Law Day 2019: Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society
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Law Day 2019: Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society

October 19, 2019


>>Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the 2019
Commemoration of Law Day. My name is Jane Sanchez and
I have the honor of serving as the 25th law librarian
of Congress. Law Day is a national day
to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions
to the freedoms that we Americans enjoy,
a day aimed to promote and remind everyone that we
should appreciate the liberties and cultivate respect
for law, which is vital to our democratic way of life. In 1958, at the urging
of Charles Rhyne, who was then president of
the American Bar Association, Law Day was first proclaimed
by President Dwight Eisenhower to recognize our country’s great
heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under law. In his proclamation, President
Eisenhower especially urged the legal profession to take a
leading role in promoting and participating
in this observance. In 1961, Congress,
by joint resolution, officially designated May 1
for the celebration of Law Day. So, every year throughout May
the legal community reaches out to communities across the
nation to stimulate appreciation and critical thinking about
the founding fundamentals that so easily can
be taken for granted. This event is our small
contribution to that tradition. We are very pleased to have
with us today Bob Carlson, current president of the
American Bar Association, the world’s largest voluntary
professional organization. Bob, welcome to the
Library of Congress and thank you for your time.>>Thanks, Jane, appreciate it.>>So, just a little bit about
Bob, and I’m sure he’s going to blush right now, but Bob is
a shareholder of Corette, Black, Carlson and Mickelson PC, a
law firm in Butte, Montana. He has served in many national and state bar leadership
positions, including as president of the
State Bar of Montana and chair of the ABA’s policymaking
House of Delegates. He’s also served two terms
on the ABA Board of Governors and its Executive Committee, and
in the ABA House of Delegates as both Montana state
bar delegate and as a delegate at large. He’s a life patron fellow and
past state chair of the Fellows of the American Bar
Foundation and was a member of the executive council of the National Conference
of Bar Presidents. Bob’s other professional
affiliations include International Association
of Defense Counsel, Defense Research Institute, Montana Defense Trial
Lawyers Association, and former board member of the
Montana Justice Foundation. Before entering private
practice, Bob was staff attorney for Montana Department
of Business Regulation and a law clerk for the
Montana Supreme Court. He earned his BA with honors
from the University of Montana and his JD from the University
of Montana School of Law. Before we start, I
just wanted to mention that we are allowing some time
after I ask some questions for your comments
and your questions. So, please, be prepared
to ask questions. And I encourage you to use
this opportunity to jump into the conversation. So, let’s move on to
the first question. The theme for this year’s Law
Day is free speech, free pre — free press, excuse
me, free society. Freedom of speech of
press, association, assembly, and petition. This set of guarantees protected by the First Amendment
comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. Without it, our other
fundamental rights would wither and die. But in spite of this
preferred position in our constitutional hierarchy,
the nation’s commitment to freedom of expression has
been tested over and over again. So, Bob, what do you believe
are the limits on free speech in a democratic society?>>Well, the limits are, to
a certain extent, what the — what the public is
going to permit. The Constitution says that no
government may abridge those basic rights, whether
it’s speech or free press. And that doesn’t — isn’t —
doesn’t make it limitless, but it certainly puts a heavy
burden on the government to try to restrain that speech. Certainly, it’s not limitless
because you can’t, you all know, go into a crowded room or a
crowded theater and yell fire, that’s potential for public harm
outweighs that person’s right to exercise what some
would call free speech. There are authors
over time and judges that have argued
that it’s broadened. There’s popular on t-shirts, what part about may not
abridge do you not understand? But there are limits, and
the limits are generally that you can’t defame
somebody with a cause. You can say that if you want,
we’re not going to prohibit you, but if you make a false
statement against somebody, you will be held accountable. If you make a false
representation about a product you sell,
you will be in some form or fashion held accountable. It’s not limitless, but
it’s critically important. And it’s more important,
