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FIRE President Takes On Berkeley Chancellor in WSJ; Releases New Book, ‘Freedom From Speech’

September 9, 2014

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2014—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announces the release of President Greg Lukianoff’s second book, Freedom From Speech, as well as his latest op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in which he criticizes the University of California, Berkeley chancellor’s weak defense of campus free speech.

In Freedom From Speech, Lukianoff describes how threats to free speech are likely to increase both in the U.S. and abroad due to the marginalization of free speech as a cultural value. Lukianoff points to censorship overseas, “trigger warnings,” and the disinvitation of controversial speakers on campus as signs of a growing demand to be free from uncomfortable speech. Lukianoff wrote the short, 61-page volume in response to a surge of problems on campus in the past year.

In today’s WSJ op-ed, Lukianoff highlights the most recent example of this phenomenon: a campus-wide email from UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who this weekend managed only a halfhearted endorsement of free speech for the 50th anniversary of Berkeley’s famous Free Speech Movement.

Lukianoff urges us to see the push for censorship of speech not as a peculiarity limited to American campuses, but as part of a disturbing global trend, as individuals seek not just physical comfort but “intellectual comfort” as well. Left unchecked, Lukianoff argues, we should not be surprised if people shift away from demanding freedom of speech and towards demanding freedom from speech they dislike, with disastrous consequences.

Other issues Lukianoff addresses in his new book, Freedom From Speech, include:

  • How self-sorting with like-minded people creates polarization and a desire to consider only ideas that confirm one’s own opinions
  • Why an environment that allows for the competition of ideas is important in a democratic society
  • How colleges and universities are part of the censorship problem when they should be the best place to develop intellectual habits that promote debate and discussion

Campuses are, unfortunately, rife with demands for freedom from speech. Lukianoff discusses how this mentality led to a student at a California college being prevented from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day, efforts to disinvite influential public figures such as Condoleezza Rice and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde from speaking at college commencement ceremonies, a Rutgers student requesting trigger warnings for The Great Gatsby, and a college instructor in New Jersey being ordered to undergo counseling for posting a picture of his daughter in a shirt that quotes Game of Thrones. He also discusses the media obsessions over expression from Donald Sterling, Stephen Colbert, and Mozilla’s Brendan Eich to support this point.

Order your own copy of Freedom From Speech on Amazon using this link, and FIRE will receive a small donation for each sale.

FIRE will be celebrating the launch of Freedom From Speech tomorrow in Washington, D.C., with a release party at the 201 Bar. If you are in the D.C. area, please join us at the 201 Bar from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Free drinks and appetizers will be served, and signed books will be available for purchase.

To confirm your attendance at the release party, please visit our Eventbrite page.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

FREEDOM FROM SPEECH (Encounter Books; Publication Date: September 9, 2014; 61 pages; ISBN: 978-1594038075; $5.99).

CONTACT:
Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473; katie@thefire.org

Schools: University of California, Berkeley