2006 • $45.00 • 400 pp • paper
This book explores one of the most disturbing intellectual dilemmas of our time — that our beloved First Amendment is being exploited in the name of the dumbing of America. It is the first book to examine the popular culture of the First Amendment, specifically with reference to television, advertising, and pornography. Comparing the culture of popular discourse with traditional First Amendment ideals, the authors expose the vast gap between our speech practices and our speech principles. Is the tyranny of the trivialization of discourse a problem? In a dialogue-like way, the authors invite their readers to judge.
The second edition preserves the first edition's mind-boggling and mirthful stories of America's mass media exploits. A new Foreword examines recent events — for example, the American mass commercial entertainment culture after September 11th — and a new and lengthy Afterword offers a "dialogue" with the book's readers and critics.
"This is a significant and original scholarly work. Ronald Collins and David Skover boldly raise hard questions, both philosophical and practical, that are seldom considered by liberals or conservatives when discussing free speech. Why do we value freedom of speech and press? Do we dare discuss values and purposes, or is the case for free speech merely speech for speech's sake? What limits on freedom can be justified? As if this were not enough, Collins and Skover directly confront even more novel and difficult questions: What is becoming of the culture of discourse in America? What has become of the Madisonian experiment in freedom? How, if at all, do its profound purposes find expression in today's electronic and commercial marketplaces? Does the culture of mass and popular expression suggest new purposes, ones radically different from those envisioned by the Framers? Collins and Skover confront these questions, wrestle with them dauntlessly, and as a result give us a book that is a brilliant, cantakerous, vivid, provocative, and genuinely refreshing examination of freedom of expression in modern America. For Collins and Skover, there is great thrill in the Socratic chase as they cope with the complex issues they raise. Their book is written in crisp, readable English and is thoughtfully playful. It is an artful work that invites readers to consider the world of discourse as it was, is, and may be. The Death of Discourse is literary dynamite ready to demolish the pomp and hypocrisy obstructing the proud edifice of the First Amendment. This book poses a clear and present danger in the most deserving sense." — Leonard W. Levy, American historian, Pulitzer Prize recipient, and author of Emergence of a Free Press