Mark V. Tushnet


On his (and Alan Chen’s and Joseph Blocher’s) book Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment

Cover Interview of March 14, 2017

A close-up

We think that the book’s cover is a terrific “provocation” for thinking about the problem. We hope that readers (viewers?) will ask themselves, “Why is this covered by the First Amendment?”

Chapter Two, on abstract art, has a bunch of illustrations, and their point, mostly, is to provoke the same question. We wanted to do something similar for the chapter on instrumental music, but it’s a physical book, not an electronic one. So the best we could do it direct readers to sites – mostly on YouTube – where they can listen to the music we talk about. Here are a couple of examples: Tuvan throat singing and a performance by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. And, in the chapter on nonsense, we remind readers of the “lyrics” to “ I Am the Walrus,” “Who Put the Bomp,” and “Louie Louie,” which we suggest are, or are nearly, gibberish.

The point of all this is to motivate the book’s larger concern: Of course all this stuff is protected by the First Amendment, but why?