The Interdisciplinary Resource  
  Subscribe
Login
 
 
     
Search  
Sort by:
Results Listed:
Date Range:
  Advanced Search
 
The World & I eLibrary

Teacher's Corner

World Gallery

Global Culture Studies (at homepage)

 
 
Social Studies

Language Arts

Science


The Arts

Spanish
 
 
Crossword Puzzle
 
 
American Indian Heritage
American Waves
Biographies
Ceremonies/Festivities
Diversity in America
Eye on the High Court
Fathers of Faith
Footsteps of Lincoln
Genes & Biotechnology
Impacts
Media in Review
Millennial Moments
Peoples of the World
Poetry
Point/Counterpoint
Profiles in Character
Science and Spirituality
Shedding Light on Islam
Speech & Debate
The Civil War
The U.S. Constitution
Traveling the Globe
Worldwide Folktales
World of Nature
Writers & Writing

 

The ACLU Streers Left


Article # : 17963 

Section : BOOK WORLD
Issue Date : 5 / 1990  2,533 Words
Author : William A. Donohue

       IN DEFENSE OF AMERICAN LIBERTIES
       Samuel Walker
       New York: Oxford University Press, 1989
       512 pp., $24.95
       
        Samuel Walker serves on the board of directors of the national ACLU. When the ACLU was in need of an author to write its history, he was the hired gun who was chosen. His offering is a work that demonstrates as much independence of thought as would a tract written by a senior member of the Pentagon on the history of the Department of Defense. This is not to say that what Walker has written is wholly without merit, for as I will show, In Defense of American Liberties offers many valuable insights into the thinking of contemporary ACLU activists. It is just that like so many books and articles written on the ACLU, this is another in a long line of incestuous works authored by a senior official of the organization.
       
        Walker is more candid about his assessment of ACLU officials than ACLU policy. Of Roger Baldwin, the wealthy founder of the ACLU, Walker says he was an "elitist to the end," a person who centralized decision making and terribly underpaid his staff. Similarly, he says that Aryeh Neier, the ACLU executive director throughout most of the 1970s, had "an autocratic streak" in him. Unfortunately, when it comes to issues, Walker's ability to be objective often escapes him, as many of the more embarrassing episodes in the ACLU's history are either totally omitted or treated briefly. Of course, such lacunae are to be expected of someone who is, in fact, the ACLU's house author. Here are some examples.
       
        Glaring omissions
       
        In the 1930s, the ACLU threatened a libel suit against the American Mercury simply because someone wrote an article critical of the ACLU. The union told editor Paul Palmer that the article had better be favorable toward the ACLU or the libel suit would be launched. When H. L. Mencken was chosen to do the piece, the ACLU leadership were relieved: They felt sure that the famous Baltimore journalist would paint them in a good light. When he didn't, he was denounced as a "fascist," and the ACLU repeated its threat, this time insisting on editorial rights before any piece went to press. The affair dragged on for two years, all the while providing testimony of the disrespect that the ACLU showed for the civil liberties of its critics. And how much coverage does Walker give this episode? One paragraph.
       
        But one paragraph is more than what was allotted for the following: There is no mention of the ACLU's sending an attorney into a Catholic church to spy on Rep. Henry Hyde in an attempt to prove that the congressman's religion accounts for his antiabortion stance; there is no mention of the board of directors' vote on what to do if Richard Nixon were to be tried by the Senate for Watergate infractions (the president should not be given the right to claim Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination); there is no mention of what happened a few years ago when off-duty policeman Richard Long showed up at a public meeting of the ACLU (he was ejected from the meeting simply because he was a police man , a move that cost the ACLU dearly when it lost in court after being sued by Long); there is no mention of the ACLU' s attempt to send Walter Polovchak back to the Soviet Union against his will. And so
... Read Full Article
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

Copyright 2018 The World & I Online. All rights reserved.