I think, both here and around the world, than really it has
been in a long time. It’s — we have so much power
in the palm of our hands to do and say things really, to a
certain extent, in anonymity. And we need to come to grasp
with what’s appropriate. And so, the best way to
do that is to have people who hear conversations, people
who don’t agree with something, people who are listening to somebody make
comments, make remarks. It’s not to shut up. It’s not to politely look away. It’s to say, listen, that’s not
appropriate in this setting. And we can’t sit on our hands. We can’t expect anybody else
to defend those rights for us. It’s also not appropriate for,
I mean, everybody can complain and say I didn’t
get a fair shake, the story wasn’t accurate, but
when you argue that members of the press are traitors to
this country, when you argue that there’s some treasonous
impact, those things take hold, in part because, frankly,
not everybody pays attention to what those words in the Constitution say
as much as they used. And that sort of populist
movement, both here and abroad, is really something that we need to start dealing
with every day, so.>>Okay. While the
text and the principle of the First Amendment
have not changed over time, courts’ interpretations
have indeed changed. Judges, lawmakers, and
scholars sometimes struggle with balancing strong speech
protections with a necessity of maintaining a
peaceful society. So, what are your
thoughts about this? For example, what do you think
of the changing interpretations? More importantly, how do we
appropriately protect even unpopular or hurtful speech?>>Well, I think
if you’re talking about government intrusion, I
think we have to protect it. I think just because
somebody says something that you may not agree with
or I might not agree with, doesn’t mean that it
should be prohibited just because it makes
you uncomfortable. Your role, as I said earlier,
is to speak out on your own and sort of drown
that voice out. So, the more people that are
talking about cooperation and collaboration and getting
along there are, the less people to listen to that
one person yelling, whether it’s an anti-religious
slogan, a racial slur, or whatever, they are
going to not listen. That person is going to literally be the lone wolf
crying in the wilderness. And that’s — it takes a society
that’s committed to that, committed to saying,
listen, I might not agree with what you have to say, but
you have the right to say it, but there are certain
limitations on how you do that and certain ways to go about it, and you can’t turn
that into a threat. So, there’s a fine line between,
sometimes, between hate speech and threatening violent acts. One thing is probably protected,
the other, the violent act, the incite to riot, the incite to take action, that’s
not protected. So, there, I think that’s
where the line is coming. And it’s getting tougher in part because the Constitution was
written 200 and some years ago, and when they talked about
a free press, I mean, that’s literally, they were
talking about, you know, a solid building where
printing presses were operating, putting out a newspaper
or putting out a magazine. Today, we all, if you
reach into your pockets, you all have a printing press
like in the palm of your hand. And how do you deal with that? Government doesn’t really,
shouldn’t really control that unless there’s some
violent threat there. But in terms of who controls
what you say on this, whether it’s Twitter or
Facebook or whatever, you’ve signed a contract
just to get on that page. You signed a contract with
those private businesses, and they do have a
right under the contract to control what you say. You also, as a listener to this,
you have a right to turn it off, or you have a right to fact
check it, or you have a right to speak out against
it and disagrer. That’s what the marketplace
of ideas allows us to do. It’s a free and open
marketplace, and certain voices
need to be louder.>>Okay. Let’s move on
to freedom of the press. Is there a difference
between freedom of speech and freedom for the press?>>Well, going back to the
original derivation, there was, I think, some, in the
author’s mind it was important that an individual
could stand up and speak against the government. But it was also important that
there was an organized group, a business enterprise,
if you want, I think it was President
John Kennedy that said, it’s the only — the press is
the only business enterprise that’s specifically
guaranteed in the Constitution. And I think in their minds
there was a difference, and I think there is
still a difference. Because I think we
still need to — those lone voices or the
collective voice still need to look at an organized press
that is providing us with facts so we can make decisions. And organized press that
is standing up, truth — speaking truth to power, you
need that collective group. You need that organized
presence there to protect the individuals
