Does American free speech doctrine discriminate against women and minorities? In Hate Speech, Pornography, and the Radical Attack on Free Speech Doctrine, James Weinstein carefully examines the charge that in interpreting the First Amendment as protecting hate speech and pornography while allowing myriad other exceptions to free speech, American courts have privileged the interests of the rich and powerful over the interests of women and people of color. The author concludes that while free speech doctrine is not in any deep sense as neutral as some of its apologists believe, the claim that free speech decisions and principles systematically discriminate against women and minorities does not withstand scrutiny. He shows that this claim of discrimination is based upon a profound but widely shared misunderstanding of the actual workings of free speech doctrine.In order to expose this misunderstanding, the first section of the book thoroughly explores the basic cases and principles upon which free speech doctrine is built. The second section demonstrates that the relationship between free speech and equality is far more complex than either radical critics or many liberal defenders of doctrine suppose. The third section considers the cost and benefits of modifying free speech doctrine to allow for the suppression of hate speech and pornography. After reviewing the experience of hate speech and pornography in other democracies, Weinstein concludes that while such a modification would not lead straight to totalitarianism as alarmist defenders of current doctrine contend, it would nonetheless likely inhibit legitimate debate and artistic expression. Also contrary to dogmatic defenders of current doctrine, the author concludes that although the scientific evidence that pornography causes violence to women is not nearly as conclusive as radical feminists assert, this evidence is nonetheless cause for concern.While offering a scholarly analysis of the radical critique of free speech doctrine, this book has even larger ambition: to provide nonlawyers with the background to participate knowledgeably in the continuing debate about the role of free speech in a democratic society.
Weinstein (constitutional law, Arizona State U.) argues against the radical claim that the First Amendment is oppressive, yet concedes that the free speech doctrine sometimes fails to adequately protect women and minorities. He also reviews the case for permitting broad hate speech and pornography bans, and scientific studies on the harm caused by pornography and their critics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)