At WGCU Radio in Southwest Florida, Mike Kiniry recently interviewed Jacob Mchangama about current threats to free speech and his book Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media.


After the United States Constitution was ratified, Congress adopted ten amendments which were then ratified by three-fourths of the states, and these ten amendments are now known as the “Bill of Rights.”

The Bill of Rights outlines specific protections for individual liberties and imposes restrictions on the federal government.

The first amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The idea that individuals — or the press — have the right to express opinions and ideas without government censorship or interference, while not entirely unprecedented is far from the norm throughout human history.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution remains the gold standard globally when it comes to protecting speech. But, our guest says history shows that protecting freedom of expression cannot be guaranteed without strong support from those who it protects — and that includes strongly supporting the right to expression for those who we strongly disagree with.

Jacob Mchangama is director of the Future of Free Speech Project at Vanderbilt University, and a Senior Fellow at The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression in Philadelphia. And he’s the author of “Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media” published in 2022. This conversation was recorded on March 4, 2024.

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Jacob Mchangama is the Founder and Executive Director of The Future of Free Speech. He is also a research professor at Vanderbilt University and a Senior Fellow at The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).