Cover art for podcast Clear and Present Danger - A history of free speech

Clear and Present Danger - A history of free speech

47 EpisodesProduced by Jacob MchangamaWebsite

Why have kings, emperors, and governments killed and imprisoned people to shut them up? And why have countless people risked death and imprisonment to express their beliefs? Jacob Mchangama guides you through the history of free speech from the trial of Socrates to the Great Firewall.Stay up to date… read more

47 Episodes | 2018 - 2020

Episode 41 - Free Speech and Racial Justice: Friends or Foes?

August 21st, 2020


In May 2020, protests erupted all over the U.S. after a video emerged of a white police officer killing a black man named George Floyd. Millions took …

Special Edition - Suzanne Nossel

July 31st, 2020


In this Special Edition, we will zoom in on current challenges to free speech – specifically in the US. With me to discuss this timely subject, I have  CEO of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, who has just published her new …

Special Edition - Daphne Keller & Kate Klonick

May 14th, 2020


“Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal,” declared the headline of a recent Atlantic article by law professors Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane …

Special Edition - Dunja Mijatović

May 4th, 2020


Since the coronavirus became a pandemic, governments around the world have adopted a wide range of measures affecting basic human rights. This includes many of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe all of whom …

Special Edition - Monika Bickert

April 17th, 2020


The coronavirus has disrupted life as we know it. Billions of people across the world are caught in varying degrees of lockdowns with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. But while our physical world has …

Episode 40 - The Age of Human Rights: Tragedy and Triumph

February 4th, 2020


In 2014, Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam by promoting secular values on …

Episode 39 - The Totalitarian Temptation – Part II - Der Untergang

January 27th, 2020


In November 2019 German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a passionate speech to the German Bundestag. Merkel said “We have freedom of expression in this country…. But freedom of expression has its limits. Those limits …

Episode 38 - The Totalitarian Temptation – Part I

January 15th, 2020


In George Orwell’s 1946 work, “The Prevention of Literature,” he wrote:

[O]rganised lying … is … integral to totalitarianism, [and] would … continue …

Episode 37 - Expert opinion: The History of Mass Surveillance, with Andreas Marklund

December 30th, 2019


In 2013 the NSA contractor Edward Snowden sent shockwaves through the American government when he leaked information exposing a number of vast mass surveillance programs providing the US Government and allies access to …

Episode 36 - Expert opinion: Thomas Healy on how Oliver Wendell Holmes changed the history of free speech in America

December 19th, 2019


On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson, the newly elected president, gave his first inaugural address. Jefferson eloquently dismissed the logic behind the Sedition Act of 1798, which had sent Republican critics of …

Episode 35 - White Man´s Burden: Empire, Liberalism and Censorship

December 2nd, 2019


During the mass protests that have rocked Hong Kong since June 2019 pro-democracy protestors have waved Union Jack flags and been singing God Save …

Episode 34 – The Age of Reaction: The fall and rise of free speech in 19th century Europe

November 21st, 2019


The 18th century ended with free speech in full retreat. With the French Revolution, the call for “Enlightenment Now!” was no longer seen as the …

Special Edition - A conversation with Professor David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur

October 28th, 2019


In this special edition of Clear And Present Danger we leave the past and jump into the present for a discussion on how international human rights standards are relevant to the burning question of where to draw the …

Episode 33 - Counter-Revolution: Dutch Patriots, Tom Paine´s Rights of Man and the campaign against Seditious Writings

October 18th, 2019


Faced with bloody terrorism democratic Europe has often reacted with tough measures. The UK Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act of 2019 criminalizes expressing an opinion that is “supportive” of a proscribed …

Episode 32 - Policing opinion in the French Revolution with Charles Walton

September 28th, 2019


On Aug. 26, 1789, France’s National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Article 11 of the Declaration proclaimed:

The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most …

Episode 31 - The Old Regime

September 12th, 2019


In Nov. 2018, French President Emanuel Macron declared war on “offensive and hateful content” on the internet. Subsequently, France adopted strict …

Episode 30 - Northern Lights, The Scandinavian Press Freedom Breakthrough

August 23rd, 2019


In the 1760s and 1770s, Sweden and Denmark-Norway shortly became the epicenter of press freedom protections in Enlightenment Europe. 

In 1766, the Swedish Diet passed the Press Freedom Act, making Sweden the first …

Episode 29 - The Philosopher King - Enlightened Despotism, part 2, Prussia

August 2nd, 2019


In his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” the Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant declared: “[E]nlightenment requires nothing but freedom … to make public use of one’s reason in all matters. Now I hear the cry from …

Episode 28 - Writing on Human Skin - Enlightened Despotism, part I, Russia

July 12th, 2019


The Enlightenment´s emphasis on science, progress, tolerance and rationality not only attracted philosophers. Even absolute monarchs dreamt of …

Episode 27 - How Enlightening

June 21st, 2019


data-contrast="auto">After a brief detour into the present, we return to Ground Zero of the Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, with this recap of past episodes and a brief overview of the themes and countries to …

Episode 26 – Oslo Freedom Forum Special with Megha Rajagopalan and Yuan Yang

June 4th, 2019


June 4th, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the bloody culmination of the Chinese government´s Tiananmen Massacre of pro-democracy students and …

Episode 25 – Oslo Freedom Forum Special with Larry Diamond

May 28th, 2019


Today´s episode is going to be a radical departure from the chronological timeline of the general podcast so far. I´m currently in Oslo for the …

Episode 24 – Expert Opinion: Stephen Solomon part two - The Sedition Act

May 10th, 2019


In 1787, the newly authored U.S. Constitution was sent out to the states for ratification. Despite fierce objections from Anti-Federalists, the Constitution did not include a bill of rights protecting freedom of speech …

