By Jonathan Peters
This is the seventh in a series of interviews I’m conducting with lawyers and scholars around the country who’ve made a mark on the First Amendment. Follow me @jonathanwpeters on Twitter.
Lee Bollinger is the president of Columbia University. Previously, he was the president of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he also had served as a law professor and dean of the law school. Bollinger is the chair of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a director of the Washington Post Company, and a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. He is a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. A leading First Amendment scholar, Bollinger is widely published on the freedoms of speech and press, and his books include: “Eternally Vigilant: Free Speech in the Modern Era,” ”Images of a Free Press,” “The Tolerant Society: Freedom of Speech and Extremist Speech in America,” and “Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century.”
What’s the most serious threat today to free expression?
Censorship increasingly is a threat not only to the citizens of countries where there is censorship but also to the larger system, which is global in nature. We can expect censorship anywhere to be censorship everywhere. You see the effects of censorship on new technologies and on the substance of speech itself. I think we’ve moved in the world, through markets and trade and foreign investment, to a point where there’s a degree of interdependency of all countries. And that means we need to have a global marketplace of ideas.
In the United States, though, we’re still thinking of freedom of speech and press as national phenomena, and of course we care about free speech in other countries, but we think of it as a matter of human rights. But it’s more than that—it’s about the collective global discussion that has to happen in order to shape the world in ways that citizens want to shape it.
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