Anthony Lewis's new book, "Freedom for the Thought That We Hate" is a terrific compendium regarding the First Amendment...America's unique codification of freedom of speech. Citing a number of Supreme Court cases, Lewis weaves a narrative with respect to two hundred years of debate about this important amendment to the Constitution, how it evolved and its relevance today. Along the way, we are reminded how, at many times during our nation's history, certain aspects of free speech were abridged, only to be saved by the courts, the Congress and public opinion. Anthony Lewis has presented all of this in a succinct and engrossing way.
Although this is a work about our own nation, Lewis does some short comparisons to the British system of "openness" and finds theirs (unsurprisingly) not as free as ours, especially when it comes to cases of libel. A surprise to many reading "Freedom" is how only comparatively recently the First Amendment has been put to the test. Lewis delves into areas of interest including privacy, libel, the press and pornography. But perhaps his greatest chapter is one on fear...how governments have sought to use fear to suppress public demonstration and thought, while insulating themselves from reality. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant", Justice Louis Brandeis stated years ago, and the author is quick to cite the Bush administration for not adhering to this idea. Indeed, I wish Lewis had taken on Bush even more in this book, but perhaps he has another offering in the works.
"Freedom for the Thought That We Hate" is simply terrific. The author's look into certain Supreme Court Justices... Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Felix Frankfurter, (to name just three) is superb. To top it all off, Anthony Lewis is deeply reflective and writes in a well-paced manner. I highly recommend "Freedom" for anyone who is serious about how the First Amendment continues to be a guiding light for the United States.