Sam Lebovic is a historian of U.S. politics, culture, civil liberties, and foreign relations. He is a professor at George Mason University, where his teaching and research focuses on the ways that democratic life and the public sphere have been shaped by capitalism and imperialism in the 20th century. He was educated at the University of Sydney and the University of Chicago and held postdoctoral fellowships at New York University and Rutgers.
His first book, Free Speech and Unfree News (Harvard, 2016), provided a new account of American press freedom in the 20th century. It argued that the right to free speech was inadequate to produce a democratic press in an era defined by corporate media consolidation and the rise of state secrecy. The bookwon the Paul Murphy Prize in Civil Liberties from the American Society for Legal History and the Ellis Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians.His second book, A Righteous Smokescreen: Postwar America and the Politics of Cultural Globalization, was published by the University of Chicago Press in May 2022. His third book, State of Silence: The Espionage Act and the Rise of America's Secrecy Regime, will be published by Basic Books in November 2023. It is the first narrative history of this controversial law, which has been used not only to punish spies, but also to prosecute dissidents during World War I and leakers of classified information today (plus a certain ex-president).
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 Dissent, The Boston Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Boston Globe, Columbia Journalism Review, and Politico. Lebovic currently serves as co-editor of 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).
For the 2023-2024 academic year, he is a Senior Visiting Research Scholar at the Knight First Amendment Institute, where he will be exploring the law and politics of public employee speech. His project will grapple with how a modern, bureaucratized American government should manage the speech of its employees while balancing competing democratic values. Throughout the year, Lebovic will convene a series of workshops on the subject of public employee speech rights that will culminate in a major symposium in the spring of 2024 at Columbia University.