An independent podcast hosted by Uli Baer dedicated to in-depth conversations about the power of ideas and how language can change the world. The first season is focused on free speech and related topics; these conversations will continue. Find episodes on Great Books on the navigation menu in the upper right corner.

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FREE SPEECH 40: Affirmative Action Under Attack: What's At Stake?

With Frank Wu, UC Hastings College of Law

Affirmative action is under attack. A lawsuits claims that Asian American students are discriminated against by Harvard's admissions policies, while other minority candidates get a leg up. Asian American students are pitted against African-American applicants, in a lawsuit that aims, as Professor Frank Wu explains, to end affirmative action for good. What is at stake? Who are the players? And how do we best think about this legal issue, playing out in one of America's great symbolic sites for opportunity? Professor Frank Wu is Distinguished Professor at San Francisco's UC Hastings College of Law, and has published widely, both in professional journals and in many media outlets, on legal, political and culture issues ranging from affirmative action and civil rights and more. His publications include: Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, and Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment.

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FREE SPEECH 39: The Recurring Debate Over Birthright Citizenship and the Fight for Equal Rights

With Professor Martha Jones, Johns Hopkins University

Who’s in, and who’s out? Who belongs rightfully in America, and who can be excluded from the rights and responsibilities of citizenship? Who can stay, and who must go? Martha Jones explains the history of birthright citizenship, how Black Americans claimed the rights of citizenship long before the courts and Congress granted them such legal rights, and why this prehistory matters to understand today’s debates. Is it outrageous that senior officials question the right of birthright citizenship? You may think so, but you’d also be wrong to think that this right has not been contested from the very dawn of our Republic, and you’d be wrong if you think that birthright citizenship will disappear as a political and ideological or a legal and constitutional matter for all time. Martha Jones  is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America and All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830 -1900. In our conversation, recorded on election day 2018, when one of the fundamental rights granted to all citizens was put to the test yet again, she explains how Black Americans insisted on their rights as citizens for decades before the country caught up, with the 14th Amendment in 1868.

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FREE SPEECH 38: Are We Witnessing the Death of Speech on Campus? The Free Speech Movement in Context

With Professor Robert Cohen, New York University

Are we witnessing the death of the hallowed American practice and ideal of free speech in today's campus controversies? Free speech on campus dates back to the early 1960s, when student activists in Berkeley demanded the right to express their views in what became the Free Speech Movement. Professor Robert Cohen is America's foremost historian of the Free Speech Movement from its origin in 1960's California until today. Have we lost our way and the strong commitment to free expression fought for by so many, among them Mario Savio, the leader of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement? How are today's controversies different from skirmishes and culture wars of the past? How come today’s conservatives lay claim to the achievements of a movement courageously led by progressive students whose viewpoints most of them condemn? How should universities respond to provocateurs, and how can we distinguish between media-savvy set-ups aimed at undermining the university and genuine threats of free expression on campus? Cohen is the author of many books, among them Freedom's Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s and The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s.

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FREE SPEECH 37: Rights Come with Responsibilities…including Freedom of Expression

With Professor Amaney Jamal, Princeton University

Where does the university's work begin in allowing all members to participate in free teaching, research, and debate, and where does it end? Is diversity a matter only for the admissions department? How can the university educate citizens for democracy who know that with certain rights come certain obligations - and can responsibly act on this knowledge? How can we value and defend all of our freedoms, properly tell the truth from lies, and balance individual freedom with collective survival? How is higher education linked to democracy in general? I discuss these and other topics with Amaney Jamal, who is the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics and Director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University. Her most recent book is Of Empires and Citizens: Pro-American Democracy or No Democracy At All?

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FREE SPEECH 36: Free Speech in a New World (Media) Order.

With Professor Michel Rosenfeld, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University

How has the advent of new media affected free speech? How can we distinguish attacks on the media as “fake news” from legitimate critique? Are we all just listening to opinions we agree with, limited to media bubbles that had previously been broader and more porous? What are the conditions for free speech in different democracies - and can we learn from other countries' approaches to protecting freedom of speech under today's changed conditions? Has the deregulation of the media democratized knowledge and access, or is it leading to ever narrower viewpoints and perspectives? How is freedom of expression linked to the mainstream media editorial functions that once served as the arbiters of truth, for good and ill? Michel Rosenfeld is University Professor of Law and Comparative Democracy, the Justice Sydney L. Robins Professor of Human Rights and Director of the Program on Global and Comparative Constitutional Theory at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. His many published works include Just Interpretations: Law Between Ethics and Politics; (as co-editor) Comparative Constitutionalism: Cases and Materials; The Identity of the Constitutional Subject: Selfhood, Citizenship, Culture, and Community; Law, Justice, Democracy and the Clash of Cultures: A Pluralist Account.

