This book is about people whose beliefs and affiliations have opposed powerful interests in the present-day United States. This eclectic group of people and controversial issues, from climate-change scientists who have been censored by the Bush administration to Muslims accused of terrorism, have one thing in common. All of them straddle the limits of what Noam Chomsky has called permissible debate as defined by dominant political and economic institutions and individuals. The central thesis is that restriction of free inquiry is harmful to our culture because it inhibits the search for knowledge. Johansen presents case studies in the borderlands of free speech in a Jeffersonian castan intellectual framework assuming that open debateeven of unpopular ideasis essential to accurate perception of reality.
This book is about people whose ideological circumstances have found them opposing established beliefs in our timesscholars advocating the Palestinian cause in a very hostile intellectual environment, for example, as well as climate scientists defending themselves against the de-funding of their laboratories by defenders of fossil-fuel interests; opponents of creation science under assault for teaching what once was regarded as household-variety biology (a.k.a. Darwinism); Marxists in a political system dominated by neoconservatives. The central thesis that unites this diverse array of controversies is that shutting down free inquirymost notably for points of view deemed unpopulardumbs us all down by restraining the search for knowledge, which demands open inquiry.
We have been told when going to war, as in Iraq, that freedom isn't free, the unstated assumption being that our armed forces are fighting and dying to safeguard our civil rights at home and abroad. During recent years, however, freedom to inquire and debate without retribution has been under assault in the United States. This assault has been carried out under a distinctly Orwellian cast, under Newspeak titles such as the Patriot Act, parts of which might as well be described more honestly as the Restriction of Freedom of Inquiry Act. The information gathered here will interest (and probably anger) anyone who is concerned with protecting robust, free inquiry in a nation that takes seriously its freedom to speak out, and to define truth through open debate.