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The Naked Crowd

Jeffrey Rosen

In The Naked Crowd, acclaimed author Jeffrey Rosen makes an impassioned argument about how to preserve freedom, privacy, and security in a post-9/11 world. How we use emerging technologies, he insists, will be crucial to the preservation of essential American ideals.

In our zeal to catch terrorists and prevent future catastrophic events, we are going too far—largely because of irrational fears—and violating essential American freedoms. That’s the contention at the center of this persuasive new polemic by Jeffrey Rosen, legal affairs editor of The New Republic, which builds on his award-winning book The Unwanted Gaze.

Through wide-ranging reportage and cultural analysis, Rosen argues that it is possible to strike an effective and reasonable balance between liberty and security. Traveling from England to Silicon Valley, he offers a penetrating account of why well-designed laws and technologies have not always been adopted. Drawing on a broad range of sources—from the psychology of fear to the latest Code Orange alerts and airport security technologies—he also explores the reasons that the public, the legislatures, the courts, and technologists have made feel-good choices that give us the illusion of safety without actually making us safer. He describes the dangers of implementing poorly thought out technologies that can make us less free while distracting our attention from responses to terrorism that might work.

Rosen also considers the social and technological reasons that the risk-averse democracies of the West continue to demand ever-increasing levels of personal exposure in a search for an illusory and emotional feeling of security. In Web logs, chat rooms, and reality TV shows, an increasing number of citizens clutter the public sphere with private revelations best kept to themselves. The result is the peculiar ordeal of living in the Naked Crowd, in which few aspects of our lives are immune from public scrutiny. With vivid prose and persuasive analysis, The Naked Crowd is both an urgent warning about the choices we face in responding to legitimate fears of terror and a vision for a better future.

About the author:
Jeffrey Rosen is an American academic and commentator on legal affairs. Legal historian David Garrow has called him "the nation's most widely read and influential legal commentator."

He is a professor of law at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. and has been the commentator on legal affairs for The New Republic since 1992. Rosen is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he speaks and writes about Technology and the Future of Democracy. He often appears as a guest on National Public Radio, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine.

Rosen has written frequently about the United States Supreme Court. He has interviewed Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice John Paul Stevens, and Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg credited his early support for her Supreme Court candidacy as a factor in her nomination. More recently, an essay posted on The New Republic website about Sonia Sotomayor, the then-potential nominee for the Supreme Court, provoked controversy for using anonymous sources. Other media outlets, however, including the New York Times, had relied upon similar sources. Rosen has known Justice Elena Kagan for many years and is the brother-in-law of Neal Katyal, the acting Solicitor General. In an opinion piece published after Kagan's nomination hearings and before the Senate's vote on her confirmation, Rosen encouraged Kagan to look to former Justice Louis Brandeis as a model "to develop a positive vision of progressive jurisprudence in an age of economic crisis, financial power and technological change."

Rosen's articles assessing the Supreme Court have been ideologically unpredictable. He strongly denounced Bush v. Gore, but supported the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts, while opposing that of Justice Alito. He supported Sotomayor's confirmation, and has written stories for the New York Times Magazine about the Court's pro-business and anti-regulatory agenda.

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