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FREE SPEECH 35: How Did American Universities Become Great? (Hint: Black Student Activists)

With Professor Stefan Bradley, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Who Changed American Universities for the Better? The struggle for freedom for Black people took place not only in the fields of the South or the urban areas Dr. King and many other civil rights activists were working on, but also in what’s been called the Jim Crow North. The Ivy League institutions, as symbolic and actual sites of American opportunity, went from desegregating to integrating students, but this profound change was driven by student activism, courage, and actions, and not by the benevolent actions of white liberal administrator and presidents in power. Stefan Bradley is Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and author of Upending the Ivory Tower: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Ivy League. He explains how American higher education was powerfully transformed by the actions of courageous students, and why our country is the better for it. Based on deep research, he explains how institutions today can respond adequately to students’ needs, and concludes with recommendations for anyone interested in keeping American higher education the pride of our nation.

Hello, World!

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FREE SPEECH 34: “Inclusive Freedom” as a Way of Putting Free Speech into Practice

With Professor Sigal Ben-Porath, University of Pennsylvania

"Universities and colleges are the most effective site for practicing the First Amendment in the United States today." This is why Sigal Ben-Porath, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Free Speech on Campus and Citizenship Under Fire: Democratic Education in Times of Conflict, proposes a way for "inclusive freedom" where students, faculty and staff rights are respected while all opinions are permitted to be voiced. Professor Ben-Porath explains how some of the campus controversies have distorted the fact that universities and colleges have a robust free speech culture which they exercise every day, and how we can uphold our commitment to free expression without compromising the university's key mission of advancing knowledge in pursuit of the truth.

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FREE SPEECH 33: Does America Have a Problem with Censorship?

With Professor Patricia Williams

Indeed we do, explains Professor Patricia Williams of Columbia University. But censorship becomes a problem first and foremost when the power to silence, suppress and threaten free expression is exercised by the state. When we look at current debates about censorship from this angle, things don’t get easy, but they definitely get interesting. Professor Williams is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law, and on other issues of legal theory and legal writing. Her books include The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law ProfessorThe Rooster's Egg; and Seeing a ColorBlind Future: The Paradox of Race, and Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons and the Search for a Room of My Own. Williams also writes a regular column on politics, society and culture for The Nation.

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FREE SPEECH 32: “Safe Spaces Got Me Through College” How Universities Can Guarantee Free Speech While Being Inclusive

With Cameron Okeke

Universities depend on the participation and inclusion of all voices and viewpoints to arrive at the truth. In 2017, Cameron published a widely discussed essay, “I’m a black UChicago graduate. Safe spaces got me through college.” He wrote his editorial in response to the University of Chicago’s equally widely discussed letter to its incoming freshmen class that there would be no safe spaces, no trigger warnings, and no limits of offensive content at the university for anyone. Cameron explains his position and offers some thoughtful advice on how to include students from all backgrounds in difficult and confronting conversations in honest and productive ways, without shying away from controversy. Cameron now works at the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., after receiving an M.B.E. degree at Johns Hopkins University. 

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FREE SPEECH 31: When they go low, we get…civil?

With Professor Teresa Bejan, Oxford University

"We need more civility!" is a frequent complaint lodged by politicians, pundits, and even philosophers on all sides. Teresa Bejan, who teaches political theory at Oxford University, is the author of Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, where she traces the history of civility from early modern English and American thought, especially in John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Roger Williams. She explains what "mere civility" means, why it should not be confused with a simplistic call for civility and to be “nice,” and how this concept can yet serve as the common ground for arguments over things that usually divide people - including free speech. She’s also done at TED talk on civility.

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FREE SPEECH 1: Who has the right to speak on campus?

With Professor Joan Scott

Joan Scott, Professor Emerita at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, on Charlottesville, free speech on campus, and the role of the university. A pioneer in the study of gender in intellectual history, she is the author of the canonical article, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” (1986), and several books, including The Politics of the Veil (2007), Gender and the Politics of History (1988), and most recently, Sex and Secularism (2017).

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FREE SPEECH 2: There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech!

