This Banned Books week we are reflecting on the theme "Censorship Divides Us" with titles that examine censorship from multiple perspectives—historical, political, legal, and more. Enjoy 30% off on the books listed below by using the discount code BANNED30 at checkout, valid between 9/16/22 and 9/26/22.
A look inside the weaponization of social media, and an innovative proposal for protecting Western democracies from information warfare. When Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram were first introduced to the public, their mission was simple: they were designed to help people become more connected to each other. Social media became a thriving digital space by giving its users the freedom to share whatever they wanted with their friends and followers. Unfortunately, these same digital tools are also easy to manipulate. As exemplified by Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, authoritarian states can exploit social media to interfere with democratic governance in open societies. Tyrants on Twitter is the first detailed analysis of how Chinese and Russian agents weaponize Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to subvert the liberal international order. In addition to examining the 2016 U.S. election, David L. Sloss explores Russia's use of foreign influence operations to threaten democracies in Europe, as well as China's use of social media and other digital tools to meddle in Western democracies and buttress autocratic rulers around the world. Sloss calls for cooperation among democratic governments to create a new transnational system for regulating social media to protect Western democracies from information warfare. Drawing on his professional experience as an arms control negotiator, he outlines a novel system of transnational governance that Western democracies can enforce by harmonizing their domestic regulations. And drawing on his academic expertise in constitutional law, he explains why that system—if implemented by legislation in the United States—would be constitutionally defensible, despite likely First Amendment objections. With its critical examination of information warfare and its proposal for practical legislative solutions to fight back, this book is essential reading in a time when disinformation campaigns threaten to undermine democracy.
With Reading the Obscene, Jordan Carroll reveals new insights about the editors who fought the most famous anti-censorship battles of the twentieth century. While many critics have interpreted obscenity as a form of populist protest, Reading the Obscene shows that the editors who worked to dismantle censorship often catered to elite audiences composed primarily of white men in the professional-managerial class. As Carroll argues, transgressive editors, such as H. L. Mencken at the Smart Set and the American Mercury, William Gaines and Al Feldstein at EC Comics, Hugh Hefner at Playboy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Books, and Barney Rosset at Grove Press, taught their readers to approach even the most scandalizing texts with the same cold calculation and professional reserve they employed in their occupations. Along the way, these editors kicked off a middle-class sexual revolution in which white-collar professionals imagined they could control sexuality through management science. Obscenity is often presented as self-shattering and subversive, but with this provocative work Carroll calls into question some of the most sensational claims about obscenity, suggesting that when transgression becomes a sign of class distinction, we must abandon the idea that obscenity always overturns hierarchies and disrupts social order. Winner of the 2022 MLA Prize for Independent Scholars, sponsored by the Modern Language Association
Gold Medal (tie) in the 2022 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) - History (U.S.) Category. A rich account of 1920s to 1950s New York City, starring an eclectic mix of icons like James Joyce, Margaret Sanger, and Alfred Kinsey—all led by an unsung hero of free expression and reproductive rights: Morris L. Ernst. At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States was experiencing an awakening. Victorian-era morality was being challenged by the introduction of sexual modernism and women's rights into popular culture, the arts, and science. Set during this first sexual revolution, when civil libertarian-minded lawyers overthrew the yoke of obscenity laws, Dirty Works focuses on a series of significant courtroom cases that were all represented by the same lawyer: Morris L. Ernst. Ernst's clients included a who's who of European and American literati and sexual activists, among them Margaret Sanger, James Joyce, and Alfred Kinsey. They, along with a colorful cast of burlesque-theater owners and bookstore clerks, had run afoul of stiff obscenity laws, and became actors in Ernst's legal theater that ultimately forced the law to recognize people's right to freely consume media. In this book, Brett Gary recovers the critically neglected Ernst as the most important legal defender of literary expression and reproductive rights by the mid-twentieth century. Each chapter centers on one or more key trials from Ernst's remarkable career battling censorship and obscenity laws, using them to tell a broader story of cultural changes and conflicts around sex, morality, and free speech ideals. Dirty Works sets the stage, legally and culturally, for the sexual revolution of the 1960s and beyond. In the latter half of the century, the courts had a powerful body of precedents, many owing to Ernst's courtroom successes, that recognized adult interests in sexuality, women's needs for reproductive control, and the legitimacy of sexual inquiry. The legacy of this important, but largely unrecognized, moment in American history must be reckoned with in our contentious present, as many of the issues Ernst and his colleagues defended are still under attack eight decades later.
