OCTOBER 27, 1947
HYDE PARK, Sunday—During this past week the Soviet resolution on freedom of the press has been under consideration in Committee Number One. Deputy Foreign Minister Vishinsky introduced it with a most intemperate attack upon the United States, stating also that the press of Greece and Turkey was guilty of warmongering.
Senator Austin answered most magnificently, but practically the same things in somewhat similar terms came up in Committee Number Three a day later. I had thought that the Yugoslav resolution would be confined almost exclusively to discussion of what we should recommend to the Freedom of Information Conference on the subject of warmongering and slander. To my surprise, I found myself listening to a political speech which only here and there tied itself to the real question in hand—which was to determine the proper place to discuss freedom of information, with all its appended subjects of responsibility of the press, efforts to increase goodwill among nations, and better and more truthful reporting of world news. No one believes in printing untruthful news. Certainly no one wants to see the press or individuals or any organizations incite to war. But I cannot believe that suppression by law or by government edict is going to bring about the desired results.
I found myself in the absurd position of defending the Chicago Tribune, since this newspaper was specifically mentioned in the Yugoslav presentation. I defended that paper, certainly not because I either agree with or believe most of the things which it stands for, but because I think we should defend the right of all individuals to their freedom of thought and speech.
And when they began on the columnists and news broadcasters, I could not help smiling again. There are plenty of these gentlemen who have said things that I could deny if I cared to undertake a constant running fight, but even where they are concerned I would have to defend their right to express their points of view. Sometimes, when I hear things or read things which I know quite well are not true, I have almost a wistful feeling about the English libel laws! They would be helpful occasionally if they existed here. Nevertheless, in spite of annoyances and the harm which evil minds can bring about in personal, national and international situations, I still think it would be more serious to curtail, in any way, freedom of thought and expression.
Just this angle, too, is one of the things which worries me a little about the Congressional investigation into the Hollywood movie world. When you begin to let this and that person testify against this or that actor or writer, you take a step toward Nazi and Communist totalitarian attitudes toward the individual. It is so easy to depart from the path of democracy and succumb to the attraction of totalitarian edicts!