A Debate on Free Speech


I recently accepted an invitation from Jeffrey Rosen at the National Constitution Center to talk with my University of Chicago colleague Geoffrey Stone about the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan,¬†establishing the standards by which reporting about public officials can be considered to be defamation or libel.

In this conversation, we discuss whether this was a positive step forward for the free press or whether it needs to be revisited. Hear the debate below:


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  1. captainpower Member

    Will give it a listen.

    Not sure if you opined before and I missed it, do you have any thoughts on the Proposition 8 backlash.

    It seems to me that transparency in donations leaves private individuals open to retaliation.

    Is there an American concept of free speech that extends beyond the constitutional right to criticize one’s government.

    Is there a right to vote without repercussions? To donate?


    This thought has been percolating a bit with me, and was brought to the forefront again when a tech company’s new CEO selection was held up because of his donation to Proposition 8 several years ago.

    It’s true that free speech as a legal doctrine is one thing. But there’s also a sense we have in a liberal society that we should be able to hold unpopular opinions without being kicked out of society. We make exceptions for unpopular opinions that are so abhorrent as to violate our deepest values and the foundations of that free discourse. What you’re saying is that being opposed to the LGBT movement is that abhorrent. That’s why people come out of the woodwork complaining.


    He eventually issued an apology of sorts.


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  2. user_250947 Inactive

    Thanks for fascinating debate, hope the next one is aired.

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