Distinguished Lecturers
Sam Lebovic

Sam Lebovic

Sam Lebovic is a scholar of U.S. politics, culture, civil liberties and foreign relations. He is Professor of History at George Mason University, where he also co-edits the Journal of Social History. In this role he has edited special issues focused on the history of neoliberalism (2019) and the history of the security state (2023). Lebovic is the award-winning author of Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America (2016); A Righteous Smokescreen: Postwar America and the Politics of Cultural Globalization (2022); and State of Silence: The Espionage Act and the Rise of America’s Secrecy Regime (2023).  Lebovic’s essays and articles on media, politics, and history have been published in a number of leading scholarly journals and edited collections, as well as such places as DissentThe Boston Reviewthe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Boston Globe,Columbia Journalism Review, and Politico. Lebovic will spend 2023-2024 as a visiting research fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, where he will be exploring the law and politics of public employee speech. 

NEW IN 2023
State of Silence: The Espionage Act and the Rise of America's Secrecy Regime (Basic Books)

OAH Lectures by Sam Lebovic

Why do Americans know less about the world than foreigners know about America? Tracing the forgotten history of cultural globalization in the years after World War II, this lecture shows how a series of economic, political and diplomatic decisions effectively isolated American culture from foreign influence - even in the years that America rose as a global superpower. Exploring the histories of international education, journalism, travel, sport, and cinema, this lecture suggests a new way to think about the past, present and politics of globalization.

The Espionage Act is one of the most controversial laws in U.S. history - it has been used not only to punish spies, but also to prosecute dissidents during World War 1 and leakers of classified information today (plus a certain ex-president). It also serves as the foundational law undergirding America's runaway secrecy regime, which keeps huge amounts of information out of the public eye, and providing a veil to obscure decades of foreign policy and national security abuses. Tracing the surprising evolution of this confusing law over more than a century - through wars, spy-scares, and controversial court cases - this lecture reveals the dangers that the Espionage Act has posed, and continues to pose, to American democracy.

Contrary to contemporary anxieties about social media and norm-busting populists, there is nothing new about the problems posed by fake news and lying politicians. Adopting a long view of twentieth-century, and focusing particularly on the First and Second Red Scares as well as the history of White Supremacy, this lecture explores previous instances in which American media and politics were shaped by demagoguery. It then discusses what, if anything, is new about our current moment - arguing that the current crisis of fake news is best understood as a byproduct of deeper crises in the political economy of journalism and political institutions. It concludes by exploring the lessons that history can teach us about how to best navigate the contemporary crisis of faith in democracy.


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