"Is Free Speech Worth It?" Why? Radio Episode with Guest Thane Rosenbaum
9:17PM Sep 1, 2020
Jack Russell Weinstein
Disclaimer: This transcript has been autogenerated and may contain errors, do not cite without verifying accuracy. To do so, click on the first word of the section you wish to cite and listen to the audio while reading the text. If you find errors, please email us at email@example.com. Please include the episode name and time stamp where the error is found. Thank you.
Why philosophical discussions about everyday life is produced by the Institute for philosophy and public life, a division of the University of North Dakota's College of Arts and Sciences. Visit us online at why Radio show.org
Hi, I'm jack Russell Weinstein, host of why philosophical discussions about everyday life. Today's episode, we'll be asking Thane Rosenbaum whether free speech is worth it. There are two facts that I'd like to get out of the way before we start a discussion about free speech. Both are about the American Constitution to begin with. The first amendment doesn't protect people from any and all consequences of their speech. It only limits governmental regulation and retribution, your friends, your employers, your school, they can shun you fire you or expel you for what you say. Most Americans don't understand this. They think they can invoke the First Amendment when their neighbors or bosses tell them to be quiet, but they're wrong. The courts have been quite clear on this. On today's episode, we'll be exploring what free speech means today and how this ought to change. Legally Americans have more freedom of expression than we've ever had before. Socially, however, we face a backlash, especially amongst the younger generation, who often act as if the right to silence others is more fundamental than their right to speak. Our guest is going to walk between these two positions, arguing against what he calls freedom of speech, absolutism, he will suggest that the community and government both reconsider the damage free speech can sometimes incur. The second fact we need to establish is that since the first amendment is about legislation and not citizens behavior, it does not acknowledge what its 18th century writers assumed everyone already understood. Every right comes with a concomitant responsibility. If you want to have free speech, you must act in a way that's worthy of it. Now, this is a controversial way of explaining their point of view the word worthiness is mine, not theirs. When other theorists talk about the founders perspective on free speech, they tend to reference civility or respect or injury. Speakers need to avoid personal attacks, for example, they shouldn't joke about rape or use racist language. They shouldn't harm others reputations. But by using the term worthiness, I seem to be implying that we have to earn our rights. And if so, this would fly in the face of everything we've learned to the modern age, rights are automatic and universal. We have civil rights simply because we're citizens and natural rights because we're human worthiness seems to undermine this, doesn't it? I don't think so. I'm not arguing that some people ought to have free speech while others should not. I'm asserting that free speech can only be justified by the words that come out of our mouths. If we use it to attack the victim of a crime, spread a conspiracy theory or silenced the marginalized. Then we've diminished the value of our freedoms. We've made the Bill of Rights into a caricature. Every time we use free speech, we are taking a moral test And if we fail it, you're not worthy of the opportunity that the constitution affords us. Political philosophers regularly distinguish between the fact of free speech and its moral justification. Some argue that it exists to pursue truth, others that it allows us to participate in democracy. Some think free speech exists so we can express our unique voices. But none of these are arguments about the limits of the right their explorations of why we should have it in the first place. I want to deal with speeches justification now, so that our guest has more time to explore the nitty gritty of campus life harm to others, and whether Nazis should be free to march through Skokie, Illinois. Interestingly, most contemporary supreme court justices have argued we have free speech simply because the Constitution says so that we need no other justification than the documents that govern our society. But this makes the fact that we possess rights and accident of history instead of a moral discovery. I personally think our laws need a higher independent and more robust effect. than just the consent of the governed. The same is true of freedom of speech, but we say also ought to be moral and right. Freedom of speech not worthy of its name is a fiasco. It's like using an original Rembrandt as a tablecloth. Sure owners of the painting can destroy their priceless work of art if they want to. But man, what a waste. The world would have been a better place if those morons had not owned that painting. Just like our country would be better if the liars abusers and forces of destruction would just shut the hell up. On today's episode, we'll be moving back and forth between the political and moral exploration of freedom of speech, we will look at examples to spark our moral intuitions, and pull the legal threads that establish this most popular of rights. But in all of these cases, we'll have one thing in common. They will each be an instance during which the speaker's push the boundaries with their unworthiness. The fact of the matter is, we only have to place limits on those who speak but don't deserve to because those who do Those who are worthy of their rights are their own justification.
And now our guest, this is Stan Rosenbaum second appearance on why radio he's an SS law professor and author of numerous books and novels. He's a distinguished university professor at Toro College, where he directs the forum on life, culture and society. And the moderator have an annual series of discussion on culture world events and politics at the 92nd Street y in New York City. His most recent book saving free speech from itself was just released in March, thin. Thanks for coming back to y and joining us for a second time.
Thank you, jack. And that was really a wonderful introduction. And you might be happy to know as you probably already do, that the new my new book, saving free speech from itself reinforces many of the themes you just raised.
I'm hoping that we can really pull them out because I found the book so interesting and while a different take than what we usually engage in, in these discussions, very intuitively satisfying for our listeners. If you'd like to participate Share your favorite moments from the show and tag us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our handle is at why radio show and you can always email us at ask firstname.lastname@example.org listen to our previous episodes including fanes episode on the case for revenge at wire Radio show.org. So first of all right, it must be weird to publish a book during the quarantine. No release party, no book tour. Is it a different experience? Is it does it feel more like a void than it would otherwise?
Thank you for asking that question jack. Yes, it's awful. You know, author, it's awful authors. You know, I cancelled an entire book door. And, you know, the world was focused everywhere else but where I wanted them to be focused, although I would argue that some of what we've gone through in the last few weeks does raise questions about First Amendment protections. But yes, you know, authors spend years working on books and then they hope to go off in to the public and in them not unlike, frankly, what the founding fathers envisioned for the right to free speech, to encourage people to come to the public square, to participate in deliberative democracy, to hear different ideas being expressed and to be able to make more informed decisions. That was their purpose. And so in many ways, that's what an author would like to do, especially an author of a nonfiction book, go off into the public and hear and hear how this plays acoustically. And so thank you for making it acoustic in a different way on your show.
Well, we we are happy to profit off of your misfortune. Let's just say that I'm good, but so so, so look, so you wrote this book, not anticipating any of what's going on. And then we have the masks protests, and we have the Black Lives Matter protests and all of the Penumbra around that. Are you sitting there thinking or shouting? This is what I was talking about, or are you cringing and think Whew, maybe maybe this isn't the time. I mean, what's your reaction? having written this book to everything that's going on around you?
Great question. Well, what you don't know is that I had written this book a number of years ago and only revised it. It was supposed to come out three or four years ago, but I didn't want it to, because I didn't want it to get caught up in the scandal about the Muhammad, Danish cartoons. You remember that the rioting around the world?
