A Century of Repression

A Century of Repression: The Espionage Act and Freedom of the Press by Ralph Engelman & Carey Shenkman 2022

About the Author
Ralph Engelman is senior professor of journalism and communication studies at Long Island University, Brooklyn, and faculty coordinator of the George Polk Awards. He is the author of Friendlyvision: Fred Friendly and the Rise and Fall of Television Journalism. Carey Shenkman is a constitutional lawyer and litigator focusing on freedom of expression and transparency. He serves on the panel of experts of Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression Program.

About the Book
A Century of Repression offers an unprecedented and panoramic history of the use of the Espionage Act of 1917 as the most important yet least understood law threatening freedom of the press in modern American history. It details government use of the Act to control information about U.S. military and foreign policy during the two World Wars, the Cold War, and the War on Terror. The Act has provided cover for the settling of political scores, illegal break-ins, and prosecutorial misconduct.

“An impressive piece of both legal and journalistic history.” –Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

“Carey Shenkman and Ralph Engelman’s study of the history, law, and implications of these recent abuses of the Espionage Act is needed urgently, if we are to remain truly a democratic republic.”–Daniel Ellsberg

“A wonderful, detailed history of developments around the Espionage Act and the attempt by government to control expression within a democratic society. Of interest to anyone who is interested in government’s attempt to control information.”–David S. Allen, author of Democracy, Inc.: The Press Law in the Corporate Rationalization of the Public Sphere

Summary of Introduction
The Espionage Act of 1917 is the most important yet least understood piece of legislation threatening the free flow of information in US history.
Its very name is a misnomer, since its scope extends well beyond spying.
Its application provides a revealing lens through which to view critical moments in a century of US history.
Some prosecutions resulted in sensational trials; others were little noticed or understood.
Yet all defendants paid a high price for their ordeals in their personal and professional lives.
The amendment known as the Sedition Act of 1918 strengthened the Espionage Act as a blunt instrument for repression of political dissent, particularly of the leaders and publications of the socialist, syndicalist, and Black press of the period.

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