Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media

Basic. Feb. 2022. 528p. ISBN 9781541600492. $30. POL SCI
Journalist McHangama has written an insightful, nicely woven history that provides a coherent picture of how free speech has developed globally. From ancient Greece to the internet’s gigabytes, this account contends there has been a constant push-and-pull of whether freedom of speech is granted to the masses or solely held by the ruling elite. During his research, McHangama noticed patterns where people were granted the freedom to express their ideas but became vituperative and repressive to those who had more radical ideas. Using numerous anecdotes, the author makes this well-researched narrative both informative and entertaining as he recounts accusations of heresy and restrictions on the freedom of religion during the Inquisition and Martin Luther’s invention of the printing press, which challenged conventional ideas of disseminating news. McHangama argues that all ideas must be shared in order for democracies to survive and he warns against tech corporations, such as Twitter or Facebook, controlling speech on their platforms.
VERDICT With accessible and engaging writing, McHangama’s book is a highly recommended intellectual history for casual readers and those interested in the currency of free speech.
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