Author Archive: Greg Lukianoff

THE SELECTIVE MEMORY OF THE “NEW MCCARTHYISM” CROWD. I have a new piece up today in The Atlantic and on Substack: “as far as free speech is concerned, 2023 has been a relatively normal year for colleges and universities. Just don’t confuse ‘normal’ with ‘good.'”


“Parents should be less worried about their kid being canceled than about their kid being a canceler.”

THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN AT EVERY UNIVERSITY, EVERY TIME: “Every time there is a shout-down, a de-platforming, or a canceling on campus, the school needs to do an investigation asking two questions: Did administrators do anything to stop it? Did administrators do anything to encourage it? Failing at the first should get an administrator in trouble. Failing at the second should get them fired.”

HOW DOES THE SEDITION ACT OF 1798 COMPARE TO CANCEL CULTURE? The 10 convictions under the Sedition Act was really bad. Cancel culture has a much higher body count. This is part two of my ongoing series putting cancel culture in historical perspective to show the simple fact that it’s big, it’s real, and we’re going to be studying it in 100 years.

“In 2010, FIRE saw 19 attempts to get professors punished. But then came an explosion. From 2014 to mid-2023, we know of more than 1,000 attempts to get professors fired, punished, or otherwise silenced. About two thirds of these attempts are successful, resulting in consequences from investigation to termination. But even unsuccessful attempts matter, because they are more than sufficient in chilling speech [….]

To give a sense of proportion, only three professors were fired or forced out of schools over something they said in the post-9/11 panic. The modern era of cancel culture (2014 to present), by contrast, has resulted in almost 200 professor terminations. That exceeds even the standard estimate of 100 professors terminated in the second Red Scare (1947 to 1957).

To gauge a better sense of the actual scale, FIRE surveyed college faculty and found that 16 percent of professors said they have either been disciplined or threatened with discipline for their speech, teaching, or academic research. Seven percent even said they have actually been investigated. And a whopping 29 percent said they’ve been pressured by administrators to avoid controversial research.

It’s especially alarming that cancel culture is concentrated in the most influential universities in the country. The top 10 of U.S News & World Report’s top-ranked colleges account for more than 10 percent of all cancellation attempts. The top 100 account for more than 40 percent. At the top 10 colleges, less than a quarter of cancellation attempts are launched by conservatives.”

FLAG ON THE PLAY: Middle schooler suspended for wearing eye black to football game — because the principal says it’s blackface.

GALILEO’S REPLACEMENT SPEAKER: What cancel culture does to trust and expertise.

Imagine an anachronistically modern university in 1633 Italy. Your school is hosting a debate about whether the Earth goes around the Sun or vice versa. Galileo is supposed to speak on a panel defending heliocentrism, but a different scholar enters the room instead…

COME OUT TOMORROW NIGHT IN MIAMI to join FIRE, me, Rikki Schlott, & Jim Brady from the Knight Foundation to talk about Rikki & my new book The Canceling of the American Mind.

You can RSVP here.

THE TRILLION DOLLAR UNDERDOGS: “It’s become popular to claim that ‘free speech is the tool of the powerful’ because higher ed institutions don’t like to admit that they possess unparalleled wealth and influence. Simply, higher ed would much rather think of itself as ‘speaking truth to power’ than ‘rationalizing its influence from a position of power.’”

THE HAPPINESS CURVE: Past your prime? Not at all. Research shows that happiness follows a U-shaped trajectory. Happiness starts high with youthful optimism and declines throughout middle age before rising once more — a revelation to those of us who have been raised fearing the “second half” of life. Check out Jonathan Rauch’s fantastic new book about why life gets better after 50. Reading it felt less like a book and more like a start of a movement to take better advantage of the gifts, resources and wisdom of people who we once would say were “past their prime.”

AN (IL)LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION: At Wellesley College, self-expression is rapidly being replaced by self-censorship. FIRE’s video team investigates.

THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME REACH MY FUNDRAISING GOAL! Thanks to your generous support, as well as shoutouts from Glenn and, my $3,000 matching fundraiser on Facebook for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education met its goal almost a week early. Perhaps, more than ever, free speech on campus needs all the help it can get, so your support is greatly appreciated!

FIRE, PENN JILLETTE, AND OTHERS DEMAND BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY NOT CENSOR PLAY ABOUT CENSORSHIP: At a university named for one of the greatest free speech champions in American history, faculty and administrators decided to cancel a play about the perils of easily offended students…due to outrage from offended students. Penn Jillette, Kitty Bruce (daughter of Lenny), Ron Collins, and Bob Corn-Revere joined FIRE today to ask Brandeis to live up to its promises of free speech, and its supposed veneration of the late, great comedian Lenny Bruce whose iconoclastic comedy inspired the play.