Review: Library Journal

From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act
A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America

Library Journal, 2007

Finan (president, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression) begins his sad tale of modern attacks on the First Amendment with the pre-World War I campaigns against the Wobblies and other labor activists, which expanded into the prosecution of antiwar activists, ethnics, pacifists, and Socialists and culminated in the 1919 Palmer raids. At the same time, leading civil libertarians organized the first of several groups that became the American Civil Liberties Union. Finan shows that the primary focus of government and social repression has always been the "enemy" of the day-Socialists and pacifists in World War I, Communists and foreigners during the first Red Scare, Communists and all those left of center in the McCarthy years, and antiwar protestors during Vietnam and post-9/11. Along the way, unionists, writers condemned as obscene, teachers with unpopular views, and librarians could all become ensnared in the net of oppression. Finan examines the steady expansion of our concept of freedom of speech, as underpinned by the ACLU, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Supreme Court. He defines the battle to protect free speech as an ongoing one in which today's antiterrorism laws are of a piece with earlier suppressions. Based on original research as well as secondary sources, this timely book will be of interest both to general and academic readers. Highly recommended.

– Duncan Stewart, University of Iowa Library, Iowa City