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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. 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:


Ep. 180 Super Bowl free speech fumble

FIRE’s Will Creeley and Aaron Terr join the show to discuss Phoenix, Arizona’s unconstitutional “clean zone” for Super Bowl LVII, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s effort to get public school students to volunteer for her re-election campaign, recent polling on how much people really know about the First Amendment (sadly, not much), and Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and Crowdfundr canceling fundraisers for comic books they deemed politically unacceptable. We also provide an update on the Hamline University Muhammad art censorship case. Show notes: TranscriptPhoenix ordinance restricting signs during Super Bowl is offsides on the First AmendmentHere’s why Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot can’t ask teachers to help her reelection campaignIndie-no-go: Popular crowdfunding sites cancel fundraisers for comic books about gender identity and the U.S.-Mexico borderDo Americans know their rights? Survey says: No.”Hamline Faculty vote 71-12 to urge president to step down after academic freedom scandal YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 179 Artificial intelligence: Is it protected by the First Amendment?

What does the rise of artificial intelligence mean for the future of free speech and the First Amendment? Who is liable for what AI produces? Can you own a copyright for works produced by AI? Does AI itself violate intellectual property rights when it uses others’ information to generate content? What about that Morgan Freeman “deep fake”? And is ChatGPT going to make all of our jobs irrelevant? Show notes: Transcript Guests: Eugene Volokh, professor at UCLA School of LawDavid Greene, senior staff attorney and civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier FoundationAlison Schary, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 178 The costs of offending religious sensitivities

A faculty member at Hamline University lost her job. Twelve staffers at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were murdered. And Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed. All of them offended certain people’s religious sensitivities. On today’s show, we are joined by Amna Khalid and Michael Moynihan to discuss the risks and costs of teaching, talking, writing, and creating art about religion, particularly Islam. We also discuss the recent #TwitterFiles reporting. Amna Khalid is an associate professor of history at Carleton College and host of the podcast “Banished.” Michael Moynihan is a writer, reporter, and co-host of “The Fifth Column” podcast. Show notes: TranscriptNew York Times: “A Lecturer Showed a Painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She Lost Her Job.” by Vimal Patel The offending image“Most of All, I Am Offended as a Muslim” by Amna Khalid“Hamline Student Newspaper (the Oracle) Removed Published Defense of Lecturer Who Showed Painting of Muhammad” by Eugene Volokh“We must stand up to Iran’s threats to free speech” by FIRE’s Sarah McLaughlin (reflecting on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks)“Capsule Summaries of all Twitter Files Threads to Date, With Links and a Glossary” by Matt Taibbi YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us:


Ep. 177 Are Ann Coulter’s words really ‘violence’?

Do Ann Coulter’s words equal “violence”? Does Emerson College care more about not offending the Chinese Communist Party than protecting student free speech rights? And are faculty political litmus tests back in vogue? FIRE’s Alex Morey and Zach Greenberg join the show to discuss the latest in campus censorship. Please support this show by donating to FIRE before the end of the year: Show notes: Transcript“San Diego State University: University senate adopts policy imposing DEI requirement in reappointment, tenure, and promotion review process”“University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Faculty up for promotion and tenure must submit diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, affirm university views”“‘Your words are violence!’ Cornell students shout down Ann Coulter in latest heckler’s veto to roil campuses this semester” by Amanda Nordstrom“Penn State defends canceling controversial event over ‘threats of violence,’ as police stood by during assaults on students” by Aaron Corpora“UC Davis feces-flingers lose their shit over movie screening” by James Jordan“Emerson still ‘kinda sus’ on free speech — so we’ve alerted their accreditor” by Graham Piro“Arrest of student in Boston a grim reminder of the danger facing Chinese dissidents on campus” by Sarah McLaughlin“Tennessee Tech still investigating, enforcing event ban on LGBTQ+ and theater groups that hosted drag show” by Amanda Nordstrom“Federal court distorts First Amendment, upholds Tennessee Tech’s punishment of professors for ‘Game of Thrones’ parody flyers” by Zach Greenberg YouTube: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: Email us: