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So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast


So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast takes an uncensored look at the world of free expression through personal stories and candid conversations. New episodes post every other Thursday.


Philadelphia, PA


So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast takes an uncensored look at the world of free expression through personal stories and candid conversations. New episodes post every other Thursday.






Ep 200: The state of free speech

We’re joined by First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza and British journalist Brendan O’Neill to discuss the state of free speech in the United States and Europe. Randazza is a First Amendment attorney and the managing partner at Randazza Legal Group. He has represented controversial figures throughout his career, including Alex Jones, Mike Cernovich, Chuck Johnson, and founder of the neo-nazi website the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin. O’Neill is a British author and journalist who served as editor of Spiked from 2007 to September 2021 and is currently its chief political writer. His book, “Heretic’s Manifesto,” was released in June. He last appeared on the podcast on October 20, 2016. Timestamps 0:00 Introduction 6:35 Do lawyers want to defend their enemies any more? 13:00 The oldest form of intolerance 17:19 Israel/Hamas and double standards 32:28 Hate speech laws in Ireland 51:35 Censorship from internet intermediaries 52:33 Debanking and corporate censorship 55:36 PruneYard case 1:01:44 Social media and the internet 1:05:18 The Digital Services Act Show Notes Show Transcript Brendan O’Neill at Oxford Union EU Digital Services Act Proposed Irish hate speech bill PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins (1980)


Ep. 199: Israel, Hamas, and censorship at home

The FIRE team gets together to discuss the October 7 attacks in Israel and the resulting censorship on college campuses in the United States. FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff, Director of Campus Rights Advocacy Alex Morey, and General Counsel Ronnie London join host Nico Perrino for the conversation. ** We will conduct a listener survey starting Monday, Nov. 13. “So to Speak” listeners who subscribe to the show’s email list will receive an email with a link to the survey. If you are not an email subscriber, you can subscribe at the bottom of or by subscribing to the general FIRE email list at and noting that you would also like to subscribe to the “So to Speak” list. We appreciate your feedback: It will help us improve the show! Timestamps 5:13 - October 7 attacks on Israel 6:04 - Greg’s initial thoughts 14:58 - Alex’s initial thoughts 20:29 - Protected vs. unprotected expression 28:11 - Statements from donors, students and faculty; double standards 40:49 - Institutional neutrality and the Kalven Report 51:01 - Combating Anti-Semitism, the Daryl Davis example 54:46 - Students for Justice in Palestine 1:01:48 - Tearing down posters Show Notes Transcript Harvard student group letter (The public-facing Google Doc that originally hosted the letter was deleted.) Bill Ackman letter to Harvard The Kalven Report Daryl Davis FIRE Letter to University of Florida President Ben Sasse re: Students for Justice in Palestine (after recording this episode, Brandeis University derecognized its campus chapter of SJP. Here is FIRE’s letter to Brandeis). Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, and Marco Rubio call to revoke student visas Trump Truth Social post calls for the expulsion of students who support Hamas


Ep. 198: 2023-24 Supreme Court Preview

The Supreme Court handed down some big First Amendment victories last term. What lies ahead for the Court in the upcoming term? FIRE Chief Counsel Robert Corn-Revere and FIRE General Counsel Ronnie London join the show to discuss important First Amendment cases that will be heard during the Court’s 2023-24 session. Timestamps: 0:00 - Introduction 1:47 - Murthy v. Missouri (government jawboning) 14:40 - NRA v. Vullo (government jawboning) 25:49 - NetChoice cases (social media regulation) 46:39 - Social media blocking cases 56:15 - Vidal v. Elster (trademark registration) 1:05:17 - Gonzalez v. Trevino (First Amendment retaliation) Show Transcript: Cases Discussed: Murthy v. Missouri (government jawboning) NetChoice, LLC v. Paxton (social media regulation) Moody v. NetChoice, LLC (social media regulation) O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier (social media blocking) Lindke v. Freed (social media blocking) Vidal v. Elster (trademark registration) Gonzalez v. Trevino (First Amendment retaliation) Nat’l. Rifle Ass’n. of Am. v. Vullo (government jawboning)


