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YouTube’s War on InfoWars: Forced Speech And The First Amendment

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YouTube is reportedly going to take down the channel for the controversial website InfoWars on Monday, reports right-wing investigator and provocateur James O’Keefe.

I won’t delve into (nor link to) the content of InfoWars. Readers can access it (and often do so without warning) by going to The Drudge Report, which lists it twice (once as InfoWars, once as Alex Jones) among its newsfeed channels.

Presumably, this action is taken because of some violations of the YouTube terms, guidelines, etc. YouTube is a private service and as such, has its own rights to set its terms. Let’s simply look at YouTube’s stated policies, which I found with some difficulty.

First, from the Policies and Guidelines webpage:

You might not like everything you see on YouTube. If you think content is inappropriate, use the flagging feature to submit it for review by our YouTube staff. Our staff carefully reviews flagged content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to determine whether there’s a violation of our Community Guidelines.

And those Guidelines say, in relevant part:

Our products are platforms for free expression. But we don’t support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. This can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line. (Emphasis added.)

Now, from a lawyer’s perspective,

Within the Guidelines is YouTube’s Hate Speech policy:

We encourage free speech and try to defend your right to express unpopular points of view, but we don’t permit hate speech.

Hate speech refers to content that promotes violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes, such as:

race or ethnic origin
religion
disability
gender
age
veteran status
sexual orientation/gender identity

There is a fine line between what is and what is not considered to be hate speech. For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation-state, but if the primary purpose of the content is to incite hatred against a group of people solely based on their ethnicity, or if the content promotes violence based on any of these core attributes, like religion, it violates our policy.

Also, under the heading of “Threats” is the following:

Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very seriously. Anyone caught doing these things may be permanently banned from YouTube.

Now, taking all of this language, there are some flaws. In short, its because the terms and guidelines are too brief. They fail to give enough warning to users as to what “crosses the line.” That’s because there is too much ambiguity in a lot of single words.

You can criticize this as “overlawyering” and criticize me for being one of those subhuman lawyers. However, almost every subject, verb, adjective and adverb in the terms requires a definition. Look again at just this one sentence. I’ve put in bold what I think is each and every term which has an unclear or ambiguous meaning.

For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation-state, but if the primary purpose of the content is to incite hatred against a group of people solely based on their ethnicity, or if the content promotes violence based on any of these core attributes, like religion, it violates our policy.

Each term I’ve highlighted is susceptible to multiple meanings, which in turn exposes YouTube to criticism that it is being arbitrary, unfair or “political” in exercising its own rights.

But here is what you’re missing. YouTube has its own rights of free speech, including the right of free association. Remember the infamous-on-the-Left Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United?

Before the “right wing” cues up the faux outrage machine and further embarrasses conservatives, let’s remember a few general principles.

YouTube is a private company. YouTube is an affiliate of the Google empire, which includes the publicly-traded company known now as Alphabet. But that doesn’t mean the customers, the public, or the government get to tell a private business how to run its business.

The people saying that “YouTube has no business…” or accusing it of “censorship” don’t realize they are arguing for a private business to be controlled by an outside group. Rational people have to think about two questions: First, who would that group be? Second (and more importantly), who decides the first question?

This, my friends, is the road to government oversight and control. Under the rubric of “free speech,” this is the march towards Soviet-style Marxism. Not because YouTube is “censoring” content which is both within its right

So, the critics of YouTube and defenders of (in this case) InfoWars, who want to force YouTube to carry certain content are not defenders of free speech here. They are its attackers. This confusion, and deception are the next steps in paving the road towards authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Public Citizen

    March 4, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    The question must eventually be dealt with:
    “At what point does an “internet service” that has a virtual monopoly in a popular area become a defacto “Public Utility” that must of public necessity be regulated as a public utility or else broken up under the Anti-Trust Laws?”
    This question must be dealt with, and soon, in a number of areas of the internet.

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Culture and Religion

The ‘church fathers’ and the Book of Enoch

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The church fathers and the Book of Enoch

This article first appeared in Torah Driven Life. The site appears to be down currently, so we’re including this page here for reference.

The following is a compilation of attestations to the authenticity and acceptance of the Book of Enoch as Scripture by the fathers of the early church. This list is, by no means, an exhaustive list of quotations from the church fathers, but is rather just skimming of the surface. At any rate, the case is clear, that even beyond Jude’s open reference to it, the Book of Enoch had some degree of acceptance in early Christianity.

Tertullian and the Book of Enoch

Tertullian, an early church father and founder of Latin Christianity, wrote a few positive things concerning the Book of Enoch. Tertulian writes as follows in his 2nd century work, On the Apparel of Women I 3:1-3.

“I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order of action to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either. I suppose they did not think that, having been published before the deluge, it could have safely survived that world-wide calamity, the abolisher of all things. If that is the reason for rejecting it, let them recall to their memory that Noah, the survivor of the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself; and he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s ‘grace in the sight of God,’ (Genesis 6:8) and concerning all his preachings; since Enoch had given no other charge to Methuselah than that he should hand on the knowledge of them to his posterity. Noah therefore, no doubt, might have succeeded in the trusteeship of his preaching; or, had the case been otherwise, he would not have been silent alike concerning the disposition of things made by God, his Preserver, and concerning the particular glory of his own house.