You talk about the Charlie Hebdo later on in the book, why don't you remind our listeners just what that is? And then and then we can sort of talk the details later on. But but but remind our listeners, why you what it was and why you wouldn't want to get involved in that at first.
Yes, because you know, there were actually more than Charlie Hebdo was the more recent one where the satirical magazine was poking fun at the Prophet Muhammad. And it resulted in most of the cartoonists being murdered by a jihadist in Paris a number of years before A Danish newspaper did a very similar thing, publishing a number of mocking cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and that they too experienced threats. There was killings around the world, there was rioting around the world and my book, because it really talks about that harm that can come from spree free speech. I was concerned that it would be it would be intertwined with this anti Charlie Hebdo concern, which, which it isn't because I insults and offenses are not something that should interrupt free speech harm should. So I was afraid that I would the book would get tossed into this basket of Oh, I see. He doesn't believe that you should ever offend anyone. And speech can be used to offend and that is not what I'm saying. So that's why I waited a few years and now when it came out, we had something similar right with the Black Lives Matter movement, because it's a very similar argument. You know, you Today, literally today, if I were to say on your show that we should discuss, actually how many African Americans are killed by the police versus white Americans, that would be considered a racist question. If people would condemn me if I were to say, you know, we really should talk about the black on black crime in major inner cities, that would be shouted down as racist. And I say, Well, wait a minute. It's an idea. That is exactly the kind of ideas that belong in the marketplace of ideas. That's different from hanging a noose on a tree that's different from burning across on an African Americans lawn. And I'm talking about actual threats, incitement that can cause harm, and do cause harm, not insults and offenses.
Is it possible to have this conversation out of context? Is it possible to have a purely theoretical free discussion about the right of free speech or is it always gonna be bound into whatever political drama or social drama we're facing at any given moment.
Well, that's the interesting thing. You know, there's a paradox in the United States, we think of ourselves as a free speech, happy society. That is what distinguishes us from even other liberal democracies. In fact, the United States is an outlier, among other Western democracies, they would never put up with any of this. They wouldn't put up with Facebook abuses YouTube abuses, they wouldn't put up with the fact that the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers, learned how to make a bomb in their kitchen, right through YouTube. They wouldn't put up with Martin Nazis marching in Austria and Germany. If the Nazis wanted March. That's great. And then we marches straight to jail. That's where you go, we take you to jail. Here. We see this as one of the virtues of American democracy that of course Nazis Klansmen they should all March we saw what happened in Charlottesville. book would say I would argue that's not an idea that is clearly there an act of threat that's using words and signage to create incitement violence using words in a weaponized way to essentially deprive people of their citizenship, their sense of status in society, by making them in a position that they have to almost argue for their existence. That's different from the the idea of just speech itself now, but even though we are speech free, happy jack, at the same time, I pointed out in the book, that the hypocrisy because there's many, many examples where people don't believe in free speech, and then they don't recognize, you know, the paradox, by the way, the Colin Kaepernick situation that a protest that is now shifted, as you could see, that is now becoming everyone will take a knee. But in the book when I talk about that, I say, well, that's really not a first amendment issue at all, because he was simply trying to do Do something at work. The first amendment deals with the government infringing on your right, not the Dallas Cowboys infringing on your right. And an owner football team could make a decision how he wants his players or her players to be lined up at the national anthem. But you can see that many NFL fans wrote to the NFL and said, if they're going to be people taking a knee, we're not going to watch and the NFL commissioner was worried about this and told the owners about this. Well, if we're such a free speech, happy society, why would NFL fans say that? Why wouldn't they say, you know what, I don't agree with Kaepernick. I don't like him at all. But of course, the United States allows people to speak freely and if he wants to take a knee, let him take any so again, people speak very openly about the right to free speech, but sometimes when you test them, they demonstrate that they don't really mean it.
So so there was a lot in there, right. And and and then there are two threads and particular that I want to talk about first, the first recall something actually that that Jason Hill said on our show when he was talking about being an immigrant, a Caribbean, black man who comes to America. And he's talking about American exceptionalism. And he and he says that that Tallahassee coats is complaining about racist society and white supremacy said, But America is the only country where a black man can attack liberals call them horrendously racist, and the liberals will respond by applauding and cheering. Do you think that this unique perspective on free speech also qualifies as a form of American exceptionalism? Or do you think that it's immaturity or perversion? Is it is is is this something that we should strive for as an ideal, or is it something that's leading us astray? Well, your guess
was correct in that way, right. I mean, the United States You know, gets this bad rap as being a racist country. And yet yes, there are surely elements of racism. But at the same time, the point that he made that there is certainly the Black Lives Matter movement over the last three weeks is a real good example of the health of American democracy and the right to free speech. Because it's been there's been protests all over the all over the country. Look, the question really becomes much I think, more defined when you say, it's one thing to engage in Policymaking to deal with issues that relate to the public square. It's another thing when you're engaged in something that looks more violent, that looks like its intention is not to illuminate. It's not to inspire, it's not to educate. It's not to raise the consciousness moral consciousness. It's simply there to scare the crap out of other people. Right. And that is not what George Washington had in mind. That is not what Madison or talking Thomas Jefferson had in mind, that has been an abuse. So when you say the immaturity I think he's I see that as a post 1960s abuse of the, for the constitution for the prior till the 1960s jack, free speech was not this reckless, chaotic, right? It simply didn't exist. There were many, many examples where speech was more freely restricted in the 1960s with the explosion of civil liberties and civil rights, right in every single capacity. They also enlarge what it means to speak freely. And so it really is what I would argue a post 1960s access, which would have been very unfamiliar to a 19th century American.
So I'm curious about this idea of scaring the hell out of people because there are lots of people who will argue that a protest is has an implicit argument right we can we can make the analytic distinction between what people are saying in the protest or The protest being the right to assemble right still both elements of the First Amendment. But a lot of people are going to say, Well, look, sometimes you have to scare people in order to make some sort of implicit argument that they're not seeing that they have to get to in a different way. Do you think that things like protests? are arguments in ideas? Or do you think that they're separate and have to be examined with a different lens?