Ep. 197 ‘Are cakes speech?’ with Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kristen Waggoner

President, CEO, and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, Kristen Waggoner, joins us for a discussion on freedom of speech and religious liberty. ADF has played various roles in 74 U.S. Supreme Court victories and since 2011, has won cases before the Court 15 times. According to its website, “ADF is the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.” ADF has litigated many high profile and controversial free speech cases, including the recent Supreme Court case involving a web designer who didn’t want to be compelled to design websites for same-sex weddings. Before that, ADF litigated the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which involved a cake designer who similarly didn’t want to provide his services for same-sex weddings on religious grounds. After the initial conversation was recorded, The Washington Post and The New Yorker released articles critical of ADF. Nico and Kristen recorded an additional, brief conversation to address these articles. That is included at the end of the podcast. Transcript: Timestamps: 0:43 - Introduction 6:16 - Kristen’s path to ADF 12:54 - ADF’s international team 14:20 - Pavi Rasanen controversy 19:24 - What does it mean to be a ministry?/blasphemy laws 22:56 - ADF’s Supreme Court cases 26:58 - 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis 28:56 - Public accommodation laws/Masterpiece Cakeshop 40:40 - Pre-enforcement challenges 42:50 - Facial challenges 47:32 - Test cases or fake cases? 49:44 - Yale incident 57:50 - Other campus shoutdowns 1:00:08 - L.M. v. Town of Middleborough 1:14:27 - Kristen addresses WaPo article 1:15:38 - Kristen addresses New Yorker article Related Articles/Podcasts: “Inside the tactics that won Christian vendors the right to reject gay weddings,” Jon Swaine and Beth Reinhard (The Washington Post) “Are ADF’s Cases ‘Made Up’?” Lathan Watts (ADF, response to The Washington Post) “The next targets for the group that overturned Roe,” David D. Kirkpatrick (The New Yorker) FIRE’s response to Kristen Waggoner Yale incident FIRE’s response to Anne Coulter Cornell incident FIRE’s response to Ilya Shapiro Georgetown incident FIRE’s response to Ian Haworth UAlbany incident “The Imperfect Plaintiffs” (“More Perfect” podcast with Julia Longoria) Cases Discussed: Dubash v. City of Houston (Animal rights activists lawsuit, 2023) Paivi Rasanen (Finnish lawmaker charged with incitement against gay people) 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (2022) Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2017) Uzuebgunam v. Preczewski (2021) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) Wooley v. Maynard (1997) Plessy v. Ferguson (1986) L.M. v. Town of Middleborough (2023) YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 196 ‘The Identity Trap’ by Yascha Mounk

Writer and academic Yascha Mounk argues that a new set of ideas about race, gender, and sexual orientation have overtaken society, giving rise to a rigid focus on identity in our national debate. In his new book, “The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time,” Yascha seeks to take these ideas seriously, understand their origin, dissect their merits and failings, and offer a path forward to avoid what he calls “the identity trap.” On today’s show, Mounk previews his book and explains how the identity trap harms freedom of speech. Mounk is known for his work on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. He is a professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University and the author of five books. He is also the founder of the digital magazine Persuasion, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Transcript: Timestamps: Discussed intellectuals: Derrick Bell Kimberlé Crenshaw Jacques Derrida Michel Foucault Christopher Rufo (Rufo’s book, “America’s Cultural Revolution,” and Nico’s review, “Christopher Rufo Became the Thing He Claims to Hate”) Edward Said Jean-Paul Sartre Gayatri Spivak Cass Sunstein (article: “The Law of Group Polarization”) YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 195 ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ misgendering, cancel culture, and three strikes for Texas

FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff and FIRE General Counsel Ronnie London join the show to preview Greg’s new co-authored book on cancel culture and to discuss recent free speech cases and headlines: “The Canceling of the American Mind,” by Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott (out Oct. 17) Colorado public school to allow student to display Gadsden flag patch — as long as nobody complains California library violates First Amendment, boots speakers for referring to transgender women as ‘biological men’ Police stage ‘chilling’ raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones Federal judge: Texas Law Mandating Age Verification for Sexually Themed Sites Violates First Amendment (Court Also Strikes Down "Public Health Warning" for Porn Sites) Judge blocks Arkansas law requiring parental OK for minors to create social media accounts Federal judge bars Texas from enforcing book rating law YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 194 Harvey Silverglate, the beatnik criminal defense attorney

Harvey Silverglate is a criminal defense and civil liberties attorney. He is also the co-founder of FIRE. On today’s show, Harvey defends the work of criminal defense attorneys, explaining why even guilty people must have the right to a robust legal defense. He also shares stories from his life, from growing up in Brooklyn to defending Vietnam War protesters to co-founding FIRE. Transcript YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 193 Can you still have a debate in high school debate?

High school debate is considered an ideal extracurricular activity for aspiring lawyers, politicians, or anyone seeking to learn the tools of effective communication and persuasion. But a slew of recent reports argue that high school debate is being captured by political ideology, rendering certain arguments off-limits, some debate topics undebatable, and ad hominem attacks fair game. Debate judges disclose their judging paradigms by saying things like, “I will listen to conservative-leaning arguments, but be careful,” or, “Before anything else, including being a debate judge, I am a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. . . . I cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when I’m judging.” Some debates even devolve into personal attacks, spurred on by judges who say they “will consider indictments of an opponent on the basis that they have done [or] said something racist, gendered, [or] -phobic in their personal behavior.” On today’s show, we’re joined by two former high school debaters who are dismayed by these trends. James Fishback is the founder of Incubate Debate, which hosts free debate tournaments for students in Florida. Matthew Adelstein is a rising sophomore studying philosophy at the University of Michigan and publishes Bentham's Newsletter, a newsletter about utilitarianism. Show notes: Transcript of episode“Part I: At high school debates, debate is no longer allowed” by James Fishback “Part II: At high school debates, watch what you say” by James Fishback “How critical theory is radicalizing high school debate” by Maya Bodnick Nico’s current reading list on critical theory: “Grand Hotel Abyss” by Stuart Jeffries and “America’s Cultural Revolution” by Christopher F. Rufo YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 192 Free speech at the Supreme Court

We review the Supreme Court’s free speech cases during the 2022-23 term and speculate on what’s in store for the next term. FIRE Vice President of Litigation Darpana Sheth guest hosts and is joined by FIRE Chief Counsel Robert Corn-Revere and FIRE General Counsel Ronnie London. This episode was recorded before a virtual live audience on July 20. Watch a video of the conversation. Transcript Cases discussed: 303 Creative v Elenis Counterman v. Colorado United States v. Hansen Twitter v. Taamneh Gonzales v. Google The Netchoice cases YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 191 Civil liberties and Civil War

In the last episode of the “So to Speak” podcast, we traced the dramatic story of free speech in the United States from colonial America to the abolitionists' campaign to abolish slavery. In this week’s episode, we pick up where we left off and explore the complicated history and legacy of civil liberties during the American Civil War. Professor and author Joseph R. Fornieri and FIRE Chief Counsel Robert Corn-Revere join the show this week to unpack Abraham Lincoln’s justifications for suspending civil liberties and the important lesson that, in war, civil liberties can be hard to uphold, and our rights can be difficult to defend. Show notes: Transcript“Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction” by Allen Guelzo “Lincoln’s First Amendment Record” by Eve Errickson (The Lincoln Cottage) “The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties” by Mark E. Neeley, Jr. “All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime” by William H. Rehnquist “Did Abraham Lincoln Exceed His Presidential Powers during the Civil War?” (The Bill of Rights Institute) “Lincoln and Civil Liberties” (The Gilder-Lehrman Institute) Join FIRE on July 20th at 3:00 PM EST for a special live-streamed episode of the "So to Speak" podcast about the Supreme Court's free speech decisions from this past term. Hear from FIRE’s Darpana Sheth, Bob Corn-Revere, and Ronnie London on what these decisions mean for free expression, (and maybe even for you), and ask the panel anywhatever burning questions you may have. You can register here. YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 190 Free speech and Abolitionism

