Skip to main content

tv   Free Speech Political Cartoons  CSPAN  September 9, 2021 11:17pm-12:16am EDT

11:17 pm
jonathan zimmer men and wilkerson discuss political cartoons and free speech. -- >> many thanks to everyone at the national archives for hosting this event. as someone who obviously reveres the ideas that are reflected in our nation standing documents, which we have been working hard to approach in reality, the national archives, for me, is one of the most moving, inspiring places in the world and it's a great setting for
11:18 pm
this great book. because you john and signe's reflect our ideals to a younger generation, inspiring them in the enduring efforts to translate those ideals into present day realities for everyone. so i'm going to start with you, john, why did you write the book? who are your ideal readers? what message do you want to convey? >> well, the real reason i wrote the book is because signe wilkerson emailed me and asked me to write it. we were talking about one of the great cartoonists of our era, the new york times. and the football player was asked if you want to play with tom brady. it would be like that. the answer is yes. when i started to write it, i realized what my message was, it was a message for people younger than me, which is
11:19 pm
almost everyone at this stage. but mainly to my students. and also to my young adult daughters. in my experience, many people in younger generations have developed a skepticism about free speech, and in some places have even developed and animosity to towards up. this was very much crystallized for me during this kind of seminal meeting that i had with mary beth tinker. mary beth being the 13 year old girl who wore the black armband to school in des moines, iowa, in 1965, which sent home and later sued with the others and that became the tinker versus des moines case, upholding free speech rights. mary beth came to my class in pennsylvania and she told her story with the armband. the student started asking questions. the first question was, look, you are fighting the good fight. you are fighting the war in
11:20 pm
vietnam. these people today that view hates, racist and sexist hate, these homophobes and trans foes, they just want to hurt people. why should they be allowed to speak? and mary beth thinker had a very pointed response, i will never forget. and they said, at my school, in des moines, there were students who had dads who were risking their lives in southeast asia. you don't think that they were hurt by armbands telling them that their dads were dying for ally? speech hurts. that's why we need to protect it. because it hurts, there will always be an impulse to stand down. but when you do, it's actually the people at the bottom that are going to be hurt. and i mean really hurt. and that was mary beth's message. some of the other student said, look, free speech is just
11:21 pm
something about power. people with power use that term to protect their own speech and to prevent others from using it. and mary beth said, no, you have it wrong, it's the opposite. in 1965 i was a 13 year old girl. and speak was the only power that i had. and across time, and this was the message of the book, people without power have used free speech to challenge their circumstances and to challenge their oppression, which is what she was doing, because until that time students didn't have any rights, not ones at the constitution recognized. so that's what i want to communicate to my students and others. the radical history and potential of free speech. >> i hadn't known that story about sydney being the instigator of the book. signe, john is such a great speaker, but this is literally how the book came into existence? what prompted you to reach out
11:22 pm
to him? can you tell us? >> well, i have been -- for almost 40 years. and i depend on the free speech amendment every single day, really. and i have seen so many times when people have criticize me and saying, she can't say that, i was one speaking at a cartoonist convention. and we had visitors from the middle east, all men. and i was on the podium and i was speaking. and they said, to the host, is she allowed to say that? [laughs] by the way, that was the title of mali -- molly ayman's book, a writer
11:23 pm
who died years ago. but it's crucial for artists. an artist around the world have been imprisoned and sometimes even killed, because of their cartoons. they have gone into exile or underground. even after the cartooning controversy in the early 2000s, an artist in seattle did a cartoon about drawing muhammad day, and it was teasing, sort of making fun of the controversy. it wasn't an attack on islamic and yet he was put on a fatwa list and has gone underground and that shouldn't be in the united states of america. so -- and that's current, that was within the last ten years. and the other thing i really
