UPDATED: Minds IRL free speech event will take place despite smear tactics and threats of violence
UPDATE: The Broadway Theatre in Pitman, NJ has cancelled Minds IRL. The event, however, will take place at an undisclosed location in the Pitman / Philadelphia area.
Minds CEO Bill Ottman provided The Post Millennial with a statement: “We are currently in the process of modifying contracts and the event will still take place next Saturday 8/31 as scheduled in the Pitman, New Jersey area. We will have an update for ticket holders in the next couple of days with a permanent venue.”
Emerging social media platform Minds has received threats of violence in advance of its upcoming event in Pitman, NJ. Minds IRL is billed as an event about “ending racism, violence, and authoritarianism.” The one-day conference will feature speakers including Tim Pool, Blaire White, Andy Ngo, Carl Benjamin, Lauren Chen, and Meghan Murphy to name a few.
Minds is a new social media platform that endeavours to pick up the threads of free speech, open mindedness, and thoughtful discourse, where Twitter and Facebook have failed. With account suspensions, shadowbanning, and algorithm manipulation, the social media giants have misled users. New social media platforms like Minds are springing into that void, and they’re not content to simply commune in a virtual space. That’s why Minds is hosting this conference.
Ngo in particular has been the subject of several hit pieces lately that allege that his motivations in covering Antifa protests and tactics are less than pure. He has had many defenders, and has not backed down from his commitment to covering this off-shoot of authoritarianism on the left, nor their alt-right counterparts.
In addition to phone calls and messages, threats came in the form of a hacked Twitter account for the Pitman Theatre, the chosen venue for the Minds IRL conference. This message was released.
The account is now protected.
Another tweeter with the handle @BreadAndRoses suggested that Minds was going to fight racism by taking the diverse group of people assembling for the event and “locking them in and lighting a fire.”
A Twitter account called @NoHateNJ appears to be at least partially responsible for targeting the Minds conference with the aim of shutting it down.
After the threats, Minds issued a statement that the conference would not be deterred.
Tim Pool, a speaker and co-sponsor of the event, launched a live cast on YouTube to address the threats, and the upcoming conference. This was the most effective way to talk openly about what’s going on, which is the point of this project.
“None of our speakers are more controversial than Ann Coulter,” who spoke in the area last year without incident. “Yet somehow this is coming down on all of us … A couple of journalists put out fake news that we are cancelled. That is not true… The event is not cancelled… We will be in the Pitman / Philadelphia area. It will happen no matter what,” Pool said.
The event has been in the planning stages for months. “In the beginning, when this harassment came in, everything was fine, we expected it,” Pool said, “everything was fine for five plus months.”
Pool and the organizers aren’t sure what drove the sudden threats. “Something happened in the middle of the night and we got an alarming email … We have worked really hard to create an event to end racism, to end violence … how do we get past this point in our political world?”
The Post Millennial reached out to Minds CEO Bill Ottman, who told us that, “There are some who want to shut down free speech and others who want to open the conversation.” Ottman told us that deplatforming is not effective—that it causes a Streisand effect and brings more attention to the issue at hand. “All peer-reviewed studies disagree with the course of action taken by this group. I would be curious to see what data they would use to justify their course of action. We are still in conversations with the theatre. [The theatre’s] Twitter was hacked, which I believe is illegal.”
Giving social media platforms ultimatums, hacking accounts, and threatening real world violence is not an effective way of getting a non-violent message across. If Antifa or Antifa supporters are actually in opposed to fascism, then why do they consistently behave in fascist ways? Banding together as many voices against one voice, with the entire motivation of drowning out opinions you don’t want to hear, is the opposite of anti-fascist.
Minds is hosting a conference to promote dialogue. The organizers posit that “America seems to be a culture divided. Polarized. On edge,” and ask “Want to be part of the solution? Want to take a trip out of the proverbial bubble? Dare we talk honestly to others who may disagree with us?”
These are questions that are not being asked by mainstream social media platforms. Either they have too much to lose, or are simply drunk on their own power, or afraid of their own shadow. The mainstream narrative is that independent journalists and creators radicalize people. A situation like this confirms that the opposite is true.
Mainstream media and big tech radicalize: they create fear and paranoia by pushing divisive identity politics. A handful of hardworking, independent dissidents have organized to engage in conversation. The paranoia that the mainstream continues to inspire has led, once again, to threats of violence. Ideas that provoke barbarity need to be interrogated, not engendered. That’s what an event like this sets out to do. The irony is that those who would seek to destroy this platform would be welcomed with open arms within it.
