Friday, April 4, 2008

The other battlefield

Professor Ronald Dworkin on free speech defenders of today:

People once defended free speech to protect the rights of firebrands attacking government, or dissenters resisting an established church, or radicals campaigning for unpopular political causes. Free speech was plainly worth fighting for, and it still is in many parts of the world where these rights hardly exist. But in America now, free-speech partisans find themselves defending mainly racists shouting 'nigger' or Nazis carrying swastikas or—most often—men looking at pictures of naked women with their legs spread open.

The man is very respected by the constitutional law crowd at my school, I can tell you that. Back in the 90s, he wrote a couple of articles on the right to pornography which raised some serious hackles with some feminists (like Rae Langton, for one). But if you don't have a stack of 15-year-old literary magazines around your house, how can you relive the intensity of it all? Be glad; for now, through the magic of the internet, you can experience Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon throwing hammers at each other on the letters page of the New York Review of Books. A very good read.