Charles Fried, Free Speech, Neal Katyal, Stephen Breyer, Television

A Quick Note on the Breyer-Fried Discussion

Stephen Breyer and Charles Fried.JPGWe just got back from the very interesting discussion between Justice Stephen Breyer and Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, held at Georgetown Law School, and moderated by Professor Neal Katyal. We’ll post a full report — and photos — in the near future.
For now, though — we’re running out the door again — here’s our favorite part of the discussion.
Professor Katyal poses a hypothetical concerning whether, consistent with the First Amendment, a law could be passed forcing networks to replace entertainment shows like “Lost” with more civic-minded, educational fare, like vice-presidential debates. The example raises a tension between First Amendment freedom and Justice Breyer’s conception of the First Amendment’s purpose: promoting civic awareness and participation.
Professor Fried — who is a very dignified, elegant, and professorial older gentleman — starts to respond.
Professor Fried: “I watched Grey’s Anatomy for the first time last night, while flossing my teeth, in the other room. My wife doesn’t allow me to floss in the same room as her.”
[Laughter at this totally random domestic confession. The audience takes a moment to imagine Professor Fried in paisley pajamas, flossing his teeth, while his wife awaits his return in the bedroom.]
Professor Fried: “And I can assure you, the show is far more entertaining than any vice-presidential debate!”
Justice Breyer: “Gray’s Anatomy? I thought that was a medical text.”
Professor Fried: “You watch it, you’ll see that it ain’t!”
Unfortunately, the discussion quickly turns to campaign finance reform. We never learn whether Professor Fried favored “Dr. McDreamy” or “Dr. McVet” for Meredith Grey.

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