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Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age Hardcover – January 9, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Prolific author Alan M. Dershowitz asks and answers a series of provocative questions in this engaging book. Is it okay for the government to censor its citizens? Do national-security interests ever justify the torture of suspected terrorists? "Why are there so many Jewish lawyers?" Shouting Fire is obviously an eclectic book. Parts of it have seen print previously and other sections appear here for the first time. Most readers probably won't plow straight through, but rather pick and choose the selections that carry special interest, whether it's animal rights or "the immorality of those who decline to become organ donors." Dershowitz gets the book started by outlining his own theory of rights, one that tries to steer a course between natural law and legal positivism. The really entertaining parts come later, however, when he discusses such charged topics as euthanasia, the death penalty, and how we pick federal judges. Liberals will like Shouting Fire best, but anybody who enjoys a good argument will find Dershowitz consistently engaging. --John Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Human rights come from human wrongs, argues famed criminal and civil rights lawyer Dershowitz; only by looking closely at past injustice we can construct a theory and law that attempts a more perfect justice. This collection of 55 short pieces (some new, most reprinted) maps out Dershowitz's thoughts on a wide range of legal and social topics: the role of psychiatry in the legal process, the problems of how the U.S. legal system chooses judges, the misuses of entrapment and "sting" operations even when used to correct an injustice, the history and legal ramifications of the death penalty. Some, like a two paragraph show of support for former Harvard Divinity School dean Robert F. Thiemann, who resigned when pornography was found on his university-owned computer, hardly feel worth reprinting. When Dershowitz is at his best, however, as when defending his defenses of "obviously guilty" clients like O.J. Simpson or asking in a playful and thoughtful essay `Why Are There So Many Jewish Lawyers?" he is witty, pungent and incisive. Of particular interest are several essays written after September 11, dealing with the danger to civil liberties in time of national emergency and to fair trials for accused terrorists, as well as several ("Wiretaps and National Security Surveillance" and "Torture of Terrorists: Is it Necessary to Do and to Lie About It?") written before but pertinent now. Some provocative, even essential, material stands out in an uneven collection. (Jan.) Forecast: This book should do unusually well for a miscellany, spurred by its post-September 11 relevance and Dershowitz's reputation for wit and rigor within his spinning. Look for stepped-up media appearances by the already heavily booked Dershowitz, and short "what's he up to now?" pieces in nonreview venues.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1st edition (January 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316181412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316181419
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,136,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ is a Brooklyn native who has been called 'the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer' and one of its 'most distinguished defenders of individual rights,' 'the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,' 'the top lawyer of last resort,' and 'America's most public Jewish defender.' He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz, a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg. While he is known for defending clients such as Anatoly Sharansky, Claus von B'low, O.J. Simpson, Michael Milken and Mike Tyson, he continues to represent numerous indigent defendants and takes half of his cases pro bono. Dershowitz is the author of 20 works of fiction and non-fiction, including 6 bestsellers. His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, David Mamet, William Styron, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Elie Wiesel. More than a million of his books have been sold worldwide, in numerous languages, and more than a million people have heard him lecture around the world. His most recent nonfiction titles are The Case For Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved (August 2005, Wiley); Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights (November 2004, Basic Books), The Case for Israel (September 2003, Wiley), America Declares Independence, Why Terrorism Works, Shouting Fire, Letters to a Young Lawyer, Supreme Injustice, and The Genesis of Justice. His novels include The Advocate's Devil and Just Revenge. Dershowitz is also the author of The Vanishing American Jew, The Abuse Excuse, Reasonable Doubts, Chutzpah (a #1 bestseller), Reversal of Fortune (which was made into an Academy Award-winning film), Sexual McCarthyism and The Best Defense.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A good definition of human rights is needed to establish a firm foundation for reliable construction of effective civil rights law. Alan Dershowitz reviews philosophies of human rights (divine law, natural law, legal positivism, utilitarianism, and egalitarianism) and finds them all to be either fatally flawed or inadequate. Dershowitz defines human rights as human injustice prophylactics.
