The highs and lows of a prized and vulnerable freedom
Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental element of vibrant democracies around the globe, but those freedoms are increasingly threatened. As people and societies adjust to new forms of communication, far beyond traditional civic spaces, norms concerning free speech rights are evolving. It’s a good time to better understand our modern reality concerning speech rights and their historical underpinnings.
Fortunately, author Jacob Mchangama has immersed himself in this topic for years. His new book is Free Speech: A Global History from Socrates to Social Media. In it, he guides us through the history of free speech in various societies, presenting the views of advocates and opponents. He points to gains linked to free speech rights, and what we stand to lose as those rights are restricted.
It is famously a crime to falsely cry fire in a crowded theatre. Where else should we draw the legal line, especially in an age of digital disinformation and misinformation? This talk addresses whether progressive change is more likely to come about from censuring or allowing free speech, and if each of us has a responsibility to counter hate speech with our privileged free speech.
Jacob Mchangama is a lawyer, a human rights advocate, the founder and executive director of Justitia, a Danish think tank, and the host of the podcast Clear and Present Danger: A History of Free Speech. He is interviewed here by South Seattle Emerald reporter Carolyn Bick.
Town Hall Seattle presented this event on February 16, 2022, as part of their Civics series.
Please note: This recording contains one unedited word of an adult nature.