Reason Interviews

Melissa Chen on Fighting Wokeness at Home and Radicalism Abroad

The journalist and free-speech activist says identity politics are destroying the media, higher education, and Hollywood.


"Ideas have consequences," says Melissa Chen. "But so does silence."

Chen is New York editor for The Spectator and managing director of Ideas Beyond Borders, a nonprofit that translates new and classic texts about science, history, and liberal political philosophy into Arabic and distributes them as free ebooks throughout the Middle East. Born and raised in Singapore, Chen came to the United States to study genomics at Boston University; she quickly established herself as a foe of groupthink and political correctness in America while critiquing authoritarian regimes in Singapore, China, and elsewhere. A frequent guest on such shows as The Joe Rogan Experience, Bridget Phetasy's Walk-Ins Welcome, and The Rubin Report, Chen maintains one of the liveliest feeds on Twitter, mixing long threads with sardonic comments on the news of the day.

In this interview, Chen tells Nick Gillespie that an obsessive focus on identity politics led the media to keep insisting without evidence that the murder of massage parlor workers in Atlanta was a hate crime against Asian Americans. She also discusses why Hollywood is changing its products to please censors in the Chinese government, and she argues that the best ways to counter radicalization are speech and information, not repression.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Produced and edited by Regan Taylor.

Photo: Masjid Pogung Dalangan on Unsplash; Osman Rana on Unsplash; Aubrey Odom on Unsplash; Chine Nouvelle/SIPA/Newscom; Desmond Wee/The Straits Times/Newscom; Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash; Benoit Debaix on Unsplash; Alex Block on Unsplash; Adi Goldstein on Unsplash; Robin Rayne/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Swapnil Bapat on Unsplash; Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash

Music: "Mine All Mine," by Katrina Stone, Artlist