11:24 pm
want to say, and i'll say it again is, i've been called everything. and i've been picketed. our paper has been picketed. but we invite the picketers in and they then get a place in the paper to respond and then it goes back and forth among readers. so my belief is really controversial cartoons, just like controversial statements, records, movies, books, they don't end a conversation. they begin one. and sometimes it takes something pretty controversial just to get people to engage in the issues. so for me, it's free speech, and free speech is just like the platform on with which i stand. and so do the rest of the
11:25 pm
cartoonist in the united states of america. >> thank you very much. i recently was reminded that you are one of many, not many, a small group of illustrious cartoonist from around the world who were interviewed for a forthcoming book about specifically on cartoons and censorship. but getting back to this wonderful book with wonderful pros and pictures. john, since the book is aimed at students, and presumably their teachers as well, i assume interest they can understand their own speech rights, and the challenges to that. so they understand that i'm -- and other times in history, other parts of the world. so what do you tell them? what's their stake in these issues now? >> they are stake is enormous. because before mary beth tinker,
11:26 pm
schools could silence anyone they wanted. universities, in some places, as well. it's really only in the last half century that young people have received any kind of speech rights that, again, are enforced by law and by courts. but i think the most important thing to remember is all these rights are extremely tenuous. and they are always under attack. and that's precisely why we have to study their history and be vigilant about protecting them. so right now, there is a case before the supreme court, about a cheerleader in northeastern pennsylvania who is disciplined by her school for a text message that she sent on a saturday, from a convenience store. this is after she had failed to make the cheerleading team. and she tested bleep school, bleep cheerleading. and the school suspended her,
11:27 pm
disciplined her, and said she couldn't be on the cheerleading team. and they said that they needed to do this in order to protect order. well, that's always what sensor say, is it not? that is going to be some terrible consequence. people are going to say, do or think the wrong thing, and we have to block it out. but where it is ascend? most educators that i know did not get into the business in order to monitor peoples snapchat and instagram posts. i think this is an important people compelling example. of why we have to be aware of how recent this history is. and be, most importantly, we have to be vigilant about protecting them. >> i'm proud to say that that current case, the mahomes case, is an aclu case, as was the thinker case, as has been every single one of the supreme court free speech cases going all the
11:28 pm
way back to the 1940s. and the implications, as you indicate, john are enormous because schools are basically saying, they have authority to regulate anything that might potentially disrupt the school. i think i can't see an exception to that. that would essentially squelch meaningful free speech for students. but what about teachers? what's their stake in this? >> courts i would say in some ways the stake is even greater. because alas, i think the courts have even been a less protective of teacher rights and they have been a student writes. so in 2007, a teacher named deborah was teaching a fifth grade class about the war in iraq. it was in 2003. the case was in 2007, actually. and she taught a lesson from the student to prove magazine,
11:29 pm
which included a description and picture of an anti-war protest. and it came to class esther, mrs. mayor, have you've been to an anti war protest, and she said, yes, i drove by one in bloomington the other day and i hoped my horn and approval. because of that, she was not reappointed by the school. and the courts have upheld that. arguing that teachers that -- i think a lot of us wonder how the teachers can actually model discourse and in the democracy if we hamstring them in that way. >> i'd like to ask you about the question. i found the book so -- which i read twice and read both times. and i know a fair amount about free speech myself, i just finished teaching an entire semester long high school seminar and freedom of speech.
