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Free Speech for Me--But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other Paperback – August, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Perennial (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060995106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060995102
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,076,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hentoff's guiding principle in this casebook is that the First Amendment's protection of free speech must be given to all, even to those whose views are repugnant. It is not only right-wingers who have censored free expression, he argues, but anti-porn feminists, blacks who attempt to ban Huckleberry Finn from schools (because the novel includes the word nigger), gays who supported a blacklisting of Anita Bryant, and other enforcers of political correctness. Hentoff, a syndicated columnist and Village Voice regular, endorses American Nazis' right to march in Skokie, Ill., in 1977, arguing that hatred should be brought into the open and confronted with the truth. He supports flag-burners' First Amendment rights and opposes anti-bigotry speech codes on campuses, maintaining that politically correct" students and professors have stifled debate. He also criticizes the harsh limitations imposed on picketing anti-abortion groups. Hentoff's fierce consistency in this libertarian manifesto will draw the wrath of critics. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Some years ago, Clark Kerr, then president of the University of California, said: "The purpose of a university is to make students safe for ideas--not ideas safe for students." More recently, "thought police" operating on all levels of education and from all parts of the political spectrum have taken the opposite tack. In a thoughtful analysis of free expression, Hentoff indicts those from the right and the left who would suppress the rights of individuals to voice opposing viewpoints. He deals with traditional censors--religious fundamentalists and political right-wingers--but does not neglect the new ones, e.g., feminists who tried to prevent a pro-life women's group from participating in Yale University's Women's Center. He also takes on proponents of "hate speech" regulations as enemies of free expression. Long recognized as a crusading First Amendment purist, Hentoff has written extensively on the subject in newspaper and magazine columns and in such books as The First Freedom (Delacorte, 1988) and a YA novel, The Day They Came To Arrest the Book (Delacorte, 1982. o.p.). His new book belongs in all libraries.
- Sue Kimm, Inglewood P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is just one of many stories Hentoff tells.
Doug Erlandson
Great book for people to read on both sides of the political spectrum.
"jeffersonfan"
He condemns the hypocrisies of liberals as well as conservatives.
warlord

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By "jeffersonfan" on May 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Hentoff deals with the subject of free speech in the most objective manner I've seen. As a writer for the Village Voice, he could not be accused of being a right-winger, so criticism of the hypocrisy of the left is very credible. I've always thought it ironic that the left portrays itself as having a lock on being open-minded, yet it is all too happy to restrict speech that presents a contrary point of view.
Hentoff gives many examples, including some of his own, where both sides of the political spectrum attempt to censor the speech of the other. He discusses everything from efforts on college campuses to prevent non politically correct subjects from being discussed to censorship he faced while writing his columns.
Great book for people to read on both sides of the political spectrum. Perhaps it could move more people on both sides to actually listen to opposing points of view rather than trying to prevent the discussion. We have to understand that the 1st Amendment was not designed to protect speech we agree with--their would be no need for such protection. Being offended is really not a constitutional reason to preclude speech (in my view as well as Hentoff's).
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Though the Left has now turned against Hentoff for his politically incorrect views on Bill Clinton, he is far from being some cranky right-winger. In this book, he holds up free speech as an ideal that few people really uphold. He especially criticizes "civil libertarians" who use the First Amendment as protection of things they like and then ignore it when trying to ban what they hate (racist writing, sexual harassment, etc.). Rather than set up left-wing straw men to knock down, Hentoff details stories of how the left censors, while acknowledging that the Right censors as well. But since conservatives admit their intentions they are not as dangerous as the duplicitous people on the Left. Hentoff seeks truth in everything, and this book is his finest.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lazarus@vnet.net on August 12, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Hentoff's dogged persistance to the First Amendment comes through again and again in this work. He does not care about the topic, he does not care about who wants a word censored, he only cares that the Constitution protects Free Speeach and he will, too. I came aupon this title, and searched for it. Upon finding it, I swallowed the book whole. I became alternately enraged and amused at the attempts of some to limit the expression of others, and their reasons for doing so. Hentoff's work should be required reading for all students, and naturalized citizens; he brings the First Amendment to life through powerful stories adn facts
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Adem Kendir on January 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Hentoff, one of the foremost free speech advocates, presents stories, many involving his own experiences, of individual examples of censorship initiatives from both the 'left' and 'right'. He doesn't really present a comprehensive philosophical case, but rather provides concrete examples of the necessity for rigorous protection of free speech.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher H. Hodgkin on May 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most important books of our time. Hentoff is a passionate believer in free speech who recognizes that if speech is truly to be free, he must protect the expression even of ideas he abhors. He catalogs with equal regret the efforts of both the right and the left to censor speech they don't like. While being sympathetic to those who object to allowing bigots, racists, pornographers, atheists, and others of many stripes the right to lay out ideas that one group or another finds repugnant, he makes both an intellectual and an emotional case for allowing everyone to have their say, no matter how much this may offend some. He points out that suppressing speech doesn't get rid of the underlying thought, but merely drives it underground and gives it the benefit of martyrdom. His corrective to bad speech is good speech: those who believe in their ideas should not try to censor other views, but should openly confront and refute them with opposing ideas.

His prescription can be hard to accept at times, but the case he makes is persuasive that in the end, liberty of speech is the best guarantee of a free society and of the ability for that society to work through the all viewpoints to reach agreement on which opinions are social desirable and which are not.

Democracy and freedom are hard masters, but they are worth it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Doug Erlandson TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
I first became familiar with Nat Hentoff in the mid-1990s when teaching a college-level class in applied ethics. One of the issues we covered was free speech. Having read other books by free speech advocates as well as the writings of those who try to justify censorship, I can safely say that Hentoff's "Free Speech for Me But Not for Thee" is the best volume on the issue, particularly because of the numerous real-life examples he provides. His book describes numerous occasions when speech has been censored by those on both ends of the political spectrum. As a person who leans Left, it is most interesting that more than half of his examples are taken from situations in which the political Left has censored the freedom of speech of those with whom they disagree. One of his most gripping stories is of his defense of the right of members of the American Nazi Party to hold a demonstration in the Chicago suburb of Skokie (a suburb with a heavily Jewish population, many of whom at the time were Holocaust survivors). The ANP had been denied a permit to march and had appealed to the courts. They had asked the ACLU to intervene on their behalf. The ACLU refused. To Hentoff, this smacked of hypocrisy, for it was obvious to him that the ACLU's advocacy of free speech was selective, something to which some people and groups were entitled, but not all. Hentoff (as well as other free speech advocates) left the ACLU as a result.

This is just one of many stories Hentoff tells. Anyone who desires to know more about how our civil liberties are being eroded, particularly our right to freedom of speech, should read Hentoff's book. While the examples are a little bit outdated, the principles remain. In this day and age, when those on both sides of the political spectrum try to stifle their opponents by denying them the right to an open forum, this book is must reading.
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