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ARI and the Fight for Free Speech

You’ve heard the stories. Charles Murray was attacked by a mob after giving a talk at Middlebury College. Not long after that, a riot broke out at U.C. Berkeley over a scheduled appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos. Berkeley’s student newspaper later published a series of essays justifying the violence as “self-defense.”

Unfortunately, incidents like these are not rare. We at ARI have experienced them ourselves, most recently at a free-speech event at UCLA when a group of students blocked a display of Elan Journo and Onkar Ghate’s book, The Failure to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism, and then knocked the books off the table. When we brought this to the attention of a university official, he told us to remove the books because they were “offensive.” To its credit, the university later apologized for the incident, and, in any event, we turned it into a positive by using the incident as an example during the event.

Still, with incidents like these increasing and the general culture of sensitivity on campus — in which many students seek to clamp down on every perceived “offense” as a threat to their safety — we must ask: What is happening to free speech on campus?


Ayn Rand identified the ideas undermining free speech in the 1960s. When students are taught that reason is impotent, that emotions are supreme and that individuals are subordinate to groups (such as those based on race, sex, class, etc.), then freedom of speech will wither and ultimately die. “[W]hen men abandon reason,” Rand said, “they open the door to physical force as the only alternative and the inevitable consequence.”

Rand saw developments on campus as “a miniature preview . . . of what is to happen to the country at large, if the present cultural trend remains unchallenged.” Unfortunately, the fundamental ideas she identified are still being taught on America’s campuses.

That is where ARI comes in. We counter today’s intellectual trends by arming students with better ideas — the ideas of Objectivism. We teach them what free speech really means, why it is valuable and how to defend it. We provide them with a vision of real freedom. We give them something to fight for, rather than just something to oppose.

ARI has been doing this for decades, and I’m excited to tell you about a new initiative that will help continue this important fight.

The UCLA talk I mentioned featured Dave Rubin, host of the popular YouTube talk show The Rubin Report, and Flemming Rose, author of The Tyranny of Silence. It was the second of two highly successful panel events we did with Rose earlier this year, with the first, at U Penn, featuring noted law professor and former ACLU president Nadine Strossen. Hundreds of engaged, interested students and others turned out to learn about our unique perspective on free speech.

Building on those successes, we are planning four more free-speech panel events for this spring. This new round will feature Dave Rubin and me along with a different third participant for each event.

The first will feature American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers and will be held at George Washington University on March 28. The second will be held at the University of Southern California on April 13 and feature Colin Moriarty, a free-speech advocate and former member of Kinda Funny, a comedy troupe. The third will be at the University of Texas at Austin on April 18 and will feature Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi-born human rights activist and founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement. The fourth will be held at the University of Arizona and will feature Michael Shermer, a writer and the editor of Skeptic magazine. (We will send out additional details for each event as they draw near.)

As a bonus for OCON 2017 attendees, Dave Rubin and I will reprise the free-speech panel there, which will include Flemming Rose as the third panelist.

We are extremely excited about this new initiative. It will allow us to access a wider audience, to raise our profile and to present our ideas to an ever-expanding group of students and individuals interested in free speech and potentially interested in Ayn Rand. And these events, like the previous ones, will lead to additional opportunities in the future.

Already, my participation in events such as these has paid off. I was recently invited to participate in a debate at the Oxford Union, the world’s leading debate society, at Oxford University. At the end of April, I will speak in Vancouver at the annual conference of Civitas, Canada’s leading society for the discussion of classical liberal ideas. And I continue to speak regularly at colleges and law schools, to write op-eds and articles, and to make progress on a new book on freedom of speech.

Of course, none of this comes cheap. The panel events alone will cost $90,000. While we deeply appreciate all the support our donors have provided to ARI over the years, in order to continue fighting for a culture of reason and individualism, we need more help. Consider that every dollar you contribute is a dollar that goes to defend your right to say what you please, your right to pursue your own happiness, your future and that of your children and grandchildren. Think of us as your agents in the battle for America’s future.

ARI is the only organization that defends free speech consistently and on principle. We understand that an attack on anyone’s free speech — whether that of Muhammad cartoonists, those who spend money during elections, ExxonMobil and “climate change” dissenters, or of college students — is an attack on everyone’s free speech. We understand that the fight for intellectual freedom entails a fight for all rights. We understand, as Ayn Rand notes, that “a free mind and a free market are corollaries.” And we understand that without the right to freedom of speech, none of our other efforts are possible.

Please join us in this important battle.

Thank you.

P.S. If you contribute $100 or more to this campaign, we’ll send you a free copy of my book Defending Free Speech, with our thanks for your support!