Nat Hentoff: Threats to Civil Liberties Increasingly Multiple


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April 15, 1965, Vol. X, No. 26

The Name Game

By Nat Hentoff

Nearly everyone in New York is, of course, for civil rights in Alabama. There are even some who are for civil rights in both places. But a feeling of urgency about civil liberties is not nearly so easy to find. And yet threats to civil liberties are increasingly multiple and increasingly pervasive. How many folders have your name on them, and where are they? And among the inestimable boons of cybernation to those whose business is making the society more efficient — and hence more homogenous — are all kinds of better ways of keeping track of us all.

Nonetheless we not only have police and prosecutors but even some judges and esteemed leaders of the bar — along with newspaper editorial writers — chivvying us about how the balance has gone askew and the criminal is getting more protection than the victim. What strikes me as particularly ominous is when a man who is otherwise sensitive to abuses of authority — and who is straight on civil rights — gets swept up in the shout to make our courts more “realistic” about civil liberties.

In the April 8 Villager; Woody Klein runs the changes on violence and fear of violence in the Village. He reaches a climax with these words: “It is reassuring to read, as we did on the front page of an afternoon newspaper last week: More Cops Ordered to Patrol Village. But it is equally disheartening to learn that these may only be empty words if the courts do not cooperate fully with the police. And it shouldn’t stop there. If the laws are not sufficient, then let’s pass some new ones.”

What does that grim phrase really mean: “if the courts do not cooperate fully with the police”? Like in the Whitemore case? And what new laws does Woody Klein propose? Don’t stop-and-frisk and no-knock go far enough for him…

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