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UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR TONI MASSARO ARTICLE ON CIVIL DISCOURSE.pdf

UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR TONI MASSARO ARTICLE ON CIVIL DISCOURSE.pdf

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Published by Roy Warden
Regarding "Civility" in Public Discourse and the Exercise of Free Speech: Arizona Constitutional Law Professor Toni Massaro Presents a Definitive Article on How the Vigouous Exercise of First Amendment Rights and "Civility" Can--And Should, Co-Exist .
Regarding "Civility" in Public Discourse and the Exercise of Free Speech: Arizona Constitutional Law Professor Toni Massaro Presents a Definitive Article on How the Vigouous Exercise of First Amendment Rights and "Civility" Can--And Should, Co-Exist .

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Published by: Roy Warden on Mar 05, 2013
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03/29/2013

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042171
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042171
 
 
 Arizona Legal Studies
Discussion Paper No. 12-12
Freedom of Speech, Liberal Democracy,and Emerging Evidence on Civility andEffective Democratic Engagement
Toni M. MassaroRobin StrykerThe University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of LawApril 2012
 
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042171
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042171
 
F
REEDOM OF
S
PEECH
,
 
L
IBERAL
D
EMOCRACY
,
AND
E
MERGING
E
VIDENCE ON
C
IVILITY AND
E
FFECTIVE
D
EMOCRATIC
E
NGAGEMENT
 
Toni M. Massaro
*
 
and Robin Stryker 
**
 
On January 8, 2011, a mentally disturbed man opened fire on CongresswomanGabrielle Giffords at her “Congress on Your Corner” event. Six people died and  several others, including the Congresswoman, were seriously wounded. In theaftermath of the tragedy, a renewed call to more civil political discourse arose, followed immediately by strenuous objections to this call on constitutional, political, and practical grounds. In this Article, we address these objections and conclude that none is sufficiently compelling to derail a civil political-discourse project.We argue that the more important issues are whether, and how, incivility in political discourse poses a problem for democracy. Facts matter in the debateabout what consequences may flow from how we “talk politics.” This Articleanalyzes the emerging data about the nature, causes, and consequences of incivility in modern political discourse. As we explain, the currently availableempirical evidence is inconclusive on many specific points. However, it does suggest that some types of incivility, in certain contexts, may cause harm todemocratic engagement and governance. At the same time, empirical evidence
* Regents’ Professor and Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law,University of Arizona.** Professor of Sociology, Affiliated Professor of Law, and 2010–2011 Earl H.Carroll Magellan Circle Fellow, University of Arizona; Research Director, NationalInstitute for Civil Discourse.Our thanks go to Kirk Emerson, Bernard Harcourt, Suzi Dovi, and Houston Smit for excellent feedback, and to Alexis Danneman, Raphael Avraham, Corey Mantei, and BradHonigman of the
 Arizona Law Review
for their thoughtful editorial input.
 
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042171
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042171
376 ARIZONA LAW REVIEW [VOL. 54:375
 gives the lie to claims that perceptions of incivility are either completelyidiosyncratic or completely determined by political partisanship. Research suggests a fairly substantial consensus among citizens and between citizens and researchers about what “counts” as political incivility. We therefore suggest  preliminary steps that might inform a civil political-discourse agenda that respectsthe enduring value of full-throated freedom of expression. We also identifyempirical research questions that must be answered if we are to assess theaccuracy of the explicit and implicit behavioral assumptions underlying current legal and political debates about civil discourse.
T
ABLE OF
C
ONTENTS
 
I
 NTRODUCTION
...................................................................................................... 377
I.
 
T
RADITIONAL
O
BJECTIONS
................................................................................. 390
A. First Amendment Constraints ................................................................... 390
B. Liberal Democratic Values ....................................................................... 398
C. Modernity .................................................................................................. 404
II.
 
E
MPIRICAL
I
 NSIGHTS
......................................................................................... 406
A. We Do Know Incivility When We See It ................................................. 406
B. What Causes Extreme Incivility in Political Discourse? .......................... 411
1. Political Polarization ............................................................................ 412
2. Echo-Chambers, Cyber-Balkans, and Incivility ................................... 413
3. Anonymity and Flame Wars ................................................................ 419
4. Campaign Rhetoric and the Role of Political Elites ............................. 420
5. Districting ............................................................................................. 427
6. Other Unintended Institutional Incentives for Incivility ...................... 428
7. Outrage News ....................................................................................... 429
C. Is Political Discourse Less Civil Today than in the Past? ......................... 429
D. What Are the Consequences of Uncivil Political Discourse? ................... 431
1. Effect on Elections and Governance .................................................... 431
2. Effect on Political Engagement ............................................................ 433
3. Effect on Trust, Efficacy, and Legitimacy ........................................... 435
4. Effect on Cognition .............................................................................. 437
III.
 
M
ODEST
P
ROPOSALS
 ........................................................................................ 438
C
ONCLUSION
......................................................................................................... 439
 

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