Free Speech for Me--but Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other

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HarperCollins Publishers, 1992 - Law - 405 pages
For years now, Nat Hentoff has been the best-known lay guardian of the magnificent spirit and letter of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. His principled advocacy of free expression for all seems to be needed more than ever today, at a time of appalling assaults on expression not only by traditional opponents on the political right - those offended by what they consider obscene or radical or otherwise taboo - but also from the left - radical feminists calling for the suppression of pornography, members of minorities banning language they consider psychologically damaging, and various other proponents of so-called political correctness. These more recently minted censors are now to be found within such former bastions of free speech as the universities and even the American Civil Liberties Union. This urgently important book is not a mere collection of legal cases; neither is it a history of free expression or a polemic from either left or right. It is rather a wide-ranging report on - and analysis of - the many kinds of conflicts throughout our country between the illusion that this is a land of unfettered free speech and the reality when that illusion is acted upon. It is a book of many stories - of the continuing efforts to deprive students of Mark Twain's masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn, and of attempts to deprive other students of the right not to read books that offend them; of the well-intentioned rulings that result in speech codes and loyalty oaths; of the wide-spread lack of understanding, over the years, of such basic concepts as the marketplace of ideas and of the overriding value of untrammeled speech. Free Speech for Me - But Not for Thee is a bookabout fear, duplicity, some courage, a lot of hypocrisy, and a good deal of irony. It is a book of dramatic confrontations, of people acting, for better or for worse, on one of the most important of our domestic battlefields. And above all, it presents hopeful, practical suggestions for ways toward saving perhaps the most fragile of our cherished freedoms.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - BruceCoulson - LibraryThing

A history of censorship in the United States. Not sparing any sacred cows (including himself), Hentoff shows how the urge to suppress unpalatable ideas is nigh-universal, and why we need to guard against those urges for a free society. Read full review

FREE SPEECH FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other

User Review  - Kirkus

In a sometimes confused, sometimes admirable polemic, Hentoff (John Cardinal O'Connor, 1988, etc.) argues against restraints on free expression in a wide variety of contemporary contexts. Hentoff does ... Read full review

Contents

Prologue
1
The Right to Read a Book with Niggers in It
18
The Right Not to Read a Book with Whores in It
42
Copyright

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About the author (1992)

Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 10, 1925. He graduated from Northeastern University in 1946. After several years with a Boston radio station, he moved to New York in 1953 and covered jazz for Down Beat until 1957. In 1958, he was a founding editor of The Jazz Review that lasted until 1961. He wrote for The New Yorker from 1960 to 1986, for The Washington Post from 1984 to 2000, and for The Village Voice from 1958 to 2009. During his freelance career, his work appeared in Esquire, Harper's, Commonweal, The Reporter, Playboy, The New York Herald Tribune, Jewish World Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times. In 1995, he received the National Press Foundation's award for lifetime achievement in contributions to journalism. He wrote more than 35 books during his lifetime. His nonfiction works included The Jazz Life, Peace Agitator: The Story of A. J. Muste, The New Equality, Living the Bill of Rights, and Free Speech for Me - but Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other. He wrote several memoirs including Boston Boy and Speaking Freely. In 1955, he co-edited with Nat Shapiro Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men Who Made It. His young adult novels included Jazz Country, This School Is Driving Me Crazy, Does This School Have Capital Punishment?, and The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. He died on January 7, 2017 at the age of 91.

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