who are speaking. Constitutionally, legally,
I don’t think it’s — I don’t think they’re
treated that much differently. But it’s certainly different
taking on, for instance, the New York Times or Fox
or CNN or any major outlet versus saying to some
person on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court
who’s yelling something, it’s a heck of a lot easier
to control that because that person’s bandwidth,
if you will, is however far his
voice will carry. The press has a — has a
very clear role to play in protecting this democracy,
and they need to do their job. They need to do it right. They need to make sure that they
call out instances of fake news. They need to make sure
that they check their facts and that there is a clear line
between, which is, these days, sometimes blurred, a clear line
between the factual portion of the newspaper and
the editorial page.>>Okay. Does a free
media mean a free society? How do they intersect?>>It would be nice
if it was that simple. It — that’s a tough one, because of there is
an intersection point. You need — you need
a free press to protect society’s freedoms. But just having a free press
doesn’t completely protect that. You need other ramifications. You need other things
to protect it. You need people protecting
your due process rights and your property rights and
a whole host of other things, but having that as the sort
of the backbone or the beacon, if you will, that’s going to
shine the light, the spotlight on what action is good or
bad, you definitely need that to keep it — to
keep a society free. Will it do so by itself? No, because I think that needs
all of us, all of us agreeing to have that faith
that we are going to not believe everything
we, as I used to say, everything we read
in the newspaper. Now, we have to broaden,
everything we read on Facebook or everything we read or hear
on a major 24-hour news channel, we need to check it out. We need to think about it. And we need to be open
to the possibility that other views
might have some basis. And we need to figure out how
to get divergent views to sort across and sort of figure
out a way to meet in the — in the middle so we can
move this country forward.>>Excuse me, I’m getting
over a cold, so I apologize. Many feel more free to say
or post whatever they want on social media, and they
believe they are safe in doing so. Their perception is that the
First Amendment protects them no matter what. How do free speech and
social media fit together?>>Well, the simple
answer and the short, the really short answer is,
they fit perfectly together. You should be allowed
to express your views, regardless of whether or not
anybody agrees with them. You should be able to
express [inaudible]. It is that whole — the
question is, what is your right on a social media platform? That’s a — pretty much ends
up being a contract right between you and Facebook, or you
and whoever owns that platform and that you sign that very
long consent agreement, which I’m sure one person in
the room, maybe two, have read.>>Read.>>And I have a friend
back in Montana who reads every single
one of them, and I don’t know how he has
time to do anything in his life, because those things –>>They’re crazy.>>Because those things
go on a long time. And, but most people just
automatically hit that button. So, it might not be a
bad idea to start there, as when before you hit that button you might
take a little bit of time and at least skim through
to see what you’re — what it is that you’re
actually agreeing to. Frankly, you’re agreeing
that they can take something down if they don’t
agree with it.>>Right.>>Now, that’s got — that
has some other issues. It — we all want to think
about it in terms of, well, it’s going to protect
us from hate speech, it’s going to protect
us from being — somebody trying to incite
violence, somebody trying to do something that we, in a
civil society, don’t agree with. But it can also be used
to control what gets on. It can be used to
control a message. So, how do I — what
message do I want you to get and how am I going to
make sure it’s effective? And the data analytics
now allow you to figure out where you’ve
been on Facebook, what things you’ve
liked, what things you — so, what are your
interests and try to gear a message that’s to you. And it may sound like
it’s coming from a source that you can trust, but that’s
where you all come in again. You have to figure out, is
it a source that I can trust? Because there’s a
lot of information, there’s way too much information
out there for the average person to process by themselves. So, there are companies
that are very reliable that do check things out. And you need to take the
time before you start sending something. We’ve all seen, you know,
something, oh this, whatever, let’s — romantic story or
whatever and it’s just all fake, right, or somebody
trying to help a stranger and everybody walks by, this
one person does and the whole, you know, I hope it happens
