Rockwell and Freedom
To the Editor:
I should like to endorse most heartily the views expressed by Milton Himmelfarb in “Some Notes on Jewish Affairs” [August] where he discusses the right of George Lincoln Rockwell to disseminate his Nazi poison under the constitutional protection of freedom of speech and the defense of Rockwell by civil libertarians, among them Jews. . . . By exercising the right of freedom of speech to the extent advocated by the civil libertarians, a bigot could conceivably destroy, with impunity and immunity, the very civil liberties he exploits and abuses.
It is amazing, too, to observe how civil libertarians are far more concerned with a bigot’s right to free expression than with the consequences for the intended victims, or with the latter’s rights to unmolested life or liberty. The suspicion also arises that Jewish liberals in particular are so liberal only where Jews are the target. . . .
Brooklyn, N. Y.
To the Editor:
It is difficult to decide whether Milton Himmelfarb is angrier at George Rockwell, the self-styled Nazi, or at the American Jews who have defended his constitutional right to preach anti-Semitism. . . .
The author tortures both the law and logic when he attempts to find a legal and historical justification for suppressing anti-Semitic speech. Referring to Mr. Justice Holmes’ famous illustration of the man who cries “fire” in a theater, he asks, “Yet would not a fire marshal be justified in applying for an injunction to bar from the theaters a man with a long record of crying fire, or actually setting fires?” The answer, very simply, is “No.” In law a crime may justify a conviction, but a “long record” creates no presumption of future wrongdoing. . . . Mr. Himmelfarb also seems to be saying that because Nazism had such ghastly results in Europe, we should have learned from the past to throw all those who preach some form of Nazism into prison. A closer reading of history might lead us to believe, on the contrary, that because Nazism rose to power by using mob violence to oppress minorities, we ought never to emulate them. . . .
The ultimate repository of the rights of American Jews, and of all American minorities, is the Constitution of the United States, supported by an enlightened public opinion. We are able to enlighten public opinion only because we are free to speak; dare we then weaken the Constitution even by the suppression of one anti-Semite? We cannot evade this question by legal sophistry and appeals to history. . . .
Richard E. Rubenstein
Washington, D. C.