Spotted late Wednesday afternoon at the Newseum was Cosmopolitan Magazine Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, who, according to the Washington Post has a an interest in Washington and a clear stance on contraception. She’s pro women having affordable access to it and thinks moderate Republicans are going to have a tough time if they don’t get on board with that. Though her mag is well known for its endless raunchy sex tips, the event couldn’t have been more unsexy. It was The Atlantic‘s “Who’s Afraid of Free Speech” panel featuring “The Wire” creator David Simon, author E.L. Doctorow, NYT blogger Masha Gessen and Iranian author Azar Nafisi. The Atlantic‘s national correspondent James Fallows moderated the event.
Primary topics addressed during the panel concerned privacy, censorship and the freedom of the press. Just how free are we? What happens when we Google? Still free then? An employee from Google cropped up in the audience during the Q & A portion of the conversation to address what he considered misconceptions on what happens when we search Google. Things grew tense as confusion arose about how to use Google. At some point in that mess, Fallows had to acknowledge that one of his sons works for Google.
Fallows told The Mirror that he had very much looked forward to moderating an event with such a “superb group” and to “meet people whose work I admire.” As far as privacy is concerned, like any intelligent human, he takes a cautious approach. “I have long assumed that anything digital is on the record. I think Google has been more careful to be transparent. This discussion has been worth it for political issues and corporate issues too.”
Nafisi spoke of how even Popeye’s Olive Oyl is censored in Iran because she is considered too loose. She also charmingly gave Fallows the option of cutting her off if she got too longwinded. “You can cut me and tell me to shut up,” she said in a strong accent. “I’m used to that.”
Cosmo‘s Cole wasn’t on the panel. Her husband is author Peter Godwin, President of PEN American Center which was footing the bill for The Atlantic‘s event. She maintained a low-key presence in the audience in the arctic cold theater along with the shivering masses.