October 24, 2023
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.04 Inches (US)
$29.95 USD, £25.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Liar in a Crowded Theater

Freedom of Speech in a World of Misinformation

Thanks to the First Amendment, Americans enjoy a rare privilege: the constitutional right to lie. And although controversial, they should continue to enjoy this right.

When commentators and politicians discuss misinformation, they often repeat five words: "fire in a crowded theater." Though governments can, if they choose, attempt to ban harmful lies, propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation, how effective will their efforts really be? Can they punish someone for yelling "fire" in a crowded theater—and would those lies then have any less impact? How do governments around the world respond to the spread of misinformation, and when should the US government protect the free speech of liars?

In Liar in a Crowded Theater, law professor Jeff Kosseff addresses the pervasiveness of lies, the legal protections they enjoy, the harm they cause, and how to combat them. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and the January 6, 2021, insurrection on the Capitol building, Kosseff argues that even though lies can inflict huge damage, US law should continue to protect them. Liar in a Crowded Theater explores both the history of protected falsehoods and where to go from here.

Drawing on years of research and thousands of pages of court documents in dozens of cases—from Alexander Hamilton's enduring defense of free speech to Eminem's victory in a lawsuit claiming that he stretched the truth in a 1999 song—Kosseff illustrates not only why courts are reluctant to be the arbiters of truth, but also why they're uniquely unsuited to that role. Rather than resorting to regulating speech and fining or jailing speakers, he proposes solutions that focus on minimizing the harms of misinformation. If we want to seriously address concerns about misinformation and other false speech, we must finally exit the crowded theater.

About the Author

Jeff Kosseff (ARLINGTON, VA) is an associate professor of cybersecurity law at the United States Naval Academy.


"Incredibly well written and imminently readable. By outlining the reasoning against overregulating misinformation and disinformation, Kosseff effectively argues that we can minimize the impact of falsehoods on society while still respecting our tradition of protecting free speech in this country."

- Caitlin Ring Carlson, Seattle University, author of Hate Speech

"Kosseff uses both historical and recent stories to push back on common misconceptions about misinformation, outline current efforts to ban false speech, and provide the historic background on this topic that crosses centuries of law and tradition in the United States. This book will shape the discussion around the right to lie and what should be done about it."

- Daxton R. Stewart, Texas Christian University

"Liar in a Crowded Theater is required reading for any pundit, politician, or talking head who wants to opine on government regulation of Americans' speech. Jeff Kosseff provides cogent suggestions for encouraging more truthful, positive speech without resorting to heavy-handed government policies that would do little to solve the harms caused by lies and misinformation."

- Ron Wyden, Senator
Johns Hopkins University Press
From 17

9781421447322 : liar-in-a-crowded-theater-kosseff
October 24, 2023
$29.95 USD

Other Titles in POLITICAL SCIENCE / Propaganda

The Deadly Rise of Anti-science

Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD
Sep 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$24.95 USD - Hardback

The Story of Propaganda in 50 Images

David Welch
Jul 2022 - University of Washington Press
$24.95 USD - Hardback

From Quills to Tweets

edited by Andrea J. Dew, Marc A. Genest, S. C. M. Paine
Oct 2019 - Georgetown University Press
$110.95 USD - Hardback
$36.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$36.95 USD - Electronic book text