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Free Speech and Koch Money

Free Speech and Koch Money

Manufacturing a Campus Culture War

by Ralph Wilson and Isaac Kamola

The demand for free speech on campus is a distraction, we need to follow the money

In recent years hundreds of high-profile 'free speech' incidents have rocked US college campuses. Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter and other right-wing speakers have faced considerable protest, with many being disinvited from speaking. These incidents are widely circulated as examples of the academy's intolerance towards conservative views.

But this response is not the spontaneous outrage of the liberal colleges. There is a darker element manufacturing the crisis, funded by political operatives, and designed to achieve specific political outcomes. If you follow the money, at the heart of the issue lies the infamous and ultra-libertarian Koch donor network.

Grooming extremist celebrities, funding media platforms that promote these controversies, developing legal organizations to sue universities and corrupting legislators, the influence of the Koch network runs deep. We need to abandon the 'campus free speech' narrative and instead follow the money if we ever want to root out this dangerous network from our universities.

Ralph Wilson is co-founder and research director of the Corporate Genome Project in Tallahassee, Florida. As former co-founder/research director of 'UnKoch My Campus', he helped develop a resistance movement against corporate donor influence on college campuses.

Isaac Kamola is Associate Professor of Political Science at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, and President of his college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). He has written on dark money in higher education in the Journal of Academic Freedom.

‘This deeply researched and urgent book reads like a detective mystery. A riveting self-defence manual for all who fear for the future of our country and our planet'

- Nancy MacLean, author of ‘Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America’

‘Universities regularly conduct important discussions of free speech.  And then there is the largely imaginary ‘campus free speech crisis’. This book is a detailed and valuable guide to the shadowy right-wing financial networks irresponsibly stoking the latter to the growing detriment of the former’

- Hank Reichman, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University, East Bay

‘An essential analysis of the amped-up culture wars over free speech’

- ‘Times Higher Education’

‘An insightful dive into the ways higher education has been impacted—indeed, manipulated—by conservatives. Read it and fight back’

- Eleanor J. Bader, ‘The Progressive’

'Deeply researched and well-argued'

- ‘Inside Higher Education’

Introduction: Overview of the Koch’s Campus Free Speech Machine
1. The Donor Strategy
2. The Student Groups
3. The Provocateurs
4. The Media Amplifiers
5. The Lawyers
6. Changing the Laws
7. The Academics
8. The Free Speech International
Conclusion: Refusing the Plutocratic Free Speech Narrative
Appendix 1: Koch Network Payments to Organizations Mentioned in the Text
Appendix 2: Resources for Activists

Published by Pluto Press in Nov 2021
Paperback ISBN: 9780745343013
eBook ISBN: 9780745343037

135mm x 215mm