Many have taken to the streets to express their disenchantment with our politics. Could more political parties be the solution? (Rosemary Ketchum/Pexels)

By Khoury Johnson

Americans today are divided not because of politics, but because of a lack of social cohesion, according to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). His October op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, “Politics Can’t Save Our Problems,” drew the following conclusion: The halcyon days our parents and grandparents cherished, when partisanship bowed to civic duty, and when communities consisted of people in shared physical spaces rather than anonymous profiles in virtual chat rooms, survive only in fading memories.

Increasingly, he writes, we are becoming a nation of tribes — political in nature, disparate in composition. The lonely among us…


The five killed at The Capital Gazette in June were Rob Hiaasen, an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, a community correspondent; Gerald Fischman, an editorial page editor; John McNamara, a staff writer; and Rebecca Smith, a sales associate. (Via Capital Gazette)

By Maya Gandhi

Attacks against the free press have surged in the United States in 2018, as newsrooms of all sizes have logged an increased number of threats and, in some cases, have suffered acts of violence. But while threats against the media are nothing new, especially in today’s hyper-partisan climate, it will take broader support from the American public to combat this dangerous phenomenon.

In August 2018, CNN anchor Brian Stelter aired a recording of death threats made against him and his colleague Don Lemon, when a caller to C-SPAN declared that he intended to shoot the two journalists.


Trinity College, the institution of higher learning that would go on to become Duke University and the staging ground for the Bassett Affair. (Photo via Duke University Archives)

By Sue Wasiolek

Although it was expected to be a defining moment for Trinity College, in North Carolina, and put it on the map as a top-notch, liberal arts institution in the early 1900s, the “Bassett Affair” may not have had the broad impact originally anticipated. Nonetheless, this episode was important in the history of the institution that would become Duke University, and it may provide guidance to the enduring struggle over the meaning of Free Speech in higher education today.

Born in 1867 in Tarboro, N.C., to devoutly Methodist parents, John Spencer Bassett was the second of seven children…


Students, faculty, journalists, and members of the national security community attended our forum on government secrets and leaks in historic Gaston Hall on Georgetown University’s campus. (Photo via Georgetown)

By Free Speech Project Staff

Fighting for freedom of the press and protecting the safety of journalists is crucial now more than ever. The Free Speech Project was proud to convene a panel of experts on the tense relationships among journalists, whistleblowers, and those in the national security establishment on September 24 before a near-capacity crowd in Georgetown University’s historic Gaston Hall.

Our panelists included Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University; Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who reported on the U.S. government’s surveillance program after receiving classified information from Edward Snowden; Alberto Mora, former…


Jason Kessler, the hapless white nationalist, being shielded from hordes of counter-protesters in D.C. on Aug. 12, 2018. (Tess Owen via Twitter)

By Sanford J. Ungar

In the summer of 2018, many of us looked at the calendar and suddenly became obsessed with the question of whether recent history was going to repeat itself: Would the “alt-right” — that messy stew of racists, anti-Semites, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis who tore up Charlottesville, Virginia, with their violent rally in August 2017 — succeed in returning to Thomas Jefferson’s town and university or hit the jackpot in Washington, D.C., with an anniversary celebration?

Our memory of the 2017 events in Charlottesville is utterly traumatic, what with the three deaths and many injuries, a torchlight…


No soliciting signs, such as this one, may be stifling the Free Speech of political campaigns. (Amazon.com)

By Gustav Honl-Stuenkel

“Soliciting’s not allowed in this neighborhood, so I’m gonna need you to get off my property and get out of this neighborhood before I call the police,” John said gruffly, bursting through his door before I even had the chance to knock.

“I’m not selling anything sir, this is canvassing, and it’s regarded as political speech.” I responded, though I knew right away that the best I could hope for from this interaction was the chance to move on and talk with someone at the next house on my list.

“No!” he snapped. “Any time you’re going…


A view of the Free Speech Tracker as of August 2018.

By Grace Aldridge Foster

There’s no science to this. How could there be?

As editor and manager of the Free Speech Project for the past eight months, one of my primary responsibilities has been to feed the Free Speech Tracker — to search for incidents across the country in which Free Speech, in its various forms, has been challenged or violated. I’ve used a combination of daily Google alerts, Twitter scans, Poynter newsletters, and word of mouth recommendations to find these examples. I compile lists of them and forward them to the project’s director and principal research assistant to weigh…


James Gunn, former director of Disney franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

By Graham Piro

The San Diego Comic-Con is usually a time for annual fan celebrations and breaking news of blockbuster movies and television shows. But the latest gathering found the routine events overshadowed by a disturbing story: the firing of filmmaker James Gunn from the third Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Gunn had been an outspoken opponent of President Donald Trump on Twitter. He tweeted about a controversy between actor Mark Duplass and activist Ben Shapiro, saying that he thought “even Ben Shapiro’s mother should unfollow him” and telling his followers “There are a lot of traitors and racists in…


Bedlam in Charlottesville as self-avowed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields, Jr. plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in August 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress)

By Jesus Rodriguez

Few events in recent history have rattled the United States quite like last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., a clash of gun-toting white supremacists, counter-protesters and an unprepared police force. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, died after self-avowed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring 19 others as well. The mayhem provided a haunting coda to the first summer of the Trump administration, as Americans everywhere grappled with how to resolve the deep-seated prejudices pervading society that now festered in the open.

It was also the occasion…


Anthony Elonis, a rapper accused of threatening his ex-wife on Facebook with rap lyrics

By Gustav Honl-Stuenkel

“Enough elementary schools in a ten-mile radius to initiate the most heinous school shooting ever imagined, and hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class.”

This sentence, in a note left at an elementary school, in an angry post on social media, phoned into a police station, or otherwise expressed in prose, would naturally be seen as a grave and criminal threat. For Anthony Elonis, however, these words — menacing, offensive, and violent as they may be — are simply a verse from a rap song he wrote, and according to the Supreme…

The Free Speech Project at Georgetown University

Studying the state of Free Speech in America, particularly in higher education, state government, and civil society. Grantee of Knight Foundation.

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