Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment

Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment

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by Anthony Lewis
     
 

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From one of the country’s most esteemed experts on the First Amendment and the author of the classic Gideon’s Trumpet, an eloquent essay on the importance of freedom of expressionSee more details below

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Overview

From one of the country’s most esteemed experts on the First Amendment and the author of the classic Gideon’s Trumpet, an eloquent essay on the importance of freedom of expression

Editorial Reviews

Jeffrey Rosen
In the 21st century, the heroic First Amendment tradition may seem like a noble vision from a distant era, in which heroes and villains were easier to identify. But that doesn't diminish the inspiring achievements of First Amendment heroism. Conservative as well as liberal judges now agree that even speech we hate must be protected, and that is one of the glories of the American constitutional tradition. Anthony Lewis is right to celebrate it.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The First Amendment's injunction that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" seems cut and dried, but its application has had a vexed history, according to this lucid legal history, Lewis's first book in 15 years (after Make No Law and Gideon's Trumpet). Some suppressions of free speech passed constitutional muster in their day: the 1798 Sedition Act criminalized criticism of the president, and the WWI-era Sedition Act sentenced a minister to 15 years in prison for telling his Bible class that "a Christian can take no part in the war." Law professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times columnist Lewis explores other First Amendment legal quagmires, including libel law, privacy issues, the press's shielding of confidential sources, obscenity and hate speech. Not quite a free speech absolutist, he's for punishing "speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience... whose members are ready to act." Lewis's story is about the advancement of freedom by the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis Brandeis and others whose "bold judicial decisions have made the country what it is." The result is an occasionally stirring account of America's evolving idea of liberty. (Jan. 14)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

The First Amendment's injunction that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" seems cut and dried, but its application has had a vexed history, according to this lucid legal history, Lewis's first book in 15 years (after Make No Law and Gideon's Trumpet). Some suppressions of free speech passed constitutional muster in their day: the 1798 Sedition Act criminalized criticism of the president, and the WWI-era Sedition Act sentenced a minister to 15 years in prison for telling his Bible class that "a Christian can take no part in the war." Law professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times columnist Lewis explores other First Amendment legal quagmires, including libel law, privacy issues, the press's shielding of confidential sources, obscenity and hate speech. Not quite a free speech absolutist, he's for punishing "speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience... whose members are ready to act." Lewis's story is about the advancement of freedom by the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis Brandeis and others whose "bold judicial decisions have made the country what it is." The result is an occasionally stirring account of America's evolving idea of liberty. (Jan. 14)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A superb history of the First Amendment and the body of law that has followed it. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and longtime Supreme Court observer Lewis (Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment, 1991, etc.), now retired from the New York Times, explains in the clearest of language how freedom of expression evolved in this country. Surprisingly, it was only in 1919 that a Supreme Court justice (Oliver Wendell Holmes) wrote that the First Amendment protected speech and publication, and that was in a dissent-not until 1931 did a majority on the Court begin enforcing the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Drawing examples from many cases, Lewis demonstrates that interpretations of the First Amendment shifted over time as the Supreme Court, and the public, began to recognize that freedom of expression was one of America's basic values. He considers the ways in which freedom can conflict with such other values as the right to privacy, protection from hate speech, the safeguarding of national security and the right to a fair trial (i.e., one uncompromised by prejudicial press coverage). He also explores the evolution of laws against libel here and in Great Britain and reports on the impact of the landmark 1964 case, New York Times v. Sullivan, which ended the press's fear of seditious libel actions and promoted the investigative spirit that led to critical coverage of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Anecdotes abound in this lively, lucid history. Among other choice bits, readers will learn which Supreme Court Justice viewing films for their possibly pornographic content took a law clerk with him to tell him what was happening on the big screen. Timely andimportant, a work that astonishes and delights as it informs.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781606710982
Publisher:
MJF Books
Publication date:
06/24/2011
Sales rank:
706,626
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

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