Dahlia Lithwick speaks with UC-Irvine criminology professor Charis Kubrin about rap, social media, and Elonis v. United States. She also talks to University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos about his arguments in the pregnancy discrimination case Young v. United Parcel Service.

Are Violent Rap Lyrics “True Threats”?

Are Violent Rap Lyrics “True Threats”?

Law and the Supreme Court justices who interpret it.
Dec. 6 2014 2:42 PM

Amicus: Rapper’s Intent

Dahlia Lithwick talks to a scholar about how courts have interpreted rap lyrics, and hears from the lawyer who argued this week’s pregnancy discrimination case Young v. UPS.

Listen to Episode 7 of Slate’s Amicus:

In 2010, Anthony Elonis posted original rap lyrics to his Facebook page that detailed extremely violent scenarios involving his ex-wife. He was charged and convicted under a statute that criminalizes interstate communications containing “any threat to injure the person of another.”

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This week, in Elonis v. United States, the Supreme Court considered whether Elonis’ social media posts are protected speech or fall outside of the First Amendment because they constitute “true threats.” On this episode of Amicus, Dahlia speaks with University of California at Irvine professor Charis Kubrin about the case and the larger trend of defendants’ rap lyrics being used against them in criminal proceedings.

She also talks to University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos, who represented Peggy Young in the week’s other big Supreme Court case, Young v. United Parcel Service. The central debate in Young is over what accommodations employers need to provide to pregnant workers who are unable to carry out their normal responsibilities.

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Podcast production by Tony Field.

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate, and hosts the podcast Amicus.