11:30 pm
and i still learned a lot and found it completely appropriate for me. but also you are aiming also at a younger audience. when age range to you contemplate, i will first ask you, john. and i'm very curious whether you had to change your argument or presentation in any way and then i would like to hear from signe as well. >> the answer is no. i'm amazed you read it twice, you must be starved for entertainment, the pandemic does that people. they take the first of your question, i think we can imagine anyone from eight or 11 or 12 up reading it. i think that we condescend to our young people. by assuming that they either can't understand or won't care about these questions. but as the mahoney illustrates,
11:31 pm
these questions are more urgent for young people than anyone else! and we rode it in the tone that we hope can be understood by anyone from middle school up. >> and signe i know you have some of the cartoons, maybe this is an appropriate time for you to show them, comment on them. i know john commented about them as well. >> yeah, please, both of you, feel free to jump in. i ... i'm just going to share my screen here. here's the book title. because this isn't a new -- i'm going to talk starting about the cartoons. and of course they've been in the news here the last couple of decades. but pointed editorial political, controversial cartoons go way back. and so i thought i would start
11:32 pm
with a guy who sort of credited with the father of western cartooning. i'm sure you are all guessing exactly who it is. that would be martin luther. 500 years ago. martin luther was protesting the influence of the pope in rome on his german community and his beliefs. to illustrate his feelings towards rome, he hired local artists and used the fairly new printing press to create wood cuts to illustrate his point. and ... let's see here.
11:33 pm
... i would have flunked that test. >> i never would have guessed martin luther. >> here is one of them, with a couple of his supporters taking out their tongues, bearing their bottom's and flaunting in the face of the pope. this is not an image that i would have used in a daily newspaper. in my world. but the consequences of free speech for him or possible death, at the time. so we will just fast forward 300 years. this is a clipped history, to a german immigrant to the united states who became americas greatest cartoonist ever. and that is thomas nass.
11:34 pm
this is one of his iconic images of rich people in new york at the time but he was also known for criticizing and absolutely skewering a guy named boss tweed. boss tweed was a democratic political leader -- a democrat party political leader of his time. tweed said, i don't care with a print in the newspapers, my constituents can't read. but stop them darn pictures! [laughs] >> what people forget about nast is that also he was a huge supporter of abraham lincoln. and anti slavery. he was against slavery and
11:35 pm
lincoln called him my best recruiting sergeant. this is his brilliant engraving done, just two weeks after the emancipation proclamation was signed. we can talk about cancel culture later but he did get controversial cartoons that people still don't like. byand he has been canceled several times by several organizations. and yet, this is what he did for america. but fast forward again into the early 1900s, and we get into some of the things we talked about in the book, with women suffrage. these women not only protested in march but about 20 or more cartoonist came out, women came out of their normal lives and started cartooning for suffrage.
11:36 pm
and as you know, women went to jail, in prison for their speedy free speech rights. and these women were using their pens. and the man who loves and reverse his mother should idolize, if he worships at all, the free graces, suffrage preparedness and americanism. [noise] sorry, my dog is going off on the mailman. i [laughs] >> it's his free speech. right >> exactly. and margaret sanger was actively agitating for rights for women for birth control. and getting attacked by police and driven off the stage, time and time again. so this is from our book. go ahead, speak freely, and fast forward again to the man who was probably our most
11:37 pm
eloquent ever user of free speech, martin luther king. his only weapon was his free speech and he used it as we all know, brilliantly. and he paid for it, of course, with his life. but to put it in modern terms, i mean, he switch how you look at things. the police who were suppressing and attacking him, we find your speech to be hurtful, dr. king. it weighs more than hurtful, of course. honored. in my career, religions have been the most sensitive. it's okay if you are praising them. it's a blast may blasphemy if you are not. we need to see is that we know it to ban. this was in a portion of the
11:38 pm
book about religion. and to prove that -- [laughs] we shouldn't be taking them quite so literally, after the danish cartoonist debacle, there were many cartoons defending or protesting the attack on the cartoonists. but i was trying to go for a different point of view. and this one is the big fat book of offensive religious cartoons, with all our major religious leaders, including muhammad, third from the right. and it is to make the point i made earlier, that it's okay if people are laughing. if you are showing a religious figure or political figure, happy and laughing, that's okay. it's just criticizing when the image becomes verboten.
