Stanford Federalist Society Tries To 'Cancel' Law Student For Satirical Email About Josh Hawley

from the free-speech-except-when-our-feels-are-hurt dept

Update: Perhaps due to all of the negative publicity this received, Stanford agreed to drop the investigation, and allow Wallace to go on with graduating. The original story remains below.

Ah, the Federalist Society. It makes a big deal about how "cancel culture" is supposedly a "threat to liberty" but apparently that doesn't apply when someone makes fun of them. Nicholas Wallace is a 3rd year law student at Stanford Law, and a few weeks after the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, Wallace decided to highlight that some prominent FedSoc members who were seen to have cheered on the riot at the Capitol. So he created an obviously satirical email mocking the Federalist Society and the types of events it normally holds and sent it to a Stanford Law listserv. In this case, Wallace made an invite for a fake FedSoc event, parodying standard FedSoc events, entitled: "The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection" and claimed that the main speakers at the event would be insurrectionist fist bumper Senator Josh Hawley and still under indictment for felony fraud Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton.

The invite goes on to note:

Violent insurrection, also known as doing a coup, is a classical system of installing a government. Although widely believed to conflict in every way with the rule of law, violent insurrection can be an effective approach to upholding the principle of limited government. Senator Hawley will argue that the ends justify the means. Attorney General Paxton will explain that when the Supreme Court refuses to exercise its Article III authority to overturn the results of a free and fair election, calling on a violent mob to storm the Capitol represents an appropriate alternative remedy.

I mean, it may not be the funniest bit of satire ever, but it's pretty clearly satire. But the good old Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society completely flipped out about it. The organization filed an actual complaint with Stanford Law. The complaint itself speaks extremely poorly to whatever it is they're teaching future lawyers at Stanford Law these days.

On January 25, 2021, at 8:38 a.m., Nicholas Wallace sent an email to Stanford Law School’s “Law Talk” email list-serv, where he impersonated the Stanford Federalist Society, a student group, through a false event flyer and attributed false and defamatory beliefs to persons he listed on the event flyer.

Do they not teach Stanford Law students how defamation works these days? Do they not teach what satire is? Or how the 1st Amendment works? I mean, you can just hear the whiny petulance of students who feel they should never ever be mocked.

Wallace defamed the student group, its officers, Senator Josh Hawley, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Wallace, impersonating the Stanford Federalist Society, wrote on the flyer that “Riot information will be emailed the morning of the event,” insinuating that the student group was encouraging and hosting a riot. He also wrote that Attorney General Paxton advocates for “overturn[ing] the results of a free and fair election” by “calling on a violent mob to storm the Capitol.” And he wrote that Senator Hawley believes that violent insurrections are justified.

That's not how defamation works, guys. The complaint whines that many people believed the event was real, which seems to say a hell of a lot more about the kinds of events the Federalist Society normally puts on, than on anything Wallace did.

However, in the last few weeks, Stanford Law school has somehow decided to treat this obviously bad faith whining about an obvious satire as a legitimate complaint and has put Wallace's graduation in doubt, just to appease the censorial crybabies of the Stanford Federalist Society:

After the Federalist Society officer confirmed to Stanford administrators on May 22 that he wanted to proceed with his complaint, Stanford initiated an investigation into Wallace and put a hold on his diploma two weeks before his law school graduation. If the hold is not released, Wallace will not receive his degree as planned on June 12.

“The timing of all of this could not be worse,” said Wallace. “Instead of focusing on my finals and celebrating graduation with my classmates, I am navigating a confusing judicial process and trying to convince Stanford to lift the hold on my degree.”

As the link above notes, the organization FIRE, which protects free speech on campus, is calling on Stanford to drop this silly investigation, let Wallace graduate, and not to give in to this obviously bad faith attempt to punish someone for some light mockery.

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Filed Under: cancel culture, federalist society, free speech, josh hawley, ken paxton, nicholas wallace, parody, satire
Companies: stanford


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 6:38am

    🚨 UPDATE 🚨

    The investigation has been dropped. He will be allowed to graduate.