In what caused a wave of outrage Wednesday evening, former Conservative Party candidate Cyara Bird tweeted that Natalie, her 17-year-old cousin, had been suspended from school for having “rejected the idea” of wearing a rainbow poppy instead of the traditional red-and-black one at their school’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
The Post Millennial reported on the initial claims, reaching out to the Interlake School Board and Stonewall Collegiate, Natalie’s school, for comment on the matter. While both declined to provide comment on the suspension, the Interlake School Board posted a poorly-received clarification to their Twitter account which stated that no students had been mandated to wear a rainbow poppy.
As the situation developed, The Post Millennial published a subsequent article featuring a statement from Natalie with additional details that clarified the situation. Rather than having been suspended for rejecting the poppy during choir practice as Bird’s initial tweet read, Natalie outlined that she had been suspended for “rejecting the idea” of the rainbow poppy replacing the red-and-black poppy, plastering posters in her school which included criticisms of the rainbow poppy symbol. Natalie’s father also confirmed that she had in fact been suspended until after the Remembrance Day holiday.
On November 8th, Cyara Bird issued a statement on her Twitter addressing the viral fallout from the coverage of her initial tweets. Apologizing that her “words were misconstrued,” Bird goes on to reiterate earlier sentiments she had made on her Twitter about her support for the LGBT community and veterans.
Bird had put her social media accounts on private early this morning after facing a barrage of criticism and abuse for her initial tweets on her cousin’s suspension.
The Post Millennial reached out to Bird for comment, but Bird stated that she would not be discussing the matter further.
#MeToo had rules. At least we thought so. Culturally, societally, politically, we all tried to learn them, to internalize them, to understand just what types of incidents could get a person ejected from their life, tossed out of their social group, ostracized from friends, unemployable, unpersoned. The rules seemed almost clear—until suddenly those who seem to be in charge of them don’t even follow their own logic anymore.
Katie Hill had an affair with a junior staffer, another woman, who feels that she was victimized. By the rules of #MeToo, that would dictate that Hill loses it all, right? Only somehow, it’s being spun the other way, by the same publications that brought us diatribes against Al Franken. Hill, it turns out, can also claim victim status at the hands of her ex, who was the one who released the information about the affair. In her resignation speech, Hill echoed Franken’s sentiments, that it seems absurd that she should be resigning when a guy like Trump is in the White House.
To recap: the wronged party is not the spouse, not the junior staffer, but the powerful person at the center of it. While it is true that Hill was the victim of revenge porn, and that is not acceptable, the same principle did not apply to Anthony Weiner or Joe Barton. It does not immunize her from her own wrongdoing.
“The squad” of freshmen congresswomen supported her during her recent tribulation. Nancy Pelosi, and other senior members of Congress, apparently wished that “Hill had been more careful in transmitting her private photos.”
Hill was given far more leeway in terms of the vocal and press lashing that other members of Congress who have found themselves exposed for sexual misconduct have faced. It turns out that she is being supported, not harassed and harangued. A staffer for Rep Sylvia Garcia (D-TX 29th), said, “A lot of the show of support was done intimately and privately with Hill, out of respect for her. … People didn’t want to be adding to the noise. We didn’t want to make press out of the pain and suffering she’s been through. She had private images published without her consent that have caused incredible pain.” Weiner did too, but no one had any sympathy for him at all.
The thing is, and yeah, we hate to be those people, but we can so easily imagine the reverse scenario. Here it is: a dashing young first-term congressman has an affair with a staffer years younger. He takes drugs, advertises his sexual availability on dating apps, and drags his wife into a threesome with the junior staffer. When the marriage breaks up—perhaps as a result of this kind of rampant infidelity, after all, they weren’t openly poly or ethically non-monogamous—the wife releases the dirt on the congressman to the world. She wants people to know just what kind of guy this is, how he is a liar and a cheater, a womanizer, and abuser, unfit to be in Congress. What then? Why she’s a hero, of course, and he’s a villainous letch.
Haven’t we heard this story before? Why is it so different now? Is Hill really a victim of her own sexual dalliances? Are we to believe that a woman who is strong enough to run and win a congressional campaign is so easy to bully? Perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong, readers, perhaps we don’t truly understand the nature of abuse or something, but what we do understand, what is perfectly clear, is that we’re supposed to believe all women, even when she is the abuser. We’re supposed to imagine that there is some substantive difference in how the rules are to be applied to men and women in the same deleterious circumstances.
Now, we’re the first to admit that the rules are stupid. That this game of pointing fingers and shaming people is nonsensical and barbaric is not something we doubt. But if there are going to be rules that we are all expected to play by, ought they not be, well, adhered to?
If #MeToo is meant to be the new standard that we all must bow down to, and it’s a given that men and women are equal, then we must apply the rules fairly, and everyone who has a complicated sexual relationship that leads to grievances must be punished. Or, maybe, just maybe, we could do away with this nonsense and start to see the human beings for what they are: flawed, complicated, and capable of cruelty and kindness.
