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Aryeh Neier was the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union when they defended the First Amendment fights of the Nazis trying to march in Skokie, Illinois (April, 1978). Neier's main argument was presented in a letter to the editor of the New York Times (March 27, 1978) and it is merely given more extensive historical background in this book: the right of free speech for Nazis and other odious extremists must be protected in order to best protect the free-speech rights of all citizens. As always in such cases, he cites the excesses of the McCarthy era as a classic example of what can occur when a certain group is deprived of the right of free speech. He documents the longstanding support of the ACLU for groups such as the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as for liberal activists like the anti-war demonstrators of the Sixties. While there are some interesting passages on debates within the ACLU (the Southern California branch wanted to confine its support to ""progessive"" causes; the Mississippi unit feared that a national policy of defending the Klan would alienate its black members), most of the book's arguments are familiar ones. In the specific case of Skokie, the question would appear to be whether the free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment include the implicit right to call for the extermination of a certain group. The ACLU clearly believes this to be so and it is that position which Neier presents here.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1978
Publisher: Dutton