The Freeze Peach Paradox Transcript


Megan: Hi and welcome to the Vocal Fries Podcast. The podcast about linguistic discrimination.

Carrie Gillon: I’m Carrie Gillon.

Megan: I’m Megan Bigaroa, and 2023 is here.

Carrie: 2023 is here, and it is kicking my ass, and yes.

Megan: Yeah, it’s a rude year so far.

Carrie: It is a totally rude, rude year, and I have to read you, I don’t even believe in horoscopes, like at all.

Megan: Yeah I know you don’t. I know. Listeners, she don’t.


Carrie: I have to share the lunar New Year, by the way, happy year of the cat or rabbit


Megan: Yes, it is. I am a year of a rabbit baby or cat born or cat, depending. Okay, so this is a supposedly the horoscope for my year, which I’m a dragon.

Carrie: Of course you are.

Megan: Yes. I know.

Carrie: You’re such a dragon.

Megan: Of course. Okay. Dragon is into a people conflict year. Your relationships may become volatile. However, your mind is clear. This should help you get out of trouble, so yeah.

Carrie: Oh, that is uncanny.

Megan: I know. I know.

Carrie: Oof. Oof.


Carrie: I am so glad your mind is clear.

Megan: Yeah. I mean, most of the time I have my moments, but yes, it’s definitely in a clearer place than it was last year. All right, so speaking of animals.

Carrie: Yes. I’m so excited, you gave me a little hint at what this was but I really just have no idea


Actually, this isn’t science. What does that moo mean? Humans can make some emotional sense of barnyard babble.

Megan: Oh my god, and barnyard babble. I love the alliteration. Adorable.

Carrie: I know.

Megan: Well done. A plus.

Carrie: Yes, so this article goes, explains how we understand our pets, right? Like, especially dogs and cats. Like, we can hear them when they’re upset versus when they’re not upset, and then what about other animals? They say, so like, what if it’s like a pig or some wild animal? And it turns out that it’s at least according to this 1 survey of about a thousand people from across the globe, it says, so that’s interesting. Most can pick up on an animal’s excitement, but they don’t necessarily know if it’s like good excitement or bad excitement.

Megan: Oh, okay. meaning like, if they’re in danger, are these like more like cows, like domesticated, so you’re not really in danger from them?

Carrie: That’s a good question. It doesn’t really explain like all the different types of animals. Like, there’s horses and cows and pig, so maybe it’s just barnyard animals, rather than wild animals, but I want to know more about pigs because I feel like… so they basically grunt, they’re squeal.

Megan: Squeal.

Carrie: A high pitched squeal of a frightened pig sounds different than a boisterous grunt of a happy hog, it says here, and that’s true. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of a pig, like when it’s happy, excited versus sad, excited, or like upset excited, but happy hog, these people

Megan: I know.

Carrie: All these alliteration.

Megan: They love it.

Carrie: Okay, so according to this human quote, humans are experts at picking up on the arousal and valence of other humans, even if they come from a very different culture or speaking another language, but we just don’t know. I’m not really sure about with animals, so okay, so… oh, here it is. 4 domestic mammals pigs, horses, goats and cows, and 2 wild relatives, wild bores and przewalski’s horses. I’m not sure how to say that, sorry.

Megan: Horses without little things on their backs. What are they called? What you ride a horse and you put the thing on them?

Carrie: You mean a saddle?

Megan: Saddle, saddless horses


Carrie: Well, yes, they’re saddless, but they’re wild horses. They’re not like feral. Like in Arizona, there’s some feral horses running around.

Megan: Yeah. Yeah.

Carrie: No, these are just like wild horses. Anyway, so it’s an endangered wild horse native to Mongolia. They made recordings of the animals experiencing positive and negative emotions, so a horse readying to eat would produce a high pitched nay when that’s positive. Like, “Hey, I’m getting food.” And then a hungry horse would produce a throaty wine.

Megan: Sounds like me.


And my dogs, honestly, like yeah.

Carrie: Okay. There’s also sound bites from human actors who were recording saying meaningless sounds in angry, fearful, or joyful tones.

Megan: Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. You’d want that comparison, right?

