New Yorker reporter argues for First Amendment restrictions

New Yorker reporter argues for First Amendment restrictions

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The University of California-Berkley recently hosted a writer from The New Yorker to discuss free speech.

The writer, Andrew Marantz, who discussed his new book "ANTISOCIAL: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians and the Hijacking of the American Conversation," suggested that the current understanding of the First Amendment should be altered, arguing that speech “absolutism” is being used as an “excuse for paralysis.”

Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor of executive communications at the school and panel moderator, said the school invited Marantz because he has “covered issues related to Free Speech of interest to the members of the campus community,” adding that “the university is interested in a broad range of perspectives on contemporary issues.”

Marantz began by discussing speech on social media, and argued that platforms need to think about the problems inherent in the ideas of “American exceptionalism, free speech, good marketplace of ideas,” in order to create proper safeguards to make sure that "things don’t go haywire.”

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Marantz then drew an analogy between free speech on social media to a warehouse party, saying allowing free expression on social media was similar to allowing partygoers to set a couch on fire.

“You might strongly disapprove of the person lighting the couch on fire and feel very concerned and have a deeply furrowed brow on your face. But you set the conditions that made that possible. You did or didn’t have a policy at the door of who was going to get carded. You made the lighting choices, you made the music choices, you chose not to have a functional PA system at the party so that if somebody does start lighting a couch on fire, there’s some way to quickly alert everyone, ‘Hey, guys, there’s a couch on fire. We need to do something about this.’ You just opened the doors and said, ‘The marketplace will figure it out,’” Marantz said. “And if you’re wrong, which in the case of our current real timeline, they were wrong. It’s not really clear what you can do once it’s too late. And you have authoritarians installed in 10 major democracies and all the rest of it.”

Asked about extremism from the left, Marantz said there is no “analogous mirror image on the left,” arguing America was "built on a pretty solid foundation of white supremacy,” that benefitted the political right, according to Campus Reform.

“Which is not to say that there can’t be lovely people on the right who are really nice and get along and play little league with people of all races,” Marantz joked.

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Marantz also spoke about the election of President Donald Trump, claiming that Trump was able to win because of fringe ideologies that are allowed to “keep percolating and keep bubbling up on their own” due to ungoverned algorithms online.

Of the disputed topic about free speech on college campuses, Marantz said that “the current interpretation of U.S. Supreme Court law” of the First Amendment for free speech on public college campuses should perhaps not be “the interpretation of First Amendment law for time immemorial,” asking “whether we can change our interpretations of laws just like we’ve always changed our interpretations of laws.”

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