By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Crowdsourcing Severin

In today’s Boston Herald, Jay Severin writes: “Just this week the august Columbia School of Journalism presented a panel on public speech. A Harvard law professor listed various types of speech that must be made illegal.”

I’d like to track this down. I’ve searched Google and Google News and tried a couple of things on LexisNexis — nothing so far. Does anyone know what Severin is talking about?

Case closed: Media Nation’s readers come through again. Carl noted that there was a panel discussion at Columbia recently featuring the notorious anti-speech activist Catharine MacKinnon. I’d seen the same thing, but she’s not at Harvard. Except that she is: Steve discovered that MacKinnon is the Roscoe Pound Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

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  1. Carl

    I’m guessing here, but I suspect he may be talking about this panel, which included several bigshot first amendment specialists though not, as far as I can tell, any Harvard professors. There’s a link to the audio of the event, too, though I haven’t listened to it.Might be a different event, but can’t find anything about it on the Columbia GSJ site.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    I saw that, but dismissed it because there was no Harvard professor listed. But you may be right — perhaps he was zooming in on MacKinnon.

  3. Steve

    Far be it from me to defend Severin, but MacKinnon is currently Roscoe Pound Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: Excellent work! Given MacKinnon’s well-known record of opposition to free speech, I think we can even go so far as to assume Severin got it right.

  5. man who's no fan of imus

    Well THERE’S something I never thought I’d see…Severin actually getting his facts straight.Or maybe not…I sense a lack of context here. Why would Harvard have a visiting professor that’s anti-free-speech? Must be some reason behind it…maybe it’s not a good reason, but I have to think there’s a reason.Speaking of free speech on the airwaves, anyone notice the story of Athena Andrikopoulos and how she just won a million-dollar settlement against a couple of Albany shock-jocks who ridiculed her on the air?I have a lot of problems with this. A LOT of problems. Yes, okay, I’ll take Athena’s attorney at his word when he says “It really was beyond cruel and unkind. It was really just horrific things, much of which you couldn’t print” (which is bullcrap, but I digress).But you can’t stand there and tell me that this won’t have repercussions. Distasteful or not, free speech is still free speech…and nothing I’ve seen so far says anything about this woman filing indecency charges via the FCC, or even libel charges. No, she filed based on “mental distress”…which may be true but, you know what? I don’t care about your mental distress.Get used to it – you live in a market-based economy. Don’t like what a radio station is saying? Organize a boycott. Call their sponsors. Complain the to FCC. There’s LOTS of avenues to pursue to get the DJ’s to stop. Hell, didn’t Congress just jack up the FCC fine limit to over $300,000? That’s enough to get a station owner to fire a DJ who’s ratings are weak enough to allow this kind of useless shockjockery.But this smells like they hurt her, and now she’s hurt them back. And in the process, she’s had a chilling effect on radio everywhere. Thanks a lot, Athena. I think I’ll go boycott your restaurant while I’m at it.

  6. Anonymous

    In terms of sanity and sympathy for personal liberties, it woluld be more appropriate if she were the Ezra Pound Visitng Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.I swaer that the MacKinnons, Farrakhans and Sharptons of the world are our latter-day Goldsteins. Sometimes I wonder if they really exist, or if they are just part of some right-wing conspiracy to make the left look loony.Bob in Peabody

  7. Brian Maloney

    The real issue is that Severino has used his debut column to suck up to Don Imus (probably hoping his guest appearances there will become regular events) and by extension, WTKK, which carries Imus.It’s self-serving and provides no benefit to the Herald, which make a key error in hiring him as a columnist. Even if this column is found to be accurate, it’s only a matter of time before he screws up.

  8. Anonymous

    The take on the Imus controversy I most hear on WEEI and other places is that what Imus did was OK, because Al Sharpton criticzed him for it, and who is Sharpton to talk.Bob in Peabody

  9. jvwalt

    Not to be picky or, shall we say, overly academic, but there’s a big difference between a regular, full-time professor and a “visiting professor.” The latter is a temporary resident on campus, for a semester or (at most) a year. It’s almost an honorary position; a far cry from being a member of a University’s faculty. (As a matter of fact, MacKinnon is a professor at the University of Michigan.) Such a distinction would make no difference to Severin, of course. As for her “notoriety,” MacKinnon is a respected feminist scholar. She’s done a lot of valuable, groundbreaking work. Whether you agree with her first-amendment views or not, she deserves a measure of respect. And she’s done plenty to earn a place on the faculty of a respected institution, be it Michigan or Harvard.

  10. Art

    I think I agree with Brian Maloney about a larger issue.While Severin does mention he is a frequent guest on the Imus show, how hard would it have been to add that Imus’s prior show and the new incarnation are appearing on his station.With regards to the debate on free speech at Columbia, Severin seems to be on a BBC kick lately. He seems to mention a lot on his show that he listens to the BBC at night. I suspect that is where he heard the debate and the Mackinnon comments. Severin should have provided a quote or a sample of the things Mackinnon mentioned. Something tells me he didn’t go the extra step to get a transcript.Here is a link to the BBC article on that free speech poll about social harmony and free speech that Severin mentions: A quote:In most of the 14 countries surveyed, press freedom (including broadcasting) was considered more important than social stability. The strongest endorsement came from North America and Western Europe, where up to 70% put freedom first, followed by Venezuela, Kenya and South Africa, with over 60%. (I know we are not talking about style here, but I found the column almost unreadable unless trying to imagine it being delivered in Severin’s radio style.)

  11. DJS

    We should all be grateful that the Herald has hired a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize….

  12. Dan Kennedy

    But does the Herald still run Peabody Award-winning columnist Bill O’Reilly? I think they dropped him.

  13. Anonymous

    By virtue of being a law professor at UMichigan, MacKinnon is by definition respected. But her attempt to redefine pornography in the “model ordinance” she drafted along with Andrea Dworkin in the 1908s is straight out of Newspeak, and deserves all the scorn anyone who values free speech can muster.I was in Cambridge when the proposed ordinance was defeated, showing that even much-berated Cantabridgians value free speech over political correctness. Here it is below:15)(a) Pornography is the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words that also includes one or more of the following: (i) women are presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things or commodities; or (ii) women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy pain or humiliation; or (iii) women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped; or (iv) women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or (v) women are presented in postures of sexual submission, servility, or display; or (vi) women’s body parts – including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks – are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or (vii) women are presented as whores by nature; or (viii) women are presented as being penetrated by objects or animals; or (ix) women are presented in scenarios of degradation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual.One of her main justifications for banning pornogrpahy is that so many of the women who participate in it are coerced into it. To be fair, one could imagine that if MacKinnon were alive in the 1850s, she would have been opposed to slavery. However, her preferred method of eliminating it would have been making cotton farming illegal.Bob in Peabody

  14. Boston Venerable Bede

    What a poorly written column. . . after editing!

  15. man who hates bill o'reilly's guts

    But Bill didn’t win his Peabody for his columns! He won it for his work on Inside Edition!Oh wait, IE won it after Bill left.Oh wait, it wasn’t a Peabody at all. That’s right, Bill O’Reilly LIED OUT HIS ASS about winning a Peabody.I’m sure you meant your post as sarcasm, Dan…but I fear too many readers will have forgotten that Al Franken called O’Reilly out on this one.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Man Who: Actually, I was confusing it with O’Reilly’s Nobel Prize.

  17. Anonymous

    Dan, O’Reilly’s “column” runs on Sundays in the Herald. Sad, but true.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 1:32: You just can’t deny a man who won the National Book Award — twice!

  19. Anonymous

    How about a man who kind of, sort of, won a Pulitzer Prize?

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