An earnest and timely argument for the enduring value of the First Amendment.

HOW FREE SPEECH SAVED DEMOCRACY

THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF HOW THE FIRST AMENDMENT BECAME AN ESSENTIAL TOOL FOR SECURING LIBERTY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

A historical demonstration of the indispensability of the First Amendment.

The amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Who could argue against that? Finan—executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship and former director of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression—shows how corrupt politicians, bigots, reactionaries, and educated people who should know better have opposed freedom for those with beliefs they found disagreeable on grounds that those beliefs could cause harm. Finan’s history includes plenty of triumphs but leaves the impression that there is always more work to do. During the 19th century, both abolitionists and women’s rights advocates achieved many of their goals, but freedom for Black Americans and voting for women turned out to be only partial victories. The author devotes much space to the 20th- and 21st-century civil rights and feminist movements, which have endured countless struggles and even violence. Despite impressive achievements, both movements still face significant barriers, particularly from conservative legislators. War has always been a disaster for free speech, but the increase in government surveillance allowed in the Patriot Act following 9/11 is small potatoes compared to the situation during World War II, which featured massive censorship and arrests and the internment of Japanese American citizens. “While we live in a country where injustice persists,” writes Finan, “the [U.S.] is a far more democratic country today than it was two hundred years ago or even sixty years ago.” At the same time, the author discusses how progressives and activists for marginalized communities have taken up the traditional conservative penchant for suppressing opinions they find obnoxious, especially in universities and arts organizations. Randall Kennedy provides the foreword.

An earnest and timely argument for the enduring value of the First Amendment.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-58642-298-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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