Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Wisdom from Harry Truman
On August 8, 1950, President Harry Truman sent something known as his "Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States. Mr. Truman was concerned about implementing laws that would curb expressions of dissent as a means of combating subversion. Here is a clip from that message . . .
There are some people who wish us to enact laws which would seriously damage the right of free speech and which could be used not only against subversive groups but against other groups engaged in political or other activities which were not generally popular. Such measures would not only infringe on the Bill of Rights and the basic liberties of our people; they would also undermine the very internal security they seek to protect.
Laws forbidding dissent do not prevent subversive activities; they merely drive them into more secret and more dangerous channels. Police states are not secure; their history is marked by successive purges, and growing concentration camps, as their governments strike out blindly in fear of violent revolt. Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.
Today, we have a growing chorus to reimpose the misnamed "Fairness Doctrine" for broadcast media. We also stand a good chance of serious social unrest should the economy get any worse, or if the current government here in the United States decides to try repression itself. It could also be that they're hoping for civil unrest to give them the excuse to impose draconian, dictatorial restraints. It's been done before in history.
In light of that, President Truman's remarks are rather prescient, aren't they?