Look, it depends on what's being said at the protest. Right? To me, time places, the manner of the speech, the vehicle, the delivery mechanism of the speech. So for instance, in Paris A number of years ago, were there marchers that sing Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas, right, clearly, yes, that's a protest of some kind. But if they're marching behind that banner and that song, that's hate speech, and there's no idea there. There's simply hate Right, I actually say when President Trump in front of a rally of 20,000 people or however the numbers points to the press and says they're the enemy of the people, that's not free speech to me, the President is violating the poor principle for he thinks he's entitled his press, but I'm saying no, he's actually endangered other people simply because of the job that they do. If the if there are posters in the Black Lives Matter movement that says, kill the police, I don't think that's a consciousness raising way of protesting and I'm quite sure that's not what the founding fathers had in mind. And that's where we we blurred the lines. We centrally say that anything out of the mouth of a lunatic, anything that he or she wants to write on a poster, it's fair game. And I want to say Where do you get this? Where do you get this utter nonsense? No, not anything out of your mouth. Why isn't as you use the word worthiness I use the word also we're thinking special. So but The quality of the speech that we what is its purpose, its purpose is yes, there may be some ancillary benefit. Yes, we're also pointing out how upset we are. But its real purpose is to send a message of hostility, rage, threat, incitement and intimidation, focused on another group of people. That is different from writing an op ed, that's different from getting on a soapbox at the public square and raising an argument in favor of something. It's very different when you dress up in camouflage fatigues and and chant Jews will not replace us that I don't I'm quite sure has nothing to do with First Amendment protection. Although a federal court in Charlottesville did rule that the Charlottesville protesters had the right to be there at that time and to say whatever they wanted to say.
And you discuss the fact that even the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union has been struggling with this, that that they Are they are famous for, you know, defending any position and any outburst in the name of free speech? that that that they are reputed to be the first amendment version of what the NRA is to the Second Amendment. But But you document that even the ACLU was looking at these things in becoming a bit more uncomfortable, right?
Yes. In fact, I would say jack that the Charlottesville protests was a tipping point. And that's why I like the fact that that's when I ramped up to make sure the book would come out after that. Because I said here here, we're now at a tipping point where it if the ACLU that prided itself that it lost members in 1977, because they represented neo nazis marching on an enclave of Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois. And the By the way, just parenthetically, the lawyers for the ACLU happened to be Jewish, right. So you know, there are people 19 7070 This is the most twisted thing ever Jewish Lawyers working pro bono on behalf of the ACLU made it possible to re traumatize Holocaust survivors by giving Nazi neo nazis an opportunity to march on the on the village green of a small town and to have defenseless Holocaust survivors standing there going well, I guess they have the right to do that. Right. So when it came to the Charlottesville protests after the violence that took place, 200 ACLU lawyers signed a letter to the executive director and the president and said, Why are we doing this? Why aren't we you shouldn't be in the business of advancing equality. Why are we giving first rate pro bono representation to thugs? You know, why is this what we're doing? Why do we keep doing this? Yes, I think we, we used to be proud at it. But now we're wondering, Is this worth it? Is this really what our callings ought to be? There's an example again, of the kind of conflict that I think we have in the United States where we want to Talk a big game about free speech. But if you really ask people like those 200 lawyers at the ACLU, if you're asking them in their heart, and in their mind, they're saying, I don't see why we made it possible for that, for that protest to take place.
And one of the things he pointed out is that one of the standards that the ACLU ends up setting is that they're not going to defend people who use guns as part of their protest as part of making their point. Is that right?
That is a that's that's what happened as a concession, I believe, and I haven't talked to these 200 lawyers. I don't think that's what they were talking about. I actually think they went much much for that today we're talking about absolutely, we are not ever going to represent, you know, racists, white supremacists or just simply not in the business of representing the Klan. That's not what we do. And maybe we made a mistake in 1977. We should not be in the business of represent neo nazis. I think that those 200 lawyers were onto something. I think the leadership of the ACLU wanted to respond in some way. And they came up with that, you know, modification. But I think they were raising a more fundamental question. What is free speech mean? What does it mean? Does it mean it's about a true marketplace of ideas where our ideas are welcome. And what's not welcome is rage, anger, hatred, intimidation, incitement, harassment, racism, anti semitic, you know, these deliberate attacks against the citizenship and social status of other human beings. That is not simply not what the First Amendment is about is simply not would be completely unfair. A million million shocking to our founding fathers. If you told George Washington, who won who is one of the most improbable of 19th 18th century wars that The first amendment would eventually be used to protect someone who would burn an American flag in the face of a family whose son just died in combat defending this country, he would think you're out of your mind. He would say, no, that's not the first amendment. The first amendment
is come to the public square here public debate, ask your own questions, help you become more informed, and let's help the government become a better decision maker. When we get back from the break, I want to talk specifically about this. I want to talk about your notion of idea and your criticism of the marketplace of ideas, because I think it's super interesting and helps us parse at least some of the flaws in the chaos. But first, you're listening to Thane Rosenbaum and jack Russell Weinstein, and why philosophical discussions but everyday life We'll be back right after this.
The Institute for philosophy and public life bridges the gap between academic philosophy and the general public. Its mission is to cultivate discussion between philosophy professionals and others who have an interest in the subject regardless of experience or credentials. visit us on the web at philosophy and public life.org. The Institute for philosophy and public life because there is no ivory tower.
You're back with jack Russell Weinstein and Thane Rosenbaum on wide philosophical discussion to everyday life. We're talking about free speech, why it matters, its limits and whether it's worth the cost. Now, I may have told part of the story before on the show, but there's a new chapter that that just came out last week and it's follows almost 15 years ago exactly when my wife was pregnant, she was visiting her folks in North Carolina. And I was in Seattle doing some professional thing. And we got a phone call from a friend who lives across the street that someone had drawn a swastika on our sidewalk in front of our house. And we're the only Jewish family in the neighborhood. It was clearly very intentional. I called the police in Grand Forks and the police didn't take it seriously. They said, if you think you're in danger, call the Seattle Police. That's that's where you are. I happen to know the the captain of the police, because I worked with his wife. And through backchannels I got a little bit of attention and a little bit focus and they watched the house until we got back. And then they eventually found the people who did it. But they refuse to call it a hate crime and they refused to take it very seriously. So fast forward to a few months ago here in Grand Forks and there were a bunch of young people by the University who were sitting on On their roof of the house screaming white power slogans and trying to cause chaos. And the police charged with a hate crime. And it turned out a couple weeks ago in the city council, that some of the city council folks objected to the fact that they were calling it a hate crime. It was just people. Kids being kids, so to speak. And the police officer said, quite a while ago, someone drew a swastika on the sidewalk of a family's house and we didn't think it was a hate crime and the FBI came in and yelled at us and said, Of course it's a hate crime. It's a swastika. This is a hate crime because that's what the FBI says it is. We only heard this through gossip. I tell this story because I want to ask one question and lead into something else for you feign why is it important that this is a hate crime? Why does it matter? And what does it do to free speech? If drawing a swastika is considered hateful, as opposed to an expression of a white supremacist ideology,
well, let's go back to America as an outlier. Again, among liberal democracies, the one word, the most important word that doesn't appear in the Declaration of Independence or in the constitution is the word dignity, human dignity. It's not in there. If you look at the Constitution's of almost all of the countries throughout Europe and even other plate democracies, like Israel, dignity is a right human dignity is a right the French take it very seriously the Germans very, very seriously in their constitution, we do not. And so when I talk about harm, I'm not just talking about threatened violence, but also damage done to human dignity. The Weinstein's as the only Jewish family in that area, have the right to walk outside their house without being humiliated. In fact, or For that matter, that their sense of status in society is diminished. Or their sense of citizenship doesn't exist because they have to somehow fight with some haters that they have the right to live in this community to that we too We Weinstein's have rights to live here in peace. That is what I'm talking about. That's what the Europeans are talking about. There should be limitations on free speech, if the exercise of free speech is designed to do only one thing, deprive another human being of their human dignity. There's a great quote in the book from Lyndon Johnson during the civil rights era. And he said when a man it's a wonderful quote, right, jack, he says, a man and I was reminded of it when you gave me this Weinstein anecdote because I thought, a man has the right to go outside of his house with his children and not be humiliated in front of them. Why is that so hard to say? Why is that so hard to understand? Yes. And African American should not have to explain to their son and daughter Why there's a bunch of hooded people who just burned across across the street. We'll have to explain to them why this is a white supremacist ideology. The kid isn't going to sleep for the next two weeks. How about that? Is that really worth it? Tell the Klan to write an op ed. If they can, if they can spell. Ask them to write an offer. I don't think they can, but maybe it's a spelling problem. Ask the morons who are members of the clan or the neo nazi ask these morons? Please submit a letter to your local paper and explain why it is that you think affirmative action has deprived you of something you have some policy gripe about where blacks are in our society or where Jews are raised the debate. This business a burning process, marching with Heil Hitler, singing chanting slogans that are merely there to not just cause fear and intimidation but to is to strip people of human dignity. That is not that that should be balanced. The free speech right should be balanced against a corresponding right which other Western democracies recognize the right to human dignity.
