With liberty for some: Oregon editors and the challenge of civil liberties, 1942-55
Civil liberties were under attack in the United States well before Senator Joseph R. McCarthy strode to a West Virginia microphone in February 1950 and began the tumult that would be known as McCarthyism. State investigations had already claimed the careers of dozens of professors, union leaders and free thinkers, in an era that was rife with attacks on civil liberties.This dissertation studies daily newspaper editors in Oregon and their response to civil liberties challenges from the beginning of World War II through the fall of McCarthy in 1954. Local issues dominate, but in dealing with internment of Oregonians of Japanese ancestry in 1942 and in dealing with McCarthy himself, Oregon editors were caught up in regional and national conflicts.Most Oregon editors of this period were owner-publishers as well, and as businessmen were part of the closely-knit Republican political establishment that controlled the state. Political and community ties were important as they faced civil liberties issues, and often yielded to authority rather than protect individual rights.Their political affiliations, however, caused editors to resist McCarthy, who threatened the moderate Republicanism espoused by most Oregon editors of the time.Editors felt responsible for community image, and they resisted broad-brush attacks on groups or institutions. They defended school teachers, professors and universities, but would abide no communist as teacher in a public institution. Their defense of groups was strongest when members of the group looked much like the editors themselves, and weakest in the case of Japanese Americans and other Oregonians of color.Oregon's record on civil liberties in this period was mixed. The state avoided a loyalty oath, adopted civil rights laws and refused to launch wholesale red-hunts. Yet individuals were punished for their political views and Japanese Americans found only a few key editors willing to welcome them back from concentration camps in 1945. The influence of these key editors and their role within a community of editors are critical to this record and to this study.
- Communications