WXXI AM News

free speech

Can speech be violent? That's a common point of debate on college campuses and in social justice circles, where many activists argue that some speech is not just offensive; it's dangerous. Libertarians tend to argue that the answer to speech is more speech, and that speech is not violence.

Our guests discuss how they view speech and its potential limits, including where the government should or should not step in. In studio:

Two British newspapers expressed their shock over “thin-skinned, liberal foot-stomping millennials” sympathizing with the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The newspapers say these “snowflakes” claiming the monster was a misunderstood victim shows how idealistic today’s students can be. It’s just one example in a list of classic works that the newspapers say millennials are misinterpreting. The other titles include “Animal Farm,” “Lolita,” “Lord of the Flies,” and more.

What do you think? Do you agree with the newspapers that these millennials are just “too touchy?” Or are they right, and do their perceptions serve as a Rorschach test for how they view criminal justice, the #MeToo movement, and more? Our guests discuss these questions and the role of classic literature. In studio:

  • Lester Friedman, retired professor and former chair of the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and co-author of “Monstrous Progeny”
  • Karen van Meenen, senior lecturer in the Department of English at RIT, and coordinator of the Rochester Reads and Debut Novel Series programs at Writers & Books
  • Jamie Rudd, AmericaCorps volunteer for the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
  • Katherine Varga, playwright and SummerWrite coordinator for Writers & Books

On Wednesday, NFL owners voted in a new national anthem policy. The policy states that if players kneel on the field or sidelines, their teams will be fined, but players are allowed to remain in the locker room while the anthem is played.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is pleased with the decision, saying the protests created a “false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.” President Trump is also applauding the policy, but says it doesn’t go far enough. He says he doesn’t think players should be staying in locker rooms to protest, and if a player is not standing for the anthem, “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

This hour, our guests discuss the new policy and what it means in the context of free speech. Our guests:

  • Simeon Banister, interim vice president of community programs at the Community Foundation
  • Chris Thomas, partner with Nixon Peabody
  • Matthew McGee, U.S. Coast Guard (retired), and marketing, events, and development manager for the Veterans Outreach Center
  • Paul Vosburgh, head coach of the St. John Fisher Football team

Are TV ad boycotts an effective way to protest speech? The question comes after a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida called on advertisers to boycott Laura Ingraham's show on Fox News because Inghram mocked him on Twitter. Student David Hogg put pressure on a number of advertisers to pull their ads; about half of them did. Ingraham called the approach a "Stalinist" approach to change society, while other critics said the best way to counter speech is with more speech.

So what is the most effective way to protest speech? Our guests weigh in:

  • Chris Thomas, partner with Nixon Peabody
  • Wes Renfro, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at St. John Fisher College

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, police and prosecutors are trying to determine what constitutes a credible threat. In a video posted to YouTube called "School Shooter," a local rapper insulted police and referred to recent mass casualty events. Now he's facing a legal battle and a potential long prison sentence.

But many local attorneys argue that police and prosecutors are overstepping, and infringing on protected speech. Who's right? Our guests:

  • Mark Foti, chair of the Monroe County Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, and former public defender
  • Chris Thomas, partner with Nixon Peabody
  • David Andreatta, columnist for the Democrat & Chronicle

Cornell University is launching a new First Amendment Clinic, which will examine real cases that involve free speech and freedom of the press. The clinic will also conduct research regarding recent free speech issues. Our guests discuss the current state of the First Amendment and how it's approached in politics, journalism, and social media. In studio:

  • Scott Malouf, attorney whose practice is focused on the intersection of social media and the law
  • Jack Rosenberry, journalism professor at St. John Fisher College

We have a discussion about a racist tweet written by a student at MCC. The student doesn't represent MCC, its student body, or its faculty, but he is part of the MCC community. 

The tweet raises a number of questions: What is free speech and what isn't? What is the responsibility of MCC or other institutions that have faced similar issues? If such issues are matters of free speech, do institutions have any power to act? Should they? Our guests weigh in. In studio:

  • Anne M. Kress, president of MCC
  • Lloyd Holmes, vice president of student services and chief diversity officer at MCC
  • Demario Brantley, sociology professor and Latin American Academy Fellow at MCC
  • Daniel Skerritt, president of the MCC Student Events and Governance Association 

Are college campuses infantilizing students by teaching them to shut out any speech they don't like? A growing number of academics -- from the right, yes, but also from the political left -- say yes.

RIT is hosting a symposium this week that focuses on the value of free speech for everyone on campus. And while RIT's Joseph Fornieri acknowledges that his own views lean left, he is a staunch defender of the value of hearing all points of view.

We discuss recent incidents on campuses, as well as the debate over who should be welcome to speak. Our guests:

  • Alan Charles Kors, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
  • Joe Fornieri, professor of political science and director of RIT’s Center for Statesmanship, Law and Liberty
  • Richard Feldman, professor of philosophy, and dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Engineering at the University of Rochester
  • David Primo, associate professor of political science and business administration, and associate department chair and director of graduate studies at the University of Rochester