Dare to Speak
Defending Free Speech for All
"A must read."—Margaret Atwood
A vital, necessary playbook for navigating and defending free speech today by the CEO of PEN America, Dare To Speak provides a pathway for promoting free expression while also cultivating a more inclusive public culture.
Online trolls and fascist chat groups. Controversies over campus lectures. Cancel culture versus censorship. The daily hazards and debates surrounding free speech dominate headlines and fuel social media storms. In an era where one tweet can launch—or end—your career, and where free speech is often invoked as a principle but rarely understood, learning to maneuver the fast-changing, treacherous landscape of public discourse has never been more urgent.
In Dare To Speak, Suzanne Nossel, a leading voice in support of free expression, delivers a vital, necessary guide to maintaining democratic debate that is open, free-wheeling but at the same time respectful of the rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions in a changing country. Centered on practical principles, Nossel’s primer equips readers with the tools needed to speak one’s mind in today’s diverse, digitized, and highly-divided society without resorting to curbs on free expression.
At a time when free speech is often pitted against other progressive axioms—namely diversity and equality—Dare To Speak presents a clear-eyed argument that the drive to create a more inclusive society need not, and must not, compromise robust protections for free speech. Nossel provides concrete guidance on how to reconcile these two sets of core values within universities, on social media, and in daily life. She advises readers how to:
- Use language conscientiously without self-censoring ideas;
- Defend the right to express unpopular views;
- And protest without silencing speech.
Nossel warns against the increasingly fashionable embrace of expanded government and corporate controls over speech, warning that such strictures can reinforce the marginalization of lesser-heard voices. She argues that creating an open market of ideas demands aggressive steps to remedy exclusion and ensure equal participation.
Replete with insightful arguments, colorful examples, and salient advice, Dare To Speak brings much-needed clarity and guidance to this pressing—and often misunderstood—debate.
Praise For Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All…
— Margaret Atwood, bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale
“In our censorious age of easy outrage, when it’s harder than ever to defend our right to express contentious ideas, Suzanne Nossel remains convinced that bigotry and intolerance can be fought without giving way on the principle of free speech, and makes her case eloquently, and—even better—usefully. An authoritative, essential book.”
— Salman Rushdie, bestselling author of The Golden House and The Satanic Verses
“To move forward as a country demands that we focus on how to talk and listen across vast differences of opinion, without shutting down others’ speech or closing our ears. Suzanne Nossel offers a much needed, cogent and compelling blueprint for reviving our stalled national conversation by helping all of us to speak, listen, and be heard.”
— Hillary Rodham Clinton
“As a prominent defender of outspoken wordsmiths, Suzanne Nossel knows a thing or two about free speech, and she makes a powerful case that freedom of expression is not just compatible but necessary for the advancement of equality and human rights.”
— Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of Enlightenment Now
“In this courageous, inspiring, and pellucid book, Suzanne Nossel unpacks the complicated ambiguities that have accrued around free speech in America. Without ever being reductive, Nossel makes the arguments not only comprehensible, but also thrillingly urgent. Her call to defend our most basic liberty could not come at a more important time; it is a moral outcry against a pernicious injustice that grows ever more prevalent at home and abroad. It is written with wit, but is at its heart an earnest and optimistic call to action.”
— Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree
“Exceedingly sane and thus indispensable.”
— Dave Eggers, author of The Captain and the Glory
"In this essential volume, Suzanne Nossel passionately and convincingly argues for free speech, a liberty that is increasingly under attack throughout the world. Drawing on her experiences at the State Department and at PEN America, the author provides a critically important primer for those who seek to secure freedom of expression in our 'diverse, digitalized, and divided culture.'"
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University
“With a clarity of conviction sharpened by years at the State Department and as the head of the leading literary organization on open speech, Suzanne Nossel offers us way to support free speech and also battle bigotry. Given the world's roiling cauldron of modern-day disinformation and old-fashioned xenophobia, Nossel's Dare to Speak provides a new path that is not both-sides-ism but intellectually and emotionally up to the challenges of our times.”
— Farai Chideya, journalist, broadcaster and author of The Color of Our Future
“With progressives decrying “microaggressions” and conservative denouncing “cancel culture,” the battle over free speech rages across modern America. Suzanne Nossel offers eminently sensible suggestions for deescalating tensions so that people of all viewpoints can speak their minds in a civil fashion. This is the rule book America needs to preserve a vibrant democracy in the 21st century.”
— Max Boot, Washington Post columnist, CNN analyst, and author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right
“An essential citizen guide to free speech. Nossel manages to not only illuminate with great insight the complex issues and moral stakes; she also provides a clear path forward.”
— David Grann, bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon
“At a moment when Americans seem so unalterably divided and so filled with fury about each other that it seems difficult even to imagine public issues and candidates for office being discussed in a manner that both civil and serious, Dare to Speak offers constructive and potentially achievable ways of thinking about the problem and dealing with it. That’s a rare combination of virtues.”
— Floyd Abrams, author of The Soul of the First Amendment
“This timely book not only provides a compelling analysis of free speech’s essential role in promoting democracy and human rights; it also serves as a practical “how-to” manual for every member of our society, explaining how each of us can secure and advance robust free speech rights for all people and all ideas, including the most marginalized. It is an important guidebook for revitalizing liberty, equality, and democracy.”
— Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at the New York Law School, and former president of the ACLU
"Suzanne Nossel has been among our most principled and eloquent front-line defenders of free expression. In her new book, she explores not just the practicalities of speaking freely and effectively in an increasingly illiberal environment, but of listening fairly. It's possible to be angry, offended, and passionate while respecting the expressive rights of others. In Dare to Speak, she explains how."
— Jacob Weisberg, CEO of Pushkin Industries and former editor of Slate
“At a time of declining respect for truth, reason, and decency, Dare to Speak offers a framework for promoting the free exchange of ideas in a way that is civil and inclusive. This extraordinarily clever, expertly crafted book is critical reading for anyone who cares about the quality and vitality of our public discourse.”
— Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University
“Suzanne Nossel writes from the front lines of our political and cultural debates with heart and intelligence, with passion and wisdom. Dare to Speak is a vital and urgently needed guide to the numerous threats facing our most cherished rights and a testament to the courage necessary to protecting them.”
— Dinaw Mengestu, award-winning author of All Our Names and How To Read the Air
"A thoughtful, perceptive, and inspiring set of insights to guide the citizens of our democracy as they struggle to understand and to respect the freedom of speech. Dare to Speak makes an essential contribution to our understanding and to our ability to live up to the highest aspirations of our democracy.”
— Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Democracy and Equality and The Free Speech Century
Dey Street Books, 9780062966032, 320pp.
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
About the Author
Suzanne Nossel is the CEO of PEN America, the foremost organization working to protect and advance human rights, free expression and literature. She has also served as the Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch and as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; and held senior State Department positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Nossel frequently writes op-eds for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications, as well as a regular column for Foreign Policy magazine. She lives in New York City.