Freedom for the Thought That We Hate
Journalist Anthony Lewis traces the evolution of civil liberties in the U.S. through key historical events. The title of the book is drawn from the dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in United States v. Schwimmer. Lewis warns the reader against the potential for government to take advantage of periods of fear and upheaval in a post-911 society to suppress freedom of speech and criticism by citizens.
About Freedom for the Thought That We Hate in brief
Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment is a 2007 non-fiction book by journalist Anthony Lewis. Lewis traces the evolution of civil liberties in the U.S. through key historical events. The title of the book is drawn from the dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in United States v. Schwimmer. Lewis warns the reader against the potential for government to take advantage of periods of fear and upheaval in a post-911 society to suppress freedom of speech and criticism by citizens. The book was positively received by reviewers, including Jeffrey Rosen in The New York Times, Richard H. Fallon in Harvard Magazine, Nat Hentoff, two National Book Critics Circle members, and Kirkus Reviews. Jeremy Waldron criticized Lewis’ stance towards freedom ofspeech with respect to hate speech in his book The Harm in Hate Speech. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a critical analysis of both works in the New York Review of Books in June 2012. The author gives background on the century-long process by which the judicial system began defending publishers and writers from attempts at suppression of speech by the government. He analyzes the impact of this clause and refers to the writer of the United States Constitution, James Madison, who believed that freedom of the press would serve as a form of separation of powers to the government, Lewis writes that an expansive respect for free speech informs the reader as to why citizens should object to governmental attempts to block the media from reporting about the causes of a controversial war.
In 1798, the federal government, under President John Adams, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which deemed false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the U States a criminal act. After 1801, President Thomas Jefferson issued pardons to those convicted under the Seditions Acts. Lewis interprets historical events as affronts to freedom of free speech, including the McCarran Internal Security Act and Smith Act, which were used to imprison American communists who were critical of the government during the McCarthy era. During World War I, with increased fear among the public among the American public, the government effectively outlawed criticism of the conduct of WW I and WW II. He writes that, in a state in which controversial views are not allowed to be spoken, citizens and reporters merely serve as advocates for the state itself. In the book, Lewis also discusses the role of the Supreme Court in protecting free speech and free press in the modern era. He concludes that the book’s title derives from Justice Holmes’ admonition, in his dissenting opinion, that the First. Amendment’s guarantees are most worthy of protection in times ofFear and. upheaval, when calls for suppression of dissent are most strident and superficially appealing. Holmes wrote that if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.