Freedom of Expression in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Trager, Robert, and Dickerson, Donna L. (1999). Freedom of Expression in the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press. pp. 228. Paperback $24.95.

The young folks we teach know far less than we would like about the rights, responsibilities, and dilemmas of free expression in a democratic society. The authors of this book, both well known for previous work in this area, are, in effect, telling us to take a more open approach to initiating mass communication students into the holy orders of free expression. And, by the way, they've written the guidebook to help us do so. They may be right. They suggest we use a critical thinking approach to these issues instead of teaching the ritual litany of New York Times v. Sullivan and a zillion other cases with an acknowledged place in the Valhalla of media law.

The work is "intended to introduce concepts of free speech in a number of countries and cultures" as well as show "that free speech issues cut across societies and involve complex philosophical and moral concerns" (p. 9). The book's purpose is "to encourage meaningful discussion among students about important issues' (p. 10). They also caution against a completely free wheeling, we-all-have-the-right-answer approach by suggesting a system for critical analysis (p. 10).

Eight chapters, plus a prologue, guide us through the ever-changing maze of free expression: What is expression? Who controls expression? What speech should not be protected? Whose expression should and should not be protected? Should freedom of expression include the right not to speak? The balancing of freedom of expression against reputations, privacy, and fair trials. …