11:39 pm
this went around the world many times, after all the cartoon controversies. and never has been -- you know, never where the problem. back to our book. what jonathan has said and i think the basic point of our book is that you can't just muscle people and hateful ideas will just go away. i fixed it. no, not exactly. so the one thing i would like to leave you with about cartoonists, is that anyone teaching those, it's usually white, in the back of the room, drawing bad images of the teacher, it's just a
11:40 pm
compulsion. that some people have to make on of the authority figure in front of them. and cartoonists who are prominent take on the biggest authority figures there are. this man, ali, was a syrian cartoonist who criticize the syrian regime. he was taken, beaten and his hands stomped on to break them so that he could not draw again. but his first cartoon in the hospital will show you the spirit of a cartoonist. [laughs] from his hospital bed. there you have it, there is the cartooning spirit. just try to keep us down. >> thank you. that is so remarkable. i have to ask both of you, i'm
11:41 pm
thinking of the great, gilbert and sullivan, other teams of collaborators. which came first? cartoons? >> i wrote the text first. and then signe wrote the cartoons. but i think actually the cartoons are what make the book. because i'm words guy. and i think that if you look at, for example, at that terrific one about martin luther king, my favorite, i think you get this kind of -- it's not just visual, it's almost a guttural embodiment of what the book is really trying to say. especially, you know, the awful racist white cops, saying, what you are saying is hurtful to us. well of course it is! just like mary beth's armband was hurtful to kids who had dads fighting in vietnam. that's what speech does. but that's the worst reason to
11:42 pm
try and censor it. because once you make that into your room brick, again, there is not going to be any speech left. >> since you talked about the mlk cartoon and signe you gave the history of thomas nast with respect to abolition and emancipation -- i had not known about that. this is why i read your book. every time i read or consume either of you. john, do you want to explain? there are so many arguments today. i wouldn't even say arguments, but assumptions, and you really hear about racial justice. they will have to be very skeptical of free speech. and we see this all the time, in college campuses, hate speech is not free speech. in fact, even politicians, some
11:43 pm
of them, coming back from law school say that. and there is this assumption that, yeah, in the good old days, you know, maybe it was people like martin luther king who were aided. but now we know it's not that way. it's unite the right, white supremacists. even supreme court justice elena kagan said that the first amendment is being weaponized to oppress people who lacked power. you are a historian, john. tell us about the president, please. >> i think there has been something that has switched. i think in a way it is generational, about justice kagan. she is not young anymore. but i think we have lost sight of the radical potential of free speech. you'll hear people sfree speechl johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. people say this about free speech. and those are people that
11:44 pm
haven't really thought much about those women suffragists that we saw in these cartoons. come on, look at this handle right here. we've got the first female director of the aclu, the most important free speech organization in the united states. and we have the first woman who won the prize for pulitzer, in cartooning. how far would women be without free speech? the answer is nowhere! we want to be here in this configuration without -- the challenge sexism and other kinds of sexism and other discrimination. we need to look outside of our moment. at one level, justice kagan is right. surely, awful people have and continue to, you know, embrace and yes, weaponize free speech. for anyone who wants to read more about that, read the
11:45 pm
instructions book about hate. >> there are no cartoons in it. >> it's a great book, nevertheless, not about cartoons. but to me the point of that book is that we shouldn't try to pretend or wish away the presence of hate. it's a part of us and a part of our lives. indeed, a part of our speech. but the answer to it is not to create some grand poobahs, either a university president or, you know, i tech company guru, who is then going to tell us what is hateful and then what isn't. that isn't the way democracy works. it's not the way america works. we can do it. >> signe, another argument being made against the robust free speech that you and john are advocating for, effectively, a strong counter argument that john alluded to is this hurt or harm that --
11:46 pm
i know, critics will say, those words are trivializing. we really feel deep psychic, emotional trauma and there are even physiological implications, manifestations. and by the way, they are free speech problems to, because it's hurtful. traumatizing, insulting speech that denies our humanity. silences us and chills our free speech. so if you really cared about free speech for everybody, especially the oppressed, why are you making fun? you know, signe, how dare you create the image of the prophet. don't you know how traumatizing and hurtful that is to muslims around the world? how do you answer that? >> first of all, a cartoon can't blow anybody up or
11:47 pm