It never occurred to me that one of the benefits of the KKK is that the members only need to know one letter. Right? Yeah.
Yeah. I love that.
Thank you. I'm, in a minute, I want to ask you about the sticks and stones retort because you have quite a few chapters and really interesting neuroscience about that. But first, I want to remark on something and have your reaction to it that, that I that I really responded to in the book, and I'll say it, and then I'll explain what I mean. It's a it's a book that is profoundly influenced by the Jewish experience. And that was surprising because in the last 20 or 30 years, certainly, yeah, I'd say the last 20 or 30 years, almost all the political philosophy books. I read almost all the public policy books that I read, when they talk about my artes, they've stopped talking about Jews, they talk about blacks, they talk about Muslims. They talk about a variety of LGBTQ folks, all of whom I think deserve all of the attention in the world. But this focus on Jews as minorities and Jews are victims of crimes, despite the fact that Jews are still the highest number of of hate crimes against Jews and religion. That's really disappeared. You talk about the Talmud, you talk about the experience of Jewish Americans and Jewish Europeans. What is it that the Jewish experience brings the book both positively and negatively? That allows you to see something that maybe other theorists haven't really acknowledged?
Well, remember, you know, the anti semitism is the world's oldest prejudice. So Jews have had a lot of experience around the whole world, not even once. They just really know that They really understand this in their bones. The irony, the paradox is that among the progressive left, Jews are just rich white people. They're just white people, and they're not entitled to any special accommodation, because they're white. And you know, years ago, there was a professor, I think, at Oberlin, who said, we shouldn't be teaching the Holocaust, because it's really nothing but white on white crime, which is a shocking statement, you know, but it fits into this, this narrative, this constant construct, that Jews are just white people, so we sort of forget which is why so much of what we see in the pub in our culture, as what would normally should obviously be considered anti semitic is not seen as anti semitic because it's committed against white skin people. And so the the endless efforts to to to illuminate the whiteness of Jews has really made it harder for the world or at least the United States to see them as victims of anything, but with respect to where they bring this person Conversation Well, they again, they've had more experience, you know, in the Tom and I talk about an actual provision that says that you can't shouldn't humiliate another human being. And this is really a medieval
construct. And let me interrupt for just a second. I'm sorry thing I just want for our listeners. The Talmud is one of the commentary texts that help explain the Hebrew Scripture. So it's the rabbi's talking to each other over thousands of years to explain the moral social and political content of the Holy Scriptures. So just for people who didn't know that,
yes, well said and I would add one thing to that jack and law right turn lane what right what Jewish law is and why. So when the rabbi's discussed why humiliation would violate Jewish law? They basically went to the you know, the the the anatomy of humiliation, and they said, it's tantamount to draining another human being over there blood. How do we know that? Well, the first thing that happens is when you you really hate someone, they turn around. White. And then after that they turn red. They understood this is the way the anatomy of human beings to do such a an attack. It's an assault against the human being, which fits in nicely to what you wanted me to talk about sticks and stones. We have an entire constitution dealing with free speech that is based on a nursery rhyme, right, a nursery rhyme that's the best we can do. Sticks and stones can break our bones but names cannot hurt us. Well, the ancient rabbis in medieval Jewish life actually said now Not really. This is this is really an act of violence against the near their human being. And we shouldn't treat it any differently and the fact that it doesn't leave a scar or a broken bone, or it doesn't leave injury to property. The fact that it doesn't leave necessarily tangible evidence of itself is not a reason to not to discount its act of violence. And by the way, you know, And we will talk a little about this more than neuroscience is unequivocal. If you break your arm five years later, you have no memory of what that felt like one year later, you have no idea. If you have been treated with this level of contempt it dignity, condemnation, revulsion exile, you'll never forget that.
This is exactly what I was gonna bring up, which is that that one of the things you talk about is that our laws about free speech are based entirely on the idea that physical harm is the only form of harm, but that the neuroscientists have shown that psychological pain can be relived at any moment that that trauma that that neurological trauma is ever present. And so these words, these experiences, and I will say, because I trust my listeners, that just by telling the story that I did, I can feel myself getting upset again, right. That's not something when I think about when I broke my nose or when I broke my arm or when I broke my finger. It doesn't bother me, but the neuroscientists have shown that Actually, the psychological harm in many ways outlasts and is much worse than the physical harm. But as you pointed out, our free speech laws assume exactly the opposite that physical harm is the only thing that needs to be regulated and that psychological harm does not.
JACK I hate to tell you it's worse than that. It's even worse than that. The this the medical, all the medical research is showing that it's not just the emotional mental harm, it's that it leads to physical sickness. I don't want to scare you frighten you. But it's, you know, that the evidence is very clear. It leads to all sorts of inflammation, and other kinds of things that actually bring about serious physical illnesses. You know, literally serious illnesses. There in the book, I talk about the list of the various things if a person has been exposed to particularly unremitting levels of indignity, you know, harassment, this actually beyond its emotional harm. It leads to physical harm. So for those people who say, Well, I need to see evidence of it, I'm not I hope jack doesn't actually experience or doesn't eventually encounter some physical harm that is, could be traceable to that one moment. And I suspect that for you, it would be unimaginable if this was going on weekly. Right? This happened once, if this was going on weekly, you can see how it would go even beyond the that would actually result in physical sickness, the science completely discounts, all of that argument about only physical harm should matter.
