Why we need trolls: Even offensive clowns like Milo Yiannopoulos can be good for the left

Published: Salon (September 22, 2016)

Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos is perhaps the most famous troll in the world right now, in large part because he was banned from Twitter last month and because the head of Breitbart News is now the CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This, of course, makes it all the more disappointing that Yiannopoulos repeatedly flaked on me when I tried to interview him for this article. (He did, however, participate in a video shoot for Salon and Out magazine featuring my colleague Amanda Marcotte, which produced memorable results you can watch below.) read more

The troubling and counterproductive trend of liberals policing free speech: We cannot silence those we disagree with

Published: Salon (August 5, 2016)

co-authored with Mark Schierbecker

When Donald Trump was asked last November to give his opinion on the student-led protests at the University of Missouri, he called them “disgusting,” adding to Fox Business News that “I think the two people that resigned are weak, ineffective people. […] Trump should have been the chancellor of that University. Believe me. There would have been no resignation.”

While Trump’s language was hyperbolic and insulting, he wasn’t simply making these comments out of spite. Throughout his presidential campaign and into the year 2016, free speech issues have been a touchstone among right-wing politicians… and not entirely without cause. Trump may be hypocritical in criticizing others for suppressing free speech, but there is a deeper problem in our political culture that has bred demagoguery like his own. read more

The Significance of Mike Pence

Published: The Good Men Project (July 16, 2016)

As The New York Times recently reported, there are an awful lot of social issues in which Donald Trump doesn’t now or didn’t in the past line up with his new vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. These range from abortion and gay rights to whether smoking kills people. Considering that Trump has flip-flopped on a number of issues in this election cycle alone, it may not seem particularly noteworthy that he has chosen a veep whose views are so out of whack with what he used to believe. read more

Jews have a special responsibility to fight Donald Trump

United against hate. (Reuters/Jonathan Drake)

Published: Quartz (July 9, 2016)

Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic tweet—I’m sorry, his allegedly anti-Semitic tweet—is still in the news in the US, and with good reason. The presumptive Republican nominee has repeatedly refused to apologize for linking Hillary Clinton, corruption and Judaism all in one ill-advised meme. Meanwhile, his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner is being publicly pressured by one of his employees at the New York Observer (which he owns) to denounce Trump’s actions.

Which brings us to one of the most popular defenses of Trump–namely, that he can’t possibly be anti-Semitic because of his Jewish family. Trump does indeed have a Jewish son-in-law, a Jewish daughter (Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism upon marrying Kushner), and a Jewish grandchild. And it’s totally irrelevant. This argument is not only specious, it elides the great moral question presented by this election: Will America’s legacy be one of peaceful diversity or hate? read more

America has had a tyrant like Trump before: We fought a revolution to get rid of him

Published: Salon (July 4, 2016)

As America celebrates its 240th anniversary, the Donald Trump campaign confronts us with the vivid possibility that our democracy could look vastly different if he’s elected.

No, I’m not implying that Trump is another Adolf Hitler. You don’t need to be a latter-day Fuehrer to hold positions antithetical to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. That said, when you look at Trump’s avowed ideology, it becomes apparent that he has inadvertently aped the very tyrant whose reign prompted the American Revolution in the first place… King George III. read more

A First Amendment Pioneer’s Take on the Second Amendment (republished after the Orlando mass shooting)

Published: GirlieGirlArmy (June 12, 2016, July 3, 2014)

co-author: Liskula Cohen

Editor’s Note: This was republished because, at a time when the media is fanning the flames of Islamophobia, we need to remember that if it wasn’t for our lax gun control laws and belligerent pro-gun culture, that mass shooter may have never had a firearm in the first place.

I have, shall we say, an interesting relationship with the Constitution. Back in 2009, I was involved in a lawsuit with Google over whether libelous speech (in this case that of a cyberbully against me) was protected by the First Amendment. When a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled in my favor, a precedent was established that protected victims of bullying against their attackers. read more

Could Gary Johnson end the drug war? Libertarian candidate’s presidential bid could put sane drug policy in our grasp

Published: Salon (June 1, 2016)

A recent survey found that Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who was just nominated to be the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, does surprisingly well against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. Although his 10 percent is nothing compared to Clinton’s 38 percent and Trump’s 35 percent, it’s enough to make his candidacy relevant to our national conversation.

This is where Johnson’s bold and unorthodox view on drug policy could alter the course of American history. read more

On the Police

Published: The Good Men Project (May 26, 2016)

As a progressive, I’ve found there is an argument that seems to be effective in debates with conservatives on law and order issues.

What I’ll say is that police officers have an inherent civic responsibility to be responsive to the concerns of their left-wing critics because they are, in a literal sense, the most important and powerful agents of the state. There are plenty of state officials who have greater overall power over our lives, of course, but a police officer is the one with whom the vast majority of us will directly interact in our day-to-day lives. Even the word “police” is derived from the French “policier,” involving the conduct of public affairs. read more