more, but it, you know, most of these are just to
tug at your heartstrings and they’re not actually fact. It gets more complicated
when you’re in a situation where it’s politics at play, whether it’s a celebrated
court case, or something that’s going on,
and you’re getting a message that tells you what
you want to hear, that really isn’t a
free press either. That really isn’t
necessarily free speech. That’s trying to
control what you think, and sometimes we
let them do that. So, back again, the whole — these freedoms —
we have to fight. It was interesting. I had a conversation, it was more about an
independent judiciary, but I think it’s applicable
here, with somebody from a foreign country
about six months ago. And the comment was
that, you know, in 2003 we established
an independent judiciary and we established this and
we had this constitution that protected speech and press. And then we went back to doing
the business, we were trying to fix our economy,
we were trying to do all these other things, and we got distracted
from that moment. And we weren’t fighting
every day for free speech and an independent judiciary
and now we’re in trouble. And the person looks
to me across the table and I’m not sure exactly what
I’m supposed to say, but I do — something comes to me and I
don’t know if it’s good, bad, or indifferent, but
here’s what it was. Listen, we’ve been at
this for over 225 years. We fight every day. And we don’t take weekends
and Sundays off when you’re — when it comes to
protecting those values. So, that’s incumbent on all
of us, to sit there and think about that and make sure
that we get this right. This is a great experiment in
democracy, but it only goes so far as what the people in this room are willing
to sacrifice for it.>>Okay. So, do you
have any other thoughts about this year’s — this
year’s theme of free speech, free press, free society? We wanted to give
you an opportunity to just take this
where you would like.>>A couple. So, and I’ve sort of
woven it into some of the remarks already. But we — this country is
really a unique place to live, and we really have a great
tradition of recognizing in our Constitution
the importance of free speech and free press. And when we were thinking about
picking a topic for this year, one of the purposes of
Law Day is to educate. It’s not to — and it’s not to
necessarily stay on the topics that are easy, stay on topics
that don’t engender some debate and discussion, and it just
came to us that this was — this was the perfect time
to have this discussion. It was the perfect time to
remind people of the importance of civil discussion and the
importance of civil debate and the importance of
being able to accept it that you may not always be right and that the world is
not always going to agree with you, and that’s fine. It may be just that the
other person’s point of view, or the other person’s, not spin, but the other person’s feeling
[inaudible] are actually right. And you can only do that if
you have somebody pointing the facts out. People should believe
the news media. They should believe
what’s printed as fact. They should check it, but
they should have some ability to have faith in that. I’m a big sports fan. I’m a big baseball fan. And, you know, every newspaper and every magazine has
typographical errors. But when I look at the
box score, you know, I — from a reputable newspaper,
I believe that, you know, Gary Sanchez went two for four
and had a homerun and two RBI’s. I mean, I like — and the
score is what the score is. We actually need to
get back to that — that our press, who has an
obligation, too, in this role, that they are trusted. I think we have a lot
of good journalists, a lot of good newspaper
people, and a lot of good people who are willing to
dig the facts out. So, we have to find those folks
and be able to trust and listen to what they’re saying. That faith in the
system is very important. It’s gotten us this far. Is it going to continue? You know, that’s up to us. From an association standpoint,
since I am the president of and speak for most of the
lawyers in this country, my thought is this, it’s
up to us to help fight, but it’s up to the media,
it’s up to journalists to participate in that. Because that First
Amendment protects everybody, and we need both the
legal institution and the institutional of a
free press to work together to, when necessary, speak truth
to power, when necessary, make sure we get it right. So, this is a great exercise. Thank you for hosting. Thanks for your hospitality. And I appreciate
your sometimes not so easy questions,
but thank you.>>Yeah, you’re welcome. So, now the true test comes. We’re going to open up
questions to the audience. Who do we have? Right here in front. Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, why don’t you
go ahead and then –>>You have the microphone.>>Yeah.>>Thank you for this
interesting discussion. In your comments you suggest that the press has
