"A must read."—Margaret Atwood
A vital, necessary playbook for navigating and defending free speech today by the CEO of PEN America, Dare To Speak provides a pathway for promoting free expression while also cultivating a more inclusive public culture.
Online trolls and fascist chat groups. Controversies over campus lectures. Cancel culture versus censorship. The daily hazards and debates surrounding free speech dominate headlines and fuel social media storms. In an era where one tweet can launch—or end—your career, and where free speech is often invoked as a principle but rarely understood, learning to maneuver the fast-changing, treacherous landscape of public discourse has never been more urgent.
In Dare To Speak, Suzanne Nossel, a leading voice in support of free expression, delivers a vital, necessary guide to maintaining democratic debate that is open, free-wheeling but at the same time respectful of the rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions in a changing country. Centered on practical principles, Nossel’s primer equips readers with the tools needed to speak one’s mind in today’s diverse, digitized, and highly-divided society without resorting to curbs on free expression.
At a time when free speech is often pitted against other progressive axioms—namely diversity and equality—Dare To Speak presents a clear-eyed argument that the drive to create a more inclusive society need not, and must not, compromise robust protections for free speech. Nossel provides concrete guidance on how to reconcile these two sets of core values within universities, on social media, and in daily life. She advises readers how to:
Use language conscientiously without self-censoring ideas;Defend the right to express unpopular views;And protest without silencing speech.
Nossel warns against the increasingly fashionable embrace of expanded government and corporate controls over speech, warning that such strictures can reinforce the marginalization of lesser-heard voices. She argues that creating an open market of ideas demands aggressive steps to remedy exclusion and ensure equal participation.
Replete with insightful arguments, colorful examples, and salient advice, Dare To Speak brings much-needed clarity and guidance to this pressing—and often misunderstood—debate.
Nossel, CEO of PEN America, debuts with a reasoned, well-sourced argument for protecting free speech, even in cases where it's morally reprehensible. She contends that "informal self-governance" is preferable to enacting bans on offensive speech, and laments "the decoupling of speech from considerations of intent and context." To combat hate speech, Nossel advocates respectful "counterspeech" rather than furious tirades or "speech-suppressive strategies." She notes that free speech as a political issue has gone from a liberal priority to a conservative crusade in recent years, and provides data suggesting that millennials are more in favor of censoring speech in order to protect minorities than previous generations. To help counter this "troubling tendency," Nossel commends progressive talk show host Bill Maher and President Barack Obama for defending the speech rights of those with whom they disagree. She criticizes the influence of "call-out" culture and offers guidelines on how to tell the difference between real and pseudo apologies. Some of Nossel's suggestions for defusing offensive speech seem overly optimistic, but her ardent defense of this constitutional right is based persuasively on personal experience and straightforward evidence. Readers will find this clearheaded account to be a helpful guide to navigating today's partisan extremism.