Today The Atlantic begins a year-long reporting project, “The Speech Wars,” exploring questions of American free expression and public discourse. The project will unfold across TheAtlantic.com, in video, and through live events, beginning with an event next week in San Francisco looking at the debate about free speech on campuses, on tech platforms, and in politics.
“The Speech Wars” is born out of The Atlantic’s legacy of covering threats to free expression, freedom, and justice—beginning with the magazine’s founding in 1857 as a nonpartisan journal that argued for the cause of abolition—and more urgently by the public’s increasing sectarianism and declining tolerance for challenging points of view.
“The Atlantic is, and always has been, a marketplace for competing ideas,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic. “We need to understand why so many factions and individuals across America have traded dissent and useful argument for intolerance and illiberalism.”
“The Speech Wars” will seek to understand where free speech is in danger and where it has been abused. With social media and the internet enlivening the marketplace of ideas—and giving every citizen access to the public square—we should be living in a golden age of free expression. The opposite is now true: over the past two decades, liberals and conservatives have increasingly come to believe their ideological opposites aren’t just misguided, but dangerous. The Atlantic’s reporting will explore all of these complicated realities, offering a range of reports and essays from staff writers and contributors.