Review Of "Speech And Harm: Controversies Over Free Speech" Edited By I. Maitra And M. K. McGowan

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Speech, including expression more generally, is everywhere regulated if not proscribed; e.g., in the US, libelous speech is unprotected. Overall, however, the US protects speech even when it arguably causes or itself constitutes harm, as in racist speech and pornography. The "near absolute" protection of freedom of expression is often celebrated. But this volume provides a provocative, useful check on the enthusiasm for unfettered free expression, with contributions from philosophers, legal scholars, and sociologists. Maitra and McGowan's introductory essay is particularly thoughtful in outlining the issues at stake--speech versus non-speech, expression (e.g., flag burning) as included under speech, cumulative harms, and possible institutional responses to harmful speech. The collection is oriented toward criticism made of free speech absolutists (especially as concerns racist speech and pornography) by feminist and critical race scholars. While the focus is on the US, several contributors discuss the issues in other countries: Andrew Altman, Holocaust denial in Europe; Katharine Gelber, Australian hate speech codes; and Lynne Tirrell, pregenocidal speech in Rwanda. Except for Catherine MacKinnon's foreword, the essays are alive to the subtleties and complexities of the issues at stake. All the essays are free of jargon, clearly written, lively, and accessible to anyone. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers.


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