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Radiolab Presents More Perfect Live: The First Amendment in the Digital Age

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

(Radiolab's More Perfect)

Should you be able to say and do whatever you want online? And if not, who should police this?

Jad Abumrad of Radiolab and More Perfect hosted a debate about online hate speech, fake news and whether the First Amendment needs an update for the digital age.

He was joined live at The Greene Space at WNYC by Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Elie Mystal, managing editor at Above the Law and contributing legal editor at More Perfect; and Ken White, a First Amendment litigator and criminal defense attorney at Brown White & Osborn LLP in Los Angeles who also runs the free speech and criminal justice blog Popehat.com, where he often coordinates pro bono defense for First Amendment cases.  

NOTE: Because of the topic for the night, this discussion will include disturbing images and language, such as religious, ethnic and gender slurs and profanity. We are preserving this content so that our audience can understand the nature of this speech.


Corynne McSherry, Elie Mystal and Ken White

Hosted by:

Jad Abumrad


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Comments [13]

Sad Observer from California

I hoped for a principled debate but heard a screed from Mystel who would abandon the 1st Amendment w/o consideration of its importance to MLK or LBGTQ or others seeking to expand rights. His position, what makes him mad should not be protected. That would have doomed all rights movements. Take a modern liberal country, Canada, with no 1st Amendment. The state has legislated the use of pronouns for people who choose not to be identified as "he" or "she". Use the wrong pronoun at the risk of government penalties. The legislation of ideas and even words. Thank the founders for a brilliant Constitution.

Aug. 18 2018 02:19 PM
Chris Svartskuren from Scandinavia

I am a huge fan of more perfect and I do like the idea of listening to a live debate. However, if you are to do a live debate again please make sure the debaters know how to. Mr. Mystal showed a clear lack of experience and resorted to several cheap debate tactics. This, in my mind, swayed me against him. It should be a debate of facts not a display of ad hominem, strawman arguments and ignorance.

Jan. 08 2018 04:42 PM
Concerned Listener from Ohio

I listened to this podcast over the weekend. I’ve enjoyed all episodes of More Perfect to date, but I was so disappointed by the rhetoric thrown around by Elie Mystal and how it detracted from the debate that I felt the need to comment. It made the debates feel needlessly one-sided, and as other commenters have echoed, it simply left my position reenforced rather than challenged. Please advise any future debators to avoid such ad hominem arguments for the sake of the topics at hand.

Jan. 01 2018 03:28 PM

White supremacists make credible threats against the targets of their hate. I say credible because they often back those threats up with horrifying violence. Why then should it fall on the shoulders of those targets to save these “poor” racists from “the silo”? I mean, we will do it, and for hundreds of years HAVE BEEN doing it (which might explain Elly’s “shrillness”) but, I think it would be nice if someone else spelled us for a bit.. Especially when the task is conversing with people who literally want to kill us. Besides, as the young man who spoke of changing his mind said—it was meeting people in real life that spurred his development, so what’s the Internet got to do with it? If you’re truly looking for ways to “make conversation,” then the answer is right there in his story. HE left HIS bubble. And, if he’s meeting people who are a) out and b) willing to talk about their sexuality with someone who kinda thinks they’re going to hell, then I’m guessing he left that bubble for some place where there are strong protections for LGBTQ persons and they feel supported in exerting their right to a harassment free environment. I actually tend to agree more with the other side, but if “do the work for those of us whom privilege has made lazy” is the best answer we have to the valid grievances of the oppressed, then perhaps I’ve made the wrong choice.

Dec. 12 2017 03:00 AM
Jane from Cambrige, MA

Although I enjoy this podcast, I did not enjoy at all listening to Mr. Mystal's hysterical verbal flailing when I expected a reasoned legal position to counter the debate opponents. As a person of color, I did not appreciate his framing the argument that changing minds by getting people to talk to each other is a "happy-clappy white story". Criticizing an argument by saying simply that the proponent of it is white/black/other is not an argument. It's an ad hominem attack and not sufficient. Mostly he yelled a lot and did not provide evidence for most of his statements. Eventually it was a waste of time to listen, though I did, and twice, just to be sure I heard right. If the podcast puts him on again, I'll be tuning out.

