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Speech Rights in America

The First Amendment, Democracy, and the Media

Laura Stein

Publication Year: 2006

The First Amendment is the principle guarantor of speech rights in the United States, but the court's interpretations of it often privilege the interests of media owners over those of the broader citizenry. In Speech Rights in America, Laura Stein argues that such rulings prevent the First Amendment from performing its critical role as a protector of free speech, alienate citizens from their rights, and corrupt the essential workings of democracy._x000B__x000B_Stein locates the source of clashes over First Amendment interpretations in the differing views of neoliberal and participatory democratic theory on the meaning of rights and the role of communication in democratic processes. Drawing on the best of the liberal democratic tradition, she develops a systematic and concise definition of democratic speech and compares this definition to legal understandings of speech rights in contemporary media law. She demonstrates that there is a significant gap between First Amendment law and the speech rights necessary to democratic communication, and proposes an alternative set of principles to guide future judicial, legislative, and cultural policy on old and new media.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The History of Communication

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The seeds for this book were planted at the former Annenberg Washington Program workshop in policy studies. A week of talks and presentations by Washington-based neoliberal and progressive communication-policy advocates impressed upon me the need to articulate a language and seek out a philosophy ...

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1. The First Amendment and Communication in Democratic Societies

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pp. 1-13

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” functions as the principle guarantor of speech rights in the United States. The First Amendment does not uphold all citizens’ claims to free speech, however. ...

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2. Rethinking Speech Rights

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pp. 14-48

Every interpretation of speech rights relies on ideas about democratic communication to give it meaning. But understandings of democratic communication are characterized by different, sometimes irreconcilable, visions of the role of communication in political and social life. ...

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3. Social Mediation in Print and Broadcast Media

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pp. 49-65

The Supreme Court established current law on the right to send and receive communication in print and broadcast within a brief five-year span. The determining cases came at the height of a grassroots citizens’ movement for media access. ...

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4. The Right to Public Space

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pp. 66-80

Democratic communication requires public spheres. In democratic societies, people need concrete sites where political discussion, debate, and deliberation take place. These are spaces where citizens can share their collective interests, engage in reasonable and responsible democratic decisionmaking, and send and receive communication that reflects their diverse experiences of the world. ...

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5. Democratic Speech Rights on the Internet

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pp. 81-112

Fundamentally, democratic communication requires the ability to send communication, to receive it, and to create public spaces for social mediation. These conditions are the foundation of democratic speech rights, or speech rights that serve democracies. ...

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6. The Future of Democratic Communication

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pp. 113-140

How our legal system interprets speech rights in the media has profound consequences for democratic communication. Simply having the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the protection of citizens’ speech rights. Rather, it is how the courts understand and apply the First Amendment that shapes the actual rights and realities ...


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pp. 141-146


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pp. 147-160


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pp. 161-166

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252092558
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252075360

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: The History of Communication