Page Count: 305
Page Count: 305
Overview: This book is divided up into 9 chapters. Each topic discusses how it has changed and fought for free speech in America in the 20th Century. Throughout America’s history, the government has continually tried to silence the people from voicing their negative opinions of the government and politics. The First Amendment of the Constitution says the people have freedom of speech, but how free we truly are is dictated by the federal government and what it thinks is okay.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Ground Zero – In June of 1919, 8 bombs went off outside the homes of important men; including the new Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. He said he was urged to do something about the bombings and do it immediately. So, the result was raids (known as Palmer raids) all over New York City. Law Officers began going into immigrants’ homes, beating them up, raiding their places, and arresting them. The American People were happy with these raids according to the author because something was being done. As hard as they may have tried, there was never anyone found guilty of the bombings.
In 1919, Freedom of Speech was something for Radicals to attain, but soon entered the political arena. The goal of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a radical labor union was to organize unskilled workers who were ignored by the unions belonging to the American Federation of Labor.
Russian-born Emma Goldman, “Red Emma” spoke of a time when there would be freedom among the sexes and among the ethnic groups. She fired up the people so much that the U.S. government took notice and sent her back to her homeland to live until she died in 1940.
Mob Rule – In 1920, West Virginia miners started a revolt and sought to join the union.
Laborers felt they were only working to make their bosses rich, but then being unable to partake in that wealth, not different than the way some slaves were treated during the time of slavery in the U.S. Violence grew and the country appeared to be on the brink of a new wave of industrial violence – the working man against the ones in authority & the ones in authority to the working man. By the end of the 1920’s, it was estimated that 90% of the ACLU’s cases were labor related.
The ACLU had other battles to fight as well, even for people it didn’t agree with, such as the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) which had reorganized in September 1921. The KKK was still deeply racist and appealed mostly to those who were troubled that the United States was being taken over by the almost 18 million immigrants who had come to America between 1890 and 1914. The KKK was also against the Catholics and Jews, holding to Protestant beliefs.
Banned in Boston – America began as a Christian nation, so when things became out of control in the moral sense, the American public wanted it to be toned down and monitored.
However, because we wanted to be monitored and men in power wanted more power, we soon became a nation of those men in power telling the working class citizen what was and was not best for him and his family.
Anthony Comstock fought hard to keep any type of sex material (including birth control) out of the public eye. However, after his death in 1915, America started changing. These changes were greatly influenced by Margaret Sanger, “the mother of Planned Parenthood”. Sanger was an advocate for birth control from 1916 until her death in 1966. Although much of America seemed interested in what Sanger was selling, Boston authorities wanted no part of it for their city and continued to ban all material related to what went on in the bedroom.
The Court Takes a Hand – According to the author, police brutality had often been a concern because law enforcement almost always supported the side against “labor organizers, political radicals, and religious zealots.” Protestors were free to speak until a policeman decided they weren’t while using physical violence. Even when police in 1929 had killed & wounded several strikers in NC, the police did not serve jail time, but others served excessive jail time.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had strongly protested against police departments, but they continued to fight against the ACLU. Since the police who were
sworn to uphold the law couldn’t agree on what the First Amendment actually meant or didn’t care what it meant, on June 1, 1931, the Supreme Court stepped in. The Supreme Court handed down a decision that would establish them as the ultimate authority and protector of free speech at all levels of the government.
The Second Red Scare – The ACLU has been very instrumental in obtaining Freedom of Speech for the American people. After obtaining a Civil Rights victory, the ACLU rejoiced with these words, “These are great days for civil liberties when the government itself actually undertakes the job of protecting the rights of the people.” From 1920 to 1945, there were many such victories in Civil Rights’ cases.
After the war, there was evidence of Soviet spying which involved over 50 cases, maybe even more than 100 individuals admitted to being spies. Communists among the American people had been seen as valiant fighters for the working man, but due to this new evidence of spies among the Americans, Communists were looked at as the “Red Scare”. Soon, the Federal Government began a campaign against the Communists and State & Local
Governments joined the attack.
In 1950, the second “Red Scare” began when an actress was fired because her name appeared on the red channels. The ACLU decided to intervene, but they were divided as to how to respond because some members of the ACLU wanted to oppose the Communist Party while
others wanted to fight for what ACLU stood for – Civil Liberties of Americans. Because of this division, support for free speech among the general public was lower than ever before.
Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist ideals dominated the American public for about 4 years. However, in March of 1954, Journalist Edward R. Murrow criticized McCarthy on national TV’s CBS broadcast. Before this broadcast, the minds of the American people had already started to shift away from anti-communism. This broadcast continued the push in that direction.
The Fight for Artistic Freedom – Juvenile delinquency was a growing problem in the years following WWII because so many women had worked outside the home leaving their children home alone. Comic books were also believed to be contributing to the delinquency
among youth so there was a huge ban on them. However, many other things contributed to juvenile delinquency, not just comic books. Other factors affecting kids acting out were attending high school and being exposed to teen peer pressure, getting a job outside the home, and buying anything they wanted – like the ability to buy a car which brought a new freedom.
