Sep 25, 2019
We are often warned by conservatives, liberals and even some on the Left that we live in a time where “free speech” is under threat from far-left forces. “Political correctness” and “snowflakes” have shut down free inquiry, specifically on college campuses, and led to a crisis threatening the very foundation of our democracy.
But the origins of the label “free speech” — as it’s currently practiced — paint a much messier picture. Rather than appealing to the Vietnam-era Berkeley protest glory days, what one sees when examining the history of the concept is a temporary tactic used by the Left in the mid-to-late 1960s that has, since that late 1980s, become a far-right wedge designed to open up space for racism, eugenics, genocide denial, trans and homophobia and anti-feminist backlash. Defense of the right to keep open this space as an appeal to a universal value hides a well-funded, coordinated far-right attempt to maintain a conservative, largely male and cishet version of political correctness.
On this episode, we discuss where the contemporary concept of “free speech” comes from, what its uses and misuses have been and how a rose-tinted time of pristine, perfectly free" speech never really existed.
We are joined by journalist and author P.E. Moskowitz and Chair of Princeton University's Department of Anthropology Carolyn Rouse.