And this, of course, is part of the argument of Black Lives Matter. And we see when we look at rates of of illness in the African American community, that stress and diabetes and all these things that are often attributed simply to I talked about this in an earlier episode, food deserts and things like that is actually an illness response to the stress of day to day races and the stress of that Loss of dignity every minute of their lives in America,
our heart disease, hypertension, this is no joke. This is what we're now learning from scientists, that this is the outcome. Yes, the African American experience is without question. The fact that we have been even in areas of the civil cases forget criminal or civil cases dealing with the intentional infliction of emotional distress. It's rare case in the United States, that tort claim never really applies unless it accompanies a physical injury. But if you continue if you just use the N word again, someone for for a perpetual time that you don't ever have to you have never touched their body, there's no battery, you've done more than enough to cause a battery without ever actually physically touching them. And yet again, our legal system is only fixated on Show me the broken nose, show me the blue, you know, black eye, show me the harm that is that has a receipt to it. Don't tell me about it, show me the physical evidence of it.
And so part of the argument against the freedom of hate speech is that certain words like the N word, which you cite, are themselves by utterances, assaults, right? That the damage that we do by using these words by using these terms by insulting, the damage is real, even if it's not a fist hitting a face.
It's funny that you said fist, because we actually have a Supreme Court case from the 1940s szalinski versus the United States. It's never been used again, but it's still technically good law. Why we don't use it is because it interferes with the First Amendment. And basically, a Supreme Court justice Murphy said, Look, there's some speech utterances that have no value. He was literally saying there's no value their only purpose is to cause harm, or to to incite and another human being to retaliate. If the nature of the word is such that it might inspire another human being to retaliate in a physical sense, and has no value at all other than to cause harm, the First Amendment doesn't apply to that we've ignored this Supreme Court case for all of these decades.
So, I want to shift the conversation just a little bit when I was reading the book, I was preparing for the interview, but also being the philosopher that I am I was looking at at dichotomies, right. And so you have harm versus offense, which we've talked about and physical versus psychological harm, which we've talked about. You've also talked about speech versus ideas, and you say a numerous occasions that, that a lot of the utterances that we call that we claim are protected by free speech aren't because they're not ideas. What do you mean by ideas and why are they different than just anything that anyone says?
Well, the whole point of an idea is that advances government, culture, art, right? I mean, that's the value of that's what the marketplace of ideas is supposed to present, right? Its purpose. It's a very valuable marketplace, the better ideas will end up making us better as human beings. That's the purpose. And that's it's very simple. It's not you can, why can't you have a negative idea? You can, but it's not really an idea, right? If your idea is simply to eliminate another human being? Well, you know, I've said this for years, but you know, I debate you know, people like Nadine strossen, and she hates telling me, there's an idea in the neo nazis marching in Skokie, and I go, What idea What idea? Is there kill Jews? That's your idea. You know? And that's essentially what I'm saying that why is it that in every other marketplace, we allow, we feel the necessity for some market regulation, food, drugs, the way in which how fast we can drive on a highway. We recognize the need for somebody intervention by the government to smooth out the market, right to make it possible that people don't get harmed by taking any drug that is out there. And why is it that we're here willing are we couldn't possibly make those kinds of judgments? When we're saying Well, no, that's not really an idea. That's just an expression of hatred. And juries wouldn't have such a difficult idea. Time to say, well look, the been using the word N word every time the guy comes out of his house. I think that's not an idea. I don't think it's protected by the First Amendment. And I can even though I'm not black, I can see how that would be harmful psychologic especially if you introduced evidence of what I just said, the physical dimensions of this, I think most jurors would be comfortable to say, yeah, that's not really an idea. It's like we're afraid that no one could ever make a decision. You know, we put jurors in did making decisions over things like you know, dealing with nuclear energy or you know, brain science or things that they could never possibly understand. They become the Trier of fact. But when it comes to humiliation and dignity, they don't know how to make a decision. I think they really understand that. And I just think that that that idea. And also one last point here quickly is if it was really a marketplace of ideas that functioned like a real marketplace, then and if if in fact, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was right, that good ideas introduced into the marketplace will cancel out the bad ideas. Why do we still have neo nazis? Didn't that idea lose after world war two? wasn't that great idea of the master race? Wasn't it annihilated? It was no longer if it was an idea of the superiority, it ended. Why is it still with us in every other marketplace? jack, if I build a better toothbrush, yours will go out of business. Why is this one so permissive?
That was one of the really compelling and I think paradigm shifting discussions in the book, where you talked about the fact that Ideas first have one of the quotes you said was redeeming social importance. But then you talk about the fact that in a marketplace, if the defense is the way to respond to a bad ideas with a good idea, then how come the bad ideas don't disappear rotary phones have disappeared? the you know, the the Model T has disappeared. But But these these ideologies, and is this because since they're not ideas, there's no actual way to falsify them, there's no way to argue against them, because they're not really ideas in the first place is is is is that is part of the insight that if we're engaged in these op eds, if we're engaged in these arguments, if we're engaged in a critical debate, then there are ways to respond to evidence to logical inference and things like that, but These are not ideas since they're emotional hate filled assertions. There's no way to negate them. You just either have to put up with them or eliminate them.
Right or or actually permit the United States to pass legislation for hate crimes. You know, hate speech. hate speech itself is a crime. It is not. It is like shouting fire in a theater. It's like obscenity. It's like libel and defamation. That hate speech becomes another category of prescribed speech. Your speech is not limitless now. Students can't get up in a classroom and start making speeches, judges pound on their gavel if someone you know, interrupts the decorum. There's all sorts of examples of ways in which you can't just speak right now. You just can't speak you don't have the freedom. Nor can you shout fire in a crowded theater. You can shout fire in an uncrowded theater. But there's a reason why we won't let you do it in a crowded theater. The reason we have no remedy Because we're refusing to do a number of things, we're we're refusing to pass legislation that would make hate speech, a prescribed category that does not receive first amendment protection. We're refusing to apply szalinski versus the United States more broadly to these kinds of speech because the Supreme Court did speak about fighting words. That's where the fighting words doctrine comes from out of szalinski. We're not trying to pass we don't try to pass a constitutional amendment to add human dignity as an amendment as a right in the Bill of Rights. add one more. If you had human dignity, jack, then you have something to counterbalance. You're saying, well, there's nothing to do with this because they're not ideas. There's nothing we can do. But here, this hatefulness, I'm saying, well, we don't have to, we just decided to become so neutered have the capacity to respond in some legal way to protect other citizens.
