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Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment, Mark V. Tushnet, Alan K. Chen and Joseph Blocher

The Taming of Free Speech: America's Civil Liberties Compromise, Laura Weinrib

Reviewed by Ronald K.l. Collins



First contention: Attempts to make the First Amendment safe frequently produce censorship. Take risk out of the jurisprudential equation, and little liberty is left. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. tagged it an “experiment,” this business of reconciling freedom with security. But experiments sometimes fail, which points back to risk. If one does not consent to these terms of our constitutional compact, then no freedom worth preserving will emerge. Or, to put it more cavalierly: yes, sometimes the Bill of Rights can be like a suicide pact—Justice Robert Jackson's 1949 admonition in Terminiello v. City of Chicago (337 U.S. 1) notwithstanding, which returns us to Holmes's Darwinian experiment.

Second contention: Theories of free speech, especially those of the “elevated” or “righteous” kind, lead inescapably to censorship. Take a canonical BIG NORM (for example, truth in the marketplace, self-realization, or democratic participation), link it to the First Amendment, and what inevitably follows is freedom cabined. Know this: the moral reformist and the progressive activist are censorial fellow travelers. Free-speech freedom must stand on its own legs, unfettered by intolerant ideological interventionists.

That conceptual framework provides one way to gauge much of what passes as free-

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