Last Constitution Day, we traced the origins of free speech in the United States from colonial America to the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. In this episode, we jump forward to the antebellum period, where abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, John Quincy Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, and Angelina Grimké clashed with pro-slavery advocates over the monumental issue of slavery. Journalist and author Damon Root, FIRE Senior Fellow Jacob Mchangama, and Washington and Lee University professor Lucas Morel join the show this week to explore how free speech and the free press became the essential tools in the abolitionists’ campaign for freedom. Show notes: Transcript“Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media” by Jacob Mchangama “Glorious Liberty: Frederick Douglass and the Fight for an Anti-Slavery Constitution” by Damon Root “Speaking the Truth” by Lucas Morel (Persuasion) “A Plea for Free Speech in Boston” by Federick Douglass (National Constitution Center) “Frederick Douglass” (The First Amendment Encyclopedia) “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass (Teaching American History) “With the Freedom of Speech, the Responsibility to Listen” (Ford Foundation) YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 189 Why should we care about punk rock?

Nico knows very little about punk rock. On today’s show, Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie and FIRE Vice President of Communications Matt Harwood do their best to explain to Nico why he and other free speech advocates should care about punk rock. Transcript: YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 188 How to make a winning free speech argument

Winning in the court of public opinion is hard. On today’s show, Ewing School founder Bob Ewing shares communications strategies that anyone — including free speech advocates — can use to win in the marketplace of ideas. Prior to founding the Ewing School, Bob was director of communications for the Institute for Justice and pioneered a communications training program for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Bob is also the author of the Talking Big Ideas Substack, which Nico highly recommends. Bob first shared his ideas on effective communication with host Nico Perrino over lunch in May 2013. Some of those ideas went on to shape FIRE’s communications strategy for the next decade. Transcript: YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 187 Dominion vs. Fox lawyers reflect on historic case

On April 18, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit stemming from allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The historic settlement came just before the trial was set to begin in a case many saw as having significant First Amendment implications. In this exclusive conversation, attorneys for Fox and Dominion join First Amendment attorney Lee Levine to reflect on what led to the case, its outcome, and the arguments they would have made had the case gone to trial. Tom Clare is a founding partner of Clare Locke LLP and was counsel to Dominion. Dan Webb is co-executive chairman of Winston & Strawn and was counsel for Fox News. The conversation was organized and presented by The First Amendment Salon on Tuesday, May 9. Show notes: Transcript Video of the conversation YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 186 Killer Mike on free speech, racial justice, and Rap on Trial

Rocking their tuxedos in preparation for the 2023 FIRE gala in New York City, Host Nico Perrino speaks with rapper and free speech advocate Killer Mike about his journey toward learning the value of free expression. They also discuss the importance of free speech in American history, the value of engaging and arguing with those who disagree with us, why free speech was critical to gaining racial equality, defending rappers and artists being prosecuted for their lyrics, and why polarization is more dangerous than anything anybody can say. The interview is followed by Killer Mike’s keynote speech. Watch Killer Mike's keynote speech at the 2023 FIRE Gala in New York City: YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 185 Sex, drugs, and free speech (Bob Guccione Jr. and Nick Gillespie)

Does music censorship still happen in America? Is “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” dead? Is transgression in art and culture celebrated anymore (or was it ever)? From Beyonce and Taylor Swift to Ozzy Osbourne and Robin Thicke, SPIN magazine founder Bob Guccione Jr. and Reason magazine Editor at Large Nick Gillespie join a lively discussion of our current moment in pop culture. Bob also shares some war stories from his fight against the Parents Music Resource Center in the 1980s. Transcript: YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 184 What’s going on in Florida?