    Seems like maybe all the negative press around the attempt by a bunch of thin-skinned dipshits to cancel a critic (who was maybe more accurate than said dipshits would care to admit) was the big reason for Stanford’s decision to resolve the complaint “as expeditiously as possible”. 🤔

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    christenson, 3 Jun 2021 @ 6:40am

    FedSoc complainer needs to have graduation held...

    For such an obvious display of legal incompentence, the complainer should be required to take a remedial class in defamation law before graduating....that would be justice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 6:48am

    It's not just Stanford, and it's not just members of the Federalist Society.

    Gotta admire FIRE. They manage to keep their focus, despite the politics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 3 Jun 2021 @ 7:10am

    Snowflake society melts over parody. Projection and karma priceless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 3 Jun 2021 @ 7:40am

    "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

    I mean, I read through all this, and it is missing the exaggeration beyond plausibility that characterises satire.

    Granted, it may be excessive anthropomorphisation to suggest a coherent subtext underlying those politicians' actions as if they were capable of rational thought. But this rhetorical device alone does not constitute satire, or every fable would have to be considered satirical.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 8:20am

      Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

      To the extent that it is plausible for these people to organize a riot and argue for violent mobs to overturn results of free and fair elections, it can't be considered defamation anyway.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 8:58am

        Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of re

        Is your argument ...

        • The Federalist Society is "conservative".
        • The Republican party is "conservative"
        • Trump ran on the Republican party ticket
        • Trump "followers" participated in the Jan 6 riot.
          ... therefore it is plausible that the Federalist Society would advocate for violent insurrection.

        If that was what you were going with, I think there might be a few holes in the logic. Perhaps, though, you are familiar with the proceedings of Federalist Society club meetings and can enlighten us?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Paul B, 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:13am

          Re: Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out o

          The missing link is:
          The Federalist Society refuses to denounce the Jan 6 Riot.

          Thus they are at least somewhat in favor of the events or fear the result of denouncing the events over standing with law and order. For a group of lawyers and judges this is a big deal as they are making it very clear they are willing to put party loyalty over the rule of law as an organization.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Baron von Robber, 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out o

          I've not heard of any condemnation about the Jan 6th insurrection from that society. A very very easy win for democracy with some simple "Insurrection bad, democracy good" would suffice.

          Enlighten us?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 12:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out o

          AC.
          Correction.
          TRUMP ran as a democrat, and independent AND a republican.
          PICK ALL, not 1.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Baron von Robber, 3 Jun 2021 @ 12:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting o

            I remember Trump running as a republican for POTUS just once.

            What did he run for as a democrat, independent? He was a member of reform too but never ran for anything that I know of as other than a republican.

            It seems he ran only once as a republican but he finally found a party of blithering idiots he could scam.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Miles (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:01am

      Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

      "it is missing the exaggeration beyond plausibility..."

      Did you not notice the date of the event: Jan 6th. You know, in the past. A rather momentous date in the past.

      It's still satire even if you don't get the joke.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

        So where is the discrepancy with the events of Jan 6th? It would appear about as satirical as a historical novel carefully constructing a more fleshed-out story fitting the known facts. Editorial novels pretending to frame historical documents/letters are a common literary technique not necessitating satire.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

        It's still satire even if you don't get the joke.

        No fooling.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 10:03am

          Re: Re: Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

          https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/contemporary-reactions-to-a-modest-proposal/

          This flyer lands squarely in the same camp as the definitive satirical work, "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift.

          Just like here, many British politicians thought his proposal was legitimate, and some members of parliament even went so far as to reference it in the house of commons as a potential solution to the Irish problem.

          Like here, when those MPs came to realize what this really said about them, and its satirical nature, they tried to have Swift arrested for defamation.

