The High Court did the same in the three cases Time reported: "A VOTE FOR ALL. On four previous occasions...the Court had in effect declined to upset Georgia's county-unit voting system. Under that system, politicians with rural backing have been able to hold state power even though they failed in winning a popular majority.... The Federal District Court judges ruled against it. The Supreme Court decision erased the system once and for all. In its opinion, the Court held that 'the concept of political equality can mean only one thing—one person, one vote.'
"APPEAL FOR ALL. Amending its long-held principle that state prisoners may not turn to federal courts until all avenues of state appeal have been exhausted, the Court ruled that convicted murderer Charles Noia could be released from a New York State prison on a federal writ of habeas corpus. Two other men, convicted with Noia in 1942 for the same murder, appealed to the state that they had made confessions under coercion. They were released. But Noia waited until after the state time limit for such an appeal; a lower federal court therefore refused to entertain his petition. The Supreme Court ruled that its doctrine of 'exhausting state remedies' did not mean keeping a man in jail because of that sort of procedural fault.
"COUNSEL FOR ALL. By a unanimous vote, the Court ruled that the states, under the 14th Amendment, must provide free legal counsel to any person charged with a crime and unable to pay for his own lawyer. It thereby reversed its 1942 decision in Betts vs. Brady, in which it held that such aid is required only if the defendant is charged with a crime punishable by death." The majority opinion stated: "In our adversary system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to be an obvious truth."
The Supreme Court justice who wrote the majority opinion in the last case was Hugo Black, who was one of the three dissenters in the 1942 case.
In the same way, we hope that Justice Black's minority opinion on the Constitutional guarantees of absolute freedom of religion, speech, press and association may become the opinion of the majority while Black is still serving his country and his fellow man as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. It would be a fitting tribute if this American—whom Professor Edmond Cahn called a "torch" of "freedom, equality and social justice"—were the one to write the then majority opinion for the Court, re-establishing the full and absolute protections of the First Amendment.
Protecting the Young
The argument most often advanced for the suppression of certain ideas and images—especially sexual ones—is the protection of our youth.
It is not necessary to reduce the adult population of our nation to the level of children in order to protect the young, however.
The Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to censor literature on the basis that it may harm minors. In finding unconstitutional that section of the Michigan Penal Code which prohibited circulation of publications that might tend "to incite minors to violent or depraved or immoral acts," Justice Felix Frankfurter spoke for the unanimous Court when he said: "The State insists that, by thus quarantining the general reading public against books not too rugged for grown men and women in order to shield juvenile innocence, it is exercising its power to promote the general welfare. Surely, this is to burn the house to roast the pig.... We have before us legislation not reasonably restricted to the evil with which it is said to deal.... The incidence of this enactment is to reduce the adult population of Michigan to reading only what is fit for children. It thereby curtails one of those liberties...that history has attested as the indispensable conditions for the maintenance and progress of a free society."
Matters of religion and personal morality should rightly be the concern of the individual and his family, with one generation passing its own traditions on to the next, to be accepted, rejected or modified and passed, in turn, to the generation that follows. But if the champions of censorship are sincerely concerned with the moral upbringing of our country's children—to the point that they are willing to override this American tradition—it should be pointed out that there are ways of accomplishing this end without curtailing the freedom of the adult population, ways that remain largely unexplored. The United States is, for example, one of the few major countries in the world that does not use some method of classification for its movies. England breaks down all motion pictures into three categories: A—adult films, which children under 16 may see only if accompanied by a parent or a bona fide guardian; U—approved for adults and children alike; and X—films to which no one under 16 is admitted under any circumstances.Books and magazines could be classified in the same way and a serious penalty invoked if a dealer sold an adult book or magazine to someone underage.
For television and radio, all programs before a certain hour could be produced for family consumption; but after the designated time, all restrictions would be lifted and the stations would be free to program uncensored shows for adults.
The fact that those who cry out for censorship in the name of our youth do not promote these more reasonable alternatives prompts us to suspect that invoking child welfare may be—as often as not—a subterfuge and what the would-be censors are really after is thought-control over our adult population.
The classification of all methods of mass communication into what is suitable for children, and what is not, is certainly no ideal solution. But it is preferable not only to official censorship, but also far better than any related kind of control introduced by the media themselves. The self-imposed restrictions of an individual writer, director, producer, editor or publisher are desirable, to be sure—and the acceptance of freedom from undue outside supervision leads naturally to the development of a more responsible and mature self-discipline the majority of the time; but industry-wide controls are not the same as individually imposed restrictions and we need look no further than Hollywood's recent experiment in so-called "self-censorship" to see how thoroughly an entire industry can throttle its own freedom and creativity.