These "nurtural rights" are anchored in a slowly changing collective human experience of injustice. Persistent struggle and persuasive advocates are required to define rights. The process starts with identifying injustices and seeking remedies. This bottom up approach emphasizes the view that human rights are limitations on government power. Dershowitz briefly addresses economic rights and affirmative rights but they are not the focus of this book. His United States legal training and experience is reflected in this book's focus.
For the remainder of the book Dershowitz applies these ideas to a broad range of contemporary United States legal issues. Sometimes he reaches definite legal policy conclusions, such as deferring to legislative laws regarding grandparents visitation rights. He sometimes advocates legislative remedies, such as giving organ recipient candidates who voluntered to donate their organs preference over those who did not volunter to donate. Sometimes he makes fine distinctions, as when he favors seat belt laws but opposes motorcycle helmet laws. Sometimes he delves into history.
He defends freedom of expression, the rights to believe and disbelieve and favors the eventual abolishment of capital punishment, although he makes an exception for pre-emptive targeted assassination of suicide terrorists.
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Format: Hardcover
In legal circles, Dershowitz is a legend. He has written over a dozen books about life and law, but more importantly, he is an esteemed legal scholar. His teachings at Harvard Law School are considered soem of the most insightful and valuable legal classes going.
In Shouting Fire, Dershowitz mines the concept of rights: human rights, civil rights and constitutional rights. In this post September 11th world of shrinking rights and liberties, the book could not be more appropriate.
His writing prowess is as strong and fiery as his courtroom delivery. Dershowitz is one of the strongest defenders of civil liberties in America today. The essays in Shouting Fire are enough to satisfy any legal or civic scholar, but what truly sets this book apart from its field is Dershowitz's philosophies. He outlines the origin of rights according to his years of study and his countless cases.
The philosophy of civil liberties is something I did not expect to recieve from dershowitz, but I am thrilled to have received it. Truly informative.
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By A Customer on July 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It was a pleasure to read new as well as previously published material from Dershowitz. He truly is an inspired thinker as well as a beautiful writer. It is not necessary to agree with all that he presents, for the delight is in the mental sitmulation of working through the basis of the arguement and the arguement itself. His writing style is so unlike his oral presentation, for where the later is often caustic and arrogant, the former is inviting, accepting and instructive. Treat yourself to thinking about some new ideas this summer. A great read!
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Format: Hardcover
Alan Dershowitz addresses the changeability of the word "liberty" in a book that draws its title from "decades of government apologists analogizing free speech to shouting `Fire!' in a crowded movie theater." Rather than taking the long view of the straightforward historian, he dissects individual court rulings in a series of essays (some previously published, some written exclusively for this book), from early British law to Oliver Wendell Holmes to the present-day Supreme Court. The question of "rights" is not as cut-and-dried as one would like to believe. Some of the essays are more philosophical on the subject of "rights;" that they cannot necessarily come from God (or "Nature's God") and so therefore may not be "self-evident." One theme Dershowitz seems to return to with regularity is the paradox that it often seems to be the citizens _themselves_ who want their rights curtailed in the name of safety or security (or sometimes just convenience, as evidenced by the current furor over the entertainment industry's "voluntary television ratings" system and how many parents' advocacy groups claim not to be able to decipher it and actually want the government to exercise more direct control, not only on the public stations but even on cable and other pay networks. Alarmingly, Dershowitz predicts tacit public approval on civil rights clampdowns on groups such as Muslims -a survey which was released by Cornell University in December 2004). For every "right" asserted by a particular group, there is almost inevitable a "counter right" that is claimed. Some of Dershowitz's essays address this directly (as with grandparent right-of-visitation statutes) while others venture off into what seem like wandering tangents (as with animal rights).Read more ›
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