Violence Against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History

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9780195086980: Violence Against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History

The most comprehensive study of violence against U.S. journalists from the American Revolution to the present, this text takes an innovative approach to free speech issues, tracing violence against the press throughout American history to discuss the changing structures and cultures of the media and their relation to the public sphere. Maintaining that violence has been an integral part of the culture of public expression in this country since earliest times, this provocative survey presents and elucidates the notion that violent reactions to writers and publishers, rather than occurring sporadically, have been systematic and recurring, indicative of a long and consistent process of cultural evolution. Disputing claims that anti-press violence is a marginal aspect of American society carried out by fringe elements of the population, the author sheds light on decades of such incidents of aggression, from colonial printers to Salman Rushdie, and, through lively and insightful prose, constructs the argument that this phenomenon points to an underlying and profound theme in the history of American cultural identity. With a detailed taxonomy of the various forms of anti-press violence, and historical analyses of such conflicts during the American Revolution, early Republic, Civil War, and other periods, Violence Against the Press adds a significant new dimension to existing historical accounts of anti-media violence, and promises to be a major contribution to the timeless debate of the press's role in society.

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About the Author:

John Nerone is at University of Illinois, Urbana.


"[A] worthwhile addition to the growing number of studies in journalism history."--American Historical Review

"Nerone's book teems with arguments on the causes and consequences of violence against the press...[A] sometimes unsettling, always thought-provoking book."--William and Mary Quarterly

"...a provocative, insightful reinterpretation of some of the central issues in American history."--The Journal of American History

"[A] lively chronicle about a deadly form of American public discourse...well-documented research on the physical abuse of journalists from colonial to contemporary times....Nerone's book would make good recommended reading for graduate media history courses."--Journalism and Mass
Communication Quarterly

"The book's strength lies in its contextual treatment of specific cases, and the topic is both timely and interesting."--Journal of the Early Republic

"The book's thesis is significant and supported by thorough documentation. It is, moreover, an inquiry that reflects the author's impressive grasp of history, and one that is punctuated by numerous thoughtful comments which should engage and please the reader. Violence Against the Press will
become a well-worn volume in the working libraries of journalism historians and deserves to have a wider audience."--Journalism History

"A very valuable addition to the literature of the history of the press. It will be incorporated into my lecture material."--Nick B. Mills, Boston University

"This is an important book by one of the best journalism historians of this generation. Rigorously researched and written in compelling fashion, the book tells the story of what violence against the press in U.S. history actually means and what it tells us about the larger society."--Everette
E. Dennis, Executive Director, The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, Columbia University

"John Nerone has gracefully restored the mob and the thug to their proper place in the history of the American press. More than dark forces, these violent actors illuminate what the press has meant to Americans."--Thomas C. Leonard, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California,

"Absorbing...[A]n excellent media history textbook."--Editor and Publisher

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