After watching the video, I talked openly about watching it to a group of friends at Drinking Liberally Friday night at the Taphouse. Did someone in the group (or near the table) report this back to the city?

It’s funny how transparency works in this town.

Councilor Rolfing & Mayor Huether are planning changes to public input


The key word here is ‘planning’. I warned councilor Rolfing last night in public input that he should be cautious about moving forward on changes because he would have a big fight on his hands.

He supposedly cooked up his proposal in the top secret operations committee meeting in the basement of Carnegie on Tuesday. I am unclear what is all in the proposal, but I heard it involves ‘comment cards’.

The plan is to have each commenter sign in with a comment card and write down the topic they choose to speak about. Then the mayor or Rolfing would sort through the cards and pick the commenters they wish to speak by calling them forward.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

While I am not opposed to signing a sheet to say I will comment (it’s good for the clerk to have the correct spelling of the commenter’s name for the minutes and the record) I am not in favor of being called up like I am in 3rd grade speech class.

Picking and choosing the commenters is a blatant disregard for the spirit of free speech and the 1st Amendment. Elected officials are in place to serve us, not the other way around. I often say if they have a problem with that arrangement, do us all a favor and resign.

As I have reminded the mayor and council in the past, if public input is disruptive or offensive, the commenter can be gaveled at that time and asked to stop or even leave. The chair has that power and I agree with that procedure. Some people do get out of control and can be frivolous.

But picking and choosing who can comment and about what is favoritism and goes against transparency and open government as a whole. Something the mayor absolutely hates with a passion.

I know that some other folks in the media are aware of the proposal and won’t stand for it either.

Like I told Rolfing last night, I welcome the debate about changing public input, bring it on, because you are going to lose, and lose big time, and in the process you are going to look very foolish, if you don’t already.

The City’s Lack of Transparency on the EC Siding is NOT an isolated incident

Since Huether has been mayor, there have been many instances of the city not being transparent with the public and the council and I see this lack of transparency getting worse.

Here are just a few ‘examples’ of the city’s (mostly the mayor’s office and council leadership) very non transparent moments;

– Holding a press conference to announce the building of two new Walmarts without Planning or Council approval.

– The mayor’s wife and him investing in TIF’s and other developments that are recommended by the Planning Department, a department he manages.

– Allowing Community Development to give an affordable housing grant to a developer who was chair of the Planning Commission, a clear conflict of interest

– Allowing Council Chair Erpenbach to CENSOR snowgate election testimony, which put off snowgate implementation for a full year.

– Mayor Huether was not required to list all of his investments on his campaign finance report, but other NON-incumbent candidates were asked to do so

– Two hearings on municipal election ballot language because petitioners were NOT allowed to proof the language before ballots were printed

– Asked the city to provide $500K towards a new indoor tennis facility without mentioning eventually his name would be on the side of the building.

– Sanford bought events center domain name before they were announced the title sponsor

– Spellerberg Park picked as location of new indoor pool before a supposed resolution on the quit claim deed

The EC siding secrecy is just another notch in the bed post for a mayor and administration that sleeps with a lot of secrets. And just think, these are the ones we KNOW about . . .

City Government Transparency?

Transcript of Public Testimony last night:

My name is Bruce Danielson, a resident of Sioux Falls and chairman of Citizens for Integrity.

I am here tonight to report on the two ballot advocational meetings held so far, sponsored by the City of Sioux Falls. These biased presentations are designed to confuse the voters and harm the Initiative and Referendum process.

Prior to the first video last night, city director Don Kearney read a statement attributed to the city attorney. The statement reiterated the s approval of the video presentations.

After the first video was completed, I read a statement for those in attendance to explain why we disagree with the presentations and to ensure an open dialogue.

After the ending of the presentations last night I was approached by a city employee, Shawna Goldammer. I was informed my disclaimer would be addressed. I took it as “accommodated and silenced”.

We are partaking in the citizen’s debate on issues citizens worked very hard to bring before the voters. We will continue and will not be silenced.

We are suspicious of the city involvement in the ballot measures just as we have been suspicious of the Events Center naming. The EC naming has been a curious process. It has many different aspects never made clear. On SouthDacola.com last night the timeline became clearer why we the people have not been able to trust the word of this city government.

Prior June 12, 2012: The city doesn’t renew their naming contract with Superlative.

June 12, 2012: Director Smith Talks about hiring Legends to help secure a title sponsor in a council informational meeting.

July 12, 2012: Sanford Health BUYS the domain: DENNYSANFORDPREMIERCENTER.COM

July 24, 2012: Director Smith tells the council in an informational he is to having a title sponsor, and will bring it to the council..

August 2, 2012: EC title sponsor announced, city council is told 30 minutes before the announcement.

t have transparency on this The mayor used to work for First Premier, and people in the community are closely associated with Sanford. Maybe we really got a good ll never know because we never had any ”

We would like to know why this council has not taken their legislative responsibilities to heart and let your constituents know why this curious process was allowed to happen.

