A Rhetorical Analysis on the Potential Influence of Counter-Culture on Supreme Court Decision-Making in Freedom of Expression Cases

Open Access
Leonard, Hanna R
Area of Honors:
International Politics
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Mark Gerald Major, Thesis Supervisor
  • Gretchen G Casper, Honors Advisor
  • case
  • Supreme Court
  • Supreme Court Justices
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of expression cases
  • counter-culture
  • American counter-culture
This thesis explores whether or not the Supreme Court, in deciding cases regarding freedom of expression, is influenced by counter-culture. In order to chart this properly, I will be using a rhetorical analysis to look at four specific cases. These cases span a timeline beginning in 1919, which was the last year of World War I, and ending in 1971, which marks a crucial point in the counterculture movement. During this time frame, each case will be analyzed in regards to the details of the case as well as the rhetoric used in the ensuing decision. Through this, I intend to discover a pattern between this period of social turmoil and Supreme Court decision-making on freedom of expression cases. The indicated pattern will indicate that, up until the occurrence of the counterculture movement, the Supreme Court would decide in favor of the government or state in any freedom of speech or expression case and take a stricter interpretation of the First Amendment. Following the inception of counterculture in the United States, the Supreme Court decided in a more liberal manner, interpreting the First Amendment in a more flexible way. My thesis intends to establish a strong link between the change in Supreme Court decision-making and this cultural phenomenon.