With Professor Stanley Fish, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

Stanley Fish, Visiting Professor at the Cardozo School of Law and author of "There is No Such Thing as Free Speech," makes the case that there isn't—at least not in an absolutist sense. And universities, among other institutions, have always regulated it.

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FREE SPEECH 3: Does social justice need free speech?

With Professor Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University

Akeel Bilgrami, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University talks about the shifting approaches to free speech in progressive activism on campus and the culturalization of the politics of equality. Professor Bilgrami is the author of Beyond the Secular West (2016), and the co-edited the collection Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom? (2014).

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FREE SPEECH 4: What is at stake for the university in the speech debates?

Professor Prudence Carter, University of California at Berkeley

Prudence L. Carter is Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, and Professor of Sociology. She served as co-chair of the Commission on Free Speech for UC Berkeley with Jay Wallace, who’s also been on Think About It. Carter’s work focuses on issues of youth identity, culture, race, class, gender, urban poverty, and social and educational policy. She is the author of Keepin’ It Real: School Success beyond Black and White (2005) and Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools (2012), and co-editor of Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance (2013).

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FREE SPEECH 5: How should a university deal with its past complicities with slavery and 'scientific' racism?

With Salma Abdelrahman

Salma Abdelrahman is a student at Harvard College studying sociology and African American studies, and a former member of the college's Undergraduate Council. She talked to Think About It about Harvard's history as a center for the development of ideas of 'scientific' racism, and the effort to organize a counter-event to the invitation of Charles Murray to campus. She is deeply invested in addressing issues of justice, particularly the abolition of the prison industrial complex. She has written extensively on social justice and speech for the Harvard Crimson and given a TEDx talk.

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FREE SPEECH 6: What are the biggest threats to free expression today?

Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN AMerica

Suzanne Nossel, the Executive Director of PEN America, talks to Think About It about how she views contemporary issues around speech in America today, from President Trump's descriptions of the press as "fake news" and "the enemy of the people" to alternative news outlets that no longer respect journalistic standards, and the dangers of letting the government regulate speech on campus. Nossel is a former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, and a former Chief Operating Officer for Human Rights Watch. She has written extensively for blogs and publications such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy.

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FREE SPEECH 7: Could limits on speech result in totalitarianism?

Professor Jeremy Waldron, New York University

Is the entirety of the developed world already lost? Jeremy Waldron, University Professor in the School of Law at New York University, doesn't quite agree. Equality and dignity, he tells us, are essential to free speech and hate speech is an "environmental issue.” Waldron is interested in the rule of law, democracy, security, torture, and homelessness. He is the author of The Harm of Hate Speech (2012) and Dignity, Rank, and Rights (2012), among others. One Another’s Equals


FREE SPEECH 8: Why does America think so differently about speech from the rest of the world?

Professor Julie Suk, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City

Julie Suk was Professor of Law at Cardozo and now teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is a scholar of comparative equality law and comparative constitutional law, with an eye to equality and anti-discrimination law in the United States and Europe. In this episode, Suk about the different ways in which different democracies understand speech, the dangers posed by populist nationalism across the globe to free expression, and expertise as the basis of regulating speech on campus. Suk’s articles have appeared in various journals, including the Columbia Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and the International Journal of Constitutional Law.

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FREE SPEECH 9: Is "speech" the major underlying issue in recent Supreme Court decisions?

Professor Kate Shaw, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

Kate Shaw is Professor of Law at the Cardozo School of Law, a former Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office. In this conversation, she speaks to Think About It about constitutional jurisprudence around speech, current developments in constitutional law, and the role of speech in recent SCOTUS rulings. Shaw’s work spans the fields of administrative, constitutional, and election law, as well as legislation and elements of law. 

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FREE SPEECH 10: Why aren't we talking about the 14th Amendment?

Professor Tanya Hernández

Tanya Hernández, Professor of Law at Fordham University, talks to Think About It about the necessity of discussing the First Amendment and the Fourteenth in the same breath, how an understanding of freedom of expression in the First is incomplete without raising the guarantee of equality in the Fourteenth, and the fallacious soapbox theory of free speech. Hernández is Professor of Law at Fordham University. Her work addresses issues of discrimination, Latin American and U.S. law, critical race theory, and the science of implicit bias. She is the author of Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination. 


FREE SPEECH 11: Is there a constitutionally sound way to regulate hate speech?