decapitate anybody. it is just an idea and it is a way of re-framing the arguments and i think that -- i mean, the danish cartoonists, that controversy is kind of a good example. the danish imam who really started and was offended and really try to get support in other countries, and there ended up being riots in pakistan with people killed -- later, that imam sort of just left. he was appalled by what had been unleashed by that fury. and i think that the editor of
11:48 pm
the paper also might have, you know, learned lessons from how everything we set off. but i just go back to the fact that the cartoonists were being able to say, look, you know, there is a conflict here. there is a conflict between certain values that are sort of new in our country but that is not the end of the conversation. it is a conversation, it's not a one size said something and that's the end of it. >> the other thing that i would add there, on the subject now, and i think the danish cartoon episode, for example, it embodies the condescension that
11:49 pm
lurks within so many of these calls for censorship. right? they are always offered in a protective way. it's like, oh, those sensitive muslims, we have to protect them. what do you really saying about them? if you are saying that we need to withdraw this image. i think that you are saying that they cannot exert the same kind of self control that the rest of us can. this is all in the guise of saying, like, how you are so down with muslim people. to me it is insight insulting. which is not to say we should be insensitive. but to me there's a real tension an irony there. >> that was actually one of the points that the boston editor, one of the reasons why that was completely appropriate, to solicit those cartoons. it was a way of showing that these people are not only fully human, they are fully danish. and it's part of our tradition in this country and in this newspaper to make fun of every
11:50 pm
religion. so that includes whatever protestantism, or whatever religion there is there. >> just one point on that, when they first were published and before the outrage happened, several newspapers in the united states published them. just as news articles. no big deal. the austin statesman american and one of the denver papers. and there was no controversy. because people didn't know they were supposed to be outraged. but then, when the controversy started, none of our major papers would publish them. you know, i can't even say this word right, but pusillanimous? the response? of the new york times saying, we are just not going to show them. we are not going to show our
11:51 pm
readers. supposedly the smartest, best, greatest readership in the entire world, they couldn't take and process the fact that these were drawings on paper. ditorial cartoons>> you know sow york times decided to abandon all editorial cartoons, at least in some of its additions because -- >> we'll don't get me started on that. needless to say, even if they were hiring cartoons cartoons, i wouldn't be one of them. but they used to do around up of cartoons in their sunday paper. it was very popular. and now is a range of points of view. now they even got rid of that. so -- >> this is a topic that the has been alluded to earlier. cancel culture. right? it's true, government officials are still censoring speech, and the case now pending in the supreme court. but we have a tremendous problem of self censorship, not
11:52 pm
only among supposedly fearless newspaper editors but also among students and teachers which i think is a very serious problem. >> well, i'm not a student or teacher but i think jonathan spoke to that, about that the free speech protects kids but you have to get out an exercise your rights. i mean -- >> right. >> it's good for your muscle memory that we have conversations and they can get animated and heated. but you know, one of the problems, it seems to me right now, is that you look at the nbc or the cnn news on one side or the fox news on the other and it's like, they all are talking to themselves.
11:53 pm
and let's have some more yell vests. i'm down. >> but your pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist -- what do you say to with her teen-year-old kid? who doesn't want to be ostracized by her classmates for saying something that is unpopular? she doesn't want to be falsely accused of being a racist or some other kind of nasty thing? >> the first thing i would say is, i get it. this is not just -- i mean, it's not a gratuitous example because it's not happening to me in the 2016 election. trump voters came out to me in my office. and i would always say, i'm glad you are telling me. i wish you would say this in class, because too signe's i think we would learn more. this is really a cultural and educational question to me. if we are self censoring, if we are biting our tongues, we are
11:54 pm
not learning from each other in ways that we could. and often they would say, look, it's easier for you to say. you don't have to face the wrath that i would. and i'm not entirely wrong. at penn moore college, near where i teach, there is a student day, they posted something on the net saying, hey, there is a trump rally in west virginia, is anyone going, can i get a ride? and she was vilified, including with physical threats. and she dropped out of. so this is a huge problem. i don't want to think people is just people on the left that are canceling. look at all the state legislatures who are saying that schools can't teach the 16 19 project. what is that if not cancel culture? and it's done by republicans. >> look at liz cheney. >> [laughs] she got canceled pretty bad. >> not entirely by republicans.