Carrie: Okay, so there were people from forty eight different countries and there were 8 different languages, so unfortunately that’s still not capturing the entirety of the world, but it’s better than many other things where it’s like very, very European or North American or whatever. Everyone was basically able to tell when the animals were aroused, right? Like, so excited or super unhappy.

Actually, it’s more than half of the time, so it’s not all the time, but more than half of the time, but they just couldn’t tell, like, positive, negative, very well, huh? Although they were better with goats, horses, pigs and wild bores, and humans, but bad with cows and wild horses.

Megan: Well, you know what? I was going to say that I was going to say, I have no idea about cows. I don’t think I would be able to… the moose. I don’t think I… because they always sound kind of… the moos sound deep to me no matter what, so maybe they just sound like grumpier than I think they are.

Carrie: Oh, that’s interesting.

Megan: I mean, maybe it’s also like, you probably haven’t spent that much time around cows, I’m guessing. Well, you would be super right, Carrie.


Not that I have either, but I have a feeling that I’ve spent a little bit more time around cows than you. Just a little


Carrie: Yeah. Yeah. They’re not many cows and like central Phoenix where I grew up.


Megan: Ah, it’s 1 of those 5 seas.

Carrie: It’s true. We do have a lot of cattle around but not in the body.

Megan: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Why would you say that? You definitely had to drive out of the city and..

Carrie: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, but goats, goats, goats. This is interesting to me. Does it say how… I mean, wait, goats nay? Nope. What do they do Megan? Old McDonald. Okay. They baaa[?] yeah, that’s right.

Megan: They sound kinda similar to sheep. Sheep and goats sound similar.

Carrie: Yeah. Well, I guess maybe they can get higher pitched. I wonder if it’s a pitch thing. Like if we look at a spectrogram, are these linguists doing it? Oh, I probably not, right? So if you look at a spectrogram of these things in the pitch, I’m wondering if pitch is…

Megan: Okay. Maybe, but like, so remember that when a horse is happy, it’s actually higher pitched than when it’s unhappy.

Carrie: That makes sense to me. How high or pitched can a cow go?

Megan: I don’t actually know. I mean, I don’t really… you’re right, they’re pretty low animal. I mean, they’re so big and like…

Carrie: Right, right, but I think I have heard them squeal a little bit.
and so to me it would be like the opposite. Like if they’re squealing, it would be bad unhappy. Oh, I see. I see. Okay.

Megan: Yes. I don’t think pitch is like a one-to-one thing.

Carrie: Yeah. Yeah, but maybe I’m wrong. No, but that throws out my hypothesis because I was thinking that it would be across, like humans would assume, well that’s why maybe they’re bad at cows because they’re assuming right? That higher means better


I don’t know.

Megan: Yeah, that’s maybe true. Which may be true.

Carrie: It’s interesting because what do the wild cows… sorry, the cows and the wild horses have in common that such that we can’t tell them, their emotions apart.

Megan: Right. I don’t know. Anyway, food for thought.

Carrie: Animals are great . They make me happy. They are great. Anyways, we’re talking about something serious today, but I would say that it is a very fun interview.

Megan: It really is, and it’s so fun.

Carrie: I would like to say say that I did not get a copy of his book and that is why I did not know anything because it comes up.


Yeah. I thought she had, I did. It is really, really good, and you’re going to need to buy it.

Megan: Yeah. I mean, our conversation is amazing, so it’s like, definitely makes me want to own the book for sure, and it’s so amazing that what Carrie, this is very special. First time ever, we have a 2-parter.

Carrie: Oh yeah, so yeah, it’s very long, so I decided to just kind of at around the halfway point, just cut it because I was just like, “Yeah. Nope. It’s too long.” so yeah we’re going to have a second part later. Yeah, and believe me, it’s a guest that you want to hear more from.

Megan: Yes. Yes. Dennis Baron is the best. Like, I just, I love him.


I mean, I wouldn’t say go buy this book about someone who is a bad person.


Carrie: Well, absolutely, but he is also very charming. You could be a good person and not charming.

Megan: Yes that’s true. That’s true. Yeah. Ted Bundy. Anyone?


Carrie: Yeah, so I guess that’s the opposite.

