Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Outspoken: Free Speech Stories

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Outspoken: Free Speech Stories

Article excerpt

Outspoken: Free Speech Stories Nan Levinson. Berkeley: University of California, 2003. 359 pp. $29.95.

Of censorship, there is no end, nor of its account. Articles and monographs concerning individual and governmental attempts to control what we read, view, hear, and think continue to roll o∂ the presses. After a while, the reading public may tire of this glut of bad news. Conversely, some people may actually agree with or savor censorious activity because they are religionists or selfappointed protectors of the young or adamantly against nudity, sexuality, vulgarity, and violence.

Nan Levinson's book is di∂erent. First, it consists of a series of i2 separate case studies describing the plights of 20 individuals; second, the author interviews the subject, then writes up the study from a personal point of view complete with intercalated editorial comments; and third, Levinson extends the meaning of free speech and censorship to include those who are only tangentially inculpated by their voices. And the result is not merely exclusion, extirpation, bowdlerization, or destruction. Here one may be fired, arrested, or deported. Consider, for example, Kwame Mensah, an African-American marine reservist who decides to request conscientious objector status after he is called up for Gulf War duty. It is true that he spoke out publicly against the war, but it is also true that he refused to carry out his orders. Next comes Margaret Randall, the poet and social historian, who renounced her citizenship, lived abroad for many years, and then fought hard to have it reinstated. Once again, this is not merely a case of a posteriori governmental censorship; had she never said a word against US policy or in favor of some Communist regimes, she still may have had some trouble reclaiming her American status. …

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