Home » Perspective » Ronald Collins: 20 new or forthcoming books related to The First Amendment

By Ronald K. L.Collins, published on July 18, 2018

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Below is a list of forthcoming or new books related to First Amendment issues:


The summary for Enemy of the People (Coming Sept. 25, 2018): Shortly after assuming office in January 2017, President Donald Trump accused the press of being an “enemy of the American people.” Attacks on the media had been a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign, but this charge marked a dramatic turning point: language like this ventured into dangerous territory. Twentieth-century dictators―notably, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao―had all denounced their critics, especially the press, as “enemies of the people.” Their goal was to delegitimize the work of the press as “fake news” and create confusion in the public mind about what’s real and what isn’t; what can be trusted and what can’t be.


That, it seems, is also Trump’s goal. In Enemy of the People, Marvin Kalb, an award-winning American journalist with more than six decades of experience both as a journalist and media observer, writes with passion about why we should fear for the future of American democracy because of the unrelenting attacks by the Trump administration on the press.


As his new book shows, the press has been a bulwark in the defense of democracy. Kalb writes about Edward R. Murrow’s courageous reporting on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “red scare” theatrics in the early 1950s, which led to McCarthy’s demise. He reminds us of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting in the early 1970s that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.


Today, because of revolutionary changes in journalism, no Murrow is ready at the battlements. Journalism has been severely weakened. Yet, without a virile, strong press, democracy is in peril.


Kalb’s book is a frightening indictment of President Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the American press―and put the future of our democracy in question.


Summary of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure (Coming Sept. 4, 2018): Something has been going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years. Speakers are shouted down. Students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and are afraid to speak honestly. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are rising—on campus as well as nationally. How did this happen?

First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt show how the new problems on campus have their origins in three terrible ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education: What doesn’t kill you makes you weakeralways trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. These three Great Untruths contradict basic psychological principles about well-being and ancient wisdom from many cultures.  Embracing these untruths—and the resulting culture of safetyism—interferes with young people’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. It makes it harder for them to become autonomous adults who are able to navigate the bumpy road of life.

Lukianoff and Haidt investigate the many social trends that have intersected to promote the spread of these untruths. They explore changes in childhood such as the rise of fearful parenting, the decline of unsupervised, child-directed play, and the new world of social media that has engulfed teenagers in the last decade. They examine changes on campus, including the corporatization of universities and the emergence of new ideas about identity and justice. They situate the conflicts on campus within the context of America’s rapidly rising political polarization and dysfunction.


This is a book for anyone who is confused by what is happening on college campuses today, or has children, or is concerned about the growing inability of Americans to live, work, and cooperate across party lines.    


The Idecent Screen book cover.jpgSummary of The Indecent Screen (Coming January 2019): The Indecent Screen explores clashes over indecency in broadcast television among U.S.-based media advocates, television professionals, the Federal Communications Commission, and TV audiences.


Cynthia Chris focuses on the decency debates during an approximately twenty-year period since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which in many ways restructured the media environment. Simultaneously, ever increasing channel capacity, new forms of distribution, and time-shifting (in the form of streaming and on-demand viewing options) radically changed how, when, and what we watch.


But instead of these innovations quelling concerns that TV networks were too often transmitting indecent material that was accessible to children, complaints about indecency skyrocketed soon after the turn of the century. Chris demonstrates that these clashes are significant battles over the role of family, the role of government, and the value of free speech in our lives, arguing that an uncensored media is so imperative to the public good that we can, and must, endure the occasional indecent screen. 


Reckless Disregard book cover.jpgSummary of Reckless Disregard: St. Amant v. Thompson and the Transformation of Libel Law (Coming Dec. 12, 2018): In the years following the landmark United States Supreme Court decision on libel law in New York Times v. Sullivan, the court ruled on a number of additional cases that continued to shape the standards of protected speech. As part of this key series of judgments, the justices explored the contours of the Sullivan ruling and established the definition of “reckless disregard” as it pertains to “actual malice” in the case of St. Amant v. Thompson. While an array of scholarly and legal literature examines Sullivan and some subsequent cases, the St. Amant case―once called “the most important of the recent Supreme Court libel decisions”―has not received the attention it warrants. Eric P. Robinson’s Reckless Disregardcorrects this omission with a thorough analysis of the case and its ramifications.


The history of St. Amant v. Thompson begins with the contentious 1962 U.S. Senate primary election in Louisiana, between incumbent Russell Long and businessman Philemon “Phil” A. St. Amant. The initial lawsuit stemmed from a televised campaign address in which St. Amant attempted to demonstrate Long’s alleged connections with organized crime and corrupt union officials. Although St. Amant’s claims had no effect on the outcome of the election, a little-noticed statement he made during the address―that money had “passed hands” between Baton Rouge Teamsters leader Ed Partin and East Baton Rouge Parish deputy sheriff Herman A. Thompson―led to a defamation lawsuit that ultimately passed through the legal system to the Supreme Court.