11:55 pm
>> so how can we encourage young people to whisk the st. shore by their peers and of their teachers? we have seen some incidents, unfortunately, where teachers are not standing up for unpopular viewpoints. they are not all iq john. >> i think this is where the history piece become so important. recognizing that almost everybody must be taught to celebrate and be a a tribune of free speech, right up to mary beth tinker. i did see a difference, after relating the mary beth tinker case, and how students related to the question. i do think that history can inform. when you read about figures like mary beth tanker, or
11:56 pm
margaret sanger, and what they missed by raising their voices, i think it can inspire you to raise your. >> okay. well i'm getting some questions from the audience and i believe an audience free speech. so i would like to turn to the first one i would see of those. is there a place where the right to free speech is rightfully curtailed? like when it incites violence? >> sure. look, i mean, nadine is the expert on this but no white is absolutely. you can't call the white house and say you are going to murder the president. to take a more obvious example, from higher ed, i couldn't say to a student, i like this whether you are wearing, and if you wear it again, i will give you an a. is that a limit on my speech? and of course it is, but one i am happy to accept. most cases of sexual harassment
11:57 pm
are verbal. and they are illegal. so obviously there are limits on things that we can say. but i think it's really important to go back to tinker and the school case. that is an institution, especially a public institution, wants to limit speech, the burden should beyond that institution to show why it is absolutely necessary to do so. and that's what tanker said, by the way. they did not say that the kids can say with a want at all times. the kid cannot stand up in math class and start calling their teacher a racial slur. thinker did not say that you can say whatever you want. what it said was that the school has to show cause if it wants to restrain you, specifically that it creates a material and substantial disruption to learning. so that's an example for me about of a kind of reasonable
11:58 pm
limit. again, we can argue and discuss about where those women should be. and that's not so easy. i kid wearing the part of the bible that some people, notice i said some people, think condemns homosexuality or gay behavior. should they be allowed to wear that in school? well, are you disrupting someone's learning? there are heard calls in their. the burden has to be on the institution, now down the speaker, to show that, you know, this is such a risk that you can't say it in this environment. >> you also alluded, john, to the fact that all of us, as professionals and as human beings engage in self censorship. just because we have a right to say something does not mean that we always say it. and in that vein, i want to ask you, if you have any constraints, self-imposed on
11:59 pm
topics or people that you would not include in your cartoons. here i am going to quote something that was often said by the detractors of the danish cartoons, including people that i used to think of us supporting free speech, saying, oh those cartoons were punching down. it's not fair or appropriate to punch down. >> well, first of all -- it was at a time when people were being beheaded. and burning cages. and there was fairly dramatic behavior that, i think, people were held by. and that was done in the name of the muslim religion. and i don't think that that was,
12:00 am
you know, by any means taken as the whole religion. but it was part of what was happening in the history of the time and i gather that things that i didn't do. go out and and you know do a cartoon about a muslim or a anybody else and i also it to the first cartoon that i showed about from martin luther. i i worked for a family newspaper. i didn't do nudity. i didn't do sex. you know, there were there were sort of a stand it kind of informal standards. and the reason i didn't do them would be that they would detract from the point of the cartoon people would just get upset by
12:01 am
the fact that there was nudity and likewise. i wouldn't you know, i wouldn't include a religious figure gratuitously if it wasn't. was it was in the out something that had to do it it just you know, i didn't go around picking on cripples. you know, it's right right and i mean it's easy, you know, i would just add anybody knows signe wilkinson or any of her work for the first past four decades that they'll see, you know, she doesn't do any of this gratuitously. she's not trying to offend anybody but sometimes she will right just by virtue with the fact that you know, she's dealing with important and emotional political and cultural questions and i think the real question for all of us is when people are upset. do you concede to that and also i'd add in the case of you know,
12:02 am
the the muslim cartoons. do you concede to their bullying and their violent threats so for me as an american destroying the best analogy to this dispute is there's this really interesting junk there during the civil rights movement in the 1960s where there was a civil rights demonstration and peter paul and mary and harry belafonte are there and at one point harry belafonte gives a peck on the key to mary travers of peter paul and mary and immediately in the southern part of the united states the networks cut away. yeah, why because they said people are gonna be upset white people in the south are gonna be upset at the idea of a black person white person kissing now, were they correct in that affirmation they were and there were plenty of people that were upset, but that's my point. are you gonna conceive to people's big trip? and that's what they did and that's what's reprehensible. they want wrong about the upset. they were exactly right. well put so here's another
