Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech, by Cass R. Sunstein
Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School, described by the New York Times as “the most coveted young academic in the country,” shares the widely held view that our media have become increasingly irrelevant and obnoxious, and are a disservice to American democracy. While lambasting the media is in itself hardly a new exercise, Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech is noteworthy because of where Sunstein locates the source of the problem: namely, in the current state of First Amendment law. The book is also significant because it endorses the Orwellian view that in order to safeguard freedom of speech, what is needed is more regulation.
Sunstein is concerned primarily with the discussion of political issues in the press and on radio and television. His charge is that these media “deal rarely with serious issues and then almost never in depth”; “turn much political discussion into the equivalent of advertisements”; and “treat most candidates and even political commitments as commodities to be ‘sold.’” In the process, the media fail to fulfill their constitutional responsibility, which is, according to Sunstein, the fostering of democratic deliberation.
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