Megan: Yeah, so anyway, you’ll really enjoy this. Glad to be back.

Carrie: Yes.

Megan: Enjoy.


Okay, so Dennis Faron is emeritus professor of English at the University of Illinois at Iran[?] Champaign. He’s a frequent commentator on language issues in the national media, and has written a number of popular books. Including recently What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She, and even more recently, his latest book is, you Can’t Always Say What You Want, the Paradox of Free Speech, which puts today’s attempt to limit free speech into an historical perspective. Thank you so much for being here with us.

Megan: Yeah, thank you.

Dennis: Oh, it is great to be here.

Carrie: We wanted to have you on for a while, but a book coming out is a great reason to have people on, so this is perfect.

Megan: Yeah, and actually, I interviewed you for a different podcast for the previous book, which was so fascinating, so I’m excited to talk to you again.

Dennis: Thank you.

Carrie: Why did you want to write this book and why now?

Dennis: Why did I want to? I got interested in language and law issues, probably 30 years ago or more. When I was looking at issues of official English attempts to make English at the federal state and local level. The official language, and my perspective is always historical, so I look at an issue that’s current, but what brought us here? How has this dealt with in the past? And so over 2 and a half centuries of struggles to decide what language should be the language of government, of education, of public communication in various ways.

It’s been an issue in the new world for long, an issue everywhere, all over the world, and it comes into focus now since the collapse of the Soviet Union, all kinds of linguistic rivalries in former Soviet States where different groups are jockeying for political power, social power, whatever kind of clout, economic clout that they can get in trying to navigate of how to set up a government, how to organize things and what role language should play in those issues.

You’ve got issues in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic and a number of post-soviet states, about what should be the status of the Russian speakers who were formally are political overlords, and do you boot them? Do you suppress them? Do you take out your vengeance against them? And what about your own minorities and your immigrant minorities? How do you treat their language? Do you give it any kind of status at all? Do you try to ignore it? Suppress it? So that’s what got me on that kick.

Well now, well, I started the book actually 5 years ago before free speech was such a big public issue. It’s been on the front pages for the last few months. I mean, I was just making a list of some of the stories that come up almost on a daily basis. A new governor.

Carrie: Yes.

Dennis: 1 of her first official acts to sign an executive order banning the use of Latinx as a term. No 1 in the Arkansas government is now allowed to use it. Why single that out? What’s the significance of that?


Carrie: Why does it feel like virtue signaling?

Megan: Vice signaling.

Dennis: I think 1 of you pointed out, the term that seems to be succeeding more is Latina A.Just with the eval at the end, rather than the x. Because the x as with a lot of gender coinages, the pronunciation isn’t always clear to people, and they’re reluctant to use it because they don’t want to say it wrong, or they don’t like it or whatever, but there’s so many reasons for a new term not catching on, that it’s almost surprising when a term does have some success. The sign of success is attempts to suppress, right?

Carrie: That’s true, but is she also banning Latin A or is it just…

Megan: No, it’s just Latinx.

Dennis: I don’t know. I didn’t read the executive order. Usually I try to correct track down primary sources but there are so many stories and so little time, Life is short.

Carrie: Yeah, yeah.

Dennis: You don’t want to give too much ink to somebody like that anyway. You’ve got worse stuff going on in Florida where basically the governor is saying the university instructional staff are state employees, and that anything they say has to coincide with stated public policy and can’t conflict with it. The employer controls your speech issue, and how that plays out with public employees of the Supreme Court. Basically in Garcetti said that a state employee can be censured for saying something against their employer’s wishes, and so the issue is whether this applies to academic speech, and most courts say it doesn’t, but there’s never been a hard and fast decision on this notion of academic freedom.

It’s an idea that is supported rather than a legal doctrine that has been clearly established anywhere, so yeah, there’s all that going on.

Megan: I don’t know if you listen to the podcast, 5 to 4, but they talk about… it’s all about how the Supreme Court sucks and like that’s their tagline and I don’t remember if they’ve done Garcetti, probably not, but they would probably predict that if it actually did go to the, especially this Supreme Court that the employees would lose, and so then it would become the law of the land that yeah, academics don’t have any freedom, at least the ones at state schools. Yeah, so that’s it yeah. Anyway.