We question the motives behind the activities bringing the ballot issues to the people. The issues we have before us are based on our ability to question motives and directives. We have a voice in this election and its aftermath and we are here to stay involved.

UPDATED: City of SF gets a ‘Salute’ in Government Video Magazine

Silent smiley face

And the award goes to . . .

The web channel we’re saluting for the week of Nov. 8, 2013, is the City of Sioux Falls’ YouTube channel. At a crossroads between the nation’s east and west, Sioux Falls has arts, culture, parks, scenery and — of course — the needs of any city for basic services, safety and overall management. All these are represented well on Sioux Fall’s active YouTube channel, including public chats with the mayor that would be hard to imagine in many cities. For the mayor of Sioux Falls, it’s just another day at a restaurant with some friends.

Okay, I will give the city some credit, they have a YouTube Channel, WOOT! WOOT! So do many elementary students featuring videos of them farting and making funny faces. But the ‘salute’ to the YouTube channel isn’t my issue, it’s the assumption that Government Video makes about transparency in our city;

For doing a great job of making government friendly and accessible, Government Video salutes the City of Sioux Falls’ YouTube channel.

Friendly and accessible?! Okay. Let’s go;

SIRE is broken, it has been broken for several years. (SIRE is the online program used to watch public meetings & to see documents related to public meeting agenda items)  Issues include;  long intros to videos (sometimes up to 20 minutes dead air before meeting starts), missing videos, bad audio, missing documents, and documents not showing up on the online until minutes before a meeting starts. This is not ‘friendly accessibility’ it is form of ‘soft’ censorship hiding behind perceived software issues.

While Central Services, Media Services and the City Clerk’s office has been told several times that SIRE isn’t functioning properly they have given many excuses, including denying it isn’t functioning properly. The Clerk’s office blames Central Services. CS has denied to me there is any problems, even though there clearly is. Weekly, there is at least one or more public meetings that doesn’t work right, disappears for several days, or has other issues. Remember, the city spends over $1,000 a month for the maintenance of SIRE by the software company that makes it. The city has also spent thousands of dollars over the past year on software upgrades and a backup cooling unit for the server room at city hall.

I find it hard to believe that Central Services, the clerk’s office and Media Services are all this incompetent, that is virtually impossible.

My speculation is that certain employees within the city are being ‘instructed’ to make the appearance that SIRE isn’t working properly. Remember, the city budget address wasn’t handed to the city council until a few minutes before the address. Is that the kind of transparency you want between City Hall & the City Council? I know what kind of ‘Salute’ that deserves. I have this underlying assumption that somebody is tampering with our ‘accessibility’ as citizens. And until SIRE is fixed and working properly, I will have no reason otherwise to assume this is NOT happening.

So a SALUTE to the city for accessibility is laughable at best, sad, disheartening and distasteful, and I encourage Government Video to retract their salute.



Follow the links on the upper right hand corner (screenshot above). The person in charge of the channel has some weird fetishes.

Please note how Google relates the City Of Sanford Falls channel to others, then read the descriptions.

Related channels on City of Sioux Falls’ YouTube channel (upper right side of page):

SUPERIOR HISTORY (The rarest and best military history videos on the internet for the serious and technically disciplined. Stay on subject or get hit in the head with a ratchet.)

nuclearvault (Atomic Films Courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office)

Primeda (Tales of the Gun – Early Guns)

DarkFellowships (WW2 – WW1 – Third Reich)

Vasile Iuga (Scorched Earth S1/E1 – Panzer Battles)

lord lucan (some old news of the day when britian was great, purely for educational purposes)

Verrrry Interestingggg. You see when you do not clear your cache files before setting up your channel, Google takes your  computer’s tracking history and links to it. Now we know what they are doing while they are supposed to be working and it certainly isn’t repairing SIRE.

We should have seen this coming

When I first heard petition circulators were being ‘harassed’ and followed around by Parks workers, the SFPD and a Canaries baseball manager it didn’t surprise me. Even HyVee gave them the boot (Yes, this is a private business, and YES they asked permission and were not granted it.)

Of course certain people don’t like democracy and constitutional rights impeding on their family fun, oh the shame, as ‘Bill’ commented in a different thread;

Petitioners get pushy with people just trying to take in a game in a family environment. They complain to management and mgt calls Police. Police tell them to not be pushy or harass people and keep their space. That ain’t a conspiracy folks; that’s common sense. Stop taking yourselves so seriously! If SON wants a vote then they should get one. They probably won’t like the result though. Not many people in SF feeling sorry for them.

Asking someone to sign a petition if they are a registered voter IS NOT HARASSMENT. And asking someone to sign a petition at a baseball game? I could not think of anything more AMERICAN! The only thing that would make the situation better would be if it was raining apple pie and hot dogs.

Besides the obvious 1st Amendment rights issues, this is a bigger problem, that doesn’t just stem from the SON group, they have just uncovered the ongoing transparency and freedom of speech intolerance of the city and most importantly our mayor.