protected status. If so, who makes
that designation and what criteria should they
use for making that designation?>>Well, first of all, the
Constitution protects them. You know, make no law
that shall abridge. The government shall make no law
that shall abridge the freedom of speech and the free press. So, they have — they have
an inherent protection in the Constitution. What they do with that sort
of answers your question. Are they trustworthy? Have be shown — has a
particular newspaper, a particular TV station,
a particular author, shown that they are
what they say are. Facts are facts. There really isn’t too many
ways you can slice, you know, Gary Sanchez hits a
homerun, there’s two people on base, that’s three runs. You can’t — that’s
a fact, okay? It’s the — it’s the
blurring — what gets the — creates the problem in my mind
is the blurring between my spin on those facts or my opinions. Those are — there’s an
editorial page, an opinion page in newspapers and magazines
and on TV for a reason. When you’re reporting something
as fact that is an opinion, that’s really just an opinion,
that’s where the problem is. And it’s up to — it
really is up to — it’s not up to the government, because the government
is precluded. It’s up to the people
to make that decision. It’s up to them to say,
okay, I don’t agree with you and I’m not going to continue
to spin this out on Facebook. I’m not going to link this
and two thumbs up or whatever, I don’t do Facebook so,
whatever emojis there are. It’s not — you know, it’s up
to you to get to the bottom line and maybe post a comment that
says, you know, I checked and this just isn’t accurate.>>That’s not quite my question.>>Okay, sorry.>>Who is — who is the press? Is WikiLeaks press? And are they –>>Well, that — yeah, okay. So, today just about –>>In this modern
era, you don’t have to have a printing
press is, I think, the challenge we’re facing.>>Today you — I’m not
sure that WikiLeaks, I don’t know how you
would define them, because they do the
dictionary thing, they do the biography thing,
they do a variety of things. The question is, how —
what is their purpose and what are they trying to do? As an organized group,
if they’re trying — if they are publishing
things that they put out in the public field
to, that are facts, that are supposedly
fact-based and they’re arguing that those are fact-based,
they may very well fall into the protection
of the press. If they’re — but the press
isn’t completely protected from a private citizen filing a
lawsuit saying you defamed me. You went beyond what’s
protected speech. You went and, you know,
you lied about me, it ruined my reputation. So, there are those
controls over it. But today I agree with you, the
lines are blurred in terms of, is a blogger, is that —
is that part of the press? So, the evolution
is not done yet. But I think that if you are
posting something that’s opinion based, solely opinion based,
then you’re going to have to be responsible
for the ramifications of what that opinion is. If you’re truly — there’s a
place for that in the media, but there’s really more
of a place for facts, and investigative facts and
telling us what’s happening, reporting the news, telling
us there’s a storm coming, telling — whether it’s
natural or manmade, that’s the real role that I see. That’s, I think, what the
Constitution was looking at. They certainly didn’t
foresee 200 some years later that we would have all this
technological abilities. So, that’s an evolving process, but I think it all still
comes back to the individual, the purchaser of
that information, whether you pay for it or not. You’re actually paying for it
because you’re giving your time, which is valuable, to something. You want to make sure
you’re getting the facts so you can make a decision.>>We had a question right
up here in front, right here.>>Hi. Presidential criticism of the press are
generally portrayed as undermining the
First Amendment. I’m wondering if the office of
the president itself, you know, his constitutional office,
has free speech rights under the First Amendment? And, if so, is not
criticism of, you know, the institutional press simply
an exercise of protected speech?>>Well, first of all,
criticism, just to be clear, criticism is not a bad thing. Criticism of — government
criticism of the press, you didn’t get facts right,
I don’t agree with you, I don’t agree with your
philosophy, is one thing. Accusing a member of the press
or the press of being enemies of the state or traitors,
that’s a different story. And if you’re — if you’re using
a constitutional office to make that point, then you
go back to, you know, can the government create
any laws or any restrictions on that constitutional right? Now, it says Congress may
not, but an institution of government, I think, has a
hard time, if they’re acting as that institution, constitutionally based
institution of government, that’s a different story than