Dennis: Yeah. Well, and the ones in the private sector aren’t doing so great. If you look at what happened at Henline.

Carrie: Right. Yes. Terrifying.

Dennis: It’s the whims of an administration rather than clearer adherence to some kind of due process

Carrie: Or any understanding of anything like freedom of expression or speech or anything, so speaking of what is free speech and what is the paradox of free speech


Megan: It feels so complicated and yet so simple, but it’s not simple, and it’s…

Dennis: It’s both complicated and simple because legal notions of free speech, and the popular notions of free speech don’t always coincide, so the legal notion basically based on First Amendment doctrine, Congress shall make no law a bridging whole number of things, but 1 of them is freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people to assemble. Peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, but let’s just boil that down to free speech.

What that basically says is the government shall make no law preventing you from talking or writing or signing or whatever counts as speech. Voting counts as speech, spending money on political campaigns. The Supreme Court tells us, and Citizens United Counts as speech, money talks, nobody walk. It’s that simple, so I don’t deal with the religion aspect of the First Amendment because…

Carrie: Yeah, that’s a whole other can of worms.


Dennis: That’s a whole other thing. I have no expertise in that matter. I I stay away from it, except when that gets intertwined with speech and something like the wedding cake baker or now the website designer who don’t want to deal with same sex clients, basically, so that where it impinges on public accommodation law and non anti-discrimination law. This is a tricky issue, and where the Supreme Court is going land on that. Anyway that’s…

Megan: Depressive.

Dennis: That’s for somebody else to comment on

Carrie: I’ll cry about it later.


Dennis: Yeah, yeah. Anyway, so the legal aspect of free speech just has to do with whether or not the government can establish limits on speech or whether it can’t. I mean, the First Amendment says it can’t, shall make no law. No means no, except that the rights cinder[?] Bill of Rights are not absolute. None of them are ever treated as absolute. The right to speech is not absolute. The right to bear arms is not absolute. The guarantee against self-incrimination is not absolute.

There is the public emergency exception to that which they dealt with the Boston Marathon bombing, by interviewing Tsarnaev who had not been read his rights because there was fear of imminent threat to the public. If they delayed and gave him the opportunity to consult an attorney and things like that. He was read to his rights later on. In case of imminent danger to the public. Like, is there another problem? Are there are more terrorists involved?

Those sorts of things need to know trump’s the individual right to, silence and to counsel, and it seemed as a temporary or expedient measure, rather than something that can be applied loosely.

Megan: I noticed you mentioned, and this hits close to home because I’m in Tucson, that Jared Lee Loughner, who bore arms and caused a lot of damage. He said that the government was trying to control our grammar. That was 1 of his things.

Dennis: He was a little bit of a nutcase, obviously, but that’s a technical term.


It’ in the DSM-5. Anyway, he did say that and people, people think pretty crazy things about what the government is doing, but basically it sums up this kind of anti-government idea that they’re putting chemicals in the vaccines to control others.

Carrie: Turn the frogs gay.


Dennis: It’s all conspiracy with Jeff Bezos and, and the International Jewish conspiracy and the bankers and Hollywood and all the traditional enemies are brought up, but okay, so what is free speech? There’s the legal aspect, which is basically that the government is not supposed to make laws, but in fact, there are whole swaths of our communications, which the government can then, and the speech that is not, the courts of rule is not covered by the First Amendment.

Include things like obscene speech threats incitement to violence, criminal conspiracies, getting together and plotting to commit a crime or convincing somebody else to commit a crime. Lying under oath. False advertising, defamation. There are states where that still have no swearing laws on the books, and they are occasionally enforced. People can get arrested in this country, and in England, who were swearing in public,

Carrie: Okay. Wait, what? Which states?

Dennis: I mean, I cited an example in the book from a woman in Georgia, I think it was who was arrested for swearing. She was in her house yelling at her son, her teenage son, who had done something, that she felt merited yelling at using colorful language, but he was on his phone and a friend overheard the mother swearing, and so they used that. The police used that as… even though that meant she was in public because her voice went out over the phone line, even though it was overheard rather than anything else.

