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UI's Bezanson explores freedom of speech in new book
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa law professor Randall Bezanson
explores the legal implications for the First Amendment of hate speech,
political campaign contributions, modern technologies and other issues
in a new book written for a general reading public.
"Speech Stories: How Free Can Speech Be?," published by New
York University Press, is a collection of seven essays dealing with difficult
freedom of speech cases that have been considered by the U.S. Supreme Court
in the past 30 years. Each case is described as a story, laying out the
issue at hand, its history, the court's ruling and some of the case's implications.
In selecting the stories, Bezanson focuses on what he calls the "peripheries"
of free speech, the instances where courts have had a difficult time grappling
with the full implications of the First Amendment's admonition that "Congress
shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."
While the courts -- and most people -- understand the First Amendment's
central role in protecting political liberty in a democracy, Bezanson says
the peripheries of free speech are not so clear cut.
"What about speech that does not serve these self-governing and
liberty purposes but, instead, serve other ends, such as efficient commercial
markets?" Bezanson writes. "What about speech that serves self-governing
or liberty ends but in peculiar ways (as with pornography), or only idiosyncratically
(as with flag burning), or with other costs (as with racial insults)? ...
What about speech that takes new and different forms, such as money (campaign
contributions), or medium (cable TV), or words that occur inadvertently
or mechanically (such as automated telemarketing)?"
"The most fundamental free speech questions lie [in the peripheries
of speech]," he writes. "Most strikingly, the principles of free
speech that apply to them are astoundingly uncertain."
In a review, Rod Smolla, professor at the Marshall-Whyte School of Law
at the College of William and Mary, described the book as "A remarkably
thoughtful and literate exploration of seven landmark cases that largely
shape modern American notions of freedom of speech. The stories are filled
with fresh material exposing the human side of these famous legal disputes,
and with Bezanson's reflective insights about what freedom of speech should
mean in our society."
Bezanson joined the UI law faculty in 1973 and was named full professor
in 1979. From 1979 to 1988, he served as UI vice president for finance
and university services. He was dean of the Washington and Lee University
Law School for six years before returning to the UI in 1996.
His other books include "Taxes on Knowledge in America: Exactions
on the Press From Colonial Times to the Present" (University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1994). His 1987 book, "Libel Law and the Press," (co-written
with UI journalism professors Gilbert Cranberg and John Soloski) won the
National Research Award of the Society of Professional Journalists.