Category Archives: Individual liberties

Outrage Is No Substitute for Thought

UVa students push back against learning about other viewpoints.

by Shaun Kenney

WARNING! This is a long one . . . so pour your favorite scotch or cup of coffee and be prepared to consider alternate viewpoints that may offend. As the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick remarks, “My thoughts do not aim for your assent, just place them alongside your own for awhile.”


One of the things I deeply appreciated about my time at the University of Virginia was its treatment of the humanities writ large. In short, everyone — no matter what their intelligence or depth — should expose themselves to something more than just their profession. “What good is it to earn your first million at the age of 30,” opined one professor, “only to find out you can’t have a conversation because you are a boring person!

I had the privilege of encountering not just one but two generations of Virginia students. The first was among my peers during the late 1990s; the second when I darkened the towers to pursue my own academic career, which remains an ongoing project to be sure.

Of course, I was instantly identified by more than one professor as having a Jesuit background. For those unfamiliar with the accolade, a Jesuit education is considered to have a certain approach to the world. Continue reading

Wonders Never Cease: WaPo Gives Fair Treatment to Alumni Rebellion

Bert Ellis, UVa graduate, president of The Jefferson Council, and newly appointed to the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, is highlighted in The Washington Post article on the alumni-led free speech movement.

by James A. Bacon

Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) call the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.

Svrluga doesn’t squeeze our statements into a left-wing narrative, she doesn’t mischaracterize our concerns, and she quotes us fairly, accurately, and in context. To be sure, she gives space to those who minimize our allegations about the state of higher-ed today — as it is her obligation to do. It’s important for readers to know that not everyone agrees with us.

The contrast with Ian Shapira, The Washington Post author of repeated hit jobs on the Virginia Military Institute, is dramatic. Shapira epitomizes the new school of journalism. He started with his narrative of VMI as a systemically racist institution, uncritically repeated information that confirmed his belief, and ignored or sought to discredit information that did not. He did go through the motions of producing pro-forma statements for the “other side of the story,” but he never let them interrupt his pre-determined narrative.

So, kudos to Svrluga for letting us tell our story.

While I am grateful for Svrluga highlighting the new alumni-led free-speech movement, I do believed that she missed a critical angle. By way of preface, I need to quote UVa spokesman Brian Coy and renowned political scientist Larry Sabato. Continue reading

A Letter to an Old Friend

by James C. Sherlock

This article is rendered as a letter responding to an old friend and mentor, the University of Virginia, my alma mater.

I can imagine the University’s response to my last article on its culture:

The changes we have experienced in the culture of the University, its pervasive progressivism, which some may see as toxic to a public university, are not unique to the University of Virginia, have been decades in the making and will be very difficult to change from within.

I note the pessimism, but do not share the conclusion. Change it must, and we must not shelter in place and hope it blows over.

I firmly believe that the University will not survive as a public institution, and will not deserve to survive, with a leadership structure monitored by a political Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) commissariat that tolerates no dissent from progressive orthodoxy.

I don’t believe it will survive hiring practices that render the faculty politically single-minded.

I don’t believe it will survive a student experience that has driven large majorities of students to respond to surveys that they feel afraid to engage in debate on topics related to progressive dogma.

How can we honestly say we promote diversity, but not diversity of thought?
Continue reading

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

by Jim McCarthy

A month ago, a Bacon’s Rebellion column (“Commonwealth Attorney Nullification“) took issue with a national newspaper op-ed in which a Commonwealth’s Attorney pledged he would never prosecute a woman for having an abortion, no matter what Virginia law might say. The BR author suggested that such thinking would lead to anarchy.

The CA’s words are certainly provocative, to be understood as political bombast in his re-election campaign. The words are not a threat of violence and, at the same time, not abstract. Some may choose to characterize them as anarchical. Without more, their dangerous portent will be measured at the polls.

In 1919 the U.S. Supreme Court found in Schenck v US a clear and present danger in the language of protestors against the military draft as a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. The ruling is best known for Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes’s phrase about “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” was not permitted free speech. The prosecutor’s vow might better be understood as shouting fire in a deserted theatre. Continue reading

The “Occasional” Butchery of Children

By James C. Sherlock

Chloe Cole after childhood surgical transition to a boy (left) and de-transition to a girl (right) – Courtesy of Chloe Cole and the New York Post

The New York Post wrote recently:

At 12 years old, Chloe Cole decided she was transgender. At 13, she was put on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone. At 15, she underwent a double mastectomy. Less than a year later, she realized she’d made a mistake.

Note the gracious acceptance of agency by this young woman, even though she made a “decision” at 12 that she was transgender.  Some clearly think that a child of twelve is mature enough to make such a decision.

We see no such agency proclaimed by her parents, pediatrician, endocrinologist or psychologist.  I am sure they were “supporting” that child.

No agency is apparently accepted by the state in which she lived.  The state in which her doctors were licensed.

Let’s examine the agency of the adult players in such matters in Virginia.