I’m the president, I don’t agree with what you’re saying. Presidents have disagreed
and fought with the press, they’ve commented on
judicial decisions forever in this country. That’s fine. That’s part of the process. That’s part of the give-and-take
of the marketplace. But the line has to be drawn
when acting as governor or president, you basically call
somebody an enemy of the state for exercising their
constitutional right, that is a problem, and
that has consequences. That has downstream consequences
that incite people to violence. Not — maybe not intended,
but in this society, we’ve seen plenty of examples
over the last 20 years of something said, something
by a powerful person, both here and around the world,
that has led to direct attacks
on people’s lives. There is a — there is
a line there that needs to be carefully followed.>>Over here.>>Thank you for your
very interesting remarks. And I absolutely agree with
you that press has obligation to provide information that people should believe
information [inaudible] in most media. But what can be done if media
it is used by a government to provide influence, or
sometimes it becomes propaganda. For example, now [inaudible]
ongoing discussion [inaudible] Russia today media outlets. Are they really performing
journalistic work, or should they be registered
as — foreign agents? France, for example,
recently passed a special law under which foreign broadcast
can just suspend it for — within a period of three months
before national elections. [Inaudible] administratively
stopped all Russian government TV broadcast on its territory. Our own radio [inaudible] Europe
radio liberty is investigated now because of suspicions that
it was probably infiltrated by central Asian governments, and our radio station provided
information, which was favorable that says governments. What can be done in [inaudible]? Is there a borderline
between freedom of speech and propaganda?>>So –>>Thank you.>>Just going to roll it
back to the topic again. That’s the constitutional
protection of free speech and free press. What you’re talking about, in
my mind, I mean, fake news, fake press, is not a new
term in the last four years. It’s getting more mileage,
but it’s not a new term. It’s been around for
a very long time. And it’s been, to a certain
extent, taken to an art level or an artform by some
foreign governments over the past decades, whether
it’s in Germany, whether it’s in Russia, whether it’s in
— to control the press. And so, I don’t consider
that a free press. If it’s government sanctioned,
government sponsored, government run propaganda, then
its government run propaganda. That is the antithesis
of a free speech and a free press situation. So, you know, you’ve got to deal
with that and you’ve got to deal with where’s the
source of the news? Where is it coming? And there’s some —
it’s not a new thing. There’s been some very
sophisticated propaganda machines throughout history. We have to figure out a way
to break through that and say, what — you know, what is right? What is fact and how do
we react accordingly? And it’s hard work. You know, this is —
this democracy thing, this free speech thing, the
constitutional right stuff, this is — this is hard work. It’s not for the — it’s graduate-level
civics, you know, every day. And we need to — we need
to buckle up and buckle down and do our jobs, too, as
people, not just lawyers, but as citizens of this country
or people that have come here to get the freedoms we have. We have to — everybody has got
to fight for those every day. And turning off propaganda
is the best way to it.>>Anyone else? I’m looking.>>Oh, sorry.>>Over here.>>Is eroding public confidence in the First Amendment
a bellwether for the next generation
legal decisions on the First Amendment?>>You’re going to have
to give me that one again. I lost something –>>Yeah, I didn’t quite hear it.>>Sorry.>>Closer, okay. Is eroding public confidence in
the First Amendment a bellwether for the next generation
of legal decisions on the First Amendment?>>I’m not sure I know
the answer to that. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m
qualified to answer that. From a standpoint,
hopefully we can work — programs like this can work to
get the public confidence back in the press, but whether or not
there’s going to be a change, decisional change from basically
all the way to the Supreme Court on free speech, free press, that’s what your
question is, I don’t know. I mean, it’s — I
think in my mind most of the court is pretty
protective of, at least at this point, of free
speech, free press, that right, that fundamental right, and I
— there are limits, obviously, and I don’t know that
anything that’s going on right now is really a
bellwether or like is going to suggest that the court
is going to move away from protection or move
to more restrictions. That would be interesting
to see, but I’m not sure I can
answer it as an expert. Because that’s, technically it’s
not my field of law, but also, it’s — I’m not sure the two
