Violence against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History

Synopsis

The most comprehensive study of violence against U. S. journalists from the American Revolution to the present, this text takes an innovative approach to free speech issues, tracing violence against the press throughout American history to discuss the changing structures and cultures of the media and their relation to the public sphere. Maintaining that violence has been an integral part of the culture of public expression in this country since earliest times, this provocative survey presents and elucidates the notion that violent reactions to writers and publishers, rather than occurring sporadically, have been systematic and recurring, indicative of a long and consistent process of cultural evolution. Disputing claims that anti-press violence is a marginal aspect of American society carried out by fringe elements of the population, the author sheds light on decades of such incidents of aggression, from colonial printers to Salman Rushdie, and, through lively and insightful prose, constructs the argument that this phenomenon points to an underlying and profound theme in the history of American cultural identity. With a detailed taxonomy of the various forms of anti-press violence, and historical analyses of such conflicts during the American Revolution, early Republic, Civil War, and other periods, Violence Against the Press adds a significant new dimension to existing historical accounts of anti-media violence, and promises to be a major contribution to the timeless debate of the press's role in society.