Through stories of free speech’s many defenders—from the ancient Athenian orator Demosthenes and the ninth-century freethinker al-Rāzī, to the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells and modern-day digital activists—Mchangama reveals how the free exchange of ideas underlies all intellectual achievement and has enabled the advancement of both freedom and equality worldwide.
The text shows how religious censors eventually retreated, in part because Spinoza, Paine, Carlile, Mill, and others cogently argued that intellectual progress depended on free expression. But readers will see that modern secular ideologues—notably Fascists and Communists—have attacked free speech as brutally as religious inquisitors. Turning to the twenty-first century, Mchangama limns the strange evolution that turned progressive activists celebrating social media enabling Obama to defy establishment control into advocates of 'content moderation,' censorship intended to still the Twitter storms of Trump and his supporters. A provocative exploration of a transformative political right.
Journalist McHangama has written an insightful, nicely woven history that provides a coherent picture of how free speech has developed globally ... Using numerous anecdotes, the author makes this well-researched narrative both informative and entertaining as he recounts accusations of heresy and restrictions on the freedom of religion during the Inquisition and Martin Luther’s invention of the printing press, which challenged conventional ideas of disseminating news ... With accessible and engaging writing, McHangama’s book is a highly recommended intellectual history for casual readers and those interested in the currency of free speech.
... well-researched and highly readable ... The author effectively demonstrates how much we have gained by the spread of free speech as well as what we stand to lose if we allow its continued erosion ... A well-structured and compelling examination of the costs and benefits of free speech.