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 thatwhether heroic or infamous, outrageous or straightforwardremind us again and again of the power of words and of the strength of a democracy of voices.