She was arrested and fined for swearing in public. Some woman was arrested for yelling at her husband, because she used the F word because he put something heavy on top of a loaf of bread in the shopping cart in the supermarket, and she said, “You dumb fuck.” Or something like that, and somebody overheard and they arrested her. I don’t think you do jail time, but you can be fined, but put some money in the county swear jar and staff like that, so anyway there are things that even though it says Congress shall make low no law, it actually means Congress may make some laws that abridge your speech.

There’s that. Then there’s the whole issue of free speech in the private sector as not covered by the First Amendment. Okay, but when Elon Musk buys Twitter and positions himself as a free speech advocate, absolutist, although he probably has no idea what any of this means.

Carrie: He doesn’t. He clearly doesn’t.

Dennis: He doesn’t know what he’s doing, but rich boy playing with a new toy and trying to get attention, and has no actual plan, but…

Megan: Yeah. As we all saw play out

Dennis: The Disruptor, could have been 1 of those 1950s TV cowboy movies, but cowboy shows.

Megan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dennis: The private sector can do whatever it wants. Private sector sets its own rules. Now, there are some limitations, I believe in terms of private control of speech. In terms of employer employee relations. I think California has some special employee protections, but many states don’t, and in those situations, your employer can basically dictate what you can and cannot say, particularly when it is company related staff, so you get stories also about how people post something critical of the boss or something that the company finds embarrassing, even if it has nothing to do with the company.

Like they fire the offender and they’re typically within their rights to do so, because if you have an employment contract that says you can’t say anything disparaging about the employer, can’t share business secrets with the competition, those sorts of non-disclosure requirements, and so there’s broad control of employee speech rights. They can listen in on your phone calls, they can monitor your keyboard use on your computer, all sorts of things that the government can’t do that the private sector can, so there’s that and people often confuse you say, “Oh, well, Twitter’s limiting my right to free speech is a constitutional offense.”

It’s got nothing to do with the constitution. The social media platforms can make their own terms of service, they don’t necessarily enforce them as they’re not designed to be read by the user. They’re designed to discourage you from reading them so that you’ll just click okay and get on with whatever it is you need to be doing. They’re written by the legal department to protect the owner from any kind of legal damage. I did at 1 point read through the twenty seven pages of the AT&T terms of service, and they have things like if you are killed or injured in any way while using or trying to use, but being unable to use this service, we are not liable.

Carrie: Wow.

Dennis: It’s a disclaimer. We’re not liable if you get killed while you’re using Twitter, and then there’s everybody else, right? We all have free speech. We can all say whatever we feel like.Whatever pops into our head, none of us either legally or socially is immune from the consequences of our speech, so you say whatever you want, but you might do better to think before you speak, because…

Carrie: Yes, people might not want to be your friend anymore,

Dennis: It’s exactly right. People can and are free to criticize your speech, object to your speech, challenge your right to speak, accept what you say, like what you say, and worst of all for any writer, ignore
what you say.

Carrie: Yes.

Dennis: I mean, that’s the worst thing, right? It’s 1 thing to get people mad, at least they’re paying attention, but if they just completely ignore you…

Megan: It’s worse.

Dennis: That’s the hardest thing for writers and standup comics to deal with, right?

Carrie: Yes, and I think this is why like so many people complain about being shadow banned, because they’re like, “I’m being ignored. Why isn’t anyone listening to my amazing social media speech?”

Dennis: Exactly. Exactly. You don’t get those likes,

Carrie: Right? Those sweet, sweet likes, baby.

Dennis: It’s youngest child syndrome.


Carrie: Yes, exactly.

Dennis: “I was talking. I was talking.” So even if, even if the government must permit you to speak, that doesn’t mean people have to like what you say, they can object to it. They can make lots of noise, so you can’t be heard right? They can heckle.

Megan: That’s their free speech.

