Americans cling bitterly to free speech rights

by Walter Olson on September 26, 2012

University of Chicago lawprof Eric Posner was just kidding in this Slate piece, trying to make us see how craven and unworthy some of his colleagues in the legal academy are for seeking to temper our First Amendment liberties in deference to opinion abroad. Right? Right? [David Frum, Julian Sanchez on Twitter, Andrew Stuttaford, Robert Shibley] Related: Matt Welch.

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PointOfLaw Forum
09.27.12 at 8:50 am
“Scapegoating Free Speech” - Overlawyered
09.29.12 at 10:00 am
Must avoid offense (on penalty of …) - Overlawyered
10.09.12 at 8:15 am

{ 8 comments }

1 ShelbyC 09.26.12 at 2:31 pm

Posner’s article caused me to become so angry that I broke a chair belonging to my employer. Shoud I send the bill to the University of Chicago, or to Posner himself?

2 Matt 09.26.12 at 3:48 pm

Eric apparently has all of Richard’s taste for controversy and none of Richard’s ability to tie together a dozen unrelated points in convincing readers that his outrageous argument is meritorious.

3 DEM 09.27.12 at 10:34 am

It is good that we have learned law professors who can make very sophisticated arguments against the right for the unwashed masses to speak their minds.

One simply must appreciate how Posner manages to utterly cheapen the Bill of Rights:

“We have to remember that our First Amendment values are not universal; they emerged contingently from our own political history, a set of cobbled-together compromises among political and ideological factions responding to localized events.”

You see, free speech is not a natural right, but a a cobbled-together compromise, little different from, say, zoning laws or the federal budget (when we used to actually have a budget). If we cobble together a different political compromise, then, poof! — no more free speech. I do wonder, however, if Posner would call the right to abortion a cobbled-together compromise.

4 Black Death 09.27.12 at 1:23 pm

How delightful that Professor Posner compared those who exercise their right to free speech to police firehosing civil rights demonstrators or enforcing Jim Crow laws. And I’m sure that Ronald Reagan deeply offended many in the USSR when he referred to their country as the “Evil Empire.” It was shameful of him not to be more sensitive to their feelings.

5 David Smith 09.27.12 at 9:20 pm

The rest of the world (and I mean ALL, especially the French) thinks the US is insane.

Truth as an absolute defense (merde, of all the countries in the world, ONLY the US has that)
Right to bear arms (ridiculous, governments don’t get out of control)
Freedom of the press (scandalous, (in the rest of the world, only the “paper” press is usually free the electronic media is tightly controlled for the good of the state, but the country still claims freedom of the press)
Jury nullification (HOW can the commoners judge the law better than the agents of le goveurnment?)

Somehow they never admit those unique “stupidities” may be why we became the greatest nation in history (up to now).

6 Richard Nieporent 09.27.12 at 10:50 pm

So according to Eric Posner we need a more nuanced approach to free speech. You can say anything you want as long as it doesn’t upset anyone. Yes that should work fine.

7 Jesse Spurway 09.28.12 at 10:41 am

my experience is that most people do not believe in freedom of speech…for other people.
the recent Sons of the Confederacy license plate brouhaha in TX is a good example: can’t have the good name of TX marred by allowing a SotC state plate, and we’ll spend whatever it takes to have the SCOTUS over turn our decision.

8 David Smith 10.01.12 at 6:49 pm

On a wall in Berkeley (and yes, I think it was a joke):

“We must silence those who oppose freedom of speech!”

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