Roosevelt House welcomes Nadine Strossen, the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Constitutional Law at New York Law School, who will discuss her new book, HATE: Why We should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship. The talk marks the start of Free Speech Week, a yearly event to raise public awareness of the importance of free speech in our democracy, and to celebrate that freedom in a non-partisan, non-ideological way.

Strossen, the first woman President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), dispels misunderstandings plaguing our perennial debates about “hate speech vs. free speech,” and argues that the First Amendment approach promotes democracy, equality, and societal harmony. In Strossen’s view, we hear too many incorrect assertions that “hate speech”—which has no generally accepted definition—is either absolutely unprotected or absolutely protected from censorship. As she will discuss, U.S. law allows government to punish hateful or discriminatory speech in specific contexts when it directly causes imminent serious harm. But government may not punish such speech solely because its message is disfavored, disturbing, or raises vague concerns about future harm. When U.S. officials formerly wielded such broad censorship power, they suppressed dissident speech, including equal rights advocacy. Likewise, current politicians have attacked Black Lives Matter protests as “hate speech.”

Citing evidence from many countries, Strossen shows that “hate speech” laws are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. As Strossen will discuss, the best way to resist hate and promote equality is not censorship, but rather, vigorous “counterspeech” and activism.

Nadine Strossen – HATE: Why We should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship | Posted on October 16th, 2018 | Book Discussions, Public Programs