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Free Speech Theory

Understanding the Controversies


Edited By Helen J. Knowles and Brandon T. Metroka

The rallying cry of "Free speech!" has long served as a touchstone for liberals and conservatives, alike, engaged in political polarization conflict and discourse. The democratization of media and the feverish pitch of political polarization, however, have contributed to the weaponization of free expression. From Colin Kaepernick to "fake news," boycotts of partisan television programming to removals of Confederate monuments, internet neutrality to the silencing of college professors and all points between, citizens and pundits all too frequently wield the slogan of "Free speech!" as the sword and shield of political discourse. Oftentimes, ironically they do so with little regard for the views of their opponents. As a result, society risks trading a substantive value for an empty slogan or, far worse, blind authority.To rediscover the underlying assumptions and social values served by free expression, and to move current controversies beyond rhetorical flourishes, Helen J. Knowles and Brandon T. Metroka assemble an impressive group of legal and political scholars to address one overarching question: "Why should we value free speech?" Through analyses of several recent controversies invoking concerns for free expression, the contributors to this volume make complex political theory accessible, informative, and entertaining. Beginning with internet neutrality and ending with an overview of developing free expression controversies in comparable western democracies, experts reestablish the link between free expression and the underlying values it may serve. In doing so, this volume unearths values previously unexamined in our modern—but increasingly impoverished and bitter—political discourse.

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Keith J. Bybee is Vice Dean and Paul E. and the Hon. Joanne F. Alper ‘72 Judiciary Studies Professor at the Syracuse University College of Law. He is also Professor of Political Science in SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. His most recent book is How Civility Works (Stanford, 2016).

Nathan Carrington is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and a research associate with the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. His research interests include American law and courts, political psychology, and the freedom of speech.

Ian Cram is Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law, School of Law, Leeds University, in the United Kingdom. His research interests lie in the field of constitutional protection for free speech. He has published widely in this area. He currently serves on the Board of Editors of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

James C. Foster is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Oregon State University (OSU)—Cascades. During thirty years of service at OSU (1985–2015), Foster held several administrative positions and presided over several professional organizations. Foster’s dissertation, The Ideology of Apolitical Politics: Elite Lawyers’ Response to the Legitimation Crisis of Liberal-Capitalism, 1870–1920, was published in 1990 as part of the Distinguished Studies in American Legal and Constitutional History Series. Foster also authored BONG HiTS 4 JESUS: A Perfect Constitutional Storm in Alaska’s ←239 | 240→Capital (2010) and, with...

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