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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 226

Suzanne Nossel on defending free speech for all, based on her book Dare to Speak

Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All (book cover)

Online trolls and fascist chat groups. Controversies over campus lectures. Cancel culture versus censorship. The daily hazards and debates surrounding free speech dominate headlines and fuel social media storms. In an era where one tweet can launch — or end — your career, and where free speech is often invoked as a principle but rarely understood, learning to maneuver the fast-changing, treacherous landscape of public discourse has never been more urgent. In Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All, Suzanne Nossel, a leading voice in support of free expression, delivers a vital, necessary guide to maintaining democratic debate that is open, free-wheeling but at the same time respectful of the rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions in a changing country. Centered on practical principles, Nossel’s primer equips readers with the tools needed to speak one’s mind in today’s diverse, digitized, and highly-divided society without resorting to curbs on free expression.

Suzanne Nossel currently serves as the CEO of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization. Her prior career spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the COO of Human Rights Watch and as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. During the first term of the Obama Administration, Nossel served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, where she led U.S. engagement in the United Nations and multilateral institutions, on human rights and humanitarian issues. During the Clinton Administration, Nossel was Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she was the lead negotiator in settling U.S. arrears to the world body. During her corporate career, Nossel served as Vice President of U.S. Business Development for Bertelsmann and as Vice President for Strategy and Operations for the Wall Street Journal. Nossel is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and dozens of other outlets. Nossel is a magna cum laude graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Shermer and Nossel discuss:

  • the increasingly fashionable embrace of expanded government and corporate controls over speech,
  • hate speech = violence?
  • incitement to violence and the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection,
  • libel and slander,
  • self-censorship,
  • private vs. government restrictions on speech,
  • social media, tech companies, and censorship,
  • call out culture and cancel culture,
  • how to apologize for wrong or hurtful speech,
  • free expression as speech (flag burning, Madonna’s videos, etc.),
  • corporate controls on speech,
  • the euphemism treadmill,
  • compelled speech,
  • Who is more censorious, the Left or the Right?
  • how to use language conscientiously without self-censoring ideas,
  • how to protest without silencing speech,
  • how to reinforce the marginalization of lesser-heard voices without silencing or discriminating against others.

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This episode was released on November 13, 2021.

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