Trump, CNN, and Academic Treatments of Free Speech

All of the recent buzz about freedom of speech and freedom of the press reminds me of the first, and only, course I ever took dedicated to these topics.

I was working on my M.A. at the University of Houston, and in my first semester in 1976, I took a graduate course in Issues in Freedom of Speech.

The professor was William A. Linsley, who had both a J.D. and a Ph.D., and was the author of a book entitled Speech Criticism:  Methods and Materials (New York:  William C. Brown, 1968).  At the time, he was a Full Professor at the University, and the Chairman of the Department of Speech Communication.

In the course, we reviewed historical and current free speech cases that were reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.

I reflect back upon the importance of those cases, and comparing them with the tit-for-tat interplay between President Trump and the media today, well – there is no comparison.  The current rhetoric reminds me of playground bullying, and the CNN video Trump tweeted this weekend illustrates the unproductive use of time and attention that surrounds all this.  It is laughable to me that the Supreme Court would ever agree to consider anything about all of this current case or recent incidents.

I would like to go back in time to Dr. Linsley’s class, and insert the current situation, and see what he and my classmates would say about all this from an academic free speech perspective.  My guess is that the consensus would be it is “their choice,” poke fun at it, and move on.

And, what happened to Linsley?  He passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2006.  I found his obituary from the Houston Chronicle.

WILLIAM ALLAN LINSLEY, J.D., PH.D., died on October 24, 2006, from pancreatic cancer at the Houston Hospice at the Medical Center. Dr. Linsley was born to William Les and Berta M. Linsley on September 22, 1933, in Peoria, Illinois. He grew up in Peoria where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout at the age thirteen. William graduated from Woodruff High School and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Bradley University in Peoria. At Bradley, as well as at Woodruff, William was national champion debater and served as the Bradley Brave at the University. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. William continued at Indiana University earning a law degree. Following his graduation from Indiana University in 1956, he entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant through an R.O.T.C. commission. He served tours of duty in Washington, D.C. and the Far East as a counter intelligence and espionage officer. Upon completing his service at the rank of captain with the Air Force, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma in 1963. William also did graduate research at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. By 1963, William had earned five university degrees. Following the completion of his Ph.D., William joined the faculty at the University of Houston. He taught communication law and ethics, copyright law, and First Amendment Freedom of Speech to students in the School of Communication. He published many articles relating to these topics including the review of the Supreme Court cases relating to the First Amendment and served as a consultant to H.L.&P., M.D. Anderson, and Rice University. After thirty-three years, Dr. Linsley retired with the rank of Professor Emeritus. Professor Linsley is survived by his wife Joan; daughter Ann Linsley-Kennedy, her husband John Kennedy, and grandson and namesake William Kennedy of Bellaire, Texas; daughter Vanessa Linsley of Key West Florida, brother Dwight Linsley and his wife Karen of Whitehall, Michigan, brother-in-law Robert Van Horn and his wife Mary of Glidden, Iowa, sister-in-law Jean Cavanaugh of Great Bend, Kansas, nieces and nephews Kathleen Bowman, Tom, Jones, Mike, and James Cavanaugh, John Van Horn, his companion dogs Peter Paul and Bear, and many friends around the world. William was preceded in death by his parents, William Les and Berta M. Linsley and his beloved pets Cynthia, Freddie, Louie, DinKie, and Reggie. We are grateful for all the support and assistance that have come from special friends and colleagues Mr. And Mrs. Paul Eads, Dr. Les Switzer, Dr. Larry Judd, James Schumburg, Dr. Eugene Decker, Dr. Gerald Falchook, Mrs. Fanny Man, Laura Kirby and the exceptional caretakers, Mrs. Joan Wilcox and Ms. Margaret Watkins. Donations in William’s memory may be made to the Houston Hospice at the Medical Center or the S.P.C.A. Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from five o’clock to seven-thirty in the evening on Friday, October 27 at the Bradshaw-Carter Funeral Home, 1734 West Alabama, Houston, Texas. A memorial service will be held at four o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, October 28, 2006, at the same location. On line tributes may be posted

And, what happened to me in his class?  I made an A.  I still would (LOL).

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