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The Case for Protecting AI-Generated Speech With the First Amendment

The modern foundation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment is the concept of the marketplace of ideas. The notion comes from John Stuart Mill who first drew the analogy to a market where ideas compete freely with one another and people form their own judgments. The analogy was first noted in Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous dissent in Abrams v. United States (1919) when he wrote, “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”

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It Can Happen Here: 8 Great Books to Read About the Decline of Democracy

Autocratic demagogues. The erosion of the rule of law. Growing inequality. The upending of elections. Normalization of violence. These are all symptoms of what the scholar Larry Diamond has called “democratic recession” — and we are seeing them not just in America, but around the world. Over the last 16 years, according to Freedom House, a nonprofit that researches and promotes global democracy, more nations have moved away from democratic principles than strengthened their embrace of them. The list includes the United States. What’s new is that this trend is happening in modern, prosperous, liberal democracies.

At the same time — and, of course, because of it — there has been a miniboom in books about the decline of democracy. These range from works that diagnose the causes of democratic unraveling or seek to put it in historical context to those that forecast the grim consequences. Despite different points of view, these books all have a few core ideas in common: that democracies are fragile; that democratic norms are necessary but crumbling; that authoritarianism is seductive; that while America is one of the world’s oldest surviving democracies, it is not immune to the forces that have abraded our form of government elsewhere.

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Misdirection, Fake News and Lies: The Best Books to Read on Disinformation

False statements, misdirection, half-truths and outright lies: When promoted and repeated in the echo chambers of social media, they can shape attitudes, influence policy and erode democracy. As the psychologist Daniel Kahneman has said, you can make people believe in falsehood through repetition, “because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”

Disinformation and misinformation have undermined trust in our electoral systems, in vaccines and in the horrific reality of the Uvalde school shooting. They began to swirl in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol. Intelligence officials warn that with the midterm elections approaching, there will likely be a tsunami of extremist disinformation.

Here is a smart starter set of books on disinformation that help explain its history, its techniques, its effects and how to combat it.

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Did the CIA Betray Nelson Mandela?

On Sunday afternoon, August 5th, 1962, Nelson Mandela was in a late-model Austin Westminster coupe making its way from Durban to Johannesburg. It was about a seven-hour drive. Even though Mandela was posing as a chauffeur in a long duster coat, he was sitting in the passenger seat. The driver was Cecil Williams, a white communist theater director and underground member of the African National Congress. Mandela, a fugitive from the apartheid regime and the leader of the ANC’s newly formed military wing, was South Africa’s most wanted man.

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Two of America’s Leading Historians Look at the Nation’s Founding Once Again — to Understand It in All Its Complexity

There was nothing inevitable about the creation of the United States — the United States, singular, that is, a continental nation-state with a central government, rather than these United States, plural, a collection of small, quarrelsome quasi republics connected by a weak treaty of friendship. In fact, the path to the nation as we know it, with a powerful executive, a representative legislature and an independent judiciary, was highly implausible. For the 13 states at the time of the Revolution — mini-nations that had their own currencies, their own foreign policies, their own navies — the quest for independence was not just freedom from an imperial Britain, but independence from one another. America could have very easily looked like a bigger, more dysfunctional European Union.

In these two masterly works, the great historians of America’s Revolutionary era, Gordon S. Wood and Joseph J. Ellis, show how this experiment in republican self-government almost didn’t happen.

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Why Saying Radical Islamic Terrorism Isn’t Enough

Radical islamic Extremism. There, I said it. For three years as under secretary of state for diplomacy and public affairs, I would not and could not utter that phrase. No one in the Obama administration could or did. We used the much less specific term “violent extremism.” As in, “countering violent extremism,” which is what we called most of our anti-Islamic State efforts. And all of the time, we were collectively excoriated by conservatives, Republicans and Donald J. Trump

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The End of the American Century

In 1941, a year before America entered World War II, Henry Luce, the founder and publisher of Time, wrote an essay called “The American Century.” It was an argument not just against isolationism but for America as a global moral beacon. Luce, the son of American missionaries to China, wrote that America must “accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence exert upon the world the full impact of our influence.” That vision, he wrote, was only possible if it reflected “a passionate devotion to great American ideals.” He enumerated them as a love of freedom and justice, equality of opportunity, and a commitment to truth and charity and cooperation….Trump ’s administration is the death knell of the American Century.

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A Time to Serve

Today the two central acts of democratic citizenship are voting and paying taxes. That’s basically it. The last time we demanded anything else from people was when the draft ended in 1973. And yes, there are libertarians who believe that government asks too much of us — and that the principal right in a democracy is the right to be left alone — but most everyone else bemoans the fact that only about half of us vote and don’t do much more than send in our returns on April 15. The truth is, even the archetype of the model citizen is mostly a myth. Except for times of war and the colonial days, we haven’t been all that energetic about keeping the Republic.