Review: Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword
David K. Shipler
Alfred A. Knopf
Shipler is no novice to reporting or writing, and he holds a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction from 1987. In this book he takes a look at freedom of speech in books, secrets, stereotypes, politics, and plays, the parts that he choose as division for his focus areas. It’s my opinion that each section can stand alone, but in combination round out the discussion effectively.
He attempts to present opposing views as he moves through the sections, but clearly tends to the left of center. That’s OK. This is freedom of speech we’re talking about here. We don’t need to agree eye to eye to have the discussion. His idea is to promote the discussion and his closing chapters illustrate that well. Civility, financial support, and truth suffer in the debates related to the offerings a theater chooses to present. His introduction (yes, they need to be read. They are important.) says it best. “When it comes to either legal limits or cultural limits, the real answer to offensive speech is more speech, not retribution. Truth is the best response to propaganda. Hate festers in places where speech is suppressed, where unwelcome ideas are consigned to darkness.” (10-11). Yes, it does. And he does have more to say in that vein. I appreciated his inclusion of cultural limits in the debate since that can and does differ from the legal limits in several cases he discusses afterward.
I do recommend this book. It is challenging to read, but not difficult style-wise. I promise he will make you think about what he presents and how that squares with your own opinions and beliefs. End notes are included. The copy I received was awaiting the addition its index from the publishers. That should help the reader, too.
This book was provided by the publisher.