The first comprehensive history of the evolution of Free Speech in America for a general readership, from a respected historian and free speech activist.
After Upton Sinclair, famed author of The Jungle, was arrested for reading the First Amendment on Liberty Hill in 1923, The Nation commented: "When we contemplate the antics of the chief of police of Los Angeles, we are deterred from characterizing him as an ass only through fear that such a comparison would lay us open to damages from every self-respecting donkey." In this lively history of our most fundamental and perhaps most vulnerable right, Chris Finan traces the lifeline of free speech from the War on Terror back to the turn of the last century.
During the YMCA's 1892 Suppression of Vice campaign, muttonchopped moralist Anthony Comstock railed against writing by that "Irish smut dealer" George Bernard Shaw. The burgeoning film industry of the early 1900s cannibalized its own reels as state censors dictated how many seconds on-screen kisses could last and refused to allow any references to birth, including a scene of a woman knitting baby clothes. In the midst of the country's first Red Scare, the government rounded up thousands of Russian Americans for deportation during the Palmer raids. Decades later, a second Red Scare gripped the country as Senator Joseph McCarthy spearheaded a witch-hunt for "egg-sucking liberals" who defended "Communists and queers."
Finan's dramatic review of such touchstones as the Scopes trial and Edward R. Murrow's challenge to Joseph McCarthy are revelatory; many of his narratives are entirely fresh and have as much relevance to our post-PATRIOT Act world as his final chapter on the twenty-first century. The story of the fight for free speech, in times of war and peace — when writers, publishers, booksellers, and librarians are often on the front lines — is essential reading.
Hardback, 360 pages.