Weekly News Digest, No. 9

Welcome to the ninth installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

The American University School of Public Affairs wrote stories on two of our events from earlier in the year. In September, Professor Josh Blackman spoke about free speech on campus. In October, Professor Garrett Epps spoke about the burdens of free speech. Two of our peer facilitators also wrote reflections on each event, which can be read here and here, respectively.

Discourse and Debate at American University

On Wednesday, November 7th, Young Americans for Freedom hosted Dinesh D’Souza at American University as part of their Freedom Week. The Eagle covered the event, writing that D’Souza drew both supporters and protestors as he talked about the midterm election results, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the differences between the two parties.

Tom Lebert (AU SPA ’20) responded to the event on our Real Talk blog, arguing that debate and discussion are imperfect platforms that can be manipulated. Tom writes: “Supporting debate and discussion should mean supporting even debate and discussion that requires participants to present actual truth and make reasoned arguments”

In other campus news, The Eagle wrote a profile on Students for Free Expression, a new student organization that promotes discourse and free speech on campus. Students for Free Expression is non-partisan and aims to “bring speakers from all corners of the political spectrum to engage with students.”

Free Speech on Campus

The Guardian reports that the Australian government has asked a former high court chief justice to review speech at Australian universities, including their commitment to protecting freedom of expression and inquiry, and offer policy options. Universities Australia is opposing this review, arguing that campuses should be free of political interference and that journalists have mischaracterized academic freedom.

Free Speech in the World

Last week, the White House suspended Jim Acosta’s press pass, leading CNN to file a lawsuit against President Trump and his aides. Poynter’s Al Tompkins writes that this lawsuit is about free speech, free press, and due process. In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled in N.Y. Times v. Sullivan that political speech should be protected for its “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”

Lexology and CNN recently wrote articles addressing political expression and online hate speech, respectively. Lexology’s Ogletree Deakins answers employers’ frequently asked questions about political expression in the workplace, while Caroline Knorr of Common Sense Media writes for CNN about discussing online hate speech with your children.

Political Discourse

Marie Tillman, wife of Pat Tillman, recently wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post about her husband’s legacy in relationship to the NFL’s national anthem protests. “When I look around at the vitriol aimed at [football players] for expressing their beliefs … I want to kneel, too.” Tillman writes that she can’t say how she believes her husband would feel about kneeling during the national anthem, but that Pat “would have engaged in thoughtful and respective discourse.”

“I believe we are at our best as Americans when we engage in constructive dialogue around our differences with the goal of understanding one another.”

Thanks for reading!

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