Civil Liberties Under Attack

Civil Liberties Under Attack

Anniversary Collection

Edited by Clair Wilcox

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

168 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm

  • ISBN: 9781512808414
  • Published: January 1951



"There were they in great fear, where no fear was." Psalms 53:5

Just about the time that families in America began to view television—and to attain the world's highest living standard—the United States succumbed to a dangerous disease . It went to bed with one of the severest cases of double fear and hysteria any nation has ever suffered. Now Civil Liberties Under Attack inquires into this present state of American democracy's ill health.

Hallucinations abound. Every labor union, government office, scientific laboratory, and academic cloister is accused of harboring godless plotters against the democratic way of life. "Never in our lifetimes," observes Zechariah Chafee, Jr., "have American citizens spewed such virulence against American citizens or shown such terror-stricken eagerness to shelter themselves behind novel barricades from the oft-heralded wickedness of their own fellow-countrymen." Without fear—immune to the germ by the deep inoculation of their scholarship—Chafee and his colleagues, all eminent champions of human freedom, examine the spectre of political totalitarianism. And they find that not Communism, but fear of Communism is the prime enemy of our country today—an enemy insidiously undermining the most cherished democratic traditions.

Threat to national life does not rise seriously from the native handful of party members. Rather the mortal attack on civil liberties is made through Operation Gag, already successfully choking the inherited freedoms of millions of timid Americans. What will be the consequences of this course of action shackling freedom? "The greatest danger that threatens us is the absence of thought," says Henry Steele Commager. "If in the name of security we start hacking away at our freedoms, we will forfeit security as well." In the first essay of this distinguished collection, Commager conclusively proves that liberty is not only a right but a necessity.

Like the fantasy of the scorpion biting poison into its own back, America faces danger with a strategy opening her entirely to the fate she seeks to escape. Having had more than three years in which to act, the people continue to do nothing about the recommendations made by the President's Committee on Civil Rights. Robert K. Carr exposes the five fatuous fallacies in the arguments of those who oppose progress in civil rights.

Denying that American Communists can be identified with Communists in the Kremlin, Chafee describes our native malcontents as "American problem children. Instead of tearing ourselves to pieces with fears of what a vague mob with a hated label may do to us in the future, it will be wise to look at them as individual men and women here and now." A realistic and constructive essay, Investigations of Radicalism and Laws Against Subversion tells how to understand and deal with American "Reds."

Walter Gellhorn writes that "almost with a single voice American scientists assert we are overdoing our secrecy. A line must be marked between ideas that should be published for mankind's benefit and, on the other side, the military researches that should be bottled up for self-preservation." Over-concern with secrecy inhibits the work of science and consequently frustrates material advancement and well-being for all.

Trenchant, delightful, Judge Curtis Bok's Censorship and the Arts is as diverting as it is basic. Irreverently dancing with innuendo, frank illustration, and sly remarks, this essay follows the trail of censorship in all its religious, moral, and political treks. Tongue in cheek, Judge Bok reflects: "The whole question of legal censorship comes down to whether we have faith in people, or whether we fear they won't have the courage and moral stamina of our convictions."

Firmly convinced that good Communists cannot be good scholars, James P. Baxter, III feels they have no place on the faculty of any educational institution. But he deplores our error in underestimating and misjudging the means at our disposal for combating totalitarianism. Incisively he quotes: "'The best revenge on your enemy is not to be like him.'"

This is a brilliant book all liberty-loving and heart-sickened people will hail. It is the cool hand of common sense on the hot brow of hysteria. The tragedy is that those who need to most may not read Civil Liberties Under Attack. They may be too busy being afraid.

Contributors: Henry Steele Commager; Zechariah Chafee, Jr.; James P. Baxter, III; Robert K. Carr; Walter Gellhorn; Curtis Bok.