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The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America by Ellis Cose

The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America by Ellis Cose

The critically acclaimed journalist and bestselling author of The Rage of a Privileged Class explores one of the most essential rights in America—free speech—and reveals how it is crumbling under the combined weight of polarization, technology, money and systematized lying in this concise yet powerful and timely book.

Named one of Newsweek’s “25 Must-Read Fall Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Escape the Chaos of 2020”

Free speech has long been one of American’s most revered freedoms. Yet now, more than ever, free speech is reshaping America’s social and political landscape even as it is coming under attack. Bestselling author and critically acclaimed journalist Ellis Cose wades into the debate to reveal how this Constitutional right has been coopted by the wealthy and politically corrupt.

It is no coincidence that historically huge disparities in income have occurred at times when moneyed interests increasingly control political dialogue. Over the past four years, Donald Trump’s accusations of “fake news,” the free use of negative language against minority groups, “cancel culture,” and blatant xenophobia have caused Americans to question how far First Amendment protections can—and should—go.

Cose offers an eye-opening wholly original examination of the state of free speech in America today, litigating ideas that touch on every American’s life. Social media meant to bring us closer, has become a widespread disseminator of false information keeping people of differing opinions and political parties at odds. The nation—and world—watches in shock as white nationalism rises, race and gender-based violence spreads, and voter suppression widens. The problem, Cose makes clear, is that ordinary individuals have virtually no voice at all. He looks at the danger of hyper-partisanship and how the discriminatory structures that determine representation in the Senate and the electoral college threaten the very concept of democracy. He argues that the safeguards built into the Constitution to protect free speech and democracy have instead become instruments of suppression by an unfairly empowered political minority.

But we can take our rights back, he reminds us. Analyzing the experiences of other countries, weaving landmark court cases together with a critical look at contemporary applications, and invoking the lessons of history, including the Great Migration, Cose sheds much-needed light on this cornerstone of American culture and offers a clarion call for activism and change.

Ellis Cose has been a longtime columnist and contributing editor for Newsweek magazine, and is the former chairman of the editorial board of the New York Daily News. He began his journalism career as a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and has been a contributor and press critic for Time magazine, president and chief executive officer of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and chief writer on management and workplace issues for USA Today. Cose has appeared on the Today show, Nightline, Dateline, ABC World News, Good Morning America, the PBS “Time to Choose” election special, Charlie Rose, CNN’s Talk Back Live, and a variety of other nationally televised and local programs. He has received fellowships or individual grants from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, and has won numerous journalism awards including four National Association of Black Journalists first-place awards. Cose is the author of Bone to Pick, The Envy of the World, the bestselling The Rage of a Privileged Class, and several other books.