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The Indispensable Right

The Indispensable Right


A timely, revelatory look at freedom of speech—our most basic right and the one that protects all the others.

Free speech is a human right, and the free expression of thought is at the very essence of being human. The United States was founded on this premise, and the First Amendment remains the single greatest constitutional commitment to the right of free expression in history. Yet there is a systemic effort to bar opposing viewpoints on subjects ranging from racial discrimination to police abuse, from climate change to gender equity. These measures are reinforced by the public’s anger and rage; flash mobs appear today with the slightest provocation. We all lash out against anyone or anything that stands against our preferred certainty.

The Indispensable Right places the current attacks on free speech in their proper historical, legal, and political context. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were not only written for times like these, but in a time like this. This country was born in an age of rage and for 250 years we have periodically lost sight of the value of free expression. The history of the struggle for free speech is the story of extraordinary people—nonconformists who refuse to yield to abusive authority—and here is a mosaic of vivid characters and controversies.

Jonathan Turley takes you through the figures and failures that have shaped us and then shows the unique dangers of our current moment. The alliance of academic, media, and corporate interests with the government’s traditional wish to control speech has put us on an almost irresistible path toward censorship. The Indispensable Right reminds us that we remain a nation grappling with the implications of free expression and with the limits of our tolerance for the speech of others. For rather than a political crisis, this is a crisis of faith.

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