Marianne (Mimi) Wesson

Chilling Effects: Cross-Burning, Pornography, and Censorship

Marianne (Mimi) WessonMimi Wesson is a professor of Law and Wolf-Nichol Fellow, and President’s Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder. She is an author and novelist. She is best known for her contributions to the debate about pornography in feminism and law as well as her best-selling novels, Render Up the Body (1998), and A Suggestion of Death (2000). She is also an active consultant and news media commentator on criminal law. She provided analyses for radio and television on the trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols, the Columbine shootings, the JonBenet Ramsey case, and others.

Mimi Wesson will consider the debate among civil libertarians, antiracist activists, and feminists concerning the proper relationship between the first amendment and “the speech we hate.” For many, this category includes explicit hate speech, symbolic expression of racial hatred, like cross-burning, and pornography (a term whose definitional boundaries are vigorously disputed). Some defenders of the first amendment refer to any efforts to regulate or even distinguish these forms of speech from others as “censorship,” but many have noted that censorship itself consists chiefly of speech, and that the purpose and effect of some hate speech is to chill the expressive activities of its targets. How many of these paradoxes will be resolved in a way that comports with the vigorous protection of free speech values?