Is free speech in global retreat? According to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education President Greg Lukianoff—with whom I shared the stage during Spiked's recent Free Speech NOW! event in Washington, D.C.—we're living through a pretty horrendous time for unfettered expression:
1) The situation for freedom of speech globally is dire. The unfree world, whether it be North Korea or China, is still unfree. The Islamic world is almost certainly less tolerant of dissent than it was before the fundamentalist revival of the 1970s. The states of the former Soviet Union, especially Russia, are some of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. And, most disappointingly, Europe, which Brendan [O'Neill] can speak more to, has turned on speech, whether it's in the form of hate speech codes, national security laws, the insane "right to be forgotten" movement or blasphemy laws (even in countries as secular as Denmark). I call this problem the "shrinking circle of freedom of speech."
2) Free speech in the US is not doing so hot either, especially on campuses. I could spend all day talking to you about the approximately 55% of American universities that maintain unconstitutional speech codes, but here's some quick examples. In 2013 we saw students at two different colleges being told they could not hand out constitutions, in one case not even to honor Constitution Day, without confining themselves to a tiny free speech zone and getting advance permission from the administration. Another school forbade a student from protesting for animal rights unless he wore a "free speech badge" signed by an administrator. (Here I held up my two of my books, Unlearning Liberty and Freedom From Speech, as well as my article with Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic for anyone who wanted to learn more.)
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