Early in the 1900’s, librarians tried to protect patrons from objectionable books, but postwar librarians were promoters of freedom of expression. In 1939, the American Library Association (ALA) adopted the Library Bill of Rights. The Library Bill of Rights declared to librarians that there should be no more censorship or suppression of free speech among books. Books should be bought based on their value and how interesting they are, and not on whether they appeal to a certain group of people.
Let the Sunshine In – In May 1954, the US Supreme Court declared segregation of public schools unconstitutional. In 1955 Alabama, a black lady was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. Days later, Martin Luther King, pastor of a Baptist Church and President of the Montgomery Improvement Association gave a speech on the bus situation between blacks and whites. The Ku Klux Klan again made an appearance to fight against freedom among the blacks. All the while, King continued to fight for equality among the blacks until his assassination in 1968.
By 1964, the Civil Rights Movement had used many forms of protest to prove its point of equality. Among the types of protest were rallies, marches, boycotts and even paid newspaper advertisements. Trying to force change, in June 1962, Tom Hayden and a group of students told their ideals at a convention of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
The Vietnam War was in full conflict by the end of 1966, which brought about anti-war protestors. The Senate Internal Security Committee accused these protestors of being spies for the Vietcong. Under J. Edgar Hoover’s leading, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been wiretapping telephones of suspected Communists. Although this became illegal in 1934, Hoover thought it was okay that the government partakes in it.
After FBI Director Hoover found out that one of King’s highest ranking civil rights’ members was a Communist, Hoover ordered King’s telephone be tapped. However hard they may have tried, neither the Chicago police nor the FBI could stop the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements. Finally, in 1970, the efforts of the Anti-War Movement caused the American soldiers to pull out of Vietnam.
The Counterattack – Mississippi Minister Donald Wildmon founded the National Federation for Decency in 1977 (Their name was changed to the American Family Association (AFA) in 1988). Wildmon made great strides in his fight against indecency in the early 1980’s by swaying TV Evangelist Jerry Falwell and President Ronald Reagan to his side.
About 1976, Legal Scholar and Feminist Catharine A. MacKinnon was fighting racial injustice, protesting the Vietnam War, and joining the new women’s movement. Although
it seems odd that a feminist would join a fight against pornography, many feminists believed that sexually explicit material discriminated against women by reinforcing sexist attitudes and sexual abuse towards women.
In 1989, groups like the ACLU worked hard to contain the threat from groups like the AFA.
One fight that the AFA had on its hands in 1988 was with bookstores because they often sold Playboy and such magazines. When one store was asked to remove these magazines from its store, they refused. The owners said they felt it was their obligation to make all reading material available to their customers. However, the AFA fought on, and is still fighting today!
9/11 – The Patriot Act was developed in September 2001 which gave the federal government the ability to conduct secret surveillance. It was after the initial passing of the Patriot Act that the American people discovered it didn’t only cover surveillance of terrorists. After the terrorist attack that occurred on 9/11/2001, one thousand Muslim men were held as possible terrorists. Then in 2002, cities began to pass resolutions to protect the rights of immigrants living there. As terrorism was earnestly fought, civil liberties were stripped away from the American people. The Patriot Act had numerous other things in it allowing ever more control by the government. The nation was in such shock that no one paid attention to what the Patriot Act actually said until after the dust cleared. One disturbing part of the Patriot Act was that the government could seize large amounts of personal data on American citizens who were believed to be terrorists.
Positives: This book was very informative and enlightening to how things occur in the United States. Often we think if just one person tries to do something about an issue, we can’t make a change. But this book shows time and again how one person influenced change for better or for worse during the 1900’s. Where would America be today without such people as Anthony Comstock or Donald Wildmon?
Negatives: The main thing I didn’t like about this book was how it had 2 chapters with sexually explicit wording in them. I understand that this author was telling the way things happened and I suppose he had to say some of those things. But as a Christian, it was hard to read.
Other Books by the author: “The Happy Warrior” and“National Security and Free Speech”
Final Words: If we Americans think our Civil Rights will be protected by the law, we need only look to our history for evidence of how time and again the rights of the American public have been denied and destroyed. The Patriot Act (enacted in 2001) makes a fine statement to my point. One way this law will affect Christians is that if as a Christian who believes Homosexuality is wrong, the government decided that I had terrorist ideas toward Homosexuals, I could possibly be put in prison. What many people don’t realize is that the law is interpreted how the government wants it to be interpreted. We are not protected and we do not have the freedoms that the American people assume we have.
The law of the land is supposed to protect our rights as American citizens. However, too
often the courts have overstepped their bounds and made decisions for the American public instead of listening to our desires for what we want. Too often Christians see ourselves as
peace-loving people who don’t want to start anything, but when our rights are infringed upon, we need to stand up and let it be known that we’re not going to let it happen!