A decisive step in the journey toward the robust protections that American courts provide to comments about public officials, public figures, and matters of public interest, St. Amant v. Thompson serves as a significant development in modern American defamation law. Robinson’s study deftly examines the background of the legal proceedings as well as their social and political context. His analysis of how the Supreme Court ruled in this case reveals the justices’ internal deliberations, shedding new light on a judgment that forever changed American libel law.


Blacklisted book cover.jpgSummary of Blacklisted!: Hollywood, The Cold War, and The First Amendment (Coming Oct. 9, 2018): In this young adult nonfiction title, Larry Dane Brimner follows in vivid detail the story of 19 men from the film industry who were investigated for suspected communist ties during the Cold War, and the 10–known as the Hollywood Ten–who were blacklisted for standing up for their First Amendment rights and refusing to cooperate.


World War II is over, but tensions between the communist Soviet Union and the US are at an all-time high. In America, communist threats are seen everywhere and a committee is formed in the nation’s capital to investigate those threats. Larry Dane Brimner follows the story of 19 men–all from the film industry–who are summoned to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. All 19 believe that the committee’s investigations into their political views and personal associations are a violation of their First Amendment rights. When the first 10 of these men refuse to give the committee the simple answers it wants, they are cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted.


Summary of Justice in Plain Sight: How a Small-Town Newspaper and Its Unlikely Lawyer Opened America’s Courtrooms (Coming Jan. 1, 2019): Justice in Plain Sight is the story of a hometown newspaper in Riverside, California, that set out to do its job: tell readers about shocking crimes in their own backyard. But when judges slammed the courtroom door on the public, including the press, it became impossible to tell the whole story.


Pinning its hopes on business lawyer Jim Ward, whom Press-Enterprise editor Tim Hays had come to know and trust, the newspaper took two cases to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1980s. Hays was convinced that the public—including the press—needed to have these rights and needed to bear witness to justice because healing in the aftermath of a horrible crime could not occur without community catharsis. The newspaper won both cases and established First Amendment rights that significantly broadened public access to the judicial system, including the right for the public to witness jury selection and preliminary hearings.


Justice in Plain Sight is a unique story that, for the first time, details two improbable journeys to the Supreme Court in which the stakes were as high as they could possibly be (and still are): the public’s trust in its own government.


WikiLeaking book cover.jpgSummary of WikiLeaking: The Ethics of Secrecy and Exposure: WikiLeaks is famous — or infamous — for publishing secret material, including classified government documents, confidential videos and emails, and information leaked by whistleblowers, some of them anonymous, others revealing their identities. WikiLeaks claims to have compiled a database of more than ten million “forbidden” documents. Its founder and leader, Australian activist Julian Assange proclaims that the public is entitled to the truth and that “information wants to be free.”


WikiLeaks activities have polarized opinion, with some claiming its operations are traitorous and harmful, and others defending its releases as necessary exposure of wrongdoing.


In What Philosophy Can Tell You about WikiLeaks, professional philosophers with diverse opinions and backgrounds deliver their provocative insights into WikiLeaks.

  • If leaking secrets sometimes causes harm, can this harm be outweighed by the benefit of more people knowing the truth?
  • How much of WikiLeaks information is true, and does it matter that some of it might be erroneous or misleading through lack of context?
  • Is the prevalence of leaking an automatic outcome of the value of free expression, as enshrined in the First Amendment?
  • If it’s wrong to lie, does this imply that it’s always right to speak the truth?
  • Does selective media bias require to be countered by unpredictable leaking?
  • Can there be too much information? And if so, how can citizens protect themselves against information overload?
  • WikiLeaks activists are guided by a code of ethics. How does this compare with the professional ethics of conventional journalists?
  • When French politician Emmanuel Macron included deliberate falsehoods in his emails, knowing they would be leaked, he showed the relation between leaking and “bullshit,” as defined by Harry Frankfurt. Can we expect the prevalence of leaking to increase the volume of bullshit?
  • The existence of government necessitates the practice of subterfuge and double-dealing by statesmen, but the culture of democracy calls for transparency. How can we fix the boundary between necessary deception and the public’s “right to know”?
  • Leaking exposes what some powerful person wants to be kept secret. Is leaking always justified whenever that person wants to keep their own immoral actions secret, and is leaking not justified when the keeper of secrets has done nothing wrong?

