Calls to shut down “misinformation” targeting the country’s most popular podcast, social media posts from an editor’s teenage years getting her fired from Teen Vogue, a Georgetown University law professor placed under investigation for a single tweet, legislators across the country attempting to ban entire academic subjects: These are just a few examples of the rising tide of censorship — also known as cancel culture — stifling our public dialogue, whipping up polarization, and enforcing rigid orthodoxies in our institutions.
At the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) we believe that this poses a profound threat to our nation, our democracy, and the human experiment in building free societies.
But the antidote to cancel culture is clear: We must reclaim free speech as a foundational value of American culture and democracy.
I hope you had the chance to see me speak about FIRE’s work on the panel, “Non-profits That Make a Difference.” Or maybe you caught our film at Anthem, “Over, Under or Through,” about a student who fought for First Amendment freedoms and won in court, vindicating free speech rights for hundreds of thousands of students. But if you missed us at FreedomFest, here’s a brief rundown of our work and our exciting plans to turn the tide against censorship in America.
You may be familiar with our free speech advocacy on America’s college campuses. We were formerly known as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and, since 1999, we have won hundreds of victories that vindicated First Amendment rights for millions of students and faculty. Now, we’re ready to leverage our expertise and experience to take our fight into new arenas. We’re expanding our mission with the aim of defending free speech for all Americans, taking up the mantle as the nation’s premier defender of expressive rights.
We’re taking a three-pronged approach to defeat cancel culture.
First, we’ll need lots of data on current attitudes, norms, and policies related to free speech if we want to change hearts, minds, and public policy. So, we’re expanding on the success of our current research initiatives, building a world-class free expression think tank. Second, our legal team will expand into a premier public interest law firm that defends and represents Americans — both on and off campus — whose expressive rights have been violated. We will take on cases with major policy implications and clear cultural impact.
Finally, we’re taking our fight to the court of public opinion, rolling out massive public awareness initiatives to educate everyday Americans on the value of free expression and the dangers of censorship. We’ve already launched our “Faces of Free Speech” campaign, featuring primetime ads on cable news networks and billboards in 15 major cities across the country. Efforts like this will allow us to mobilize a new movement that will unapologetically stand up for free speech and fight cancel culture.
I hope you’re as excited as we are about our new plans, and I hope you’ll consider joining us in restoring free speech to its rightful place as the cornerstone of American freedom.
Become a FIRE Member today by making a $25 donation at thefire.org/donate (we also accept cryptocurrency). All new members will receive one of our stylish new T-shirts. Wear it proudly and show everyone that the movement for free speech now has a bold new leader.
And if you want to learn more, please head over to our website or email me at [email protected]. I’m always happy to connect.
Angel Kast serves as Philanthropy Officer for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.