Episode 23 – Expert Opinion: Stephen Solomon part one - The First Amendment

April 17th, 2019


The First Amendment of the US Constitution was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791. This “Great bulwark of liberty” provides that 

Episode 22 - Fighting Words - Free Speech in 18th Century America, Part II

March 8th, 2019


In the second half of the 18th Century American, Patriots showed that freedom of the press was a potent weapon against authority. Not even the …

Episode 21 - The Bulwark of Liberty - Free Speech in 18th Century America, Part I

February 14th, 2019


18th century America was impacted and influenced by the so-called Glorious Revolution in the Motherland. And no-one had a bigger impact on American …

Episode 20 - The Seeds of Enlightenment

January 25th, 2019


1685 was a watershed year for events that would lead to what we call the Enlightenment. France´s Sun King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and …

Episode 19 – Expert Opinion: Steven Nadler on Spinoza’s ‘book forged in hell” and the right to “think what you like and say what you think”

January 3rd, 2019


Baruch Spinoza (also known as Benedict de Spinoza) was born in Amsterdam in 1632. While his given name means “blessing” in both Hebrew and Latin, …

Episode 18 - Colonial Dissent: Blasphemy, Libel and Tolerance in 17th Century America

December 14th, 2018


Americans are more supportive of free speech than any other people. 95 % of Americans think it’s “very important” to be able to criticize the government without censorship and 77% support the right to offend religious …

Episode 17 - Global Inquisition

November 17th, 2018


In the 16th Century Spain and Portugal globalized the inquisition by spreading the fight for religious orthodoxy and against heresy, blasphemy and apostasy to the Americas, Africa and Asia allowing inquisitors to pry …

Episode 16: Expert Opinion - Michael Shermer

November 2nd, 2018


In this episode, we join up with historian of science Dr. Michael Shermer to investigate the cross-fertilization between science and free speech.

Episode 15 - Paper-bullets and the forgotten martyrs of radical free speech

October 11th, 2018


Episode 15 returns to Europe and formative events in 17th Century England, where a mostly forgotten group of radicals demanded a written constitution guaranteeing free speech, liberty of conscience, and democracy. But …

Episode 14 - ‘Universal Peace’: Religious tolerance in the Mughal empire

September 20th, 2018


Episode 14 leaves the West and heads to 16th and 17th Century India and the Mughal empire. In particular, the rule of Akbar the Great.

A century …

Episode 13: Expert Opinion - Jonathan Haidt

September 6th, 2018


In this episode, we do a bit of time travel and leave the 17th century for a discussion of free speech on American college and university campuses …

Episode 12: Expert Opinion - Teresa Bejan

August 23rd, 2018


We enter the early modern age with an expert opinion featuring Teresa Bejan, associate professor at Oriel College, Oxford University and author of …

Episode 11: The great disruption - Part II

August 9th, 2018


In episode 11 we continue to survey the wreckage after hurricane Luther was unleashed on Europe with the Reformation. When the Reformation mutated and spread across the continent a burning question arose: Can people of …

Episode 10: The great disruption - Part I, the printing press and the viral Reformation

June 14th, 2018


The disruptive effects of the internet and social media on the spread of information are unprecedented. Or are they?  

In episode 10 of Clear and Present Danger, we cover the invention, spread, and effects of the …

Episode 9: Expert Opinion - Christine Caldwell Ames

May 24th, 2018


Our last stop in the Middle Ages is an interview with professor Christine Caldwell Ames, who is an expert on medieval heresy and inquisition in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The discussion highlights the …

Episode 8: The hounds of God - medieval heretics and inquisitors

May 17th, 2018


From the High Middle Ages, Europe developed into a “persecuting society,” obsessed with stamping out the “cancer” of heresy. But questions about how this was accomplished — and the consequences of these developments — …

Episode 7: Expert Opinion - Peter Adamson

April 26th, 2018


In our second expert opinion episode, Jacob Mchangama talks with Peter Adamson, who is a professor of philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and host of the podcast “History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps.”

Episode 6: The not-so-Dark Ages, medieval intellectuals, and freethinkers

April 5th, 2018


In episode 6, we get medieval!

Find out why the Middle Ages were as much a period of reason and inquiry as inquisition and superstition.

Why was the famous medieval intellectual Pierre Abelard castrated, forced to burn …

Episode 5: The Caliphate

March 22nd, 2018


Why did the medieval Abbasid Caliphs have almost all ancient Greek works of philosophy and science translated into Arabic? How did the long list of …

Episode 4: Expert Opinion - Paul Cartledge

March 8th, 2018


In our first expert opinion segment, Jacob Mchangama talks to Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University Paul Cartledge. With his …

Episode 3: The Age of Persecution

March 1st, 2018


Why did the polytheist Ancient Romans persecute the followers of the new Jewish sect of “Christians” in the first three centuries AD”? How high was …

Episode 2: Liberty or License - Free Speech in Ancient Rome

February 15th, 2018


Rome was the most powerful empire in antiquity. But were the Romans free to speak truth to power? Did history’s first successful Women’s March take …

Episode 1: Who wishes to speak? - Free Speech in Ancient Athens

February 1st, 2018


The democracy of Ancient Athens was the birthplace of equal and uninhibited speech. Or Isegoria and parrhesia to the Athenians. Jacob Mchangama guides you through how oratory was central to the idea and practice of …

Episode 0: Why free speech?

January 24th, 2018


Only 13% of the world’s 7,4 billion people enjoy free speech. 45% live in countries where censorship is the norm. Still, more than half the world’s …

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