Jacob Mchangama’s book inspired me to make a free speech quiz, which you can take directly here. Explanations of the correct answers are at the bottom.
1. The first organized mass book burning in recorded history was ordered by
a. King Josiah, in the 7th century BCE
b. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, in the 3rd century BCE
c. King Antiochus IV, in the 2nd century BCE
d. Emperor Nero, in the 1st century CE
2. Who said that the Athenians attained greatness only when granted equality of speech?
3. If you want to protect free speech in private universities and on corporate platforms, you would be protecting what kind of speech?
4. What religion has always prescribed the death penalty for thought crimes and blasphemy, and still does today?
5. The Christian inquisitions began executing heretics for thought crimes and blasphemy in the year
a. 1184, under Pope Lucius III
b. 1199, under Pope Innocent III
c. 1231, under under Pope Gregory IX
d. 1252, under Pope Innocent IV
6. Which Calvinist said that atheists could be more virtuous than Christians, and had to flee France because of it?
a. Pierre Bayle
b. Daniel Chamier
c. Jean Dury
d. Francois Turrettini
7. The first known publisher who insisted on his right to publish material that was widely loathed, even by himself, was
a. Michael Spark, for the book “Histrio-mastix” (1632), which ridiculed the English king and queen
b. Pierre Marteau, for the book “Treatise of the Three Imposters” (1719), which portrayed Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad as dim-witted frauds
c. Elie Luzac, for the book “Man a Machine” (1747), which argued that human beings are soulless animals
d. Diderot, for an entry in the Encyclopedie (1751-72), which cross-referenced “cannibals” with “the eucharist” and “communion”
8. After passing the First Amendment in 1791, how long did it take for the American government to pass a law that attacked it?
a. 7 years
b. 38 years
c. 70 years
d. 126 years
9. Which European ruler was the first monarch champion of free speech and the press, then later reversed and installed a regime of censorship?
a. Louis XIV (France)
b. Catherine the Great (Russia)
c. Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor)
d. Mary Tudor (England)
10. In retaliation against the American South’s censorship of anti-slavery pamphlets, what Northern publication invited Southerners to publish their own (pro-slavery) pamphlets for distribution in the North, as an alternative to censoring the anti-slavery ones?
a. Freedom’s Defense
b. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
c. The Liberator
d. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
11. Which of the following American presidents did NOT violate the First Amendment?
a. Andrew Jackson
b. Abraham Lincoln
c. Woodrow Wilson
d. Warren Harding
12. No respectable study or evidence has shown any causal link between pornography and violence.
13. Which was NOT an argument used by the American Civil Liberties Union in defending the rights of American Nazis in 1934?
a. Hate speech laws are highly subjective and open to abuse.
b. Punishing Nazis for their speech makes martyrs out of monsters.
c. American Nazis are a fringe group having little impact.
d. Abandoning its principles would seriously undermine the ACLU’s position when defending the rights of other unpopular groups.
14. Which American president used tyrannical rhetoric (that of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao) in saying that news outlets were “enemies of the people”, and sued media outlets for defamation of his character?
a. Teddy Roosevelt
b. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
c. George W. Bush
d. Donald Trump
15. Which nation currently holds the world record for most imprisoned journalists, and also for having the most oppressive internet censorship apparatus?
16. In what decade did the American Supreme Court rule that the First Amendment was legally binding on state governments, and not just the federal government?
17. A major difference between the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement of the 2010s is that:
a. The former used boycotts to achieve its goal; the latter has not.
b. The former met with no police violence; the latter has met with loads of police violence.
c. The former relied heavily on the press to get its message out; the latter hasn’t used social media much for that purpose.
d. The former saw free speech as complementary to justice and equality; the latter has seen free speech as a threat to justice and equality.
18. Western leftists in 2005 condemned Danish cartoonists for drawing “hateful” pictures of the prophet Muhammad. Who was proven a real prophet, in having already warned that hate speech laws are easily open to this kind of perversion and abuse?
a. James Madison, at the signing of the Constitution in 1787
b. Edward Terry Sanford, from the Supreme Court bench in 1925
c. Eleanor Roosevelt, at the United Nations in 1950
d. John F. Kennedy, at the joint session of Congress in 1961
19. Which two writers believed that broad societal threats to free speech could be as threatening as government-imposed censorship?
a. George Orwell and John Stuart Mill
b. George Orwell and Thomas Paine
c. George Grote and John Stuart Mill
d. George Grote and Thomas Paine
20. Child pornography is illegal in America because
a. It’s an exception to the First Amendment — too offensive even for a law designed to protect offensiveness.
b. It involves the exploitation of real-world children.
