Breaking news: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that boycotts are not protected by the First Amendment. @ACLU has confirmed it’ll take the case to the Supreme Court, with huge implications for free speech in America.🧵
— Julia Bacha (@juliabacha) June 22, 2022
This thread is an important piece of commentary on the far-reaching implications of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision against the Arkansas Times for refusing to knuckle under to a state law compelling us to pledge not to boycott Israel as a condition of being able to do business with the state (or to take a 20 percent reduction in our customary rates).
It’s an anti-boycott, anti-First Amendment decision that is already being used to broaden state legislative schemes to chill speech, such as to protect the fossil fuel industry.
The thread is from the maker of a documentary film on what’s at stake.
A final note: A Democrat-Gazette reporter asked publisher Alan Leveritt today how he could claim financial harm since we continued to sell advertising to the University of Arkansas’s Pulaski Tech campus. A 20 percent price cut is financial harm, is the simple answer.
The D-G reporter doesn’t seem to think it’s relevant what the state’s largest newspaper’s position on a compelled loyalty oath is. I think otherwise. The D-G signed the pledge, Leveritt noted in an op-ed in the New York Times.
In case you’ve missed this discussion previously, the Arkansas Times has taken no position on the Israel boycott movement and has never written on the topic. We simply refuse on principle to sign a pledge commanded by the state. Compelled speech as a condition of doing normal business with the state couldn’t be more antithetical to the First Amendment, no matter what the Republican judges on the 8th Circuit might think. As Julia Bacha noted, Donald Kobes, the judge who wrote the opinion, is a Trump appointee rated unqualified by the American Bar Association when nominated. He also is a former general counsel for Sen. Mike Rounds, a co-sponsor of the federal anti-BDS law. Kobes also apparently thinks the Boston Tea Party was not speech but an economic activity.