Dramatis personae

This is a strange cast of characters: Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ku Klux Klansmen, prison wardens, James Madison, dogged reporters, federal judges, the world’s leading pornographer, a computer whiz, and others. Some of them are First Amendment heroes. Some are First Amendment villains. Some of them are famous; most are obscure. All played a role in a controversy contributing to our modern understanding of freedom of speech.

First Amendment controversies are often started by colorful characters. Many of them are not nice or polite; nor do they have noble motives. They say, or want to say, mean or disturbing things, speech that people don’t want to hear. Some want to speak truth to power, but the powerful want ...

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