WILLIAM A. COHN – Free Speech in 2017: Is the Town Square Model of Democracy Dead?

A year ago, preparing to teach my undergraduate free speech class I found myself questioning free speech fundamentalism. Struck by the unseemly reality of free expression and the unsettling insights of Kelefah Sanneh in The Hell You Say, the simple comforting notion that more speech is always better than less speech seemed suspect.

Now, one must question the very assumptions of U.S. First Amendment (1A) jurisprudence, which have been laid bare by “post-truth” politics, in which the very concepts of truth and reality have been trumped. In 2016, volume prevailed over reason, and feelings over facts (for more, see here). A cynical carnival barker hoodwinked the citizenry, begging the question: Is the town square model of democracy dead?

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