Issue 80, Spring 2003

The defense of free speech involves increasingly complex and subtle debates which conflate ideas and action, pit free speech against other societal goals, and seek easy answers to intractable problems. In response to the altered political and intellectual landscape, NCAC is undertaking two new initiatives: the Arts Advocacy Project will expand assistance to embattled artists and arts organizations and build grassroots support for free expression; the Free Expression Policy Project will analyze tough issues in First Amendment law and confront the concerns and attitudes that promote and permit censorship.

Arts Advocacy Project. The culture wars of the 1990s have evolved. A grudging and miserly, if not overtly hostile, attitude has left artists and arts organizations vulnerable. The Arts Advocacy project will reinvigorate support for artistic freedom through education, advocacy, information-sharing, media outreach, and direct support and assistance—and, of course, by resisting censorship whenever and wherever it occurs (For more details, click here). The Coordinator of the Arts Advocacy Project, Svetlana Mintcheva, comes to us with a Ph.D. from Duke, expertise on provocative art, and experience in arts education.

The Free Expression Policy Project will focus on the rationales for restricting speech?concerns about violence, racism, sexism, protecting minors online, etc. For example, Internet filtering in public schools and libraries addresses anxiety about children’s access to the Internet but censors large amounts of valuable information using secret criteria, and impedes research by those who rely on publicly-provided Internet access. "Hate speech" codes reflect a legitimate concern for equity, but are often vague and provide a justification for censoring art and literature, and suppress speech that is valuable to the groups they are intended to protect. The Free Expression Policy Project examines these and other issues with sophisticated research and analysis that reinforces core First Amendment values while remaining sensitive to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. The Director of the Free Expression Policy Project, Marjorie Heins, is a well-known First Amendment lawyer, author of several books, and former director of the ACLU Arts Censorship Project.

Stay tuned for more details about these new initiatives. Censorship isn’t going away any time soon—but neither, we trust, is NCAC.