Continue reading

After Getting Fined, Del Rio Deletes Twitter Account

Ron Rivera. No free speech for “hurtful” words

by James A. Bacon

Last week, Jack Del Rio, the defensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders (formerly known as the Redskins) created a mini-furor when he referred to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol a “dust up.” His remark proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, effectively killing (for now) a legislative initiative to create a special taxing authority for a Commanders football stadium in Virginia.

While Del Rio screwed up by minimizing the significance of the riot, I expressed worry in a column last week that the Commanders organization would be punished for a comment made not by the CEO but by an employee tweeting in his private capacity.

Well, the assault on free speech and free expression just got worse. Calling the events of Jan. 6 an “act of domestic terrorism,” head coach Ron Rivera fined Del Rio $100,000. The next day Del Rio deleted his Twitter account. In a groveling pander to critics, Rivera also described Del Rio’s comments as “extremely hurtful to our great community here” in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area.

Nobody cares about “hurting” my feelings, and I don’t particularly care about the feelings of those who have filed and honed the exquisite delicacy of their own sensitivities into weaponized spear tips. But I’ll tell you what’s worrisome. It’s worrisome when you apply after-the-fact standards, never enforced before, to punish an employee for expressing his opinion in a private capacity. It’s worrisome when you describe the events of Jan. 6 — “an act of domestic terrorism” — that’s every bit as ill-considered as the comment you’re criticizing. “Domestic terrorism?” How many people did the Jan. 6 protesters kill?

I never had much respect for the Commanders organization to begin with. The football team has been a tax-sucking parasite for as long as I can remember. Now, in a desperate bid to revive his latest parasitic tax-sucking scheme, owner Dan Snyder has aligned himself ideologically with the Left and punished the expression of free speech. Reminder: the Washington Commanders football franchise is estimated to be worth $4 billion. 

Several points need to be made. Continue reading

Right Decision, Terrible Reason

Jack Del Rio talks to reporters after practice Wednesday. Photo credit: The Washington Post.

by James A. Bacon

The decision to spike a deal to lure the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia has fallen apart. Commanders CEO Daniel Snyder had enlisted some bipartisan support for a proposal to create a Football Stadium Authority to finance construction of a stadium and a “mini city” around it in Loudoun County, but the legislation was floundering over the issue of how much of the tax revenue generated by the project would be rebated to the team.

Yesterday, reports The Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, pulled the plug on the legislation because of a controversial social-media post made by Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio about the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

There is no evidence that Del Rio was speaking for the Commanders organization. And he later apologized for part of his comment that caused the most problem — calling the riot a “dust up” compared to the George Floyd riots of 2020.

But Saslaw said the comment was the last straw after controversies over sexual harassment and financial mismanagement plaguing the Commanders organization. “This obviously was not very helpful, to put it mildly, but there’s so many other things out there,” he said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Saslaw, this thing needs to wait.'” Continue reading

A Gun Owner’s Suggestion for Virginia Gun Laws

By James C. Sherlock

I was a career military man.

I am a conservative and a gun owner. As a younger man, I won competitive awards for marksmanship with both rifle and pistol.

I own a semi-automatic Glock for home protection.  I train regularly and at almost 77 can still hit what I aim at.

With that introduction, I have a couple of suggestions for gun legislation in Virginia that I hope will draw condemnation from both the left and the right so that I know I have it roughly right.

I have four criteria for firearms legislation:

  • changes that can matter to the safety of children and law enforcement officers;
  • changes that can deter criminals from use of a firearm in the commission of a crime;
  • changes that do not disadvantage the average citizen’s possession and use of firearms; and
  • changes that can pass Second Amendment review in federal court.

Those are, as a group, difficult needles to thread simultaneously.  They should be.

This article involves semi-automatic long guns – rifles and shotguns.

Continue reading

George Orwell Call Home

Nina Jankowitz

by James C. Sherlock

This blog, while proudly based in individual research, often offers controversial ideas.

Uniform agreement is not expected. Debate is encouraged. We learn from one another and even occasionally change a few minds on both sides.

Yesterday the Biden administration announced the establishment of a federal “Disinformation Governance Board” in the Department of Homeland Security to “combat online disinformation in the 2022 midterms.”

Seriously. It was disclosed yesterday afternoon by Secretary Mayorkas in his testimony on Capitol Hill.

You will not be shocked to learn that neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times has yet covered the story. I just checked. Yet it represents a bigger threat to our nation than Russia and China. And it lives within the Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading

Youngkin Signs Donor-Privacy Bill

In recent years, “cancel culture” has targeted many individuals, businesses, and organizations with the intention of silencing them into submission. In one tactic, political activists target or hack donor lists of groups they disagree with and publicly shame or intimidate donors and/or their businesses who expected that their gifts would be kept private. For example, some donors to the Canadian truckers’ Freedom Convoy had their gifts made public, and the givers were subjected to public shaming, in some cases costing them their reputations and livelihoods.