1. b. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, in the 3rd century BCE. He ordered Confucian literature and historical records predating his reign to be burned and banned.
2. c. Herodotus.
3. b. parrhesia. In Athens, isegoroia referred to the equality of public, civic speech, while parrhesia was frank or uninhibited speech in more general contexts (schools, theater, etc.)
4. d. Islam. Despite revisionist claims, Islam has always prescribed death for thought crimes like blasphemy and abandoning Islam. The punishment derives from Muhammad in the Sunnah and in many Hadith, and all four schools of Sunni Islam (Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanafi) continue to uphold the penalty today.
5. c. 1231, under under Pope Gregory IX. In 1184 Lucius III ordered heretics to be punished (this was the birth of the medieval inquisitions). In 1199, Innocent III declared heretics to be guilty of actual treason, and they had their goods confiscated. In 1231 Gregory IX demanded that heretics be burned at the stake (now execution was on the board). And in 1252 Innocent IV sanctioned a doctrine of torture for inquisitors to use.
6. a. Pierre Bayle.
7. Elie Luzac, for the book “Man a Machine” (1747), which argued that human beings are soulless animals.
8. a. 7 years. In 1798 Congress passed the infamous Sedition Act, which President John Adams enthusiastically signed. The Act made it a crime to simply criticize the president, Congress, or the federal government, whether by speech or press. (Adams and the Congressional Federalists were voted out of office, and under Thomas Jefferson’s presidency the Sedition Act died.)
9. b. Catherine the Great (Russia). In 1767 she had instructed the Commission on Laws to create a new legal code with government reforms based on liberal humanitarian political theories — that “all men should be considered equal before the law” — and she loved Voltaire and Diderot, and took inspiration from their ideas about free speech. In 1790 she reversed herself, disturbed by how the French Revolution was unfolding.
10. a. Freedom’s Defense. Written in 1836.
11. d. Warren Harding. The other three presidents egregiously violated the First Amendment: (a) Andrew Jackson petitioned Congress to pass an act prohibiting the circulation of abolitionist papers in the South; then he rammed through the House a gag rule that made bringing any anti-slavery petitions illegal. (b) Abraham Lincoln arrested journalists, newspaper publishers, and critics of the Civil War, and threw them into prison; he closed the mail to publications which opposed his war policies, and created military tribunals to prosecute civilians who were discouraging people from enlisting in union armies. (c) Woodrow Wilson set the clock back to 1798 (the Sedition Act under John Adams), with a new Sedition Act during World War I that made any speech, spoken or in print, illegal if it was critical of the aims of the government; protesting the draft was illegal; Wilson used the post office and Justice Department to suppress free speech, and ordered the War Department to censor all telegraph and telephone traffic; he fined and imprisoned thousands for criticizing the war.
12. a. True.
13. c. American Nazis are a fringe group having little impact. That’s an irrelevant argument with regards to free speech.
14. d. Donald Trump. Of course.
15. b. China.
16. b. 1920s. The landmark case was Gitlow v. New York (1925), which ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the First Amendment’s provisions — freedom of speech and the press — to apply to the state governments, not just federal. This finally gave the First Amendment the teeth that it really needed.
17. d. The former saw free speech as complementary to justice and equality; the latter has seen free speech as a threat to justice and equality. It’s a sad commentary on the woke movement.
18. c. Eleanor Roosevelt, at the United Nations in 1950. Unfortunately her wisdom didn’t prevail.
19. a. George Orwell and John Stuart Mill. George Orwell warned that “unwelcome ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban”, and a century before him John Stuart Mill also feared society’s tendencies to impose conformity apart from the government.
20. b. It involves the exploitation of real-world children. It’s a common misunderstanding that there are exceptions to the First Amendment, but there aren’t, since every person is offended in different degrees by different things. The law protects all offensive speech — in particular, that which offends you, more than someone else — including hate speech, which is highly subjective. Inciting violence, harassment, child pornography, using copyright, and disturbing the peace are all illegal, not because any of those are deemed “too offensive”, but because they violate the rights of others in some way.