Dec. 07 2017 03:31 PM
Not a millennial from Lambertville, NJ

Interesting podcast. No one in the debate brought up the point that people have the choice to participate in social media or not. If enough people stop participating or switch platforms, it is likely to get the attention of the company. It doesn't mean that hate speech etc. doesn't still continue, it is just a way to participate in the issue differently, without the inevitable over reaction and yelling on FB, twitter, etc.

Nov. 19 2017 10:52 PM
Kurt Peterson from Denver

In the second part of the debate, I was increasingly turned off by arguments which increasingly became a distilled entertaining simplification of the facts with intent to inflame.
Calls to splinter sections of our society away from the main are harmful whether they come from progressives or conservatives. It was striking how often Elie's rhetorical strategies remind me of our dogmatic Commander in Chief.
Hate can't beat hate.

Nov. 14 2017 02:05 PM
Jonathan Harms from Minnesota

Longtime listener (and lover) of both Radiolab and More Perfect. I was disappointed by this episode - I rely on your shows for opening my mind to new narratives with thoughtful commentary. I go to these podcasts to escape the facebook shouting match, not to get another dose of the same, angry arguments.

I want to be more open to Elie Mystal's arguments (or at least to understand them more empathetically), but found myself more certain of my own position instead. Radiolab is a place where I look for the right questions to ask, not to be more certain of my own answers.

The recent Radiolab episode "Match Made in Marrow" provides an interesting study in contrasts. I came away feeling less sure about the way we have discourse, and gave me several questions about how I can be more grace-filled. It's like the difference between debate and dialectics. Hoping for more of the latter.

Nov. 14 2017 01:31 PM
Devonne from NYC

I would naturally agree with Elie Mystal's side, but he is shrill to the point that it decreases his effectiveness. Also, he misspeaks (I think) when he is laying into "white people" and says that gay people don't have to play educator to white people about not being homophobic. It came out as fantastically racist. I'm hoping he knows better. I'm black, and have experienced that black people, especially back men, are incredibly homophobic.

Nov. 13 2017 12:01 AM
Antonio from Paterson, NJ

Just listened to this on the More Perfect podcast. I gotta say I was disappointed in Elie's argument. I was on his side but found him unconvincing, particularly in the second debate.

I would've pointed out that social media is different from most other forms of debate. That people can (and do) misrepresent themselves ("On the internet no one knows you're a dog"). That five anonymous comments could all come from the same person, who's deliberately trying to distort a debate. That while Facebook can delete posts that call for violence, a hateful Facebook group still creates a general atmosphere of racial antipathy that can lead someone to commit atrocities.

Really the debate about social media was kind of moot, considering Facebook and Twitter already delete posts they consider "hate speech". And does anyone honestly think that if some guy commits an atrocity and it turns out that he was actively involved in hateful Facebook groups that Facebook will throw theirs hands up and say "free speech"?

Also many European countries do ban hate speech and their democracies seem to be functioning just fine. I would've loved to hear someone discuss that.

Nov. 08 2017 11:14 PM
Squirel Killer from Iowa

The idea that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc... can afford to pay people to moderate comments is deeply ignorant of the scale of the task.

Sep. 06 2017 11:45 PM
ertdfg from Colorado

Ideas can be true or false?
What is the correct religion? We'll ban ALL the other ones, because we found the person who knows which ideas are correct and which ones are false.

What? Offensive and bigoted? No!
We KNOW the ideas that are true or false; only ONE religion can be accurate; the others must be false.
Why not ban all the false ones?

Gay marriage 30 years ago? False. Now? True.
So you MUST have the correct changing view in a changing world; and be punished for ever having had the wrong view; even plausibly at a time when the answer was in flux?

When the answer is "True" in California and "False" in Nebraska, are both states correct for arresting people who dissent with the "True" view?
Oh, only your standard should matter?
Sorry, the people in California or Nebraska think their standard is all that should matter... I think they shouldn't arrest people for having the "wrong" view.
Which is clearly the "wrong" view somewhere.

I'm glad it's not the "wrong" standard here.

Sep. 06 2017 08:43 PM
Scott Jacobs from Texas

Why is Karl Rove on stage?

Sep. 06 2017 07:14 PM

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