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Outspoken: Free Speech Stories [Paperback]

Nan Levinson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2006 0520249976 978-0520249974 1
With the government granting itself sweeping new surveillance powers, castigating its critics as unpatriotic, and equating differing opinions with abetting "America's enemies," free speech seems an early casualty of the war on terrorism. But as this book brilliantly demonstrates, to sacrifice our freedom of speech is to surrender the very heart and soul of America.

Nan Levinson tells the stories of twenty people who refused to let anyone whittle away at their right to speak, think, create, or demur as they pleased. Among these sometimes unlikely defenders of the cause of free speech are a diplomat who disclosed secret information about government misconduct in Guatemala, a Puerto Rican journalist who risked going to prison to protect her sources, a high school teacher who discussed gays and lesbians in literature, a fireman who fought for his right to read Playboy at work, and a former porn star who defended her performance piece as art. Caught up in conflicts that are alarming, complex, confusing, mean, or just plain silly, their cases are both emblematic and individually revealing, affording readers a rich variety of perspectives on the issues surrounding free speech debates.

In an engaging, anecdotal style, Levinson explores the balance between First Amendment and other rights, such as equality, privacy, and security; the relationship among behavior, speech, and images; the tangle of suppression, marketing, and politics; and the role of dissent in our society. These issues come to vibrant life in the stories recounted in Outspoken, stories that—whether heroic or infamous, outrageous or straightforward—remind us again and again of the power of words and of the strength of a democracy of voices.

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Outspoken: Free Speech Stories + From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

America's national obsession with asserting, and quelling, free-speech comes alive in this collection of profiles of First Amendment firebrands. A journalist and university lecturer, Levinson has chosen an eclectic array of subjects, including a doctor fired from his university position for publishing research on lung disease at a local textile factory; a state department functionary harassed for revealing the CIA's knowledge of human rights abuses in Guatemala; a high school English teacher suspended for assigning books with gay characters; and a porn-star and performance artist whose gynecological stage shows made freedom of speech a fetish. Levinson paints complex portraits of the flawed, courageous and sometimes cantankerous souls willing to take on opprobrium for unpopular ideas. Using their stories as a starting point, Levinson discusses the many fronts in the cultural war over speech, including state secrecy laws and university speech codes. She confronts the blurry line between pornography and art, and between free speech and a "hostile environment," explores the "broken windows" argument that anarchic speech leads to an anarchic society, and considers the corrupting influence of corporate sponsorship on scientific research. The author goes beyond the usual polarized corners of political correctness. Instead, she traces the convoluted, often cynical politics of censorship, in which anti-porn feminists and Christian fundamentalists find themselves odd bedfellows, and transgressive artists, indignant moralists and grandstanding politicians collude in courting controversy so they can "bask equally in the limelight." Levinson is a First Amendment absolutist, decrying censorship campaigns as a kind of "fascist chic" which makes it "not just okay to shut people up, but kind of cool." However, her nuanced treatment of all sides of the debate makes this a revealing exploration of the social meaning of words.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Journalist Levinson captures the vibrancy and cacophony of democracy through the stories of 20 protagonists who voiced discordant views and tested society's commitment to free expression.... [t]hese engagingly narrated personal dramas provide a remarkably panoramic view of American society through the lens of free expression issues." - A. B. Cochran, Choice "Through biographical accounts of people in the post-September 11th United States, policies and practices surrounding the First Amendment are explored. The struggle to take full advantage of what many consider an inalienable right is played out in various arenas; from the educational system to the artistic and publishing worlds. The stories remind us of the power and importance of the individual voice." - Women's Review of Books "America's national obsession with asserting, and quelling, free-speech comes alive in this collection of profiles of First Amendment firebrands.... The author goes beyond the usual polarized corners of political correctness.... her nuanced treatment of all sides of the debate makes this a revealing exploration of the social meaning of words." - Publishers Weekly"

Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520249976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520249974
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,955,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired to Speak Out November 24, 2003
By A Customer
How fortunate for us that during the reign of Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft and Ridge this humane, intelligent and compassionate book should be available! Ms. Levinson writes with clear and heartfelt dedication to the subject and to the individuals who have been subjected to infringements on their First Amendment rights. The stories are lively and accessible; the insights wise and deeply considered. I would recommend this book anytime, but especially now when our secretive and self-assured government repeatedly threatens our delicate liberties--often abusing the tragedy of September 11th to do so. There is nothing stiff and dusty here. The topic is current and the reader is reminded that our quiescence allows self-interested corporations, government agencies and moral prigs to dictate limits on our precious freedom. "Outspoken", though not preachy in tone, is an inspiration to wake up and defend that which is ours to lose. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots to Think About March 12, 2013
By Stephen
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent, well-researched and well-written book. These are not easy examples of free speech questions. Rather, the true-life situations described will make you consider all the ramifications of the first amendment. The book inspires discussion and even a little bit of soul-searching.
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