FREE SPEECH 101
“I have never seen a group of young people more dedicated to the First Amendment.” —Michael Moore, Director of Fahrenheit 9/11
IN THE FALL OF 2004, j ust weeks before the already hostile national elections, student leaders at Utah Valley State invited one of the most controversial figures in America, film maker Michael Moore, to one of the most conservative campuses in the country.
The invitation resulted in a firestorm of controversy and heated political debate. The story was soon picked up by the national media, including Time, the Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among numerous other publications, and was declared one of Utah’s Top Stories of the Year.
Written by the student primarily responsible for the decision, Free Speech 101 is the inside account of what happened—from the explosion when the news broke, to subsequent death threats, bribes, lawsuits, and pulled funds. The book provides fascinating behind-the-scenes accounts of meetings with college administrators, wealthy donors, state legislators, as well as the visits of Michael Moore and Sean Hannity.
In addition to narrating what happened, Vogel also plunges beneath the surface, exploring how the visits of Moore and Hannity to Utah became the catalyst for deeper issues, including the influence of power and money on a university, academic freedom and censorship, the polarized state of political discourse, the role of the media, and the often ambiguous intersection between politics and religion.
Alternately disturbing and inspiring, Free Speech 101 shows that the First Amendment isn’t easy to uphold—particularly in more homogeneous communities—and it takes vigilance, courage and sacrifice to keep this freedom alive.
“Quite a remarkable story, a nd should be made public, particularly these days, with freedom of speech and academic freedom under serious attack .” —Noam Chomsky, Author o f American Hegemony
“Vogel presents a riveting and telling first hand account of the trauma and politics that surrounded Michael Moore’s visit to conservative Utah Valley State College in 2004. Ultimatel y, the college upheld its committment to open discourse, but the remarkable efforts of Mr. Vogel and his allies were pivotal to this result. Vogel’s case study is a window into the politics, psychology, and principles that are at stake in emotional free speech conflicts. The book also provides a model of how to defend free speech principles in the face of intense opposition. Lesson 101: free speech will not prevail when it matters unless such individuals as Vogel and his allies stand up and defend it under pressure.” —Donald Downs, Author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus
“Joe Vogel’s first-person memoir of one of the fabulously interesting free speech battles of our time, performs two services: First, in contrast to civil liberties books written by reporters and other third parties looking in and trying to make sense of someone else’s scene, this book adds to the scarce library of first-person accounts of the battles that define what it means to be an American. Second, Vogel’s story gets to the heart of the definition of moral courage, a lesson that it is essential we teach our children and, of course, continually re-teach ourselves. Bravo!” —Harvey Silverglate, Co-Founder and Chair of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
“To me, Vogel is a hero. This story is not about Michael Moore or Sean Hannity. It’s not even about politics. It’s about free speech and the soul of America. Jefferson himself said, ‘Information is the currency of democracy,’ and information can only come through freedom of speech and expression. Joe Vogel recognized that, and … decided to host a controversial speaker in Family City, U.S.A. He recognized that the most important speeches to hear are those with which we most disagree.” —Dan Strong, The Cavalier Daily
“Vogel’s book should be read by everyone who cares about the state of free speech in America. In gripping detail Free Speech 101 tells the story of the intolerant campaign waged by conservatives — from wealthy bu siness leaders to right-wing students — to prevent anti-Bush filmmaker Michael Moore from speaking at Utah Valley State College. As the student government official who invite d Moore, Vogel came under heavy pressure — personal threats, a recall drive, even bribe offers — to cancel Moore’s speech. Vogel resisted these pressures and won a major victory for free speech by bringing Moore to his campus in one of Utah’s most conservative counties . Free Speech 101 eloquently attests to the fragility of civil liberty in post 9-11 America, even on college campuses which are supposed to be centers of the free exchange of ideas. Vogel tells the story of this free speech fight, and his own role in it, with passion and real insight. This important case study makes plain the fact that conservatives have a free speech problem. And perhaps the first thing they ought to do to address it is face up to the intolerance in their movement by reading this superb book.” —Robert Cohen, Author of The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s
“In detailing the maelstrom caused by [inviting Michael Moore to campus], Vogel makes it clear that democracy is not something that just happens; it has to be worked for. It is easier to silence opposing viewpoints than sincerely listen. The v aluable contribution of this book is to remind us that citizenship is an art, an art we are in jeopardy of losing.” —Dr. David Keller, Director, Center for the Study of Ethics, UVSC
“What [Vogel] learns, and shares with us in this book. . . mirrors on a small scale what is curren tly takin g place in our nation as a whole. The struggle he faces in the student senate could just as well be, and in fact is, taking place in Washington D.C. . .One can only hope that this book is placed into a time capsule, so that one day our children’s children can read it and know we tried. . .Mr. Vogel does his country a service by writing this story.” —Jordan Romney, The Free Speech Zone
