When Roger Kimball from Encounter Books asked me back in June to write a short book about my thoughts on the implications of this past year’s campus free speech controversies, I pretty much thought it was impossible. I would only have a handful of weeks to write it, and this was at a time when FIRE was secretly preparing for the public launch of our huge and unprecedented Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. My first book, Unlearning Liberty, took years for me to write, and even though Roger was asking for something far shorter, three to four weeks hardly seemed like enough time.
But with the encouragement of senior staff at FIRE, I set out to write Freedom From Speech, which was officially released on Tuesday. My only regret about the book is that it does not include a section for “Acknowledgments” where I can thank people for their help in making the book possible. Given the short timeframe I was allotted, the help that I received from FIRE staff and others was truly invaluable.
I’d like to start by thanking Araz Shibley, who is not only the wife of FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley but also consistently one of the best editors and researchers with whom I have ever worked. My assistant, Nate O’Connor, and FIRE’s new communications coordinator, Katie Barrows, have also been essential to making this broadside possible. Katie and Nate did heroic work promoting the book, setting up interviews, and organizing a wonderfully successful event for the book’s launch. I also want to give a huge thanks to Ari Cohn and Sarah McLaughlin (not to be confused with Sarah McLachlan, the musician from the sad puppy dog ads) for their extensive work on compiling data for the “disinvitation season” section. Thanks to Akil Alleyne for synthesizing years of FIRE research on censorship in the international scene.
Additionally, I want to thank Pierce Babirak, my former assistant and former chief of staff for FIRE’s D.C. office, for his soup-to-nuts help with the book. (Sadly, Pierce has started his first year of law school at the University of Virginia, despite some FIRE attorneys’ consistent attempts to talk him out of it.) Thanks to Peter Bonilla and Catherine Sevcenko for fact-checking all of the FIRE cases, and perpetual thanks to Will Creeley, Alisha Glennon, and Robert Shibley for their leadership at FIRE, particularly while I had to go into a “writing cave” for the book. I also owe a big thanks to Gina Luttrell for infusing Freedom From Speech into the old Unlearning Liberty website, creating a new, sleek looking home for both. In short, I’d really like to thank the entire team at FIRE for making this project possible.
I would also like to thank the entire team at Encounter Books, and especially Elissa Englund, my fast and effective Encounter editor. And, of course, I want to thank my wife, Michelle, for putting up with me when I disappeared for a few weekends in a row in order to write. Lastly, I want to thank everybody who has purchased and shared the word about the book. I simply cannot sufficiently express my gratitude for the support.