This statement and quote should say it all,

Mayor Mike Huether said by email that he didn’t know about the issue, and that “I can assure you we have better things to focus on in city government.”

Right  . . . . Mike. What the mayor should have said is,

“This is appalling that the SFPD is interfering with citizen advocacy that is fully legal and within their 1st Amendment rights. We will have a conversation with these officers so it doesn’t happen in the future.”

Of course, that statement would have come from a mayor that is concerned about transparency. Mike is more concerned about ‘controlling the message’ and squashing free speech. If you don’t think the directives to the Parks department employees and SFPD wasn’t coming from high atop the totem pole, you are pretty foolish and naive. There has even been rumors circulating that city employees were directed to NOT SIGN the petition.

The mayor had a similar response to me when I sent out an email to the council and him after our blatant censorship during the snow gates election discussion at a city council meeting;

However, in fairness to Councilor Erpenbach and the process, ALL OF THE COUNCILORS were notified about the managing the debate time or “20 minute conversation” at 1:47pm on Monday.  Your comment about “making up the rule before the meeting started without informing your fellow councilors” is not accurate.  Whether or not the Councilors made the time to review it or whether or not they wanted to be open and transparent or not to you and to the public, I can’t verify.

I asked councilors about this, both Jamison and Staggers said it was sent in an EMAIL on Monday. Staggers said he doesn’t review his emails everyday and wasn’t aware of this RULE change until Erpenbach brought it up in the meeting. Either way, it should not have been sent in an email, and further more, the public should have been informed about this change 24 hours in advance of the meeting. We were not. But like the comment in yesterday’s paper, once again the mayor tries to wash his hands of having anything to do with it. I call Beautiful Sunshine on his butt once again.

Since Mayor Transparency has taken over these very non-transparent events have taken place;

1) The discussion to fire a city clerk in private, breaking open meetings laws

2) The denial that head librarian Sally Felix was fired

3) The repeated ‘surprise’ press conferences about city news without including or informing the council

4) Using tax dollars to promote the EC without telling the cons of the project before the vote

5) Misinformation about the true cost of the EC, which is still occurring. By using a construction management company, they can cover up what is being paid out.

6) Keeping the EC naming rights deal in secret

7) Claiming we have an ‘above average’ city surplus or cash on hand without telling us much of the money in our piggy bank is ‘borrowed money’ being held until contractors need to be paid for the EC work.

8) The continued failures of SIRE (the online video and document viewing software the city uses on their website, which costs taxpayers around a $1000 a month)

9) Agenda documents not appearing on SIRE until the meetings start, even though the the agenda is posted 24 hours in advance (The city council received a copy of the city budget 7 minutes before the mayor presented it to them publicly.)

Now the mayor can claim all he wants that he is transparent, but saying something doesn’t make it so, actions speak louder then words, but when you are a salesman (mind you that he sold the worst most subprime credit card in the industry) all you really have is words. But I wouldn’t expect anything less out of man who accused me of being godless in a public meeting and a guy who can’t laugh at himself. But none of this is very funny, in fact, it is really F’ing serious.

Is the ACLU and NCAC watching and listening? I hope so.

Limiting Public Input – Tonight’s SF City Council meeting

Make no mistake, Item #29 on the city council agenda tonight will be contentious and there will be public input, I suspect quite a bit. I won’t speculate how city councilors will vote on the issue, and many of them are still saying they are undecided (ahem).

I will say this, after being CENSORSED by then council chair, Erpenbach and mayor Huether during the snowgate vote debate and discussion at the council meeting, I will put a word of warning to the council and mayor; city ordinance is clear when it comes to public input, 5 minutes, per person, per agenda item. You MUST allow BOTH sides of the Walmart zoning issue to speak tonight and express their feelings, opinions and arguements. This is much too important of an issue to limit (CENSOR) to 20 minutes. The testimony tonight MUST be on the public record, this is much more important then swaying councilors’ votes (most of them have probably already made up their minds) this is more about educating the public about both sides of the issue.

Even if the council approves the zoning tonight, the most important thing we should take from tonight’s meeting is freedom of speech, 1st Amendment rights and the public’s right to input. I hope and even pray that the council and mayor have learned something from the snowgate censorship fest.

People are watching. Follow your own laws and allow public testimony to last until each and every person has had the chance to speak their peace. This is a democracy, and the democratic process, not a Kangaroo court.


Tonight at Carnegie Hall the Sioux Falls City Council will be voting on the request to rezone just under 40 acres of farm-land from AG to C-4 commercial.  We need to pack the room this evening and have a large showing of support for our position.  We have folks ready to speak on our behalf concerning various topics and we remain hopeful that the city council will rule in favor of protecting the rights of its citizens over the economic desires of the world’s largest big-box retailer.  Please pass this message along to anyone you know who supports our efforts.  We hope to see you there and thank you for all you are doing, have done, and will continue to do to make Sioux Falls such a great city to call home.   Remember, common sense is on our side!