“‘Do conservatives fear free speech?’ Rather than merely answering this question, Joe Vogel recounts his experience as a Vice-President of UVSC’s student body responsible for inviting the ‘liberal’ filmmaker Michael Moore to speak just weeks before the monumental 2004 presidential elections. Though the story behind Free Speech 101 takes place in Utah County, it is a paradigm example of the struggles that occur as a predominantly conservative community is confronted with new ideas and new voices. As a key participant in the event, Vogel provides behind the scenes insights of the battle for free speech, showing how some may use their politics, power and money to silence ideas that differ from their own.Through his own first-person narrative, Vogel illustrates that the fight for free speech is not an issue only affecting nations and communities, but is an issue strongly affecting each individual member and voice of those communities – liberal or conservative.” —Loyd Ericson, Project Mayhem
“I couldn’t put it down. . .[Free Speech 101] is about the personal trials Joe went through to protect the very soul of free speech. The book illustrated how fragile a thing it is and hinted at the idea that we should be out there doing what we can to protect it, whether we agree with what people have to say or not. It was a refreshing thing to read. . .To say that it caused a stir in me is an understatment. . .The book made me want to get up and do something about politics again. . .Any apathy that I may have developed in the last few months has been erased completely by reading Free Speech 101.” —Bryan Young, co-producer of This Divided State
“A fine book and a worthy read. . .At the center of this controversy stood a young man who held to his ideals and would not let his integrity be compromised. . .Vogel’s attitude was that it is the voice we most disagree with that we need to hear. He teaches us all, republican or democrat, red or blue, conservative or liberal, open discourse and freedom of speech should never be taken for granted.” —Dominique Replogle, The College Times
“You absolutely have to read Joseph Vogel’s Free Speech 101. It is the granddaddy of all Good Person Being Plagued By Pesky, Hypersensitive Fools stories. . .when reading the book, I couldn’t help feeling more sadness on Vogel’s beha lf than outrage. Here is a very young adult, charged with making adult decisions for the first time, in the community in which he was raised and whose values he thought he shared. Is he a conservative? Yes. Does he love God and America and Mom and apple pie? Yes. Does he believe in the Constitution? Yes. And as a believer in the rightness and justice of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, he believes that minority speech should be protected. He believes that college is the place to hear all points of view, and to learn to think independently and critically. And to have his community turn on him so viciously for having such an earnest belief in the Constitution is heartbreaking. To watch a community that he’d previously perceived as “educated and enlightened” titter and giggle their way through Sean Hannity’s bullying speech, a lecture that strikes Vogel as a “hate rally,” is disillusioning. To be a kid standing against so many powerful adults shouting at him and threatening him for two months, adults he was raised to believe in and respect, is crushing. One adult in particular, Kay Anderson, gets so carried away with his quest for vengeance that he nearly becomes a cartoon villain, trying every trick in the book short of twirling a pencil-thin mustache while tying Vogel’s fiancée to the railroad tracks.” —Books Are Pretty Book Review
“Free Speech 101- The Utah Valley Uproar Over Michael Moore, is the story of the conflict generated during Michael Moore’s 2004 Slacker Uprising Tour when author Joseph Vogel, then head of student government at Utah Valley State College, dared to extend an invitation for Michael Moore to come and speak. In the center of fiercely a conservative, passionately Mormon state, Moore’s liberal and anti-President Bush views were harshly despised by a vociferous portion of the community. The result was offers of bribery, death threats, and legislative pressures aimed at preventing the UVSC from using student fees to fund an allegedly “viewpoint neutral” program to hear Michael Moore’s words. Of course, no similar opposition was raised against conservative Sean Hannity’s pro-Bush visit and speech. Vogel himself and many others passionately believed in the importance of free speech, and that true patriotism and being an American meant listening to all points of view before making a decision. The hard-fought battle just to allow Michael Moore to speak, and its outcome, is accounted in vivid detail from an insider’s point of view – an author who knows well the history of religious persecution against Mormons for practicing their beliefs, and therefore questions why so much intolerance against free speech exists in the state of Utah to this day. Highly recommended.” —Midwest Book Review
“BEST ANATOMY OF A CONTROVERSY, 2007. It seems so long ago, that time in the fall of 2004 when little Utah Valley State College became national news for daring to invite firebrand filmmaker Michael Moore to speak on campus during that year’s contentious presidential election. Vogel—then UVSC’s student body vice president for academics—provides an insider’s view of how the teapot erupted into a tempest of threats, attempted payoffs and the dueling public appearances of Moore and conservative pundit Sean Hannity. His perspective is naturally subjective, but the memoir captures an intriguing slice of local history—complete with appendices including the complete transcripts of both Moore’s and Hannity’s remarks. —Salt Lake City Weekly