Words of Wisdom: Great Thinkers on Why Free Speech Is Vital

John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill, On Freedom, 1859

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the… more

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, 1860 speech

“No right was deemed by the fathers of the Government more sacred than the right of speech. . . the great moral renovator of society and government.  . . .  Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thought and… more

Margaret Chase Smith
Margaret Chase Smith, 1950 speech against McCarthyism

"The right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation… more

Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall, Police Dept. of City of Chicago v. Mosley (1972)

“The First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”

Jonathan Rauch
Jonathan Rauch, 2013

“History shows that the more open the intellectual environment, the better minorities will do.... [G]ay people know we owe our progress to freedom of speech and freedom of thought.... The best society for minorities is not the society… more

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2012 interview

"A constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom.”

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, 1860

"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thought and opinions has ceased to exist."

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie, 1990

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

William Brennan
Justice William Brennan, Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967)

“[A]cademic freedom... is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the … more

Donald Downs
Donald Downs, 2020

“Punishing evil or bad thoughts amounts to thought control, which is the quintessential First Amendment sin and a hallmark of an authoritarian or totalitarian state. It is no accident that polities that coerce their vision of a new and… more

Václav Havel, 2000
Václav Havel, 2000

"Courage in the public sphere means that one is to go against majority opinion (at the same time risking losing one's position) in the name of the truth."

President Obama
President Barack Obama, September 2015, comments at high school town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa

“The purpose of college is not just... to transmit skills. It’s also to widen your horizons, to make you a better citizen, to help you to evaluate… more

Ira Glasser
Ira Glasser, 2020 interview

“[A]fter [a] panel discussion [at a prestigious law school], person after person got up, including some of the younger professors, to assert that their goals of social justice for blacks, for women, for… more

Justice Louis Brandeis
Justice Louis Brandeis, concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 1927

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced… more

Jonathan Rauch
Jonathan Rauch, 2016

“The greatest idea in the history of human civilization is the idea that we are better off, personally and as a society, if we not only tolerate but actively protect speech and thought that is wrong-headed, offensive, bigoted, seditious,… more

George Orwell
George Orwell, 1945; Preface to Animal Farm

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Nadine Strossen
Nadine Strossen, former ACLU president, 2018

“In the long run, an open airing of discriminatory ideas, and an ensuing debate about them, may well be more effective in curbing them than censorship would be.”

James Madison
James Madison, 1788 speech

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We read of tortures in jails with electric devices, suicides among prisoners, forced confessions, while in the outside community ruthless persecution of editors, religious leaders, and political opponents suppress free speech—and a… more

Henry Steele Commager
Henry Steele Commager, 1954

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. In the long run it will create a generation incapable of appreciating the… more

George Washington
George Washington, 1783

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt, The Promise of Politics, written in latter half of 1950s

“If someone wants to see and experience the world as it ‘really’ is, he can do so only by understanding it as something that is shared by many people, lies between them, separates them,… more

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, 1722

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

John Lewis
John Lewis, 2017

“Without freedom of speech and the right to dissent, the civil rights movement would have been a bird without wings.”

Constitution
United States Constitution, first amendment

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… more

What Princetonians Think

How Universities Weaponize Freshman Orientation

Instead of simply informing students about the resources on campus, orientation can amount to an ideological hazing.

By ABIGAIL ANTHONY
July 15, 2022

I arrived at Princeton University in September 2019. I had looked at Princeton online and thought, “one day . . .” Suddenly, I was experiencing day one. My eager arrival on campus was emotionally amplified by bright smiles, copious pamphlets, and dormitory supervisors dancing in tiger suits. Orientation innocently began with introductions of names and hometowns — then descended into divisive lectures and panels. The intention of these programs was not to assimilate us into our new (and intimidating) surroundings, but rather to coerce students into accepting and affirming a resident orthodoxy.

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Fight for Free Speech!

Eisgruber’s Claim that Free Speech Rule Protects His Subordinates’ Rights to Use Princeton’s Website and Freshman Orientation to Smear Professors as Racists

By Stuart Taylor, Jr. and Edward Yingling
August 4, 2022

In short emails in July, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber spurned a distinguished professor's plea to take seriously the letter and spirit of Princeton's free speech rule. Instead Eisgruber locked himself with pigheaded finality into his indefensible contention that the rule itself empowers his subordinates to use Princeton's website and other considerable resources dishonestly to smear as racist any professor they decide to target anonymously, if they wish -- even when the specific statement targeted has been labeled as protected speech by Eisgruber himself.

In the process, Eisgruber’s dismissive emails to Professor Sergiu Klainerman, defending anonymous subordinates’ attacks on recently fired Professor Joshua Katz, also gave the back of his hand to the important faculty Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal’s unanimous finding that the subordinates had violated the free speech rule. His email did not even address specific findings in the committee’s detailed analysis, including the fact that the Katz quote had been intentionally doctored. 

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Commentary: The Biden Administration’s Illiberal Regulatory Attack on Campus Free Speech

By Stuart Taylor, Jr., Co-founder, Princetonians for Free Speech
August 1, 2022

Old-fashioned civil liberties champions who have not paid much attention since 2010 or so might be surprised to learn that the Obama Administration used Title IX sharply to curb free speech on campus (as well as due process for students accused of sexual harassment and assault); that the next Administration reversed this trend and was much friendlier to free speech (and due process); and that the current Administration is now reverting to the Obama policies, often in the face of court decisions finding them unlawful.

Somewhat better known are the facts that in handling accusations of campus sexual assault under Title IX, the Obama and Biden Administrations and most congressional Democrats and campus bureaucrats have virtually presumed the guilt of accused students (almost all male and many or most of them innocent any crime) and slashed their due process rights. This in the face of scores of court rulings for accused students.

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