Misinformation is now so commonplace that it has become hard to figure the difference between it and legitimate information. That problem is exacerbated by the way the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States has been interpreted so as to honor misinformation, even disinformation and hate speech, as free speech. How are we to understand this apparent anomaly, viz. that American law welcomes public, discursive means that undermine its political authority – such as the public behavior of UnoHoo, Inc.? We can avoid bad answers to this question by reviewing the history of First Amendment jurisprudence, which define the proper scope of free speech in the United States. By doing so, we can better comprehend our acceptance of public speech that is both free and harmful.
The first half of this Minyan Kaplan defines the issue and its history. The second half invites discussion and debate about the talk and its implications. Join us for kiddush afterwards.
About John Wallach
Coming out of a tri-coastal Jewish background (Chicago suburbs, Los Angeles & Santa Cruz, New York metropolitan area), John Wallach has been a political theorist for over 40 years. After receiving his doctorate in Politics (Program in Political Philosophy) from Princeton University in 1981, he taught as a Lecturer at Yale University and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Vassar College before obtaining a post at Hunter College & The Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 1991. He retired in 2022. His teaching, research, and publications have spanned the history of (mostly Western) political thought, specializing in ancient Greek political thought, democratic ethics, human rights, and political interpretation. Earlier this year, he completed a four-week seminar on the Constitutional History of Misinformation at the New York Historical Society led by an ACLU litigator and Columbia University historian. He became a member of Bnai Keshet in June, 2023.
Bnai Keshet (Children of the Rainbow) is a vibrant congregation affiliated with Reconstructing Judaism that values the diverse backgrounds, identities, and beliefs of our members and our shared historical traditions. We celebrate our role as participants in the evolution of Judaism; we engage our tradition thoughtfully, so Judaism remains meaningful and relevant to each of us. In this spirit, we are committed to deepening our religious and spiritual life, to hesed (caring), to life-long learning, to tikkun olam (repairing the world), and to sharing important life events. We are an informal and respectful community moved by prayer, fired by lively discussion, enlivened by laughter and song.