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Freedom for the Thought That We Hate

From one of America's most esteemed experts on the First Amendment comes an eloquent essay on the importance of expression and the need for 'activist judges' More than virtually any other nation on earth, Americans enjoy the freedom to say and write what they think. The press can air the secrets of government, the corporate boardroom or the bedroom with little fear of punishment or penalty. Hateful and shocking ideas, political and artistic, are all eligible to be part of the marketplace of ideas. And the reason for this extraordinary freedom is just fourteen words of America's most fundamental legal document: the free expression clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This book tells the story of how free-speech rights were created in five distinct areas: political speech, artistic expression, libel, commercial speech and unusual forms of expression such as t-shirts and campaign spending. In the hands of Pulitzer-prize winning author Anthony Lewis, it's a story of hard choices, heroic (and some less heroic) judges, and fascinating and eccentric defendants who forced the legal system to come face to face with one of America's great founding ideas.
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About the Author

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Lewis was a columnist for the New York Times op-ed page from 1969 through 2001. In addition to his long and distinguished career with the Times, Mr. Lewis has been a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School and a visiting professor at the Universities of California, Illinois, Oregon, and Arizona, and, since 1983, the James Madison Visiting Professor at Columbia University. His previous books are Gideon's Trumpet and Make No Law. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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.

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