Professor Richard Delgado, University of Alabama

Richard Delgado, Professor of Law at the University of Alabama is one of the founders of Critical Race Theory, and author of "Must We Defend Nazis?" He speaks to us about the essential relationship between free speech and equality. His work focuses on race, the legal profession, and social change, and he is the author of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2012) and the recently revised landmark book Must We Defend Nazis? Why the First Amendment Should Not Protect Hate Speech and White Supremacy (2018).

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FREE SPEECH 12: Is believing in free speech a little like believing in Santa Claus?

With Professor Carolyn Rouse, Princeton University

Carolyn Rouse, Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University explains the historical, cultural, and contextual nature of speech, better ways to think about trigger warnings, and teaching students the patient art of critical thinking. Rouse is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. Her work explores evidence-based approaches to race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam (2004) and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment (2016), and has directed/produced a number of documentary films.


FREE SPEECH 13: Can Hate Speech Only Be Countered With More Speech?

With Professor Nadine Strossen, New York Law School

Nadine Strossen, former President of the ACLU and professor at New York Law School, argues for the essential role of free speech in social justice activism and the limits of regulating speech. Strossen works and teaches in the areas of constitutional law and civil liberties. Her books include, among others, HATE: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship (2018) and Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights (1995).

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FREE SPEECH 14: Has the First Amendment become a weapon for the far-right?

With Robert Post, Yale University

In summer 2018, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan warned that the First Amendment has become a weapon for conservative causes. In a focused yet far-ranging conversation, Robert Post, Professor and former Dean at Yale Law School, discusses the First Amendment, its interpretations, uses and misuses, and the varied ways in which speech is regulated in America. Post’s expertise lies in First Amendment and constitutional law, legal history, and equal protection. He is the author of Citizens Divided: Campaign Finance Reform and the Constitution; Democracy, Expertise, Academic Freedom: A First Amendment Jurisprudence for the Modern State (2012) and, with Matthew Finkin, For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (2009), among other books.

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FREE SPEECH 15: What do you do when your college is at the center of a national controversy?

With Nicholas Whittaker, student at Harvard College

Nicholas Whittaker is a rising senior at Harvard College, where he studies philosophy. In his free time, he contributes opinion writings to the Harvard Crimson. In this episode, he talks about the misconstrual of student demands against inviting speakers such as Charles Murray, and the responsibility of prestigious universities such as Harvard in setting an example in equality, inclusion, and scientific rigor. 

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FREE SPEECH 16: What happened in Charlottesville, and what does power have to do with free speech?

With Sarah Kenny, graduate of the University of Virginia

Sarah Kenny is a former student and president of the student council at the University of Virginia. In this interview, she talks about the contested legacy of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia, disputes over civility, and the experience of being at the center of the terrible events of the summer 2017. 


FREE SPEECH 17: How can Charlottesville recover from the carnage of summer 2017?

With Professor John Mason, University of Virginia

John Mason, Professor of History at the University of Virginia, discusses the violent and troubled history of Charlottesville and the U.S. South, what to do with Confederate statues, and coming to terms with the collective trauma of the events of summer 2017 Mason is Professor of History at the University of Virginia, and teaches African (in particular, South African) history and the history of photography. He served on the commission to decide on what to do with the confederate monuments in Charlottesville. His books include Social Death and Resurrection: Slavery and Emancipation in South Africa (2003) and One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town New Year's Carnival (2010), as well as a forthcoming book on Gordon Parks and American Democracy.


FREE SPEECH 18: Charlottesville was not about speech but violence.

With Ben Doherty, University of Virginia

In this episode I speak with Ben Doherty, the Head of Library Instruction and a Research Librarian at the University of Virginia School of Law, who discusses the events of August 2017 in light of the violence that occurred, and how a narrow focus on speech obscures the issues we still need to grapple with today. 

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FREE SPEECH 19: Did the civil rights movement owe its existence to free speech, or is free speech the result of social movements?

Professor Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia

Fred Schauer, Distinguished Professor of Law the University of Virginia, thinks most people have got the causation backwards. In this episode, he tells us about the history of legal interpretations of the First Amendment, and the costs of enforcing the speech rights of hate groups. Schauer is known for his work in constitutional and First Amendment law. He has authored a number of books, most recently The Force of Law (2015). 

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FREE SPEECH 20: What is the theory of language behind our understanding of free speech?

