You Can’t Always Say What You Want: The Paradox of Free Speech

Cambridge Univ. Feb. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781009198905. $27.95. POL SCI
In this ambitious and timely work, Baron (emeritus, English, Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; What’s Your Pronoun??) attempts to tackle the broad and ever-evolving topic of free speech, while focusing on the legal control of language. The work is not about the First Amendment; it’s more of an examination of how the U. S. government and businesses, over many years, advocate for speech suppression. The author alludes repeatedly that Republicans, conservatives, and Donald Trump are the main culprits of such silencing, but he also says that laws, restrictions, and monitoring originates from politicians and businesses on all sides of the spectrum. Most notably, the author covers a great deal of ground by moving interestingly from speech to language to privacy. Yet, the broad net somewhat takes away from the work’s value. The book makes worthy and extensive use of primary and legal source material and reprints of documents and images.
VERDICT Although the author could have used a more even-handed approach, this book covers enough on the suppression of language to make it a welcome addition at both public and academic libraries.
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