How Absolute Free Speech Upholds White Male Supremacy
Caitlin Ring Carlson in Conversation with Andrew Keen on Keen On
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In this episode, Andrew is joined by Caitlin Ring Carlson, author of Hate Speech, to discuss legal approaches, current controversies, and suggestions for limiting its spread.
From the episode:
Caitlin Ring Carlson: In the United States, we tend to place the right to free expression above all else, and that choice has consequences. I argue in the book—and this is really, again, drawing off the work of Mary Anne Franks—that that commitment to the First Amendment, to free expression without exception, has worked to uphold white male supremacy. There are countless instances where more expression is actually damaging to the political participation or livelihood of women and people of color. And yet we continue to choose that time and time again.
And so I think moving forward in the future, we really need to think deeply about how we protect free expression but also recognize rights like equal protection under the law or human dignity. And I think there are ways to do that. As I said earlier, I’m not somebody who necessarily thinks the government should be in a position to determine what is or isn’t hate speech. But I do think we have really effective civil procedures, tort laws in this country—we’re the most litigious society in the world. The fact that you can’t necessarily successfully sue someone for intentional infliction of emotional harm around speech or conduct like this, I find problematic. And so I recommend that we explore some of these existing tort laws to sue, much like we allow people to sue for defamation, injury to reputation. Why would we not recognize the injury of the harm caused by hate speech?
Caitlin Ring Carlson is Associate Professor in the Communication Department at Seattle University. Her research focuses on media law, policy, and ethics from a feminist perspective. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Venture Beat, as well as such leading academic publications as the Journal of Media Law and Ethics.