The first sustained study of the relations between literary celebrity and queer sexuality, Categorically Famous looks at the careers of three celebrity writers—James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, and Gore Vidal—in relation to the gay and lesbian liberation movement of the 1960s. While none of these writers "came out" in our current sense, all contributed, through their public images and their writing, to a greater openness toward homosexuality that was an important precondition of liberation. Their fame was crucial, for instance, to the growing conception of homosexuals as an oppressed minority rather than as individuals with a psychological problem. Challenging scholarly orthodoxies, Guy Davidson urges us to rethink the usual opposition to liberation and to gay and lesbian visibility within queer studies as well as standard definitions of celebrity. The conventional ban on openly discussing the homosexuality of public figures meant that media reporting at the time did not focus on his protagonists' private lives. At the same time, the careers of these "semi-visible" gay celebrities should be understood as a crucial halfway point between the era of the open secret and the present-day post-liberation era in which queer people, celebrities very much included, are enjoined to come out.
Less and less Christian demographically, America is now home to an ever-larger number of people who say they identify with no religion at all. These non-Christians have increasingly been demanding their full participation in public life, bringing their arguments all the way to the Supreme Court. The law is on their side, but that doesn't mean that their attempts are not met with suspicion or outright hostility. In Our Non-Christian Nation, Jay Wexler travels the country to engage the non-Christians who have called on us to maintain our ideals of inclusivity and diversity. With his characteristic sympathy and humor, he introduces us to the Summum and their Seven Aphorisms, a Wiccan priestess who would deck her City Hall with a pagan holiday wreath, and other determined champions of free religious expression. As Wexler reminds us, anyone who cares about pluralism, equality, and fairness should support a public square filled with a variety of religious and nonreligious voices. The stakes are nothing short of long-term social peace.
In this controversial and provocative book, Mary Anne Franks examines the thin line between constitutional fidelity and constitutional fundamentalism. The Cult of the Constitution reveals how deep fundamentalist strains in both conservative and liberal American thought keep the Constitution in the service of white male supremacy. Constitutional fundamentalists read the Constitution selectively and self-servingly. Fundamentalist interpretations of the Constitution elevate certain constitutional rights above all others, benefit the most powerful members of society, and undermine the integrity of the document as a whole. The conservative fetish for the Second Amendment (enforced by groups such as the NRA) provides an obvious example of constitutional fundamentalism; the liberal fetish for the First Amendment (enforced by groups such as the ACLU) is less obvious but no less influential. Economic and civil libertarianism have increasingly merged to produce a deregulatory, "free-market" approach to constitutional rights that achieves fullest expression in the idealization of the Internet. The worship of guns, speech, and the Internet in the name of the Constitution has blurred the boundaries between conduct and speech and between veneration and violence. But the Constitution itself contains the antidote to fundamentalism. The Cult of the Constitution lays bare the dark, antidemocratic consequences of constitutional fundamentalism and urges readers to take the Constitution seriously, not selectively.
You can't copyright facts, but is news a category unto itself? Without legal protection for the "ownership" of news, what incentive does a news organization have to invest in producing quality journalism that serves the public good? This book explores the intertwined histories of journalism and copyright law in the United States and Great Britain, revealing how shifts in technology, government policy, and publishing strategy have shaped the media landscape. Publishers have long sought to treat news as exclusive to protect their investments against copying or "free riding." But over the centuries, arguments about the vital role of newspapers and the need for information to circulate have made it difficult to defend property rights in news. Beginning with the earliest printed news publications and ending with the Internet, Will Slauter traces these countervailing trends, offering a fresh perspective on debates about copyright and efforts to control the flow of news.