          Just like here, that didn't go very far, as the rest of the UK pointed out that even if you don't get the joke, it's still satire.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:30am

      Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

      "exaggeration beyond plausibility" is not the only satire, nor, in my experience anyway, the most common.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:37am

      Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

      Presumably you're joking, but responding seriously: Popehat spent some time on the "it's not satire because I don't get the joke" legal theory yesterday.

      tl;dr it doesn't tend to hold up in court.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 1:16pm

      Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

      No.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 4 Jun 2021 @ 1:24am

      Missing exaggeration beyond plausibility

      Wait, so you're saying that it's plausible Senator Hawley, Attorney General Paxton and the Federalist society plausibly believe and plausibly could admit a violent coup as per the January 6th riot at the US Capitol represents an appropriate alternative remedy?

      I mean I believe they believe it so long as it's to install a government they are personally aligned with, but I find it absurd they'd say so out loud.

      If the satirical nature of the invite is not obvious then the deterioration of democracy in the US should be cause for alarm.

      Of course, this should be no surprise, considering the open calls to violence by Representatives Gaetz and Greene and Lieutenant General Flynn which have been said in public without any accountability or consequence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 4 Jun 2021 @ 9:00am

      Re: "Satire" as legal defense is getting out of reach

      But this rhetorical device alone does not constitute satire

      Even if that were true that would be no (legal) reason whatsoever to stop him from graduating, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 3 Jun 2021 @ 7:56am

    This shows the general level of intelligence required to be a Federalist Society member. A fist pump for Anarchy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 9:15am

    "The complaint whines that many people believed the event was real"
    Perhaps they should spend their time focusing more on redeeming their image so people wouldn't assume the bunch of them are Trump loving, insurrection cheering, asshats who would host a riot.

    Boo hoo hoo cancel culture!!!
    Its only Cancel Culture if it comes from the Canncelle region of France, otherwise its just sparkling consequences.

    For all of the screaming "conservatives" do about how its unfair other people are treated as human one wonders how they fail to understand that the rest of the world is just treating them how they treat others.
    Somehow they've managed to turn "conservative" into a protected group in the minds of many people.. I don't remember them being beaten for existing, their leaders executed because twinkies, hundreds of years of being treated as subhuman, the big round up where we shipped them in cattle cars to camps...

    They face a mocking and act like they've been shot, meanwhile when yet another POC is shot their response is to mock the victim. I guess bad things are only bad when they are treated how they treat their fellow man.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 10:30am

    'Clearly this is defamation, it's entirely reasonable to think!'

    As far as I'm aware you can't defame someone if your 'accusation' is something that's obviously not possible('They went back in time and napalmed an orphanage!') or so wildly out of character as to be unreasonable('The lifelong vegan stole and ate all my steaks!'), so even ignoring the parody angle and the hypocrisy angle arguing defamation would seem to be an admission that people could read that and think that it was legitimately something that the Federalist Society might put together.

    That aside I do enjoy the umbrage on Insurrectionists Hawley's behalf, maybe if he didn't want people to think he supports violent insurrections he shouldn't have shown support for one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:05am

      Re: 'Clearly this is defamation, it's entirely reasonable to thi

      As far as I'm aware you can't defame someone if your 'accusation' is something that's obviously not possible('They went back in time and napalmed an orphanage!')

      The insurrection on January 6th did actually happen after a mob got riled up by the named actors and others, as absurd as it may sound.

      No need to go back in time. They got it right the first time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:19am

        Re: Re: 'Clearly this is defamation, it's entirely reasonable to

        Well yes, my point is that it's not defamation if it's so impossible/out of character to be unbelievable so by arguing that this was defamation rather than satire they would seem to be arguing that it is in fact possible and reasonable that people might think this accurately represented their stance towards insurrection, which is just a bit of an own-goal.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 3 Jun 2021 @ 12:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: 'Clearly this is defamation, it's entirely reasonabl

          Well, insurrection should be an own-goal, but then tell that to Donation McCarthy and Turncoat McConnell. You can undo an own-goal after the fact by moving the goal posts until the spectators get dizzy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 12:28pm

    Can I suggest.

    That he file for RETURN of all fines and fee's he has given over the last years or WORK and Education he has PAID FOR.

    AND is it REQUIRED to have a diploma to be licensed in a State? Or just take the tests?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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