So I'm going to ask the question backwards because the question will be ask is, what is it about free speech? And what I mean by that is, as I'm reading the book, and as you're talking about the patently false idea that the only way to get rid of a bad idea is is with with a good idea. And it really echoed to me the NRA notion that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It feels like the same thing. Now, folks on the left in particular, who are very strong proponents of the First Amendment, they often look at this second amendment and the NRA and think that's ridiculous and they scoff, but they are absolutist about the First Amendment, whereas the Second Amendment folks who are absolutist about gun rights are often not absolutist about the First Amendment. What is it about free speech, that liberals who otherwise believe that empathy and cross cultural understanding and respect for others is a cornerstone of their ideology. What is it about free speech? That that makes them adopt an analogous extreme version that they find so distasteful in the Second Amendment? Why what is it about free speech?
So Well said, jack, it's so true. It's fascinating. I joke with my students over the years they say, you know, first amendment absolutist and second amendment absolutist have nothing in common, except for one thing, this slippery slope argument and so they should go bowling together, because they both believe in lunatic things, you know, they both afraid of the same Boogeyman, the same Doomsday. What is the what is the second amendment person say, if you take away someone's ar 15 assault rifle, military grade that has no business in the hands of a civilian? The next day, I guarantee you'll come to my house and you'll take away my deer hunting rifle and that's my Right under the Second Amendment, and you would look at them and say, you're out, you're out of your mind. Right, you knew you knew what you just said was utter lunacy. Similarly, if you go arrest someone for using the N word unremittingly, you know, I'm pretty sure the next day you're gonna come to my house. And when I criticized President Trump, I will be thrown in jail. And you want to say, you're not you're I mean, you know, Unless Unless there's a military coup, you do understand that that isn't going to happen. So what we're really acknowledging in both instances, that the present system is not good. But we're fearful of what happens at the bottom of the slippery slope. That's where that argument, it's almost an acknowledgment, I understand. It's like the Second Amendment might admit, I kind of get the concept that we don't really need. I don't a gun owner may say, I don't own a machine gun. But I sort of see your point, but I'm not willing to risk what it might happen at the bottom of the slope. And it's exactly what liberals would say. Here. It's like yeah, I just think it's better to let that roll off your back, Mister African American, Mr. Jew, Mr. Muslim, just pretend it didn't happen just let it slide off your back. Because you know what the real sphere is that something I say Tomorrow will be seditious, and I'll be thrown in jail like I was under King George the Third. One of the things I say in the book is that literally we're everything all the Bill of Rights is an fpu to King George the Third. It's really an attack on him. King George the Third left of the new colonies America brain damaged and we've been brain damaged since King George's are everything that he did to us is what we've been babied into the Constitution, everything including the fear of sedition, the fear that the government will stop us from speaking, the fear that the government will not allow a free press and that fear of government involvement in interfering with law with civil liberties and and human rights. those fears is what guides Are permissiveness and liberalism when it comes to the First Amendment?
What is this? I don't know what the term would be race, memory, cultural memory. What keeps this fear so powerful in our collective minds? What Why? You know, Americans. I mean, we're going through a rough time right now. And the economy has been back and forth since 2008. And in some really bad ways. But at the same time, Americans are one of the credible standard of living one of the richest countries in the world all sorts of freedoms and opportunities that at least Americans claim other countries don't have. yet we're a deeply unhappy people were deeply jealous people were now a deeply angry people. What is it that keeps this fear From the 18th century alive in our minds, is it? Is it the harmful free speech and the and the propaganda on on the television on the internet? Or or is it institutionalized? Why is this fear? governess? Do you have any sense?
I do, actually, I think it is it extends beyond free speech. And it even explains and capsulate why the second amendment issue and other issues as well freedom of religion. You know, look, there is a rugged American individualism that has been with us from the very early days of this country, the Declaration of Independence. And this is something you'll love because this is this is the show for philosophers and the general public that's interested in big ideas that only jack Russell Weinstein could give them. But here's one, here's your here's another one. Why did Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence change what was a very perfectly acceptable sentence by john Locke written a while earlier, can't remember how many years earlier life liberty and property Why did Jefferson go to the trouble of going life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? What was it about property that didn't cover it for him? What is it that he needed to do? This word pursuit of happiness sort of inspires a kind of rugged, competitive, winner take all knocked down zero sum, you know, encounters, that it's you and me mano de mano, we're gonna race this thing out. And this is why you see like, we don't want the government interfering. We don't want you crying like a baby. If someone insults you, we want to maintain a certain level of of, you know, Western expansionism, right. I mean, think about the American myth of the West, right? This sort of ruggedness, john wayne, right. These are the images Rambo. These other countries don't do this. We do this, you know, people that can live off the land. This idea is very much In my view, from the very beginning, from the Declaration of Independence, so when it comes to speech, we should be able to tolerate hate speech, when it comes to guns, we should be able to tolerate that some civilians are going to walk around with AR assault rifle fifteens. When it comes to, you know, religious liberty, we have this other sense that we're going to have to tolerate this, because this is, you know, this is what it means to have the spirit of America in us.
This This makes me think of another observation in the book that you write that the First Amendment was never intended to favor the speaker over the listener. Can you explain that and why that's an important shift that we might have to make.
Well, jack, you know, if you read the correspondence of the founding fathers, it's fascinating when it comes to speech. The first amendment when they were debating this out Federalist Papers, remember the Constitutional Convention when they were arguing the speech wasn't even in the First Amendment. was an afterthought. They were really concerned about free press, and freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. speech was tossed in at the end only because three states Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York, and I can't remember might have been Vermont, in their state constitutions added speech. So first of all, that's number one. Number two, when the founding fathers discussed speech, they always said, Yes, of course, the right to free speech as long as it does not interfere with other rights in the Bill of Rights. What other rights or responsibilities of citizenship is there that we should moderate in a way that doesn't allow speech to trample over those other rights? The Founding Fathers always referred to the sense of the balancing of the right. We have lost that sense. Our sense now is speeches like having a full house, you know, Jacks loaded or whatever the best, the best hand you can get in the United States. If you're making a free speech argument. You'll probably Defeat anyone elses claim that they've been harmed or their other rights have been interfered with. And so the question is, why did we get to this point? Because we didn't start out this way. Why did we forget that the founding fathers recognized that we needed to moderate rights, we needed to neutralize how rights get deployed, we need to see of the not just the rights, but the reciprocal duties of citizenship. It's not just your right to trash me in the public as a Jew, it's also your duty to make sure that I feel welcome here. In order for you to have these rights, you have reciprocal duties, we don't have that sense at all. We have a knockdown, drag out, gladiatorial way of exercising our rights, which my mind is very American.
One of your paradigm cases in the book that shows the absurdity of the free speech trumping all other rights is your discussion of the West Baptist Church and it's protesting of funerals. We remind everyone what the context is what that is, and explain why this is such an important case, intuitively, for the way that our sense of free speech may have gone too far.