Dennis: They can heckle. They can heckle, and in fact, the Supreme Court has said on a number of occasions that what is called the heckler’s veto, that’s when a speaker is prevented by a government agency, like university, police, whatever. From speaking, because they fear that there could be a violent reaction to that speech, that’s called the heckler’s veto, and the course of have said that that is not a valid excuse for preventing, for interfering with someone’s speech. It’s tricky because that was the argument that forced the Federal Court to allow the demonstration in Charlottesville that led to the riot. The idea was, and the ACLU defended the right to demonstrate of the Neo-Nazis, and the White Supremacists on the grounds that they had signed a promise not to be violent.

They gave us their word and this is the ACLU argument, and they argued the same thing with the American Nazi rally in the 1930s at Madison Square Garden in New York City, that you can’t use the heckler’s veto to ban the Nazis from speaking, or to ban the Nazis from marking, matching in Skokie in the 1970s, or the so-called free speech rally in Charlottesville in 2017 I think it was. On the grounds that you’re afraid that violence could erupt, because the police will be there to prevent that from happening.

Of course, in Charlottesville, they did not prevent it from happening, in Skokie they did. At Madison Square Garden they didn’t. The Nazis spoke and then protesters were kept outside, and after the rally, everybody in the audience went outside and started beating up the protesters, and the police just stood there, bause that’s what they do.


Crowd control wasn’t as we find as it is now, in terms of keeping the 2 sides separate, which is the ideal way to go about it. When the Charlottesville people declared a second match in Boston Common a couple of weeks after that, and I think it was fifty demonstrators, fifty Neo-Nazis show up and twenty thousand people show up to protest the Neo-Nazis. There was no violence. Okay, because the Boston Police handled it. Yeah, and in Charlottesville, Virginia is an open carry state, Massachusetts is not and….

Megan: Yeah, that’s huge.

Dennis: The Neo-Nazis brought their guns to town, and that did not help things either.

Megan: That’s a big way that the first and Second Amendments are interacting.

Dennis: Yeah. Yeah, and the Second Amendment is winning, when you allow guns at political rallies over controversial issues, the constitution is not supposed to be a suicide package.

Carrie: Right.


Dennis: Right. It was not intended to support yet another revolution. The constitution is a document that is meant to make sense of the previous rev revolution and to prevent undermining the new government, and what people are doing with the Second Amendment is basically perverting it to say that we needed to defend ourselves against a tyrannical government, and all these people are running for Congress, or political office on a platform that is anti-government, and then how does that make any sense?

Megan: I mean, it doesn’t to me, but doesn’t…

Dennis: This is when you go and build your cabin in Idaho and live with a wood stove, and no power tools.

Carrie: Yeah, exactly, and start mailing bombs everywhere. Yeah.

Dennis: Definitely get off the internet because… but you can’t build your bombs now without the internet to show you how, so…

Megan: That’s true.

Carrie: That actually reminds me, like 1 of the questions I wanted to ask was, how has like new technology changed our ideas about free speech?

Dennis: Okay, so in complicated, in probably very predictable ways, because what has happened, okay, since the 1990s, as more and more people certainly in the West have adopted the computer as their main means, or online devices, tablets and mobile phones, as well as their main devices of communication of learning, of finding out about things, of reading the news of social interaction. Basically, everyone’s become a writer, right? We’re all keyboarding all this stuff.

Writing more and more, more than ever, the average person is, is probably, I don’t know what kinds of quantifying studies there have been, but as obviously spending more time at keyboards, generating pros of various kinds than ever before in history, the community of writers, it’s not just the community of readers. The community of writers has expanded drastically. Everyone’s a writer. Now, there’s always a backlash when something like this happens.

Look at what happened when the printing press started impacting. Who gets to read, who gets to write. Look what happened when writing itself was invented. This is goes back to my Better Pencil book, which is basically about what happens when technology of communication takes hold. More and more people adopt the technology, and that leads to push-back where authoritative types like government, religious bodies, parents, educators push back and say, “Well, there’s too much of this is going on. Too much screen time. Too many people at the keyboard, they’re writing stuff that is of no value, and we need some way to sift through all the garbage to get at the kernels, all the important stuff.”

