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Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment [Kindle Edition]

Anthony Lewis
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

More than any other people on earth, we Americans are free to say and write what we think. The press can air the secrets of government, the corporate boardroom, or the bedroom with little fear of punishment or penalty. This extraordinary freedom results not from America’s culture of tolerance, but from fourteen words in the constitution: the free expression clauses of the First Amendment.

In Freedom for the Thought That We Hate, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Lewis describes how our 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. It is a story of hard choices, heroic judges, and the fascinating and eccentric defendants who forced the legal system to come face to face with one of America’s great founding ideas.

Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 245 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 3, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0032YXH8I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,827 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a history of the First Amendment and the twisting, torturous road taken to get from 1791 when the amendment was added to the Constitution to the freedoms we now enjoy due to the inclusion of the amendment. It has been a long bumpy road and getting to the point we are at now was not easy.

The author looks at various portions of the First Amendment, and details various laws and Supreme Court decisions that have affected and changed the way the amendment is interpreted. Along the way, the author looks at what is free speech, how that was determined and many of the attitudes of various Supreme Court Justices. In addition, libel laws are examined as is the concept of freedom of the press.

This book is a well written history, and one that all Americans should read. Not only do many of us take our rights for granted, but we also don't understand the process by which laws develop and are interpreted. The term "activist judge" will have a whole new meaning following the reading of this book. In addition, you will have a much better understanding of how the Constitution works, how the Supreme Court works and how we can all be better citizens.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sprightly review of more than 200 years of history January 17, 2008
Anthony Lewis, the longtime columnist and onetime Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, inspired many children of the 60s and 70s to go to law school with his classic book, Gideon's Trumpet. Freedom for the Thought That We Hate doesn't have the dramatic flair of that book, but it is a highly readable, sprightly account of more than 200 years of First Amendment history.

Lewis is, of course, a champion of the First Amendment, and his discussions of the libel case New York Times v. Sullivan, the post-World War I sedition cases, and the McCarthy era show why the First Amendment and its guarantees of free expression are so necessary to a free society. He goes further, holding back nothing in expressing his contempt for President George W. Bush and what Lewis views as the president's incessant efforts to destroy liberty in the name of fighting terrorism.

But Lewis is no First Amendment absolutist. On campaign finance, on judicial elections, and even on advocacy of violence (where Lewis would permit the criminalization of some statements that the Supreme Court evidently would not), he stays away from dogmatism and calls each case as he sees it. It's clear, as well, that Lewis is not thrilled with many aspects of today's popular culture in the wake of the practical abolition of any limitations on expression on obscenity grounds. But on this issue, he's speaking as a bit of a cultural conservative, not as someone who wishes to overturn a whole line of Supreme Court decisions.

As always, Lewis cuts through the legalese and brings dusty Supreme Court cases to life. Highly recommended.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fragile First Amendment January 31, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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 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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Potted History April 24, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Freedom For the Thought We Hate" is a non-technical overview of the Supreme Court's main First Amendment cases in the 20th century. One chapter deals with press freedoms, another with privacy, another with freedom of association, and so forth. The writing is clear, the book is short, and pre-law students or other undergrads looking for an introduction to this area of law couldn't find a better place to start. But the book isn't "Gideon's Trumpet" or "Make No Law," outstanding books where Lewis picked apart a single epochal Supreme Court case. Here, no case gets more than 4 or 5 paragraphs of text. Doctrinal subtlties get short shrift, as do historical and biographical details. At its best, the book is a stirring defense of free speech. At its worst, it reads like potted summaries of court opinions.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars 1st Amendment rights
Often uncomfortable to hear, these rulings on free speech show what a battleground this issue is. The book should be read by conservative and liberal alike to better understand the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lorraine A. Lindsey
1.0 out of 5 stars I just dislike the book.
Not very interesting to me, but it is a good accumulation and application in court cases involving the first amendment.

Came in good condition and in a timely manner.
Published 13 months ago by Jacqueline H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Food for Thought
This book is a fascinating account of myriad legal cases that led to our present-day understanding of freedom and interpretation of the first amendment. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Sarah A.
4.0 out of 5 stars covers a multitude of fascinating First Amendment subjects
Lewis, the author of the terrific Gideon's Trumpet, among other legal books, presents an overview of issues, cases, and trends involving the First Amendment. Read more
Published 18 months ago by lindapanzo
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis hits one out of the park on free speech.
Fascinating historical narrative on the legal development of the idea modern Americans take for granted on free speech. Read more
Published 18 months ago by David Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed History, eye opening about my favorite amendment.
Every age is shaped in the US is shaped by this amendment but then changes how we interpret it. Our immutable right to speak our mind is not quite carved in stone. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Nidan
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading
Anthony Lewis' book should be required reading for every high school and college student. The First Amendment is the bedrock of our freedoms and these freedoms are getting shakier... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Scoop
5.0 out of 5 stars An important and beautifully written book
This is one of those rare books that I will order one day in large quantities and start giving away to the people around me. Read more
Published on March 25, 2013 by Andrey Babitskiy
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy purchase
The purchase proceeded easily and without incident. The product came in a timely fashion and was free of defects.I would defeinitely do business with this vendor again.
Published on October 3, 2012 by Glenn C. Zorn
5.0 out of 5 stars ordered as class textbook for catholic school
needed for AP USHist as summer reading, ordered shipped delivered as expected, unhurt and unbent.
don't recommend for anything other than mandatory class assignments, but if... Read more
Published on December 14, 2010 by Sean
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Topic From this Discussion
This book's main topic isn't actually the First Amendment.
Amendment 14 to the United States Constitution - Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the... Read More
Feb 17, 2010 by Jeff Williams |  See all 2 posts
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