‘The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder’ Offers Lessons for Today

FOR RELEASE: November 4, 2021

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute

Arlington, Va., November 4, 2021 – A new book by noted First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere takes a wide-ranging look at how censors have operated since the 19th century and why they wore out their welcome in society at large.

Beginning in the late 1800s with America’s “censor in chief” Anthony Comstock, The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder: The First Amendment and the Censor’s Dilemma explains how Comstock’s tactics were tried and eventually failed in the 20th century with efforts to censor music, comic books, television, and other forms of popular entertainment.

Historical examples illustrate not just the mindset and tactics of censors, but why they are the ultimate counterculture warriors and why, in free societies, censors never occupy the moral high ground.  The book offers an insightful look at how First Amendment protections for free expression evolved and became part of the American identity.

“Although all who follow in Comstock’s outsized footsteps try to claim moral superiority, the plain fact is that the censor in a free society never has the moral high ground,” Corn-Revere writes.  “The censor’s dilemma is that somewhere, down deep inside, he – or she – is painfully aware of it.”

The book should be of particular interest to those who practice before the Federal Communications Commission because Corn-Revere devotes a chapter to public interest regulation and another to broadcast indecency rules.

“Bob Corn-Revere reminds us that the First Amendment remains America’s strongest defense against self-appointed censors who would like nothing better than government regulation of speech they find distasteful,” said Richard T. Kaplar, president of The Media Institute.

Corn-Revere is a long-time member and former chairman of The Media Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council.  Distinguished attorney and First Amendment champion Floyd Abrams, also a member of the Council, has written the book’s foreword.

The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder: The First Amendment and the Censor’s Dilemma is published by Cambridge University Press.  It is available on the Cambridge website at https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/mind-of-the-censor-and-the-eye-of-the-beholder/70EC89E4EC6FE9E2B99870424320ECDF and from other booksellers.

The Media Institute is a nonprofit foundation working to advance sound communications policy, freedom of speech, and excellence in journalism.   For more information, visit the Institute online at www.mediainstitute.org.

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