There’s a general sense that we need to impose some kind of censorship, some kind of rules of who gets to write, who gets to read it. Some kind of quality control, some kind of editorial process and so on, so what the computer does is skips the traditional publication editorial process of review, acceptance, rejection, editing, rewriting, fact checking. Well, all those things that developed over a couple of centuries with conventional publishing. The internet allows us to short circuit anyone with a keyboard and access to the internet and put anything they think or want, or want to say or photograph as we’re all now photographers as well online, and it’s almost like you’re guaranteed an audience.

There’s somebody out there who’s going to read it, whether it’s picture of your cat or instructions on how to make a bomb or anything in between. Order hits on people, order banned substances, whatever, whatever is, you can do it online, and it’s a constant battle between, trying to catch people who are doing bad things online and learning to evade the authorities. Keep spiraling, whether it’s hackers or criminals or whatever, so you got all these, all these semi science fiction studies of somebody sitting at the keyboard and all over some alien force has taken over your keyboard or your hard drive is suddenly fried and stuff like that.

Yeah, so more and more people creating language and putting it out there leads to attempts to censor that language, some of them are not particularly justified, right? Some of them are things like Ron DeSantis saying, “Don’t say gay.” You’re not allowed to say anything about gender, but what if you’re dream about conventional gender as the laws are over broad.


Dennis: The way they’re framed. They cannot survive a challenge because nobody knows what they mean.

Megan: Governor Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas, that wouldn’t win in the courts, would it? To ban LatinX, because it’s not obscene language. She actually called it pejorative language, but like that’s not true.

Carrie: Isn’t it like a policy within the government? I think they’re allowed to do that. Right?

Dennis: Right. Yeah. That would be the defense is that she’s telling government employees in the course of their employment what they can and cannot say, and that has traditionally been okay with the courts. That’s Garcetti, that’s basically the Garcetti.

Megan: Also relevant to you is hopping in Arizona right now, probably elsewhere. The banning of pronoun singular, they pronouns.

Dennis: Pronouns

Megan: In Arizona.

Dennis: No pronouns. Now, if you can’t use pronouns in the classroom where teachers have been talking about pronouns since the days of Aristotle, right?

Carrie: Yeah. You’re just going to have to use names only for everybody all the time, and like…

Dennis: I know. I know, but yeah, it’s over broad because they say pronouns as if pronouns only means…

Carrie: Singular they or the neo pronouns

Dennis: Inclusive or NV[?] pronouns or neo pronouns or coined pronouns.

Carrie: It’s almost as if they don’t know what pronouns are, or they don’t care. Yeah.

Dennis: It was it. No pronouns. No pronouns in the Bible. No pronouns in the constitution.

Megan: It’s my favorite. We the people.


Dennis: Yeah. We the people. Yeah. Right. Well, whatever.


Megan: You mentioned incitement, and that’s not allowed, and we all know that recently we had a thing.

Dennis: Yes. We had a thing on January 6th. Is it incitement? Is it incitement?

Carrie: Are you talking about Trump in particular? Megan?

Megan: Trump and what he said.

Dennis: In particular. Absolutely. I would say that that’s textbook incitement. He uses the word fight something like twenty two times in his speech to the crowd who then went and fought. Oh, you have testimony from people who were arrested saying they thought they were doing what he told them to do.

Carrie: Yeah, they’re right.

Dennis: The defense is that he didn’t mean it literally, and look the argument there is when Henry the second supposedly said, “Will, no 1 rid me of this meddlesome priest.” And then they go out and kill,

Megan: Kill the bishop or whatever, whoever it was.

Dennis: Yeah. The Archbishop in murder in the Cathedral, he did not issue a direct order, but he opined, and it’s an apocryphal story, so we don’t know if Henry actually said this about Beckett. Thomas Beckett or whether the barons who committed the murder just got a sense that the boss wanted the guy out of the way. Take care of it for me. Plausible deniability, so that would be Trump’s argument, plausible deniability, and it’s clearly a pretext.

Carrie: Also it’s mob shit, the way he talks about things. Like everyone knows what he wants. It’s mob shit.

Dennis: Yes. Totally. Yes.

Megan: He is the authority figure here right?

Dennis: He’s the authority figure and then he goes and watches this unfold on TV and does nothing to stop it, so that…

Megan: For hours and hours. Yeah.

Dennis: [inaudible] that this is how he wants it to go.

