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From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America First Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807044285
ISBN-10: 0807044288
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Finan (Alfred E. Smith: The Happy Warrior), president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, provides an insightful history of the long struggle for free speech in America. The book is especially apropos for our own age, when, confronted by the Patriot Act, otherwise mild-mannered librarians have morphed into tenacious guardians of civil liberty, refusing to open client records to the FBI. The government has more than once tried to suppress the First Amendment right to free expression of suspected radicals, antiwar activists and labor unionists. In November 1919, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer launched raids during which 4,000 Americans, mostly immigrants, were rounded up because they were suspected of being Communists. In 1923, Upton Sinclair went to jail for the brazen act of reading the First Amendment aloud on Liberty Hill in San Pedro, Calif. Thirty-four years later, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and a City Lights bookstore clerk faced trial in San Francisco for selling Allen Ginsberg's "obscene" book Howl. Finan's tome is chock-full of would-be tyrants eager to tell others what they might say and think. But it's also chock-full of heroes (from the ACLU to those brave librarians) who have refused to be silenced. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It's obvious from this fascinating book that the author, chairman of the National Coalition against Censorship, is passionate about his subject. From the 1919 antisubversive raids launched by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, to early film censorship, to book banning, to the red scare, to the attack on comic books, to anti-NAACP legislation, to television censorship, to the Patriot Act, Finan takes us on a censorship tour of the twentieth century, carefully examining how the right to think and speak out has been repeatedly put to the test. In addition to the usual heroes (Rosa Parks, Edward R. Murrow, Martin Luther King Jr., Clarence Darrow), the book is full of notorious villains, such as Will Hays, the father of film censorship; Fredric Wertham, the psychiatrist whose hatred of comic books changed an entire industry; Joseph McCarthy; and Donald Wildmon, the Methodist minister whose crusade against sex and violence on television garnered worldwide attention. Unlike many commentators, Finan treats the villains fairly, presenting them not as wild-eyed fanatics but as people who thought they were doing what was right. The book is a welcome and much-needed change from the simplistic good-versus-evil treatment this subject often gets. Could be the definitive study of a perpetually complex, contentious issue. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First edition (April 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807044288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807044285
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,400,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a wide-ranging and fairly comprehensive book about challenges to free speech in the United States. It is primarily a narrative and tries to make all the players come alive, and has only a little bit of analysis. It covers not only government attempts to limit speech but also boycotts and picketing of bookstores (usually ineffective) and pressure on advertisers to withdraw sponsorship of ill-regarded programs (usually effective).

It omits a few areas that have been important. There is a mention of Banned Books Week but no discussion of book banning in schools and libraries. The 1989 Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson that ruled that flag burning is protected political symbolic speech is alluded to (but not named) in a discussion of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The book's biggest weakness is that it doesn't look at all into the reasoning used in the Supreme Court cases. This justices' written opinions are usually much more important in determining the course of the law than is the way the decision went. Most of the important free speech issues have gone before the Supreme Court.

My favorite quote in the book is from Judge Murray I. Gurfein, regarding the New York Time's publication of the Pentagon Papers: "A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know." Amen.
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Format: Paperback
Considering that most treatments of the subject are dry tomes, this is an account of the long efforts by many Americans to secure our Constitutional rights to free speech and free published accounts of ideas in the press.

A real advantage of this book is its use of stories behind the legal cases that make it lively and engaging to read. At the same time, it is solid in its research and presentation of the legal merits of the cases.

A great presentation of the subject for most readers.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're eyes weren't open before this book will set you straight about the need to fight for your democratic right at every turn. We take for granted the liberties we enjoy currently. This book is an account of what it took people of this century to ensure those rights.
Thanks Chris.
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