To be sure, there are a number of ways in which the US does lead the world in freedom of speech. It is literally legal to advocate anarchy and the violent overthrow of the US government, and dissidents can be rather specific in their rally cries as long as their plans aren’t “imminent.” Additionally, I don’t know of a country that protects more false and hateful speech, such as Holocaust denial and the defamation of dead soldiers, than the US. Fabricating news in the United States, while a journalistic death wish, is not generally illegal.

I personally haven’t had federal, state, or local governments interfere with, or retaliate against, my reporting. I routinely get pulled aside at US airports because my passport has lots of squiggly stamps, and it’s highly possible, due to the overbroad nature of the Mukasey surveillance guidelines and the fact that I spent years reporting in the Arab world as a young man, that I’ve been placed under federal surveillance at one time or another, but I’m not aware of it.

Nonetheless, the US targets speech in a number of significant ways. The record of the United States on free speech is similar to our performance on education; we lead developed nations in some ways, such as in the quality of our research universities, but by other measures, say, eighth-grade math and science, we’re noticeably behind. With regard to free speech, Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in 21st-Century America chronicles our most serious demerits.

Click here for a complete Page Views archive. Woodrow Hartzog contributed to this report.


Justin D. Martin is a journalism professor at Northwestern University in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter: @Justin_D_Martin