Speech Stories

How Free Can Speech Be?

Randall P. Bezanson

NYU Press (publisher)

When we talk about what "freedom of speech" means in America, the discussion almost always centers on freedom rather than speech. Taking for granted that speech is an unambiguous and stable category, we move to considering how much freedom speech should enjoy. But, as Randall Bezanson demonstrates in Speech Stories, speech is a much more complicated and dynamic notion than we often assume. In an age of rapidly accelerated changes in discourse combined with new technologies of communication, the boundaries and substance of what we traditionally deem speech are being reconfigured in novel and confusing ways.
In order to spark thought, discussion, and debate about these complexities and ambiguities, Bezanson probes the "stories" behind seven controversial free speech cases decided by the Supreme Court. These stories touch upon the most controversial and significant of contemporary first amendment issues: government restrictions on hate speech and obscene and indecent speech; pornography and the subordination of women; the constitutionality of campaign finance reform; and the treatment to be accorded new technologies of communication under the Constitution. The result is a provocative engagement of the reader in thinking about the puzzles and paradoxes of our commitment to free expression.

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