I'd be happy to jack as long as your audience has in mind, my head will explode.
You know, it's audio. We won't see it.
Yeah, I mean, the fact that I won't be here, I will not materialize. This case just drives me insane. Why it was an eight to one decision. There's no swing vote here, jack, the Supreme Court 82181 only Justice Alito said that a a homophobic, gay bashing hateful church in Kansas that is opposed to homosexual outside homosexuality in any form, but especially homosexuality in the military. I feel so strongly about this policy. decision to allow homosexuals to serve in the military, that they travel around the country and attend at a distance with a permit a military funeral where they hold up signs that says, god hates fags. God hates America. God likes 911. This is their size. And cider versus Phelps, the father of this dead marine was very aware that they were protesting off to the side where he could either see them or off to, you know, not be obscured, but they were there decided to file there was there was no they had a permit. There was nothing criminal about it. He signed, he filed a civil case for emotional distress. And he received a multimillion dollar award and went to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court said, Well, you can't really use our courthouses government buildings to end up defeating someone's right to speak their mind politically. They're opposed to homosexuality. What are you Want me to do they deprive this man of his one opportunity, last opportunity to say goodbye to his son, who served two tours of duty on behalf of this country? Do you think George Washington thought the First Amendment protected that the man who led the colonial army? Do we really believe that that that's what he understood? Again, if you're opposed to gay serving in the military, there are other manners. They're literally using good manners, using other ways of deploying that argument. But traveling around the country to disrupt and and Mar and stain the funerals of Oh, by the way, you know, it's important thing I not that it should matter. The boy that was the man young man who was bear, he wasn't gay. They don't care if you're gay. They'll go to any military funeral to make this point. shouldn't matter but he wasn't gay. They don't care. And so the Supreme Court here you go left and right when it comes to the First Amendment, our even our supreme Horses justices are out of their minds. You know, there's literally only Alito with literally saying, Wait a minute, you want to interfere with a state court jury, a jury of peers in the state that decided that Mr. Phelps, or Mr. Snyder, I can't remember who was Phelps and Snyder was truly damaged on that day of HIPAA federal his funeral. And we as a state, citizens of this, we want to award this remedy. The Supreme Court thought, No, no, no, we're not going to give a jury the right to award this to this man. Because we believe that the rights the first amendment rights of the church outweigh any other interests that could be galvanized here.
So what does legislation look like? that balances free speech and dignity and psychological harm, and the right to privacy which is one of the things that was violated in The funeral in your sense of of what we can do, what does legislation look like? How do we, how do we create something that has? You know, obviously, it's subject to interpretation, but reasonable boundaries? What does this look like? If it's not a free for all? How do we articulate what's good and what's bad free speech?
Well, first check. I want to thank you for reminding your audience that the family insider versus Phelps was the proprietor their right to privacy, right, which means it's the same, right? That's a pro abortion that favors abortion and favours interracial marriage and favors contraception. You know, this was a right that the Supreme Court had recognized. And it's hard to argue that this wasn't a right to privacy he had to bury his son. And the answer is yes, but it's going to be canceled out by the free speech. Right. So so thank you for pointing that out. In terms of what could be done, which I think is not going to be done, but could be done again, We have hate crimes but we don't have hate speech codes. Meaning we have in our system that if you commit a crime a regular crime, but at the end during the commission of the crime, you say something hateful against the racial group or sexual disparagement, we can we can increase the punishment of the crime, because the hate crime dimension was added to it. That's how hate crimes work. And you know, most people don't realize that it's just simply says it's an add on, we can add on more punishment because when you when you use the bat against this guy and smashed his head in, it was no longer just assault and battery. We have a hate crime added to it because you call them a stinking Jew. Right. So that's how that works. We don't have speech codes, we see them as being unconstitutional. I don't think they are. I think that they should be added to the category that we presently have of prescribed categories of speech that does not receive a constitutional protection and does not in any way impinge on on Liberty. So it would be like obscenity and and and shouting fire in a theater and the incitement to imminent lawlessness these are all categories jak fighting words, libel and defamation and hate speech. Okay, so that's one possibility. Another possibility much more ambitious would be the past a constitutional amendment to add dignity to the, to the bill of rights to the Constitution. Here's another you Everyone has the right to human dignity, to enjoy the sense of the peacefulness of being a citizen, so that they can enjoy their rights and peace and not be harassed. That's such a terrible thing. The French do it though Germans do it that we recognize that you have a right to live in peace and to feel like you are a true citizen of this country and have knit your social status not diminished by someone's hatred towards you. And then the third, which I think it's the simplest thing of all, is there is a Supreme Court case chaplinsky versus united states that introduces the fighting Words doctrine, and we should start applying it again, we should start it says the word. Some words have, you know, have no utterances that have no value. They're not a step to the truth. I love the line that the Justice use. It doesn't give you a step to the truth, which shows you that's what ideas are for, to bring us closer to the truth, again, social redeeming value, art, culture, politics, making us a better society. If the word is not a step, the language you're using is not to the step to the truth, it's there merely to cause harm, or to cause someone to retaliate and violence against you. We don't protect that. So those are three categories, three different ways to approach this. And I seriously doubt we'll ever consider any of them.
So I I do want to push you on one question because you talk about it in the book and because it's a very, very common topic today, among some folks who will say use phrases although I think that's a problematic phrase like, you know, political correctness gone awry. There are speech codes at many universities that you criticize and others criticized as going too far. And so why would a speech code on the on the federal level be acceptable? But a university speech code might not be what what's the difference between those two things? And why is that different so important?
Well, frankly, first of all, jack speech codes on campuses specific, particularly at state colleges are unconstitutional and are struck down. Because if it's a State College, it's essentially the government. Right? So the government is infringing infringing, that has also been applied to many of the private schools as well. They received federal funding. So it's not that there's our speech codes on canvas. It's that there is this kind of a discretionary enforcement built around intersectionality right the idea of microaggressions trigger warnings, the safety of the students Students need to be coddled and safe and feel nice and and hugged. And so that's where it's become where we have these rules that that are not about imposing hate crimes, but are simply there to say the culture of this campus will not tolerate things that make students sad or insulted or offended. And I'm saying, as I said, with the Danish cartoons, I'm not talking about offense. I'm not talking about insult. I'm talking about harm, in dignity, harm, incitement. You want to want to discuss terrorism within Islamic societies, that is an idea that a university should be discussed. Do you want to post a sign on an Muslims door, get out of campus towel head, that kid should be suspended there's no free speech right to that. Muslims get out that there's no free speech that that to me. I Don't under that. The fact that that's even permitted that even someone would say there's an idea. But if you want to have a discussion in a political science class, even about the Mohammed cartoons, right? I mean, look, you know, the Mormons live with, you know, the Book of Mormon on Broadway. It's been traveling around the world, you know, Jews are constantly mocking Moses because of his speech impediment. You know that in a liberal democracy, your profit is likely to get especially if your profit is political, right? Because Islam is both a religious and a political movement. So to say that you can't just have these discussions, because a Muslim Student would be sad or offended or he'll feel that it's Islamic phobic. I don't agree. I think that's an idea that's in the marketplace of ideas that that can easily be challenged. Like, for instance, not all Muslims. Of course, they're not all terrorists, yes. But you do have 65% of round Muslim societies that believe in a strict adherence to Sharia law. These are important issues that should be discussed in a university campus. It can't be you can't discuss them because it'll upset someone or insult them that's different from creating a climate where they are fearful, or they feel like a second class person. They are not a second class person simply because terrorism is being discussed that can't possibly it's unworkable in a university setting. And so that's where the difference is, I don't believe in trigger warnings and safe spaces and microaggressions I believe in things that are at produce actual harm, not discomfort.