The European Right to be Forgotten book cover.jpgSummary of The European Right to be Forgotten: The First Amendment Enemy (Coming Aug. 15, 2018): The European Right to be Forgotten: The First Amendment Enemy asserts that the right to be forgotten provision of the European General Data Protection Regulation threatens the free flow of information within a global society. In a thoughtful explanation of how the regulation functions as an enemy of the United States’ First Amendment, the book addresses the marketplace of ideas, communication in democracy, the specter of government intervention, censorship, and the distortion of history in the Right to be Forgotten environment. While RTBF advocates point to the regulation as a privacy victory, the author explains how the erasure of data from search engine results foretells negative consequences for social, political, and economic environments. In a rallying cry to preserve freedom of information in the technology driven era, the author presents “The Free Speech Manifesto for the Digital Age: Seven Tenets to Preserve Information Flow in Democracy.” This book offers a unique communications-based perspective on the Right to be Forgotten and precisely documents why a corresponding regulation in the United States conflicts with constitutional protections.


Networked Press Freedom book cover.jpgSummary of Networked Press Freedom: Creating Infrastructures for a Public Right to Hear: Reimagining press freedom in a networked era: not just a journalist’s right to speak but also a public’s right to hear. In Networked Press Freedom, Mike Ananny offers a new way to think about freedom of the press in a time when media systems are in fundamental flux.


Ananny challenges the idea that press freedom comes only from heroic, lone journalists who speak truth to power. Instead, drawing on journalism studies, institutional sociology, political theory, science and technology studies, and an analysis of ten years of journalism discourse about news and technology, he argues that press freedom emerges from social, technological, institutional, and normative forces that vie for power and fight for visions of democratic life.


He shows how dominant, historical ideals of professionalized press freedom often mistook journalistic freedom from constraints for the public’s freedom to encounter the rich mix of people and ideas that self-governance requires. Ananny’s notion of press freedom ensures not only an individual right to speak, but also a public right to hear.


Seeing press freedom as essential for democratic self-governance, Ananny explores what publics need, what kind of free press they should demand, and how today’s press freedom emerges from intertwined collections of humans and machines. If someone says, “The public needs a free press,” Ananny urges us to ask in response, “What kind of public, what kind of freedom, and what kind of press?” Answering these questions shows what robust, self-governing publics need to demand of technologists and journalists alike.


Summary of The Free Speech Century (Coming Dec. 3, 2018): The Supreme Court’s 1919 decision in Schenck vs. the United States is one of the most important free speech cases in American history. Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, it is most famous for first invoking the phrase “clear and present danger.” Although the decision upheld the conviction of an individual for criticizing the draft during World War I, it also laid the foundation for our nation’s robust protection of free speech. Over time, the standard Holmes devised made freedom of speech in America a reality rather than merely an ideal.


In The Free Speech Century, two of America’s leading First Amendment scholars, Lee C. Bollinger and Geoffrey R. Stone, have gathered a group of the nation’s leading constitutional scholars — Cass Sunstein, Lawrence Lessig, Laurence Tribe, Kathleen Sullivan, Catherine McKinnon, among others — to evaluate the evolution of free speech doctrine since Schenk and to assess where it might be headed in the future. Since 1919, First Amendment jurisprudence in America has been a signal development in the history of constitutional democracies — remarkable for its level of doctrinal refinement, remarkable for its lateness in coming (in relation to the adoption of the First Amendment), and remarkable for the scope of protection it has afforded since the 1960s. Over the course of The First Amendment Century, judicial engagement with these fundamental rights has grown exponentially. We now have an elaborate set of free speech laws and norms, but as Stone and Bollinger stress, the context is always shifting. New societal threats like terrorism, and new technologies of communication continually reshape our understanding of what speech should be allowed.


Publishing on the one hundredth anniversary of the decision that laid the foundation for America’s free speech tradition, The Free Speech Century will serve as an essential resource for anyone interested in how our understanding of the First Amendment transformed over time and why it is so critical both for the United States and for the world today.


Additional Titles 

  1. Robert N. Spicer, Free Speech and False Speech: Political Deception and Its Legal Limits (March 20, 2018)
  2. P.G. Ingram, Censorship and Free Speech: Some Philosophical Bearings (Sept. 30, 2018)
  3. Arthur D. Hellman, William D. Araiza & Thomas E. Baker, First Amendment Law: Freedom of Expression & Freedom of Religion (May 31, 2018)
  4. Michael Donnelly, Freedom of Speech and the Function of Rhetoric in the United States (May 15, 2018)
  5. Michael LaMonica, First Amendment For Beginners (May 8, 2018)
  6. Elizabeth Childs, Suspended License: Censorship and the Visual Arts (July 11, 2018)
  7. Micky Huff, Andy Lee Roth & Khalil Bwendib, eds, Censored 2019: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2017-2018(Oct. 2, 2018)
  8. Ahfaz ur Rehman, Freedom of the Press: The War on Words (July 10, 2018)
  9. Giorgio Caravale, Censorship and Heresy in Revolutionary England and Counter-Reformation Rome: Story of a Dangerous Book (June 28, 2018)
  10. David van Mill, Free Speech and the State: An Unprincipled Approach (Feb. 27, 2019)


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