FAN 22 (First Amendment News) — New Documentary on Mr. First Amendment — Nat Hentoff

imagesPerhaps no person alive better embodies the spirit of the First Amend — robust, rebellious, free-flyin’ and straight-talking — than Nat Hentoff. Fuse the life spirit of Lenny Bruce together with that of the early Bob Dylan and add a dollop of Miles Davis’ jazz and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry and you’ll get a sense of Hentoff’s persona. There is also a Tom Paine quality about him — feisty in his defense of freedom, no matter how unpopular it makes him. Some liberals love him, some conservatives admire him, and some libertarians applaud him — but very few come along for the full Hentoff monty. And that’s the way he likes it! If you have an open mind and a tolerant side, you gotta love the guy . . . if only at a First Amendment distance.

If any of this strikes a chord in your free-speech consciousness, then check out the new documentary on Nat — The Pleasures of Being out of Step, directed by David L. Lewis. Here is a description of the documentary:

Pleasures profiles legendary jazz writer and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, whose career tracks the greatest cultural and political movements of the last 65 years. The film is about an idea as well as a man – the idea of free expression as the defining characteristic of the individual. . . . Pleasures wraps the themes of liberty and identity around a historical narrative that stretches from the Great Depression to the Patriot Act. Brought to life by actor Andre Braugher, the narration doesn’t tell the story – it is the story, consisting entirely of writings by Hentoff and some of his subjects. With a potent mix of interviews, archival footage, photographs and music, the film employs a complex non-linear structure to engage the audience in a life of independent ideas and the creation of an enduring voice.

At the core of the film are three extraordinarily intimate interviews with Hentoff, shot by award-winning cinematographer Tom Hurwitz. The film also includes interviews with Floyd Abrams, Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, Dan Morgenstern, Aryeh Neier, Karen Durbin, Margot Hentoff and John Gennari, among others. It features music by Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and Charles Mingus, and never-before seen photographs of these artists and other cultural figures at the height of their powers.

 Here is the trailer.

→ Here is the bookThe Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Nat Hentoff’s Life in Journalism, Jazz and the First Amendment.

 Screenings have been in New York and are now happening on the West Coast.

Nat Hentoff on Bill Buckley's Firing Line

Nat Hentoff on Bill Buckley’s Firing Line

Hentoff Books

Some of Nat Hentoff’s books on free speech and related topics include the following:

→ As if that were not enough (and I left out all the jazz books), I gather that the 89-year-old Hentoff is working on a new book.

Video clips

See and hear the man himself on this Brian Lamb, C-SPAN (YouTube) interview with Nat (go here).

→ And go here, too, for Richard Heffner’s Open Mind interview with Nat.  (See also here for a Cato Interview)

→ One more — this is precious: The young Nat debating the young Bill Buckley on Firing Line.

Shaun McCutcheon Launches Litigation Group

The petitioner in the landmark McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) case has decided he wants to do more to further the cause of the First Amendment as he understands it. To that end, Shaun McCutcheon has launched a foundation — the Coolidge-Reagan Foundation.

→ Its purpose? “The Foundation is dedicated to defending, protecting, and advancing political speech.”

→ Its activities? “Its broad activities include preparation of Advisory Opinion Requests (“AORs”) to the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”), as well as commentary on any or all federal Proposed Regulations. Through such initiatives, the Foundation works to compel government adherence to the restraints of the Constitution.” And, of course, litigation, too: “Beyond the regulatory process, the Foundation engages in litigation to advance speech and associational rights, including through Amici Curiae – Friend of the Court – briefs in support of such efforts.”

Shaun McCutcheon (photo credit: NYT)

Shaun McCutcheon (photo credit: NYT)

 Its backer & advocates? “The Foundation is chaired by Shaun McCutcheon. Dan Backer is the Foundation’s President who worked with Shaun from the beginning of his battle with the FEC to guide McCutcheon v FEC through the courts. Dan is founder of DB Capitol Strategies, a premiere boutique campaign finance litigation firm. Numerous outstanding attorneys serve as Directors, Advisors, or litigators for the Foundation, including Paul Kamenar, former Chief Counsel to the Washington legal Foundation; Michael Morley, recently a Harvard fellow and a key part of the McCutcheon v FEC team; and Jerad Navjar, another original attorney on McCutcheon v FEC.”

→ Current Cases: go here

I will have more information re Mr. McCutcheon and his new Foundation in a future column.

First Amendment Salon 

This Wednesday evening the law firm of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz will host its second First Amendment salon, this one in Washington, D.C. The event (by invitation) will involve and exchange between Erin Murphy and Paul M. Smith with David Skover as the moderator.  The topic centers around the Supreme Court’s latest campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. FEC (2014).

Cruz vs Chemerinsky  

Writing in The Hill this week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz began his op-ed this way: “Erwin Chemerinsky is a passionate liberal and a distinguished scholar and dean. We have been opposing counsel before the Supreme Court, and I consider him a friend.Sadly, last week he wrote a column in The Hill that called me a liar and attacked my effort to defend the First Amendment from Democrats who are seeking to regulate political speech.”

In his earlier op-ed, Dean Chemerinsky wrote: “Reasonable people can disagree on whether it would be good to amend the Constitution to overcome the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, but Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) false claims about the proposed amendment have no place in an informed debate. In a series of speeches and writings, Cruz has lied about what the amendment would do. Surely we can and must expect more from our elected officials.”

→ Suggestion: Might the two gentlemen debate the matter publicly, say in a venue like the Newseum? Stay tuned.

Obama Signs Whistleblower Protection Legislation

” President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law legislation concerning spending for the US intelligence community that increases protections for intelligence agency whistleblowers. The bipartisan legislation authorizes $564 million in spending over five years and specifies that employees who divulge information about possible misconduct within their agencies to intelligence committees will be protected. Supporters of the law hope that it will encourage whistleblowers to report issues through channels and discourage unauthorized leaks. The legislation expands upon whistleblower protection proposals made by the president in 2012, but it does not protect intelligence agency contractors like National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.”

Taylor Gillan, “Obama signs intelligence bill increasing protections for whistleblowers,” Jurist, July 8, 2014

Forthcoming Books 

Quick Hits

Scholarly Articles


  • Heritage Foundation: Scholars & Scribes panels (Panel I: (11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) Noel Francisco, Mark Rienzi, Paul M. Smith, and John Malcolm (moderator), and Panel II:  Jess Bravin, Adam Liptak, David Savage, and  James Swanson (moderator))
  • SCOTUSblog, Harris v. Quinn Symposium (contributors: Catherine Fisk, Tom McCarthy, Charlotte Green, Terry Pell, Jason Walta, Samuel Bagenstos, & John Eastman)

Commentary & Analysis 

Op-eds & News Stories

Last Scheduled FAN Column: #21: “Looking Back on the 2013-2014 Term & on The Roberts Court’s Overall Free Speech Record

Next Scheduled FAN Column: Wednesday, July 16th.

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