Megan: He really did. It’s so clear.

Carrie: Yeah. I think about how like, because I think your whole thing, right? Since you’re such a history buff is like, what is it? Those who don’t know our history are doomed to repeat it.

Dennis: You know what? Knowing the history doesn’t stop us from repeating it either.

Carrie: Nope. It doesn’t at all.

Megan: Yeah. Okay. The people whose rights that really, truly have been impinged upon when it comes to free speech, I think a lot about how we’ve tried to regulate the language that is spoken in the United States.

Dennis: Oh, yes.

Megan: Because my dad, who was in elementary school in the 1950s, 4 miles from the Mexican border, but in Arizona, was not allowed to use Spanish.

Dennis: Of course.

Megan: If you use Spanish corporal punishment.

Dennis: Corporal punishment. Exactly.


Dennis: This is common. This is common.

Megan: It’s still happening today when I tell people that they are shocked that something like this could be happening right now, and I’m like, “I don’t think you’d be shocked if you knew that our history with trying to regulate those language.”

Carrie: No. What’s shocking is the corporal punishment, because in most countries that’s no longer allowed, right? Canada, it’s illegal. Illegal, but in the United States, apparently it’s still legal, which I didn’t realize until very recently.

Dennis: It’s state by state.

Carrie: Well, it’s state by state, but as far as the Federal Government is concerned, as far as the SCOTUS is concerned, it’s legal because it’s never been litigated in the past however many years but…

Dennis: Right, and there’s no federal law governing, it’s left to the states. I remember moving from New York where, where corporal punishment in the schools is not legal to Illinois, where when I moved here in the mid 1970s, it was legal and I was shocked. They didn’t use it. As far as I know, in the schools that are kids went to, but they could, and that bothered me that they could.

Megan They could. Yeah.

Carrie: No, it’s grotesque.

Dennis: It’s used disproportionately among minority students, whether it’s ethnic or a racial minority or linguistic minority. The whole official language business, which I call in the book the chapter or is America’s War on Language. Which is there’s really, I think what what it is, is attempt to silence non-English speakers and long history of that. Long history of it failing to silence them that basically what silences non-English speakers is the social pressure of peers rather than school rules or municipal or state official language laws.

Carrie: Yeah, so actually integration would actually serve their purposes better.

Dennis: Exactly.

Carrie: It would get more people to only speak English, and yet they’re still fighting it, and so it’s an interesting…

Dennis: Right. Keep them out of our schools, but make sure they speak English, whoever they, however we define they, we don’t want them here. It’s very nimby.

Carrie: Oh God. Nimby.

Megan: Yeah. Nimby. Yeah. We have definitely had you for a long, long time, and thank you so, so much. Is there 1 last thing you would like to leave our listeners with respect to free speech, or whatever you want to talk about?

Dennis: Oh yeah. My sound bite is, scratch a free speech and you’ll find someone who wants to protect their own speech and suppress yours.

Carrie: Right. Exactly. That’s exactly. Exactly it.


Megan: Yes. Thank you. This book is so good and so important and you have all of this free advertisement happening because the world is flying parts


Dennis: I know, and I know, and no 1 will be a be a left alive to read it, but still

Carrie: Probably some people will survive.


Megan: Yes.

Dennis: Future Explorers from Space will come upon a copy, that’s been banned from the libraries in Florida, I’m sure.

Megan: Oh my God.

Carrie: Well certainly. Certainly.

Dennis: Maybe even Arizona. Certainly not Arkansas.

Carrie: Well, luckily we have a Democrat not Arizona right now.

Megan: It’s Democrat.

Carrie: We’re good. We’re good.

Dennis: We’re good.

Carrie: We’re good for now.

Megan: For now, now, but we always leave our listeners with 1 final message. Don’t be an asshole.

Carrie: Don’t be an asshole.


We really appreciate you.

Megan: Yeah. Thank you.

Dennis: Oh, thanks us. Great [inaudible]

Megan: Thank you.

Carrie: The Vocal Fries podcast is produced by me, Carrie Gillen. Theme music by Nick Grantham. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @Vocal Fries Pod. You can email us at and our website is



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