12:03 am
question that i think is for you sydney. do you feel memes are the new cartooning? ah good question and yes, actually, i think they are at this democratized political cartooning what they lack is drawing, but they do the same thing. they make immediate and and pointed and funny remarks about it almost instantaneously. i mean much faster than i could draw a cartoon, even if i was drawing the image that the meme had and the other reason that they're so ubiquitous is obviously they're using today's medium. i i draw i my history was
12:04 am
drawing pen on paper and it was printed in paper that is over over over even though i i just don't think that editorial cartoons. the traditional ones have the same impact as they do when you open a page and see it on on your table in front of you and memes. well, i mean they stick around because paper sticks around where as a meme, you know, it's gone and then there's another one or funny tweet or and i mean, that's why people love they are they really they're like they're refreshing during the day to take your mind off off stuff and and make you laugh and and make you think so. yeah, i i regretfully said i can see that memes are you know, they have their place and political discussion.
12:05 am
okay, next audience question. why is free speech under threat in america? i thought the first amendment protected it. professor it's always under threat. i mean, that's really the theme of the book so, you know, we have these four chapters where we say, you know free speech allows you to criticize your leaders and it allows minorities to challenge their oppression and it allows you to you know, consume the order and the literature in the film you'd like and it allows students and teachers to speak in school, but it's allows because all these things have been observed in the breach. that's the point right? it should allow it. right, of course, it should but it never really has you know, america is a work in progress. it is always incomplete, you know, and i as as delighted as i am to be doing this panel quote
12:06 am
at the national archives, we're not at the national archives were on zoom. but if we were at the national archives we would be in the presence of those documents and reason that i think we worship those documents is not because we've attained the ideals in them. it's rather because we're struggling to do that. we are imperfect like all human beings we move and fits and starts. we're blindered and blinkered and in perfect and that's precisely why we need to study the history and we have to continue this struggle because ironically we're never going to get there. if i can put on my common law professor hat and also my aclu leader hat, um, no portion of the constitution including the bill of rights including the first amendment is self enforcing for most of our nation's history all of these
12:07 am
wonderful promises of liberty lay around completely on fulfilled and constantly violated in practice, which is why the aclu was formed more than a century ago the naacp before that and even when you win a case in the supreme court that enforces the first amendment such as the tinker case that doesn't automatically mean that every school teacher and every school district around the country even knows about it. let alone is is actually enforcing it. yeah. i mean i should tell you that my students including some extremely well-informed students are often shocked to discover that the vietnam war was really the first national conflict that we had. it's consistently upheld the rights of people to protest it and that was in my lifetime and appearance is notwithstanding. i'm not that old all of this is really recent and that's precisely why we got to be so protective of it. it's really so so during the
12:08 am
vietnam war a guy named cohen he walks into post office wearing a yeah. it was a college students college student. yeah college student. yes saying f the draft and he was arrested. and and ultimately the court said that you know that he could in fact wear that jacket, but you know by that time i'm a middle school. i mean, it's not that long ago and that's really and there were other cases. you know where people are arrested for wearing an american flag on their jeans as a pro as an anti-war protest thing people arrested for a play in which you know, people made fun of soldiers. this is all during the vietnam era and the fact they were arrested shows that people still plenty of people in authority still believe that you didn't have the right to criticize the war. so if you've ever been to an anti-war protests, thank cohen, you know, and thank the other people that that laid down the
12:09 am
line and sometimes they're lives so that you had the right to say what's on your mind what i find extraordinary is the number of young people mary beth tinker being a classic example, but who come to aclu and other organizations and and stand up first of all stand up for their rights when they that means they have to defy teachers and principles and i remember one case the aclu one recently for a student who refused to salute the american flag. she was an african-american student in connecticut, and she said i don't want to because i don't believe that we have liberty and justice for all we have too much racism in this country, and she was actually punished which is not only violative of the first amendment that i also of very old supreme court decision enforcing it and we had to go to court ultimately, of course we want and i will never forget the judge lectured the school.
