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The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture Hardcover – August 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"This is a highly entertaining and also an important book. It tells the story of attempts to make America comply with ‘ decency ’ - as defined by genuine religious conservatives and by assorted puritans, busybodies, and political hypocrites. The hero is freedom of speech. The struggle goes on, and Frederick Lane has given us an indispensable guide to it."
Anthony Lewis, former New York Times columnist

About the Author

Frederick S. Lane (Burlington, VT) is the author of Obscene Profits and The Naked Employee, among other books dealing with the media, society, and law. He has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes, NPR’s Marketplace, the BBC, and many other television and radio programs as an expert on legal and First Amendment issues.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591024277
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591024279
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,931,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an author, attorney, expert witness, and professional speaker on the legal and cultural implications of emerging technology. After graduating from Amherst College and Boston College Law School, I clerked for two years for the Honorable Frank H. Freedman, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. After practicing law for five years and writing my first book, Vermont Jury Instructions -- Civil and Criminal (with John Dinse and Ritchie Berger), I launched a computer consulting business that in time led to my current work as a computer forensics expert and author.

In response to the passage of the Communications Decency Act in 1996, I began researching the legislative and media response to the rise of the online adult industry. The resulting book, Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age, was the first of what is now five mainstream non-fiction books. The others are:

The Naked Employee: How Technology Is Compromising Workplace Privacy (Amacom 2003);

The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture (Prometheus Books 2006);

The Court and the Cross: The Religious Right's Crusade to Reshape the Supreme Court (Beacon Press 2008); and, most recently,

American Privacy: The Four-Hundred-Year History of Our Most Contested Right (Beacon Press 2009) [coming this November];

In addition to these books, I have have written numerous magazine articles on a variety of topics, including constitutional rights (particularly freedom of speech), privacy online and in the workplace, the impact of technology on our rights and liberties, and the separation of church and state.

On August 23, 2006, I had the honor of appearing on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" to discuss The Decency Wars. I have also appeared as a guest on a variety of other national television programs, including ABC's "Good Morning America Weekend," NBC's "Weekend Today," ABC's "Nightline," CBS's "60 Minutes," and assorted BBC documentaries. In addition to those televised appearances, I have been interviewed by numerous radio shows, magazines, and newspapers around the world on topics relating to my books.

Over the last fifteen years, I have frequently been invited to lecture before college, university, and professional audiences to lecture on Internet technology, workplace and personal privacy, computer forensics, and censorship issues. I am represented by the Jodi R. Solomon Speakers Bureau in Boston, MA and Vermont Voices in Essex Junction, Vermont. An extensive list of recent lecture topics is available through the menu listing at the top of the page.

In my capacity as an expert witness in the field of computer forensics, I have worked on pornography and obscenity-related litigation for a variety of clients, including the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the City of Charlotte, N.C., assorted businesses, and individual defendants.

I live in Burlington, Vermont with my partner, Dr. Amy Werbel, and four boys. Since October 2002, I have served on the Burlington School Board. I chaired the Board's Finance subcommittee for the past four years, and served as Clerk of the Board from April 2003 through March 2009. I am currently the chairman of the Board. For the past two years, I have also served as a member of the Board of Directors for Vermont Community Access Media, one of the region's three public access television stations.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Blanton on October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
From the cover and title, I could tell that this book was right up my alley, and it was hard to resist when it came out. The content ranged from historical to current, I learned so much about the history of these "decency wars" that I did not know, and I was refreshed on the incidents I was well aware of. For instance, I had no clue that the Puritan religious culture of our country can actually be traced back to Henry VIII! And of course the wrongs of the religious right are expertly exposed.

When I first started reading this book, my husband noted that the thing he doesn't like about non-fiction books is that they often expose a problem, but not the solution. I read non-fiction a lot, this doesn't bother me, but he is a little bit correct. This is exactly why I was happy that this book devoted the last chapter to a solution for fighting this particular problem. The bullets weren't a stretch to the things I already believe or already do, but what they did do was make me realize that there's more I need to do (without feeling like I wasn't already doing enough).

If you care a lot about anti-censorship, intellectual freedom, and the like, you will certainly enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on October 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
THE DECENCY WARS: THE CAMPAIGN TO CLEANSE AMERICAN CULTURE doesn't come from a journalist like you'd expect, but from a First Amendment specialist who considers the country's changing attitudes toward decency, using newspaper headlines as a foundation for documenting cultural change. It's inappropriate for the government to regulate morality in this issue, Frederick S. Lane maintains, and his book packs in surveys of decency controversies from past and present years, charting how new media has fostered questionable issues on freedom and also fostered an answering flood of writings on whether decency should be regulated.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Franklin the Mouse on March 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Lane has written a persuasive polemic and history about attempts at censorship in the guise of protecting our children or the moral well-being of our culture. He lays out the utter futility of these efforts and reassures the reader who happens to have a more tolerant attitude about free speech. And with the advent of the Internet, activists with more of a puritanical bend are going to be about as effective as trying to stop a massive tidal wave with a fly swatter. A good book to read if you need some reassurance that draconian people such as Anthony Comstock will ultimately never prevail. I sleep better at night.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Claire Connelly on September 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Having been on a bit of a politics jag over the Labor Day weekend (<cite>What's the Matter with Kansas</cite>; <cite>The Republican War on Science</cite>), <cite>Decency Wars</cite> was an obvious next book to read.

I'd seen Frederick Lane on Jon Stewart, and he seemed interesting. I've also been interested in censorship for many years, so I thought I'd give it a try.

<cite>Decency Wars</cite> turned out to be the best of the three books--not only does it do a fantastic job of covering the history and development of censorship and the concept of "decency" in America (including an overview of the evolution of American-style christianity, starting with Henry VIII!), but it also does an excellent job of bringing together and illuminating many of the elements making up today's political and cultural landscape, and even has some good suggestions for ways to address the problems that we're facing.

It's also very well written and extremely readable, making it a very enjoyable and valuable read.
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