In 1952, the Hill family was held hostage by escaped convicts in their suburban Pennsylvania home. The family of seven was trapped for nineteen hours by three fugitives who treated them politely, took their clothes and car, and left them unharmed. The Hills quickly became the subject of international media coverage. Public interest eventually died out, and the Hills went back to their ordinary, obscure lives. Until, a few years later, the Hills were once again unwillingly thrust into the spotlight by the media—with a best-selling novel loosely based on their ordeal, a play, a big-budget Hollywood adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart, and an article in Life magazine. Newsworthy is the story of their story, the media firestorm that ensued, and their legal fight to end unwanted, embarrassing, distorted public exposure that ended in personal tragedy. This story led to an important 1967 Supreme Court decision—Time, Inc. v. Hill—that still influences our approach to privacy and freedom of the press. Newsworthy draws on personal interviews, unexplored legal records, and archival material, including the papers and correspondence of Richard Nixon (who, prior to his presidency, was a Wall Street lawyer and argued the Hill family's case before the Supreme Court), Leonard Garment, Joseph Hayes, Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William Douglas, and Abe Fortas. Samantha Barbas explores the legal, cultural, and political wars waged around this seminal privacy and First Amendment case. This is a story of how American law and culture struggled to define and reconcile the right of privacy and the rights of the press at a critical point in history—when the news media were at the peak of their authority and when cultural and political exigencies pushed free expression rights to the forefront of social debate. Newsworthy weaves together a fascinating account of the rise of big media in America and the public's complex, ongoing love-hate affair with the press.
Responsible for such landmark publications as Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, Waiting for Godot,The Wretched of the Earth , and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Grove Press was the most innovative publisher of the postwar era. Counterculture Colophon tells the story of how the press and its house journal, The Evergreen Review, revolutionized the publishing industry and radicalized the reading habits of the "paperback generation." In the process, it offers a new window onto the 1960s, from 1951, when Barney Rosset purchased the fledgling press for $3,000, to 1970, when the multimedia corporation into which he had built the company was crippled by a strike and feminist takeover. Grove Press was not only responsible for ending censorship of the printed word in the United States but also for bringing avant-garde literature, especially drama, into the cultural mainstream as part of the quality paperback revolution. Much of this happened thanks to Rosset, whose charismatic leadership was crucial to Grove's success. With chapters covering world literature and the Latin American boom, including Grove's close association with UNESCO and the rise of cultural diplomacy; experimental drama such as the theater of the absurd, the Living Theater, and the political epics of Bertolt Brecht; pornography and obscenity, including the landmark publication of the complete work of the Marquis de Sade; revolutionary writing, featuring Rosset's daring pursuit of the Bolivian journals of Che Guevara; and underground film, including the innovative development of the pocket filmscript, Loren Glass covers the full spectrum of Grove's remarkable achievement as a communications center of the counterculture.
Better Left Unsaid is in the unseemly position of defending censorship from the central allegations that are traditionally leveled against it. Taking two genres generally presumed to have been stymied by the censor's knife—the Victorian novel and classical Hollywood film—this book reveals the varied ways in which censorship, for all its blustery self-righteousness, can actually be good for sex, politics, feminism, and art. As much as Victorianism is equated with such cultural impulses as repression and prudery, few scholars have explored the Victorian novel as a "censored" commodity—thanks, in large part, to the indirectness and intangibility of England's literary censorship process. This indirection stands in sharp contrast to the explicit, detailed formality of Hollywood's infamous Production Code of 1930. In comparing these two versions of censorship, Nora Gilbert explores the paradoxical effects of prohibitive practices. Rather than being ruined by censorship, Victorian novels and Hays Code films were stirred and stimulated by the very forces meant to restrain them.