I will say that you have this lovely little anecdote in the book that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints took out a full page ad and in the Book of Mormon playable, that says you've seen the play now come to the church, I you know, that may be like them so much more that there is there there is something that you said in passing that I also think is probably relevant, which is you talk about the discretionary role of the authorities to say this is going to make people sad. This is not one of the tenants of one of the core tenants and philosophy of law is that laws cannot be arbitrarily applied and that they cannot be applied to, to it some individuals and not others. And so it seems like the the climate that you're describing in the universities also violate this that if some people are sad, and then a new class of freshmen come in, and they're not sad, then the rules don't have to work. And so so there's something about the code that is is arbitrary, in its discretion, and that makes for very bad loss,
or over protective in the sense that over inclusiveness, cat matters. And so therefore, we're over protected. We don't even know if it's gonna cause you sadness, but we think it might. For instance, in the book, one of my other anecdotes that I found shocking is that the University of California system, I think I have this right and it's been a while since I tend to read the book. But there's one anecdote. It's something like this. Where the Chancellor from the chancellor's office to the university president to create the understanding of a trigger warning in the words Merry Christmas, right? Yes, because that might right, because that might make some people sad and feel insulted. And I'm thinking what? Merry Christmas, or you know, or God bless America. I forgot what else it is. America is a democracy, something like that, that you can't use the word America is a democracy, because some people disagree with this and it'll upset them in a university. Yes, you should debate whether it's a democracy. I happen to think it's the it's the strongest democracy on the planet by far, but you may disagree. You may think it's a racist society that has that is completely anti democratic and unprogressive and should be ripped out from the roots. Okay, we got we now we got a discussion on campus. But that's different from saying you can't say God Bless America, or you can say America is a democracy
years ago on the wire, To blog pd.org I wrote an entry asking whether or not college students or adults and I think that this is one of the key questions here is, is how far is the paternalism What do we consider there's there's a phrase that people now use for college students which makes me cringe, which is emerging adulthood. I find it incredibly condescending. But all of this is to say that this is such a tremendously rich topic. And the take that you have on it is really valuable in a time when this stuff, the nuances are incredibly important. And I will tell the audience that like your book on revenge, like your novels and your other scholarly work, this is a very, very accessible book. This is not a highly technical, dense philosophical treatise. It really is a book for everybody who's interested in big ideas and who's interested in the context and how it relates to today. So I am thrilled to I have had access to you even though it means that you couldn't travel the country to meet people in person. And so thank you. Thanks so much for joining us for what was again, a challenging spirited and super interesting conversation.
Thank you, jack. I really admire what you do. And this program is just first rate. And I know from experience I appear on all of them. So this one is really special and it's always really special and fun talking to you. So thank you, jack for inviting me.
And I hope that when the next book comes out, you'll you'll join us again.
Of course, if you'll have me, of course,
you have been listening to jack Russell Weinstein and Thane Rosenbaum on why philosophical discussion of day life. We'll be back with a few more thoughts right after this.
Visit IPP ELLs blog pq Ed, philosophical questions every day. For more philosophical discussions of everyday life. Comment on the end And share your points of view with an ever growing community of professional and amateur philosophers. You can access the blog and view more information on our schedule our broadcasts and the y radio store at www dot philosophy and public life.org.
You're back with why philosophical discussions in everyday life I'm your host jack Russell Weinstein, we were talking with Thane Rosenbaum about free speech and asking whether it was worth it. And we were talking about the limits of free speech and the ways in which free speech can cause unseen harm and remove the dignity of human beings. Thane argued that we should have some sort of regulation that narrows the freedom that we have, because that freedom has to be balanced with others. There was something that he said in passing, that I thought was really beautiful. He said that we need the opportunity to enjoy the peacefulness of being a citizen. Now, this is actually a fairly radical idea. If you read political philosophers, especially in the last 20 to 30 years, they will talk about the role of conflict in a political society. That political society is about the clash of ideas, and about the clash of cultures, and that what a diverse society should be as a society where people are engaged with one another in difficult ways. And I'm very sympathetic to that. I'm a philosopher I like to argue. But at the same time, it completely erases that there is something else about a political community that's important, and that is the safety and calmness of having a home and a community. Right, the very first modern Social Contract thinker Thomas Hobbes argued that we have a community because nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short that the life we live without community is awful. And that the goal of community is to calm some of that down. And if we look at free speech solely in terms of the conflict of society and the clash of ideas, we forget that the reason why we live with other people, is to assist other people is to be secure in our beings is to flourish as full human beings and to be calm and happy. We should enjoy the peacefulness of being a citizen, we should enjoy the freedom to mourn our dead, we should enjoy the privacy to have the lives that we want without being assaulted, verbally, psychologically. Visually and of course, physically in the street. Freedom of speech is incredibly important. It is a cornerstone of a democracy, it is necessary for political participation. But just because we are free to speak, doesn't mean we are free to say anything. And that's where the philosophical problems come in. And that's where things perspective ends up being so valuable. We need to enjoy the peacefulness of being a citizen. And in order to do that, we have to make sure that some things are just not said. You've been listening to jack Russel Weinstein on why philosophical discussions about everyday life. If there's something that you liked, please tag us on your social network and share it with friends. Please come back next month. And as always, it's an honor to be with you.
Why is funded by the Institute for philosophy and public life Prairie Public Broadcasting in the University of North Dakota's College of Arts and Sciences and division of Research and Economic Development skipwith is our studio engineer. The music is written and performed by Mark Weinstein and can be found on his album Louis soul. For more of his music, visit jazz flute weinstein.com or myspace.com slash Mark Weinstein. Philosophy is everywhere you make it and we hope we've inspired you with our discussion today. Remember, as we say at the Institute, there is no ivory tower.