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Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Wartime political dissent invariably brings charges of disloyalty and suspicions of motivation. Stone chronologically analyzes six periods of the condition of free speech during times of war; from the nation's first attempts to thwart free speech during the "half war" with France in the late 1790s to its coming of age in respect for the First Amendment in the Vietnam War era, those in power have had an uneven approach to the First Amendment. Within a decade of writing the First Amendment, a repressive congress passed the nefarious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, blatant contradictions to the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.Read more ›
The response is always an overreaction and never justified by the real security risks. The witch hunts are not directed against enemy agents but against unpopular groups such as political radicals and ethnic minorities. Serious injustices are committed. Socialists and pacifists are locked up. Japanese-Americans are sent to concentration camps. New Deal bureaucrats are pilloried by loyalty boards. But once the emergency passes, the public and the judiciary sheepishly realize that many innocent people were wronged. They resolve to do better next time. As a result, Constitutional barriers to repression are erected, and the culture of free speech is strengthened.
That's the thesis anyway. Readers should read "Perilous Times" to see if they buy it. I'm not sure that I do. It's not clear to me, for example, that the substitution of FBI dirty tricks for open political repression during the Vietnam War was a sign of progress. And the public indifference to NSA eavesdropping and CIA torture in the War on Terror is evidence that many Americans still attach little value to human rights. But no matter what conclusion readers reach, they won't be disappointed by the book. It is well-written, exhaustively researched, and filled with nuanced legal analysis and vivid political history. It's long at almost 560 pages of text but I loved every page of it.
When we live through events like the consequences of the Patriot Act, and many different modern events that come from fear and a search for security, political correctness, and a variety of other elements, we assume they are new to the country since they are new to us.
Any of these incredible infringements on our perception of what should be basic freedoms seems aberrant to the ideals and history of American Freedom. In this fascinating book Stone shows us how these very freedoms, which we assume as permanent ideals, have frequently been more aspired to than quite achieved.
So whereas today we have the 24 news cycle generating scandal for a variety of crisis, or non-crisis, we forget that even popular presidential candidates in America were arrested for their opinions. Stone remembers us of the incredible powers, vague mandate, and absurd enforcement of laws which makes the American current reality considerably less worrying.
The book isn’t truly concerned with describing our current reality. It deals from revolutionary times, the civil war, world wars, and ends by Vietnam. The target audience of this book are people with some knowledge of American history, otherwise you may miss much of the context of what is being said. I found this an illuminating and very timely book on how the current failures of liberty are not new, and therefore probably not enduring, as the others weren’t. In a strange way the frequent failure and recovery in the past gives us some hope for the present.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Geoffrey R. Stone’s Perilous Times has already been richly awarded with extensive praise from so many prominent reviewers – Bob Woodward, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michael J Helquist
This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history and development of the Alien and Sedition Acts and the effects of the Patriot Act on First Amendment Free Speech... Read morePublished on July 8, 2014 by JRA
Excellent for those interested in American history, the constitution (specifically the 1st amendment), and the evolution of the Supreme CourtPublished on May 16, 2014 by Bob Luchsinger
In most college courses, you are given a textbook which is written in the typical format that is very bland and never exciting. Read morePublished on May 5, 2014 by Katherine Metze
This is the most entertaining and thoughtful book that we used this year. The author does a great job of simplifying all of the topics to make them very easy to understand. Read morePublished on April 25, 2014 by William A. Blackwell
I am using this book for a class and have found it incredibly thorough on the subject we are studying. Read morePublished on January 20, 2014 by Alan Hansworth
I met someone in DC who had listed this as the book he was currently reading. It is a lengthy academic tome that provides a broad and deep background over hundreds of years. Read morePublished on July 26, 2013 by Matt Hollingsworth
You need to read this to see where we are headed. Some are happening now. It seems we could see the rest in the near future. Why only 4 stars? Rather long and cumbersome.Published on September 27, 2012 by Mark
A very readable and comprehensive review of how the government has shut down the press during the times when we, the People, need them most.