THE FIRST FREEDOM by Nat Hentoff

THE FIRST FREEDOM

A Tumultuous History Of Free Speech In America
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not a history of free speech in the marketplace, which might be intermittently "tumultous," but a review of more or less famous court cases--on the assumption that free speech must constantly be fought for. Hentoff groups the cases under headings of church and state, the free press, sedition, and education; and though issues in each of these areas have generated intense, often violent political struggles between opponents, Hentoff's gaze remains fixed on the courtroom. Decision after decision batters the reader, all adding up to Hentoff's position that freedom of speech must be steadfastly generalized--i.e., broadened--in order to protect everyone; and for Hentoff, like the ACLU in which he is active, the acid test becomes the court case over the attempted march of Nazis in Skokie, Ill. The First Amendment, he maintains, becomes strengthened through its use by everyone, including those whose views are considered repugnant. But Hentoff's narrow legalistic approach ignores important questions of shared values and loss of community--questions which render speech problematic in the first place. In focusing on the courtroom, Hentoff has presented a brief for the ACLU and missed an opportunity to consider fundamental social and political issues.
Pub Date: Feb. 29th, 1980
ISBN: 0385284276
Page count: 340pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1980




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