Stone incisively investigates how the First Amendment and other civil liberties have been compromised in America during wartime, from the Sedition ...Show synopsisStone incisively investigates how the First Amendment and other civil liberties have been compromised in America during wartime, from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the Vietnam War, ending with a coda that examines the state of civil liberties in the Bush era.Hide synopsis
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Prof. Stone has produced a book that should be read by everyone concerned with the preservation of American Values. Though heavy on court cases and legal opinions this book provides a flavor of the times during which civil liberties were repressed. That during crises demagogues use scare tactics to harass their enemies and suppress opposition is amply shown from the Federalist use of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which, incidentally were set to expire at the end of John Adams term in office, to the current time. Prof. Stone expounds upon the actions of Presidents who were in office during crises and how they handled dissent. It is interesting to see that during what could be called the greatest crisis faced by the United States, the Civil War, Lincoln did little to suppress dissent in the North. During other times public officials fanned popular discontent with dissenting opinions to pass acts enabling them to suppress those opinions sometimes by legislation at other times through intimidation. In the crises this book covers, few public officials stood up for the civil rights of those opposing main stream thought until several years after the crises ended.
Prof. Stone shows that it is after the crises are over that people realize that what was done to dissenters was not true to American Values. The courts are not immune to the rashness of American politics. During crises the courts have generally sided with those suppressing dissent, only later do they return to a saner, less go with the flow, interpretation of the constitution.
A key phrase in the final chapter is a thought we should all bear in mind. ?? [P]ublic officials not only respond to the demands of a fearful public but sometimes deliberately manipulate the public in order to create national hysteria.? The current crisis, the ?War on Terror,? has not ended, but people are starting to realize that they have been manipulated. Perhaps we shall soon see changes to the Patriot Act that will return the civil rights that were taken away in the initial reaction to 9/11.
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