are an equal equation, so.>>Great.>>I’ll turn this way.>>So, a couple of years ago
there was a gentleman named Richard Spencer who rented space
from the University of Florida. He’s a white nationalist. And so, he — the University
of Florida, of course, provides a forum
for organizations to rent space for their events. And so, the University
of Florida under the First Amendment had
no choice but to allow this guy to come and give his speech. And, of course, a lot of
people were upset by it, and so there were
a lot of protests. At the end of the day, it
cost the University of Florida around $600,000 to provide for
the various security, you know, state, local police forces
and security and whatnot. The president of the
University of Florida suggested that it might be appropriate
for the federal government to provide for perhaps
a fund could be created for what amounted to basically
an unfunded federal mandate to state institutions to spend
money on security to provide for venues for speech like this. And so, I just wanted
to get your thoughts.>>So, here’s where I’m
going to draw a line. It was a good question, and I might have some
individual thoughts about it. And today I think I’ve kept
my individual thoughts at bay and stayed within the four
corners of the policies of the American Bar Association. And because the chief
policy officer for the American Bar Association
is sitting in the audience, I’m going to say I’m pretty
sure we don’t have policy in the association on that,
and as the spokesperson for the association
I can’t comment. Sorry. I know it’s not the
answer you wanted, but that’s — there are — there are certain
restrictions that I have to live on — under, and I’m
going to do my job.>>There’s someone here.>>Given that opinion and
conflict sells in the news media and facts don’t, what
would you recommend as a potential starting point to
regain confidence in the media when right now it
seems like everybody who watches the news
is just angry?>>Well, I think from
the public standpoint, they get to decide what it is
that they watch and what it is that they want to see and what
it is that’s going to move them. And that — it’s their right to watch really pretty much
whatever they want in terms of the news media and
decide their own minds if — but if you — if there’s enough
people that want facts back, that’s a facts matter,
yes, we do want opinions, we want educated people to
provide us some, you know, information, some assistance,
and listen to both sides of how they explain the facts
or how the facts matter, then essentially you vote by,
you know, turning the TV off or turning the radio off
or turning Facebook off or whatever the source is. The sponsors will
get the message. And then they’re — and if
the message is delivered, then listen, we want
more facts in our news so we can make informed
decisions. That might take some time, but I think that’s
the way to deliver it. It is an individual, or
collective group of people, that can take that action. But what, you know, things —
certain things, you’re right, certain things do — you know,
there’s more bad news on TV than there is good because
that gets people’s attention. So, sometimes we need to
have our attention, you know, if there’s a storm coming
and we need to be aware that there’s a storm coming. But I think you collectively,
as citizens, you need to figure that out and make sure that
when you decide what you watch or what you want to watch that you make it known
that you want fact. You’re smart enough, capable
enough to make your own mind up, and you’ll turn to the editorial
page or the editorial part of the review, a TV program,
if you want to listen to somebody else’s opinion.>>Here we go. Right up front.>>Just a follow up
on that question. We seem to be living in
a time now where a lot of people are not very
interested, this is sort of the gentleman before who
said not very interested in the facts, and a substantial
minority of people at least, and if our society
moves in a direction where that substantial
minority becomes the majority, what does that have as an — how does that provide us a
positive way to move forward?>>Well, it’s — that’s a
pretty gloomy picture, for one. I think, you know, I don’t
think it’s happened yet. And I think there’s hope. There’s programs, [inaudible]
programs being done all over the country. There’s — and it shouldn’t
just be for one day. I mean, civics has to
return to our middle schools and our high schools
and has to be taught as robustly as any
other subject. And we need to try
to figure out a way to educate the next generation
of students that these rights, they are, a lot of people
risked a lot to get us here. And we are not doing a very good
job if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t protect them, we
are not doing a very good job of honoring their memories. And I think we, as leaders,
have to figure out a way to get that message across, that