What’s going on in Florida? Host Nico Perrino and his FIRE colleagues break down the latest efforts to censor speech in the Sunshine State. Show notes: Transcript“VICTORY: After FIRE lawsuit, court halts enforcement of key provisions of the Stop WOKE Act limiting how Florida professors can teach about race, sex” “Thought the ‘Stop WOKE Act’ was bad? A new Florida bill is worse” “Unconstitutional and un-American, Senate Bill 1316 would force bloggers who criticize the government to register with the state” “Florida bill attacking NYT v. Sullivan would ‘spell disaster’ for free speech” Miami Herald: “Florida undercover agents reported no ‘lewd acts’ at drag show targeted by DeSantis” by Nicholas Nehamas and Ana Ceballos YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 183 The Stanford shout-down with David Lat

UPDATE: Just as this podcast was to be published, Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez sent a 10-page memorandum to the law school community outlining a path forward for the school, including updating school policies to prevent future speaker disruptions and mandatory student free speech training. She also announced that Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach is on leave. – The heckling began almost as soon as Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan started his invited lecture at Stanford Law School on March 9. Signs in the audience read “RESPECT TRANS RIGHTS,” “FEDSUCK,” “BE PRONOUN NOT PRO-BIGOT.” What transpired over the next 40 minutes captured national headlines and raised questions about the state of free speech at America’s law schools. David Lat writes commentary about law and the legal profession for Original Jurisdiction. Until 2019, he was an editor at the legal news website Above the Law, which he founded. Prior to his journalism career, David was a practicing lawyer. Show notes: Transcript“Yale Law is no longer #1 for free speech debacles” by David Lat “7 updates on Judge Kyle Duncan and Stanford Law” by David Lat “The full audio recording of Judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford Law” by David Lat Transcript of Stanford administrator Dean Tirien Steinbach’s remarks on March 9 at event featuring Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan Email to Stanford Law School from Dean Jenny Martinez Stanford apology letter to Judge Kyle Duncan Flyers protesting Stanford law event “​​Shouting down speakers is mob censorship” by Nadine Strossen and Greg Lukianoff Kalven Committee: Report on the university’s role in political and social action (University of Chicago report) YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 182 Ilya Shapiro on Fox/Dominion and his ‘cancel culture nightmare’

Ilya Shapiro joins the show to discuss the fireworks in the Fox/Dominion defamation lawsuit, his recent speaking appearance at the University of Denver, and his “cancel culture nightmare” at Georgetown University. Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. He previously (and briefly) served as executive director and senior lecturer at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution and as a vice president at the Cato Institute. Shapiro will speak at FIRE’s gala celebration in NYC on April 18. Reserve your tickets now at this link. Show notes: Transcript“My cancel culture nightmare is over” by Ilya Shapiro “Ilya Shapiro resigns from Georgetown following reinstatement after 122-day investigation of tweets” (featuring Ilya’s resignation letter) Ilya’s Substack, Shapiro’s Gavel “Why the mental health of liberal girls sank first and fastest” by Jonathan Haidt YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 181 New York Times v. Sullivan and its future

The seminal 1964 Supreme Court decision in New York Times v. Sullivan limited the ability of public officials to silence their critics by successfully suing them for defamation. Sullivan made “American public officials more accountable, the American media more watchful, and the American people better informed,” said William Rehnquist, the late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But Sullivan is increasingly under attack from politicians, activists, and even sitting Justices of the Supreme Court. They believe the decision went too far, enabling the news media and others to defame others with little-to-no consequence. On today’s show, we are joined by lawyers Floyd Abrams (Cahill Gordon & Reindel), JT Morris (FIRE), and Matthew Schafer (Fordham Law) to discuss New York Times v. Sullivan and its future. Show notes: Transcript New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964) “Two Justices Say Supreme Court Should Reconsider Landmark Libel Decision” by Adam Liptak “How to Restore Balance to Libel Law” by Glenn Reynolds Florida HB 991, the anti-Sullivan bill Matthew Schafer’s tweet thread on Florida’s HB 991 “New York Times v. Sullivan and the Forgotten Session of the US Supreme Court” by Matthew Schafer “The Most Important Supreme Court Precedent for Freedom of the Press Is in Jeopardy” by Matthew Schafer and Jeff Kosseff YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us: