Robert Post, First Amendment scholar and Yale Law professor

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Renowned First Amendment scholar and Yale Law professor Robert Post gave a speech in February called, “The Unfortunate Consequences of a Misguided Free Speech Principle.” Professor Post argues we have misdiagnosed America’s social malady as a free speech problem. In order to ameliorate America’s public discourse, Post contends, we must first restore our politics to a healthy condition.

Does America have a free speech problem?

“Everybody seems to think so. Everybody thinks that we are not talking enough, and you get people on the right and people on the left saying we need to talk to each other more,” said Post. “We shouldn’t be afraid of being canceled, we shouldn’t be afraid of being bullied and the recipe for our political problems is more speech.”

But Post disagrees with the latter. Although he believes the statement above is true, he emphasized it is a misdiagnosis of the political problem.

“We have to go deeper than saying it’s a free speech problem. We need to say why we are feeling inhibited. And if we analyze that problem, we’ll see that there’s something much deeper at stake than simply free speech,” said Post.

Are we mistaking a symptom for a cause?

People may believe the reason we are not speaking to each other has to do with the idea that our politics are broken down. But why are our politics broken down?

To elaborate on that question, Post said, “What’s the prerequisite for having healthy politics at all? Politics is a way of solving our differences. We don’t need politics if we all agree; we have politics because we disagree.”

What are we trying to diagnose or solve?

“I think our problem that we are diagnosing as a free speech problem is better understood by the fact that we have ceased to care about what each other thinks. We’ve stopped talking to each other, and the preconditions for a conversation have diminished,” said Post.

Robert Post, First Amendment scholar and Yale Law professor

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