#MeToo may have been an effective corrective in some situations, but it should never have risen to the level of an era. As it stands now, we are living through a “cultural context where common vengeance writes the law,” and the hypocrisy is destroying us. If the rules don’t apply the same way for everyone, perhaps the rules are the problem.
It takes only a cursory examination of our tumultuous human history to appreciate that periods of liberty—when individual citizens are largely free to speak, think, believe and act as they choose—are vanishingly rare and must be jealously guarded. In the span of three days last week, incidents in Toronto and Vancouver demonstrated that shockingly few people seem to understand this, and fewer still actually care.
Both incidents involved radical feminist Meghan Murphy, who had speaking engagements booked at the Toronto Public Library and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in B.C. on the topic of sex-based rights and their apparent conflict with gender identity.
The first event went ahead despite petitions, protests, threats to the library of ex-communication from PRIDE events, and even denunciation by the Mayor of Toronto. But for the fortitude of Chief Librarian Vickery Bowles, who described freedom of expression as “a hill to die on,” the mob would have had its way: the event would have been cancelled.
Indeed, the second event was scrubbed from its initial venue at SFU, due to threats of violence and disruption from so-called “activist” groups. Had the organizers not managed to find a last-minute replacement location, the heckler’s veto would have won the day.
Most thoughtful people would agree that a conflict of rights between two groups should be sorted out in a rational and fair manner, and that the best way to do that is by undertaking a thorough examination and discussion of the issues, which includes hearing and listening to the other side. But intolerant mobs have instead decided that anything Meghan Murphy or her following says, or might say in the future, is unquestionably “hate” speech that must be stopped at all costs.
This is not new a new phenomenon in our times. Any speaker whose ideological outlook doesn’t conform to that of the mobs will face attempts to deplatform them. Recently in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia Free Speech Club attempted to bring two “politically incorrect” speakers to campus, but was thwarted by high security fees after UBC determined there would likely be damaging protests. The event was moved to the local Hellenic Centre, which then faced online harassment and bullying from groups such as the “Revolutionary Student Movement” and the “Revolutionary Communists.” Death threats were made to the organizer of the event and a police presence was required to ensure it could proceed.
As anthropology professor Mark Collard, one of the organizers of the cancelled SFU event, told me, “In 300,000 years, humans have only managed to discover two ways of dealing with political disputes: conversation and democracy, or violence.”
If the mobs get their way, there will be no conversation. But if we can’t have a conversation, we are left with violence or threats of violence. In Toronto, baying crowds numbering in the hundreds lined the walkway where the much smaller group of mainly women exited the building after Ms. Murphy’s talk. As though channelling medieval witch-burners, they chanted, “walk of shame, walk of shame.” At least one called for their deaths, expressing the wish that they would “bleed out.”
Just three days later, under threats of violence from mobs in Vancouver, Professor Collard withdrew his support for Ms. Murphy’s event at the Harbour Centre on SFU’s downtown campus. Having been advised by SFU’s security chief that the risk of violence ranked “11 on a scale of 1 to 10”, he was told to choose between freedom of speech, which he considers of utmost importance, and the safety of attendees.
It is difficult for any group or individual to find a platform if they dissent from the increasingly narrow range of acceptable speech. Who gets to speak and what they say is being decided by modern-day Brownshirts, some of whom have already demonstrated that they have lost their grip on basic human decency by beating journalists and shouting down little old ladies with walkers.
Nearly 100 years ago, a newly-formed extremist group in Munich—including a large number of students and young middle-class professionals—started patrolling the streets and disrupting the meetings and speeches of those they disagreed with. Daniel Siemens’ book Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts describes how the movement grew to include bloody street battles between fascists and communists, which the fledgling German democracy proved unable to control, accelerating the erosion of the free and democratic society and paving the way for Hitler’s rise.
There is no question that ordinary people can easily be swept up in political violence, believing themselves to be on the side of right. But the inevitable result is to ensure the demise of a civil and free society unless the adults among us who value our freedoms start taking a stand.
Sadly, the “adults” are doing a shockingly poor job at even grasping the issue. It wasn’t just the mob outside the library that the fearless Ms. Bowles had to withstand. The pressure came too from mainstream media like the CBC, as well as the Mayor and Toronto city councillors who challenged her stance. The Council appallingly voted 20-1 to review the Toronto Public Library’s policies on the use of community spaces. The message has been delivered that city politicians would be quite happy to see unpopular opinions censored.
For civil society and liberty to survive, institutions like governments, courts, universities and libraries need to take seriously their commitment to the fundamental freedoms of Canadians and stop enabling the mobs by tacitly endorsing their tactics.