Professor Sonia Das, New York University

Sonia Das is Professor of Anthropology at NYU and the author of Linguistic Rivalries: Tamil Migrants and Anglo-Franco Conflicts (2016). As a specialist in linguistic anthropology, she wants to know how abstract ideas about speech are lived by human beings, and how language not only reflects the world we live in, but constructs it too. Is hate speech just speech we dislike or a phenomenon that impacts the way we live?  Das’s recent work engages the questions of hate speech and American free speech doctrine from an anthropological perspective.

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FREE SPEECH 21: When the university speaks, what should it say?

With Professor Corey Brettschneider, Brown University

Universities should never restrict speech, but they should use other ways of expressing their values and opinions. This is the view of Corey Brettschneider, who is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University, where he teaches constitutional law and politics. He is also Visiting Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. He is the author of When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality (2012) and The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future President’s Book.

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FREE SPEECH 22: Where do these controversies start – a deep dive into American politics from the 1960s till today.

Professor Ian Haney López, University of California at Berkeley

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FREE SPEECH 23: There must be no middle ground on speech.

With Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California at Berkeley

In this episode I speak with Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a Distinguished Professor of Law. He is the author of ten books, including The Case Against the Supreme Court (2014) and Closing the Courthouse Doors: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable. Here he explains his stance that all speech, including hate speech, should be allowed on campus, and why open debate will ultimately lead to the best results. Free Speech on Campus (with Howard Gillman).

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FREE SPEECH 24: What are the philosophical assumptions and underpinnings of free speech?

With Professor Jay Wallace, University of California at Berkeley

Jay Wallace is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley and served as co-chair, with Dean Prudence Carter, of the Commission on Free Speech for UC Berkeley. Wallace works in moral philosophy, political philosophy, philosophy of law, and philosophy of action. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Moral Nexus, as well as Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments (1998), The View from Here: On Affirmation, Attachment, and the Limits of Regret, among others.

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FREE SPEECH 25: What’s the relation of free speech, hate speech, and equality in America?

With Professor David Oppenheimer, University of California at Berkeley

How can we make sense of the speech debates in today’s legal and political contexts? David Oppenheimer is Clinical Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Co-Director of the Pro Bono Group, and Director of the Berkeley Comparative Equality and Antidiscrimination Law Study Group. He is the co-author of the books Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law (2012) and Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society (2003), as well as many journal articles and book chapters.

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FREE SPEECH 26: The law is not static or self-enforcing.

With Luna Martinez

In this episode I speak with Luna Martinez, a student at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law who is interested in using the law as a vehicle for social change. Martinez offers a nuanced view of how students think about the campus controversies, and how the law is worthy of careful analysis in order to advance society’s goals. 

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FREE SPEECH 27: Do today’s champions of free speech represent the values they lay claim to?

Professor Jason Stanley, Yale University

Jason Stanley is Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and the author of How Fascism Works. In this conversation with Think About It, he discusses the necessity of taking hate speech and dehumanizing language seriously, the politics of inviting speakers to campus, and privacy as a core aspect of liberal democracies. specializes in philosophy of language, epistemology, action theory, and early analytic philosophy. He is the author of How Propaganda Works (2015), among others.


FREE SPEECH 28: Can teaching liberate you from living in a myth? What if racism will never end?

With Professor David Shih, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

In this episode I speak with Professor David Shih at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, who has not only thought and written powerfully about free speech on campus but enacts his understanding of this issue in his teaching. Professor Shih has a blog hosted by Stanford which you should check out:

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FREE SPEECH 29: Why does the ACLU defend the alt-right?

With Emerson Sykes, Staff Attorney at ACLU

What else does it do? Join me in a thoughtful conversation with Emerson Sykes, Staff Attorney at the ACLU on Free Speech, Technology, and Privacy, about the important role of the ACLU in upholding everyone's speech rights regardless of political affiliation. Emerson holds degrees from Stanford, New York University, and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and has worked in both politics and the law.

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FREE SPEECH 30: Truth, Lies, Propaganda, and the University in the Age of Trump.

Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, New York University

In free democracies, the role of the university is to be an arbiter of truth. They share this critical role with a free press. What is happening with universities in the age of Trump, where the media's role as an arbiter of truth is under severe attack? What does 'normalizing' incendiary speech really mean? How can we counter the erosion of belief in the truth and in facts, in science and expertise? And how can you do defend yourself against becoming a helpless puppet at the mercy of those who feed the media frenzy with provocation and outrage, and still stay up on the news? Join me in a conversation with Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert of the history of fascism at New York University, and a frequent commentator on various platforms and monthly columnist for on contemporary politics . You can find Professor Ben-Ghiat at