facts matter, that facts and data should be driving
their decisions on what they do, and that — which still, I
think, is the vast majority of people that have
that feeling. They need to — they need
to make their voices known. It can’t be drowned out
by a minority of voices on either side of the
political spectrum. The group in the middle
that wants the facts, that wants to collaborate
and cooperate and compromise, they need to not be silent. The silent majority needs to
speak out on issues like this with respect to the importance of these basic fundamental
rights to the survival of this country.>>There we go.>>Were you a schoolteacher
before you did>>this?>>No.>>Because [inaudible]
glaring at these people there.>>No [laughter].>>I’m following up a little but
on your remarks about the need for ordinary citizens and
consumers of the news to kind of vote with their feet or
vote with their attention if they’re trying to
perhaps hold the press to a higher factual standard. Would you see much likelihood
of any legislation or regulation in the near term that would
provide for a certain amount of protection for
individual speech on social media platforms? For example, if I were to try
to say express displeasure with Facebook about something
I saw there, and I didn’t feel like it was enough for me to
just individually boycott it, could I use a Facebook post to
broadcast the need for a boycott of Facebook on Facebook
itself and be protected in expressing that view? Or, would with the — you
know, would the company, should the company
have the right to shut down that type of speech?>>Well, so it’d be interesting to see what Facebook would
do in that situation. I mean, contractually, I haven’t
— I don’t know if the terms and conditions — I think
they can pretty much shut down whoever they want
that’s using their platform, because it’s a — it is
a private contract right that you sign on. I don’t know that legislating
somebody’s right to do that, which means restrictions
of Facebook, necessarily solve the problem. Although I’m not sure and I’m
not, like I said at the start of this, I’m not a First
Amendment lawyer per se. I’m not sure that Facebook is — it encourages people to
speak out, encourages people to tell us what’s going on, literally everything that’s
going on in their lives, it encourages that platform, but
are they part of the news media? I’m not sure that it, as a
company, is a news company. They provide a platform for
people to express views. They provide — so, and
certainly, some of the — some of the things that they do as a private company have
ramifications, whether — there’s been, you know,
testimony to Congress, whether that’s going to result
in anything it’s hard to say. One of the duties of, you know, a free Internet is,
it’s a free Internet. One of the downfalls of
the free Internet is it’s a free Internet. You get what you get, and sometimes you
get what you pay for. We need an open,
robust discussion point. We need to be able
to find information, but we also need
to act responsibly. And since they’re in the
private sector and not really, what I would consider as press, there are ramifications
I would think about that. How far it would go, you know,
it’s going to be up to Congress to make, and the courts,
to make those decisions. But you, as a person,
who says I don’t agree with you posting this, and you
post that on Facebook, I mean, I would think as long
as you’re doing it in an appropriate
fashion that it would — they would, you know,
let’s see what they do. It depends on how many followers
you have, I guess, right, and how many likes coat gets. So, but as far as legislating
that into it, I’m — that’ll be interesting to see. I don’t have an answer for that.>>Okay, well, I think at
this point we can wrap up. I would like to take
this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the
2019 Law Day Chair, Lucien T. Padda [assumed
spelling], a partner with Adams and Reese LLP in
Memphis, Tennessee, for his very valuable
insights and commitment working on the First Amendment
law related theme. Another thanks to the American
Bar Association Division for public education
staff for their dedication and tireless efforts
in producing a wealth of free resources
on free speech, free press, free society. Also, I would like
everyone here to — watching to follow the
Law Library of Congress on our social media and
subscribe to our e-mail alerts. Here’s my advertisement,
at loc.gov/subscribe so you can keep up with
our news and events. And also, if you have some time, please visit the collection
items display in the next room. Our curators from the
Law Library of Congress and the Serial and Governments’
Documents Division are happy to provide explanations
and answer your questions. Bob, once again, thank you
for being with us today. And have a great afternoon,
everyone [applause].>>Thanks, Jane,
I appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks.

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