“HUAC And the Speech Police?


In 1964 the Senate Committee on Subversive Activities came to Portland and I, along with many others, picketed them. The photo above shows a similar protest in San Francisco. Men with cameras I assume were F.B.I. agents were snapping lots of photos, so I suppose my picture is in some government archive somewhere. What was the committee and why my objection?

This group was the offshoot of the House Unamerican Activities Committee, most famously associated with the relentless hunt for Communists or Communist “sympathizers” which operated in the 1950’s. People were under surveillance for activity considered “unAmerican,” and many times lost their jobs without due process. Reed College, in Portland, let some faculty go during that time for suspected “Red” leanings.

Just as I now strenuously object to the speech police who seem to want to suppress views not “liberal” enough to suit them, I objected then to people whose views were not “American” enough. Then a group of lawmakers determined who was or was not “American” enough. Now a movement, mainly of young adults, has decided what is “enlightened” enough. I have lived long enough to see very little difference between the two extremes.

I grew up understanding that one of the key parts of the Bill of Rights added to the United States Constitution was freedom of speech. It seems that there will always be people eager to contest the idea. And I will continue to disagree with them.

28 thoughts on ““HUAC And the Speech Police?

  1. Whenever I think of the HUAC, I always hear “Are you now, or have you ever been…?”
    When I was a (very) left-wing union representative in the 1980s, I was asked a similar question, during a membership debate. It gave me the chills.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Speaking of freedom of speech, duterte is bent on closing ABS CBN, one of the pioneers in media saying false accusations against it. ABS CBN is the largest media conglomerate here in the country, Just because they didn’t air his supposed ad before the election. It was full of lies if you will look how he performed the past three years.


  3. It’s funny how freedom of speech only applies for some; if one’s views are different from their own, suddenly, it doesn’t become so free.


  4. Well said. It is both easy and difficult. It is easy as it is a plain moral principle that we should be free to express our opinions. No “ifs, ands or buts” we can say what we wish as long as we do not incite violence. It is easy when you have to stand up for people who are saying things you agree with but is very difficult when you have to defend the rights of people whose views you find odious. But this is equally important. You can’t have free speech for ‘some’ people – it is all or none. Thankfully when you have the difficult task of defending the right of people to express their vile opinion (often racist or some other bigotry) when they open their mouths to do so they damn themselves much better than anyone else could.


  5. Sometimes people change their ideas and where they stand on the issues during their lives, and I often think it’s for the better. It’s usually because they were exposed to different viewpoints. That can’t happen when people aren’t allowed to freely exchange ideas. I appreciate you for standing up against the forces who tried in 1964, and those still trying to silence free speech today.


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