Episode #11: The Case for Freethinkers with Bruce Gilley


Bruce Gilley was at Oxford when the Berlin Wall fell. It shocked his professors who believed Eastern Europe’s socialist structures to be durable. To Bruce, it was an eye-opening realization of the “dogged ability” of free societies to cast off authoritarian powers.

After Oxford, Bruce spent ten years as a journalist in East Asia, writing for Dow Jones. Then he went to Princeton, got a Ph.D., and became a professor of political science at Portland State University.

Bruce and I talk about why intellectual freedom matters. Bruce has his own experience with the forces of conformity after he faced tens of thousands of angry petitioners and a trumped-up misconduct accusation following the publication of his article, “The Case for Colonialism.” We talk about what that article says, and whether he still stands by it. (Yes, he does.)

We also talk about what the Nixon Library can teach us about pluralism and tolerance, and why so many academics today believe truth is a monopoly to be protected, not something to be sought and debated. And we touch on the ethics of hoax articles, as Bruce’s colleague Peter Boghossian faces disciplinary proceedings for co-authoring satirical research papers for journals focused on social justice.  

Bruce is the president of NAS’s Oregon chapter, which finds itself regularly in the local press as a leading defender of intellectual freedom. This year, Bruce is also launching the Oregon Campus Freedom Awards in an effort to expand intellectual diversity. You can read more about the awards and contribute here.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Peter Wood

P.S. Keep an eye on the NAS website and YouTube channel in coming weeks. Bruce Gilley spoke at our California conference last week, and we’ll publish the video of his talk soon. 

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