Sunday, April 17, 2005

First Amendment Media Blitz

The right to free speech is getting lots of ink these days as two interesting new books make the rounds. Check out Anthony Lewis's review of "Inside the Pentagon Papers" in the April 7 issue of The New York Review of Books, and Jeffrey Rosen's look at Floyd Abrams' "Speaking Freely" in today's issue of the New York Times Book Review. Rosen, who also contributed the cover story in today's issue of the New York Times Magazine (on the conservative/libertarian movement known as "the Constitution in Exile"), finds the focus on free speech to be timely:

Abrams is surely correct that, as a constitutional matter, the law is almost always too crude and ineffective an instrument to provide a remedy for the genuine harms that speech can cause. (As a technological matter, in the age of the Internet, the harms are real and may continue to grow.) Today, the principled defenders of free speech are a small but hardy bipartisan coalition of civil libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives, while its antagonists include mainstream liberal and conservative politicians who forget their former scruples as soon as they win power. (Abrams is especially scathing about former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's crusade against the Brooklyn Museum.) Happily, liberal and conservative judges today are increasingly libertarian in First Amendment cases. For this improbable and surprisingly recent consensus, Floyd Abrams deserves his share of the credit.

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