Politics & Polls #198: Free Speech, “Call-Out Culture,” and Social Justice Featuring Suzanne Nossel

Aug 19 2020
By B. Rose Huber and Henry Barrett '22
Source Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

With the rise of online and social media platforms, free speech and political discourse have taken on new complexities. While providing the opportunity to connect with large audiences, social media platforms have increasingly depersonalized discussions.

Suzanne Nossel joins Sam Wang and Julian Zelizer to discuss censoring speech, freedom of expression during the Trump administration, and distrust in our public institutions. She’s the author of a recent book: “Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All.” The trio look at “call-out” culture and whether free speech comes at the expense of social justice.

Nossel currently serves as the chief executive officer of PEN America, an organization focused on free speech and human rights issues. Since 2013, she has overseen PEN America’s growth, doubling its staff, budget, and membership. She previously served as chief operating officer of Human Rights Watch and as executive director of Amnesty International USA. She also has served in roles under the Obama and Clinton administrations. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more.


Wang is a professor at Princeton University, appointed in neuroscience with affiliate appointments in the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Center for Information Technology Policy. An alumnus of Caltech, where he received a B.S. with honors in physics, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Stanford University School of Medicine. He conducted postdoctoral research at Duke University Medical Center and at Bell Labs Lucent Technologies. He has also worked on science and education policy for the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He is noted for his application of data analytics and poll aggregation to American politics. He is leading an effort at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to build a 50-state data resource for legislative-quality citizen redistricting. His work to define a state-level legal theory to limit partisan gerrymandering recently won Common Cause’s Gerrymandering Standard Writing Contest. His neuroscience research concerns how the brain learns from sensory experience in early life, adulthood and autism.

Zelizer has been among the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN political analyst. He has written more than 900 op-eds, including his popular weekly column for CNN.com and The Atlantic. This year, he is the distinguished senior fellow at the New York Historical Society, where he is writing a biography of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel for Yale University's Jewish Lives Series. He is the author and editor of more than 19 books including, “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society,” the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress. In January 2019, Norton published his new book, co-authored with Kevin Kruse, “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.” In spring 2020, Penguin Press will publish his other book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.” He has received fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation and New America.