“If Noah had not had this conservative power by so short a route, there would still be this consideration to warrant our assertion of the genuineness of this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, every document of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.

“But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that ‘every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.’ (2 Timothy 3:16) By the Jews it may now seem to have been rejected for that very reason, just like all the other portions nearly which tell of Christ. Nor, of course, is this fact wonderful, that they did not receive some Scriptures which spake of Him whom even in person, speaking in their presence, they were not to receive. To these considerations is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude.” (Jude 1:14-15)

Origen and the Book of Enoch

Origen appeals to the Book of Enoch as having the same canonical authority as he does the Book of Psalms. He writes as follows in De Principiis IV.

“But some one will perhaps inquire whether we can obtain out of Scripture any grounds for such an understanding of the subject. Now I think some such view is indicated in the Psalms, when the prophet says, ‘My eyes have seen your imperfection;’ (Psalm 139:16) by which the mind of the prophet, examining with keener glance the first principles of things, and separating in thought and imagination only between matter and its qualities, perceived the imperfection of God, which certainly is understood to be perfected by the addition of qualities. Enoch also, in his book, speaks as follows: ‘I have walked on even to imperfection;’ which expression I consider may be understood in a similar manner, viz., that the mind of the prophet proceeded in its scrutiny and investigation of all visible things, until it arrived at that first beginning in which it beheld imperfect matter existing without ‘qualities.’ For it is written in the same book of Enoch, ‘I beheld the whole of matter;’ which is so understood as if he had said: ‘I have clearly seen all the divisions of matter which are broken up from one into each individual species either of men, or animals, or of the sky, or of the sun, or of all other things in this world.’”

These quotations which he attributes to Enoch are not found in the Ethiopic text of the Book of Enoch, upon which our modern translations are based. There are, however, two sufficient reasons to believe that Origen is still quoting from the Book of Enoch. First, notice how Origen mishandled Psalm 139:16, “My eyes have seen your imperfection,” as if to indicate that God had imperfections which could be seen. Psalm 139:16 is more accurately translated, “Mine unformed substance Thine eyes saw.” (YLT) So it is very possible that Origen was simply incorrectly quoting passages that do exist in the Ethiopic text. Second, it is known from the discovery of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of Enoch found in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran that there are large portions of text that are not present in the Ethiopic manuscripts. (See 4Q209 and 4Q211) So it is also possible that he was quoting from portions of Enoch that may have not been translated into the Ethiopic text, and hence have not survived to today.

Irenaeus and the Book of Enoch

Irenaeus, in his work The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 18, records a condensed retelling of Enoch 6-8. He does this without directly citing the Book of Enoch, yet the citation here is unmistakable.

“And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them: and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness, in that they brought them the virtues of roots and herbs, dyeing in colours and cosmetics, the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God; by the entry of which things into the world evil extended and spread, while righteousness was diminished and enfeebled.”

The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas and the Book of Enoch

The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas is frequently ranked among the Apostolic Fathers, i.e. the founding documents of gentile Christianity. This letter contains several blatant quotations from the Book of Enoch, citing it as “Scripture” in Barnabas 16:5-6.

“Again, it was made manifest that the city and the temple and the people of Israel were to be delivered up. For the Scripture says, ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days that the Lord shall deliver the sheep of His pasture, and the sheep-fold, and their tower to destruction.’ (Condensed from Enoch 89:54-56) And it took place according to what the Lord said. But let us inquire if a temple of God exists. Yes, it exists, where He Himself said that He makes and perfects it. For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass when the week is ended that a temple of God shall be built gloriously in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Similar to Enoch 93:6-7)

Given that the writing style of Pseudo-Barnabas does not always give exact quotes from the Scripures, but frequently handles them in a very midrashic style, it is probable that the author is giving a condensed paraphrase of the passages in question from the same version of Enoch we have in our possession today.

Athenagoras and the Book of Enoch

Athenagoras of Athens, in his work 2nd century work Legatio, claims to regard Enoch as a true prophet, and this same work relies heavily upon the angelic cosmology presented in the Book of Enoch.

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News

Ethiopia readies ‘massive offensive’ on al-Shabab in Somalia

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Ethiopia readies massive offensive on al-Shabab in Somalia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The Ethiopian National Defense Force is confirming an ambush by al-Shabab extremists on an Ethiopian peacekeeping convoy in neighboring Somalia and says Ethiopian forces are preparing a “massive offensive” in response.

A statement on Saturday rejects reports and an al-Shabab claim that several Ethiopian troops were killed. It does not give further details on casualties.

The ambush was reported as the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly hotel assault in Nairobi and deadly attacks on forces inside Somalia. The statement does not say exactly when the ambush occurred.

Ethiopia contributes troops to a multinational African Union peacekeeping mission.

The statement says the ambush occurred when the Ethiopian convoy was traveling Burhakaba to Baidoa in Somalia’s southwest.

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Media

Mueller’s office debunks Buzzfeed’s report

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Muellers office debunks Buzzfeeds report

That didn’t take long.

After a flurry of reports surrounding a Buzzfeed article that claimed then-candidate Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, a statement from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has debunked it.

Spokesman Peter Carr says, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

As we noted yesterday, Buzzfeed is not credible. Now, any remnant of credibility they had left is evaporating away. This is not a serious news outlet. They’re just a click-bait farm.


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