To remedy this, the General Assembly passed HB 970 and Governor Glenn Youngkin signed it April 11.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt had this to say about the signing Monday of HB 970, a bill that protects the private information of individuals who support charities and other nonprofit organizations of their choice: Continue reading

Virginia Is Not for Weed Lovers… But Maybe Soon

Table credit: LawnStarter

by James A. Bacon

LawnStarter has listed 2022’s Best Cities to Get Stoned, ranking nearly 100 of  the biggest U.S. cities where recreational marijuana use is legal. Alexandria is the only one in Virginia that ranks in the top half. Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News, and Chesapeake all rank in the bottom eight.

The ranking is based on access to dispensaries, head shops, consumption lounges, and cannabis-friendly lodging, as well as the availability of tours and events and even munchie relief (fast food), among other factors. Continue reading

Free Speech Lives at the University of Virginia!


by James A. Bacon

Former Vice President Mike Pence came to the University of Virginia last night, attended two receptions, and delivered his speech, billed as “How to Save America from the Woke Left,” without a hitch.

The Pence event created a national stir when the editorial board of The Cavalier Daily student newspaper said that Pence should not be allowed to speak because his conservative views would prove offensive and hurtful to many. The editorial generated a tidal wave of response in support of Pence’s right to give the speech and students’ right to hear it. Seventeen faculty members of diverse political views signed a letter in defense of the speech. President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom published an op-ed in a higher-ed trade journal defending free speech.

Political science professor Larry Sabato, perhaps UVa’s best known faculty member, has been highly critical of President Donald Trump, but he hosted a reception for Trump’s vice president in a pavilion on the Lawn before the speech. The veep attended a second reception across the Lawn, hosted by the Young America’s Foundation, which, in partnership with The Jefferson Council, underwrote the cost of the event.

It was a pleasant spring evening, and throngs of students were hanging out on the Lawn, but there was no unpleasantness to be seen. The University had created an area where protesters could gather, which a modest number did, but they were peaceful and barely noticed by the hundreds of visitors as they lined up for security checks outside Old Cabell Hall. Continue reading

UVa Has Issues, But At Least It Is Not Yale

by James A. Bacon

On March 10 the Federalist Society, a group promoting conservative/libertarian principles in law schools, hosted a panel discussion at Yale Law about freedom of religion and speech. About 120 student protesters descended upon the event, shouted down the speakers, and then, after repeated warnings, continued their noisy demonstration in the hallway. In the aftermath, more than 400 law students, about 60% of the student body, signed an open letter voicing support for the protesters and assailing the presence of armed police. While the protesters were excessively loud and “engaged in rude and insulting behavior,” wrote Law School Dean Heather Gerken, they did not violate the school’s “three-warning protocol.” Heated debate over the contours of free speech continues to this day.

At the University of Virginia, by contrast, the Federalist Society held a symposium on the topic, “The Federalists Vs. the Anti-Federalists: Revisiting the Founding Debates.” The event went off without a hitch. There were no protests, no open letters, and no need for statements by the dean.

The exercise of free speech and free expression leaves very much to be desired at the University of Virginia, but students, parents, faculty and alumni can console themselves: at least UVa is not Yale. (Which is fairly ironic, given the fact that President Jim Ryan, Provost Ian Baucom, and law school Dean Risa Goluboff all hold Yale degrees.) Continue reading

UVa, Defend Your Women!

Letter to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors from Walter Smith.

Now that International Transgender Day of Visibility is behind us, it is safe to discuss your lack of visibility in the matter regarding UVa student Emma Weyant, who, in the world where reality and truth are valued, is the true women’s NCAA 500 freestyle swimming champion. None of you has spoken out regarding the injustice of her loss of the 1st-place trophy to a transgendered individual, Lia Thomas — a silence, I suspect, that arises from your terror of woke intersectionalists.

The only statement I have seen from any UVa official was a quote in The Jefferson Independent, in which President Jim Ryan bravely stated, “I’m not an expert on this and I haven’t been following it as closely as others… I have to say it seems unfair to me, at a very basic level.”

Wow! What clarity of thought! What bold leadership! I now see how Ryan was selected to lead Thomas Jefferson’s University — to make it Great and Good as only he can! Continue reading

Policies at War With Themselves

UVa President Jim Ryan

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom have finally begun to engage in a discussion about university “cancel culture.” In the abstract, they’re against it. Their latest musings represent a step beyond the mere protection of free speech, which the Board of Visitors had endorsed previously, toward respectful engagement of people with different views.

“We can teach our students not only about the right to free speech but also how to be empathetic speakers and generous listeners,” they wrote in the higher-ed trade publication Inside Higher Education. “We should teach them to dismantle arguments, not people.”

UVa Provost Ian Baucom

They even go so far as to acknowledge the value of entertaining a wide variety of viewpoints in academia. “Colleges and universities … could stand to be more intellectually diverse than they are, just as they could stand to be more racially and socioeconomically diverse.”

These are fine sentiments, and the critics of UVa — and higher education in Virginia generally — should welcome them. There may be reason to hope that UVa, after an orgy of self-flagellation for its past, the renaming of buildings, the dismantling of statues, and the blackening of the name of Thomas Jefferson, will live up to the aspiration of its founder to “follow the truth wherever it might lead.” Continue reading