"Self-censorship" is usually imposed by a medium of communication to avoid outside pressures or the threat of actual outside censorship. It is rarely introduced to improve the medium or its product and, naturally enough, the medium and product are rarely improved. Such was the case in the Twenties, when the Hollywood filmmakers—fearing that growing national criticism of movie morals might prompt some form of government control—joined to establish what is now the Motion Picture Association of America and hired Will Hays, then Postmaster General, at an annual salary of $100,000 to become czar of the industry with power not only to regulate picture-making, but also to act as a sort of moral guardian over the private lives of the stars themselves.
Hays did his job only too well. A rigid Production Code was introduced in 1934 that gave seals of approval only to films that adhered to the most simon-pure standards. By defining morality as a lack of sex and swear words, Hays kept the movies out of controversy and, for the most part, totally removed from the real stuff of life. Suggestiveness replaced honest sexuality. The only bows to realism were violent crime films glorifying such cinematic gangsters as Scarface and Little Caesar. Not until Howard Hughes released The Outlaw in 1946, successfully introducing his new double-feature discovery Jane Russell without benefit of a Code seal, did any major film producer consider issuing a motion picture sans Association approval. Otto Preminger carried the fight for freedom further by releasing The Moon Is Blue (1953) and The Man With the Golden Arm (1957), both excellent films, without seals. The emergence of the independent Hollywood producer, who was outside major studio control, coupled with the increasing popularity of foreign films in America, supplied the coup de grâce to the old, unrealistic and inflexible Production Code. In 1961 the Production Code Review Board reversed its previous verdict on both of Preminger's pictures and granted them each a seal.
The Supreme Court has had this to say about the effect upon freedom of not only censorship, but the very existence of the threat of censorship, which so hobbled Hollywood for a generation: "It is not merely the sporadic abuse of power by the censor but the pervasive threat inherent in its very existence that constitutes the danger to freedom of discussion."
It should be mentioned that in most of Europe it is not sex that primarily concerns those who classify the movies as suitable for children or only for adults, but scenes of crime, violence and brutality—the sort that enjoyed the widest distribution in the U.S. when sex was being most severely suppressed by the Hays Office during the Thirties. The point of view that depicting acts of amour on the screen is more harmful than acts of terror, violence and hate is peculiar to our own Puritan America. It is perfectly permissible to show one man destroying the life of another, but the creation of life is the prime target of the censor—whether it is the act of coition, banned everywhere, or the birth of a baby bison, which New York censors cut from a Walt Disney nature film.
This is the level of the sociological, theological and philosophical thinking that we bring to the Atomic Age and the terrifying task of coping with the destructive forces that our technological advances have produced. Nothing is more frightening to contemplate than the gap that exists between man's social and scientific progress as we move into the second half of the 20th century. We are attempting to deal with the realities of the most complex of modern societies with a cultural sophistication rooted in superstitions some of which are more than 2000 years old.
Because the modern world does require such real sophistication and maturity, we do not personally favor any technique for raising our young that fails to fully equip them for adult life—so a classifying of our mass communication into categories for "adult" and "underage" consumption is suggested only as a far better answer than any continuation of the present tendency to bring even our adult society down to the level of the child. The suggestion is made, also, to emphasize that more reasonable alternatives than totalitarian thought-control do exist—if we insist upon this "protection" for our offspring—so as to reveal to the cold light of logic the true motives of many who cry out for censorship over all, to save from "harm" (knowledge) the young and immature.
Let's now consider the virtues of censorship for children. Before seriously advocating a desexualized, sanitized, cellophane-wrapped society for our youngsters, we should seriously weigh the opinions of child psychologists and experts in juvenile behavior. They seem unanimous in their belief that an overly protected child will find it more difficult adjusting to an adult society after he is grown. A youngster who is reared in an environment sufficiently removed from the real world may never fully mature and become capable of accepting the responsibilities of adult life.
On the other hand, what are the dangers inherent in a young and impressionable mind being allowed to mature naturally as a part of an adult society? Will frankly adult books, magazines, and motion pictures tend to lead a child into patterns of antisocial and delinquent behavior? There is no evidence to suggest that this is so.
Drs. Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, leading specialists in the field of child behavior, published in 1950 the results of 10 years' research into the causes of juvenile delinquency of 1000 boys in the Boston area. In the 399 pages of what has been termed a "classical study," the subjects of pornography, or of the reading or viewing of erotic materials of any kind, are never even mentioned as contributory or causative factors in delinquency.
In the same vein, a prominent children's court judge, George S. Smyth, of New York, informed an inquiring state commission that of 878 causative factors which troubled children, reading was not on his list, but that difficulty in reading was.