More Speech, Not Less: Communications Law in the Information Age

Article excerpt

More Speech, Not Less: Communications Law in the Information Age. Mark Sableman. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997. 277 pp. $49.95 hbk. $15.96 pbk.

This is a time of concentrated media ownership; of technology changing the way information is available; when public and private people can be humiliated or lionized with a few keyboard strikes; when a "shot heard around the world" can actually be heard around the world as it is fired; when freedoms can be threatened or amplified. This is a time to be vigilant.

Along with the acceleration and intensification of communication in this era have come the challenges of developing public policies which embrace values underlying freedom of speech and of the press. These challenges fall not only to professional communicators but also to citizens without whom the freedoms mean little.

Author, attorney, former journalist, and ACLU executive Mark Sableman writes with both the citizen and the professional in mind claiming that while a stated purpose of the Constitution is to "insure domestic tranquility," interpretation of the First Amendment has appeared to do the opposite. Protected profane protest messages, flag burning, repugnant art, pretrial publicity, breaches of confidentiality, revelations of unpleasant private facts, and pornography cause a great deal of public furor and inconvenience, while efforts to enforce their silence most always are packaged as reasonable requests. However, like the Trojan horse, such requests contain what ultimately can destroy any hope of domestic tranquility a loss of individual liberty.

Sableman is an unabashed champion of the First Amendment who believes that the law is too important to be left to the lawyers and policy makers. He provides an intelligent discussion of recent case studies, insights into policies such as spectrum auctions, and myths surrounding various laws in terms understandable to the lay person, and he poses provocative questions for the next steps in communications policy. …