Can Free Speech Be Progressive?

September 11, 2018

For much of the 21st century, those who identified themselves as left of center were the strongest proponents of freedom of speech. They believed in the principle, and they thought that free speech benefited civil rights and labor activists—not to mention radicals seeking fundamental change. Conservatives, they thought, would always oppose free speech because of its threat to the status quo. Beginning in the late 1960s, some spoke of free speech as “repressive tolerance” that precluded radical changes. Later, as courts connected free speech to campaign finance, some on the left argued that the First Amendment served corporate interests, not emancipation of the oppressed. Professor Michael Seidman has renewed this debate with a provocative paper denying that free speech in the American context can be progressive. Please join us for an intriguing debate about the future of free speech, a debate that matters for everyone at all points on the political spectrum.

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