cover image Free Speech in an Open Society

Free Speech in an Open Society

Rodney A. Smolla. Alfred A. Knopf, $27.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40727-0

This is an eloquent, carefully reasoned brief for society's need to protect citizens from the government's inherent proclivity to engage in censorship and secrecy. Smolla, law professor at the College of William and Mary, delves into such issues as flag burning, obscenity, hate speech, public funding of controversial art and personal privacy. He sets forth guidelines to curb the recurrent impulse toward repressive legislation that infringes on First Amendment freedoms but nevertheless distances himself from absolutists who treat freedom of speech as an utterly impregnable right. Smolla argues that the Supreme Court should have taken the case involving Cable News Network's desire to broadcast government tapes monitoring Panamanian ex-dictator Manuel Noreiga's phone conversations. His critical look at the heavily censored news coverage of the Gulf war is set against a history of government insistence on national security requirements. History Book Club alternate. (Apr.)