WXXI AM News

free speech

Warren, city of Rochester sued over curfew

Jul 24, 2020

Stanley Martin, a lead organizer with Free the People Roc, an activist group that’s recently been at the center of Rochester’s Black Lives Matter movement, is suing Mayor Lovely Warren and the city of Rochester over the curfew enacted by the mayor on July 15. She’s joined in the suit by the Rochester chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

What is Facebook's role when it comes to vetting news stories and political ads? Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Mark Zuckerberg recently debated the issue. Facebook’s current policy for political ads allows politicians to lie, and it doesn’t fact-check, but recent cases have tested the limits of that policy, and Facebook has made exceptions. Meanwhile, Twitter has decided to ban all political ads in advance of the 2020 election. 

This hour, our guests discuss the issues, free speech, and the impact social media has on shaping public opinion. In studio:

  • Mike Johansson, social media teacher and strategist in Rochester
  • Scott Malouf, attorney whose practice is focused on the intersection of social media and the law

In March, President Donald Trump signed an executive order protecting freedom of speech on college campuses. The order directed federal agencies to link funding or grants to how schools enforce the right to free speech. The move, according to the President, was to protect conservatives who wanted to challenge “rigid, far-left ideology.”

Has tension related to speech on college campuses reached a boiling point? Should measures – such as trigger warnings – be put in place to protect marginalized or vulnerable voices? We discuss these questions and the nuance surrounding the debate with our guests, who recently participated in a University of Rochester podcast. In studio:

  • David Primo, Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor and associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester
  • Matthew Burns, dean of students in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester

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 

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