Free Speech Week to be celebrated with national expert on censorship

Chris Finan to present ‘How Free Speech Saved Democracy’ on Oct. 19
​Jerry Poling | October 12, 2022

The director of the National Coalition Against Censorship will speak at UW-Stout during Free Speech Week.

Chris Finan will present “How Free Speech Saved Democracy,” from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Cedar/Maple rooms at the Memorial Student Center.

The event, free and open to the public, is co-hosted by UW-Stout’s Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation and the League of Women Voters of the Greater Chippewa Valley.

Chris Finan, director of the National Coalition Against Censorship
Chris Finan, director of the National Coalition Against Censorship / Contributed photo

National Free Speech Week is Monday, Oct. 17, to Sunday, Oct. 23.

Finan is the author of “How Free Speech Saved Democracy: The Untold History of How the First Amendment Became an Essential Tool for Securing Liberty and Social Justice,” which was published in April by Steerforth Press.

Tim Shiell, director of the Menard Center, is pleased to partner with the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and to host a national expert on a topic of university and community interest.

Shiell said Finan’s presentation, like his book, will address “how the origins of free speech are connected to progressive causes like the labor movement and civil rights movement. Roughly, free speech saved democracy by including voices of marginalized people who had been silenced in the past.”

After Finan’s presentation, Shiell will moderate a discussion featuring respondents Daniel Sinkovits, an associate professor of physics at UW-Stout, and Steve Hanson, co-vice president of the League of Women Voters chapter.

Finan, from Brooklyn, has a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, is a former newspaper reporter and has advocated for free speech for 40 years.

Publishers Weekly called his new book a “full-throated defense of free expression” and said it makes “an airtight case that those who wish to restrict speech will always present their reasons for doing so as a product of extraordinary times. Finan issues a stark warning against encroaching on the freedom of expression. Progressives will want to take heed."

Finan also authored the award-winning “From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America” and previously was president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

The Menard Center facilitates civil and rational debate and research in the state and beyond on important civil liberty issues and how these liberties relate to institutions and innovation in government, civic, business, social, scientific and religious settings.

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