Newswise — Today First Amendment Watch will begin posting an online roundtable discussion of a provocative new essay “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?” by Professor Louis Michael Seidman of Georgetown University Law Center. First Amendment Watch invited five leading First Amendment scholars to write commentaries on Seidman’s forthcoming essay, which will be published in a future issue of Columbia Law Review.

First Amendment Watch ( is a nonpartisan online news and educational resource produced at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. 

In his essay, Seidman raises intriguing questions about the First Amendment protections of speech and press today. While freedom of speech pushed progressive causes forward in the second half of the 20th century—it protected civil rights demonstrators, shielded artists from suppression, and protected antiwar protestors—it may be less aligned with progressive goals now. The First Amendment was used to overturn some campaign financing restrictions in Citizens United v. FEC, for example. What of free speech today? 

“Free speech,” Seidman writes, “cannot be progressive. At least it can't be progressive if we are talking about free speech in the American context, with all the historical, sociological, and philosophical baggage that comes with the modern, American free speech right. That is not to say that the right to free speech does not deserve protection. … But the notion that our free speech tradition might be weaponized to advance progressive ends is fanciful.”

After presenting an excerpt today with a link to Seidman’s full draft, First Amendment Watch will publish one response per day on the schedule below, followed by Seidman’s rejoinder. His intriguing thesis is sure to be the subject of many challenges and much discussion.

Readers are invited to respond to any of the posts by emailing their submission to [email protected]. The website will begin publishing reader comments at the conclusion of the roundtable, on Friday, June 29 and onward. 

First Amendment Watch documents contemporary threats to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition and posts them as they arise—along with analysis, legal cases, and historical background. The site also offers original content, such as this roundtable, providing fresh insights on current First Amendment controversies.

The roundtable discussion of “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?” has been produced in partnership with Ronald K.L. Collins, the Harold S. Shefelman Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law, and his widely read weekly blog, First Amendment News (FAN).

Roundtable schedule

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