Professor Michael Lempert
University of Michigan
Title: “Free Speech, without Listening? On Democratic Technologies of Interaction”
12:00 - 1:30 pm
Location: New Cabell Hall 349
Abstract: The focus on free speech can eclipse the complementary participant role of listening. Recent public sphere debates about free speech, for instance, not only challenge the commonplace of deliberative democracy that it is good to talk to people you disagree with; they also ask whether the right to speech can be revoked--by boycott, deplatforming, or firing--when an individual causes harm. Online and off, and across the political spectrum, people ask whether "canceling" individuals curtails free speech and is bad for liberalism or whether such selective disengagement upholds liberal-democratic values by stopping harmful speech and amplifying marginalized voices. These debates overwhelmingly focus on expression even as they rely on unexamined semiotic ideologies of reception--about when, how, and why to listen. 1 They are as much about ensuring or protecting people from reception as they are about curtailing or promoting speech, and it is to the other side of free speech that I want to turn.