12:10 am
he said you're supposed to be teaching her about civics not the other way around. so i one of the messages to the young people who i hope are all going to read your book is that they are never too young to about their rights to stand up for them. they can accomplish a lot on their own, but they have a lot of allies including the aclu sydney. can i just share my screen for that to illustrate that last point please and and share just illustrate the last point that's also from our book this colin kaepernick. so you don't have to just stand up for your rights you can kneel for them as well. and it does take it takes a lot of courage as we said to stand up against authority in today's cancel culture climate, i think students tend to be more afraid
12:11 am
of their peers than you know, their authorities that definitely and and there's there's a big big survey literature now showing that i know nadine you're on the board of fire, but fire to this incredibly sponsor this incredibly extensive survey of college students and found that you know college students of every political party of every race, they're censoring themselves not because they're afraid of me because again i'm old but they're afraid of their peers, you know, and i think the pure effect is extremely strong, especially when you're young, you know, when i was 18, i really did care a lot about what other 18 year olds thought. but you know, i think that's another reason why the people that run these institutions really have to stand up and raise their voices about what a problem that is and i haven't heard enough of that. so after the fire report, i want to see a whole bunch of university presents to stand up and say look this is bad. and what's that specifically it's bad that tens of thousands
12:12 am
of young people report that they're not saying what they think for fear of being canceled. all right, that's bad because our job is to educate. and that dynamic is uneducational it inhibits what we can learn from each other. okay, sorry. no, we have two minutes left. so i'd like to give john you were in the middle of a closing statement. what could have been if you can finish that and then i'll give sydney the same opportunity. you know learn it had who's one of my heroes and arguably the most important, you know juris that wasn't on the supreme court. he said that the spirit of liberty is the spirit. that's not too sure of itself. and i think right now too many of us or too sure of ourselves, and that's why we're trying to stamp out speech because we know what's right, but actually we don't and the other thing that learning had said in the same speech is that you know, unless liberty lives in the heart of
12:13 am
american men and women. he said women too. it's so cool in 1944 that you know, no constitutional law is going to protect it. you know, this isn't just a matter of the law. it's really a matter of culture and it's a matter of all of us deciding what sort of society we want to live in and we've got to protect liberty if we don't no politician is going to thank you, cindy. well, he speaks my mind and we are out of time. so i just want to thank everyone for tuning in. go look at them -- pictures, and don't be afraid of them. one of our audience members made a great suggestion, which i'm going to use as my closing remark and that is that this book would be a perfect graduation gift for everybody
12:14 am
who is graduating from kindergarten to middle school and and i would say law school and college. thank brilliant brilliant remark. yeah. yes, i approve. thank you all yes, and thanks to nadine strossen for beingthis ia
12:15 am
wonderful series of panels co-sponsored by the cultural services of the french embassy which compare us and

47 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on