Universities should make it clear that freedom of expression and academic freedom are non-negotiable. If security fees are to be charged at all, the invoice should be rendered to those who threaten violence or the disruption of events, and universities should file formal complaints with police about criminal behaviour. Demanding such fees from event organizers, who are doing nothing wrong by exercising their free expression rights, is grossly unfair.
Those who host or organize events need to hold fast and find some backbone. Backing down under vague threats of potential violence is ceding control of the discourse to the heckler and the mob. The SFU event should have proceeded as planned, and any disrupters dealt with firmly and immediately, using legal tools that are readily available.
Police need to ensure the safety of people attending events, as they did at the Murphy event in Vancouver at the replacement location. While protestors have every right to stand outside and peacefully demonstrate (even with cardboard guillotines as they did outside the Vancouver event), violence and threats of violence need to be taken seriously and dealt with by police. Violence needs to be met with criminal charges and a firm message from the courts: mess with our liberty at your peril.
And ordinary citizens, too, need to step up before this country becomes toxic and unlivable, with people speaking their opinions only in hushed whispers around their kitchen tables. We expect our public institutions to uphold our Charter freedoms, but we should all be standing up for the free exchange of ideas.
In 1867 the British philosopher and political theorist John Stuart Mill delivered an inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews:
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.
Future historians may decry our times as the turning point when Lady Liberty laid down her torch and gave up the fight; or, they may proclaim it as the time when our free and democratic order was defended by ordinary people standing up to the mobs and declaring, “Enough!”
Lisa Bildy is an Ontario-based lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. Her Twitter handle is @LDBildy.
A town hall event in Portland, Oregon, hosted by the Melody Centre has been targeted by the antifa extremists. The event was organized by the WalkAway Campaign, which had activist Brandon Straka, documentarian Dinesh D’Souza, radio host Lars Larson, and prominent journalist Andy Ngo, speaking to the audience on a range of topical issues. Disclosure: Ngo is the Editor-at-large at The Post Millennial.
Over the past week, antifa had tried to harass the centre into deplatforming the speakers. Despite the group attempting to intimidate the business, audience, and speakers, they failed to shut down the event.
Even before the event had begun, a group of 20 antifa members gathered outside the centre, intimidating the speakers and audience. Soon after, they began to circle the event, taking photographs of the attendees.
During the event, Ngo saw the antifa activist who attacked him whilst at the gym earlier this year in May and decided to name him on Twitter. The assailant’s name is John Hacker.
As they were circling the event, the antifa members chanted slogans like “I f****d God, now he’s gay,” and “all cops are bastards.” Despite there being a heavy police presence, and threats of violence, Portland’s police force largely remained in the background in light clothing, rather than the heavy riot gear they have worn at previous antifa demonstrations.
Due to the event being ticketed, the antifa members did not manage to disrupt the event. Nevertheless, the group still attempted to make as much noise as possible by honking horns and creating a general racket. These noises, however, failed to penetrate the event, only irritating the surrounding neighbourhood.
Over the past few days, antifa and other hard-left organizations had attempted to cancel the event. Mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone also called for the event to be shut down, posting on Twitter: “There should be no safe haven for people affiliated with domestic terrorists and nationalist extremists.” This tweet was later criticized for inciting violence.
On Twitter, Iannarone has mentioned her support of antifa, announcing her support of her nickname, the “Antifa mayor.” antifa has long been criticized for its violent tactics and willingness to label moderate public figures as fascists. Even the notorious socialist Noam Chomsky has labeled antifa as a “major gift to the right,” due to their extremist tactics.
The main effort to get this event cancelled came from a group called Popular Mobilization, which is another coordinated left-wing organization. Popular Mobilization has publicly directed its followers to harass the centre by sending private messages and requests. After this failed, they then decided to call and email the centre into compliance. The group was responsible for distributing the milkshakes that were used to assault people in an antifa riot in June.
Portland has had a troubling history of far-left violence and intimidation. Earlier this year, Ngo was beaten and attacked with “milkshakes” on the streets of the city. As well as this, during the far-right, Proud Boys rally, antifa attacked multiple people including non-related bystanders. Despite this, very few charges were laid by the Portland police.
Ngo has been a constant target of antifa violence and conspiracy theories. On Halloween night, antifa activists arrived at Ngo’s family home so to intimidate his family. As well as this, Ngo has often been accused by antifa and their allies of providing “kill lists” to Atomwaffen.
Yesterday, Stanford University data scientist, Becca Lewis, also promoted this unfounded conspiracy theory.
TPM asked Ngo about the demonstration. “The masked protesters mocked my injuries from the beating when I was outside. They passed out flyers with the false claim that I provide a terrorist group with ‘kill lists.’ Clearly the aim is to lie about me in the most egregious ways to incite more violence against me,” he said.