Greg Lukianoff || Free Speech

September 24, 2020

Today it is great to have Greg Lukianoff on the podcast. Greg is an attorney, New York Times bestselling author, and the present CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He is the author of  Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, Freedom from Speech, and FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. Most recently, he co-authored The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

Check out Greg and Jonathan’s video on why they dislike the use of the word “coddling” in the title of their book.

Time Stamps

[00:02:39] Why Greg advocates free speech

[00:06:00] The story behind why the former executive director of the ACLU, Ira Glasser, began his fight for civil liberties

[00:07:54] The Bedrock Principle and why you cannot ban something simply because it is offensive

[00:09:42] The limits of free speech and exceptions to the First Amendment

[00:11:19] How Greg’s argument for free speech differs from the traditional argument for free speech

[00:14:38] Addressing the criticism that free speech could incite violence against vulnerable people

[00:16:03] Why we should listen to the arguments of people with whom we strongly disagree

[00:20:13] How to balance arguments for free speech with empathy

[00:22:37] Humor as a coping mechanism for depression

[00:23:14] Greg’s suicide attempt and struggle with depression

[00:27:29] How Greg enjoys helping people who struggle with mental health issues

[00:28:50] How Greg’s thriving after depression can give people hope

[00:29:37] Addressing the stereotype that Greg’s work is always about political correctness, when it is actually often transpartisan

[00:30:08] How hyper-bureaucratized universities can exacerbate mental health problems

[00:33:10] How cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) influenced The Coddling of the American Mind

[00:34:57] The importance of discipline and consistency in the practice of CBT

[00:36:14] The pre-2013 repression of free speech by the administration

[00:38:02] The post-2013 spike of repression of free speech by students

[00:40:23] How anti-free speech administrations taught students habits of anxiety and depression by repressing free speech

[00:43:07] The scary anti-Trump riots after his election in 2016

[00:44:35] Arguments over the title of the book The Coddling of the American Mind

[00:48:53] Addressing the criticism that The Coddling of the American Mind was not compassionate

[00:51:07] The six reasons for the sudden spike in anti-free speech activism

[00:54:13] How intersectionality is used as a rhetorical tactic against free speech

[00:55:59] Criticisms against allowing our gender or race identities to define us

[00:57:03] Common enemy identity politics versus common humanity identity politics

[00:59:16] Why compassion is essential

[00:59:57] Naive statism and why we should be cautious when designing laws which repress civil liberties

[01:05:04] Components of Greg’s background which led to his powerful advocacy of free speech on campus

[01:11:26] Greg and his family’s health after a year of injuries, health problems, and bereavement

[01:17:24] Hope that Greg has had since publishing The Coddling of the American Mind

2 Responses to “Greg Lukianoff || Free Speech”

  1. Shawn OBrien says:

    I am a big fan of Jonathan Haidt’s, and it was great to hear from his co-author. His recounting of his brush with suicide was heartbreaking but also informative and ultimately hopeful. I wonder if another potential contributor to this phenomenon is the increase in 504 plans after 1991, when a Joint Policy Memorandum was issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services regarding the obligations of schools regarding Section 504 of the Voc. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for students with ADHD. A group of parents of ADHD students had tried and failed to get ADHD listed as a recognized disability under what’s now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and issuing a statement reminding schools of their 504 obligations was seen as a compromise. It took awhile for schools to train staff and start implementing 504 Plans for students with ADHD, and even longer for 504 Plans to be frequently implemented with other disabilities, including as anxiety. But such 504 Plans became increasingly implemented in K-12 in the early-to-mid 2000’s, and we now have significant numbers of college students on campus with 504 Plans. The language of accommodations seems very similar to what college students are now advocating. The goal of 504 Plans was well intentioned and many are well written, but often poorly implemented. Students with genuine anxiety disorders, such as PTSD, may well benefit from trigger warnings IF accompanied by therapy to help them become desensitized to their triggers, including gradual and professionally guided exposure. Unfortunately, that rarely happens because schools are vastly underfunded when it comes to hiring sufficient mental health professionals to do such treatment. Here’s an example of an “ideal” 504 Plan for students with anxiety currently. As a school psychologist, I’d bet good money that only the “fast and easy” recommendations will actually be implemented, and not the “slow and more complex” ones that should accompany them.

  2. Shawn OBrien says:

    Perhaps a more insightful alternative than my previous post is presented here:


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