Forthcoming in: ' Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom' (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014)
32 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 22, 2013
The licensing of speech or the press is widely assumed to be an obsolete problem. Back in the dimly lit past, the Inquisition and the Star Chamber licensed the press and thereby suppressed much scientific and political inquiry. By contrast, in the enlightened present, such licensing apparently is no longer a significant threat.
The licensing of speech and the press, however, has returned on a wider scale than anything imagined by the Inquisition or the Star Chamber. In response to anxieties about the academic study of human beings, Health and Human Services has led the federal government in imposing licensing of speech and the press on 'human-subjects research'. The government carries out this licensing through Institutional Review Boards -- what are known as 'IRBs'. Although not familiar to the general public, these boards exist at all universities and most other research institutions, and they license and suppress much talking, reading, analyzing, printing, and publishing.
The underlying laws are unconstitutional on many grounds, but the central problem is that they impose licensing of speech and the press. Indeed, the IRB laws are the most widespread and systematic assault on the freedom of speech and the press in the nation’s history.
Keywords: freedom of speech and the press, First Amendment, licensing, censorship
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