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Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment 0th Edition

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465039173
ISBN-10: 0465039170
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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.
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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. Since 1983, Lewis has been the James Madison Visiting Professor at Columbia University. His previous three books are Gideon’s Trumpet, which has sold nearly a million copies in over forty years in print; Portrait of a Decade; and Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465039170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465039173
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on January 1, 2008
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 By Jonathan Groner VINE VOICE on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By Jon Hunt on 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 By not me VINE VOICE on 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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