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Democracy Works

135 EpisodesProduced by Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy/The Democracy GroupWebsite

Examining what it means to live in a democracy

42:05

Free speech from the Founding Fathers to Twitter

This is another episode that we recorded in our final days together in the office before COVID-19. However, the topic is just as relevant — if not more so — in our new reality.

The topic is free speech and our guest is Stephen D. Solomon, Marjorie Deane Professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and founding editor of First Amendment Watch. He is the author of Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech.

Stephen lays out how the Founding Fathers, particularly James Madison, thought about free speech, free press, and the freedom to assemble. The ways we communicate have changed drastically in the past 250 years, but the concerns about protecting the free expression of ideas remains the same.

We also discuss free speech on college campuses and how social norms around speech can be just as powerful as laws in place to protect it. It’s too soon to tell how the virtual environment will impact this dynamic, but it will be interesting to watch as colleges prepare for whatever the coming academic year has in store.

Additional Information

Stephen’s website

Revolutionary Dissent

Uniting for Action: America

Related Episodes

Defending the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate

Facebook is not a democracy

Jonathan Haidt on the psychology of democracy

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