Tweaking Soliders: the Nazis and Methamphetamine

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As leader of the Third Reich, it is commonly known Adolf Hilter advocated for Lebensreform (life reform).  Chief among this belief was that members of the Aryan Race should abstain from drug and alcohol use in order to create a pure and strong race.  However, at the same time Lebensreform was being advocated by Hilter and party officials like Heinrich Himmler, Nazi military men were nonetheless being fed the methamphetamine Pervitin in massive quantities during World War II.

Referred to as “pilot’s salt” or “tank chocolate” by members of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), Pervitin was seen as a wonder drug by officials who freely distributed it to military men.[1] The drug increased German soldiers’ alertness and endurance, and gave them confidence and euphoric feelings   No member of the Wehrmacht was immune from the drugs effects: pilots, infantrymen, and civil defense soldiers, were consuming large quantities of methamphetamine by order of the Nazi high command.

The use of amphetamine was not uncommon throughout industrialized countries during the 1930s and 40s.  Indeed, Dexedrine and other amphetamines would be given to allied pilots during the War to maintain alertness.  However, in the 1938, German paramedical company Temmler Werke began working on Pervitin, a new drug that was structurally different then previous “pep” pills on the market.  The Academy of Military Medicine in Berlin, decided to study methamphetamine to determine if it could be beneficial in combat situations.  In tests, the academy noticed that subjects dosed with Pervitin were able to perform better in mathematical and memory tests in a controlled environment.  As a result, 3 mg tablets of Pervitin were included in medical supplies for German military units during the invasion of Poland in 1939.[2]
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Defining Freedom of Expression and the Supreme Court (Part Three): Nixon, Obsenity, Adult Content, the Internet, and My Conclusions

This is part three of an examination of the limits of freedom of expression established by key Supreme Court decisions.  Please read the first part here and the second part here.

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Richard Nixon, who tried (in vain) to prevent the publishing of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times.

Seven years after the Sullivan case, the New York Times found itself in another landmark case related to freedom of the press.  In 1971, the New York Times received classified intelligence that detailed American involvement and decision making in Vietnam from 1945-1967.  On June 13th of the same year, the New York Times published selections of the document in their Sunday edition.  Days later, the New York Times received a district court order to stop further publishing of the Pentagon Papers (similar requests were also made to the Washington Post, who also began publishing articles related to the papers).  The Nixon Administration felt that publishing the papers would interfere with national security interests. Despite the fact that many justices felt it would be against the nation’s best interest to allow publishing the papers, they ruled 6-3 in favor of the New York Times, allowing them to continue to publish the Pentagon Papers.[1] While the justices felt the articles could be damaging, they followed the precedent regarding prior restraint set in the Near case.  In writing his concurring opinion, Justice Potter stated that prior restraint of publications should be used only when it will “result in direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to our Nation or its people.”[2] Since there was no proof that anything of that nature would result, freedom of the press as guaranteed by the First Amendment trumped the Administration’s security concerns.

The Supreme Court has had several cases that have had to deal with obscenity and pornography.  While the court has been careful to not permit outright censorship, it has placed limits on the distribution of materials that have been deemed obscene. The courts first case involving pornography was Roth v. United States (1957).  The previous year, Samuel Roth was accused of mailing out obscene images as advertising for his book store.  While he was found guilty of a federal obscenity statue, Roth appealed his decision believing that it was a violation of his freedom of expression.  When his case was appealed to the Supreme Court, its ruling was combined with Alberts v. California (1957), a case where a book seller was arrested for selling obscene books.  The court ruled 6-3 in favor of the United States and California in both decisions.  In the majority opinion, Justice Brennan wrote that it was the opinion of the court that pornographic images and obscene material were not protected by either the freedom of speech nor press. Reiterating that the First Amendment had limitations, he stated lewd material is utterly without redeeming social importance” and wrote the definition of obscenity as “whether to the average person applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material is taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”[3]  Therefore, the decision of what was made obscene was declared as something that most people would find objectionable.  Sixteen years later, the U.S. Supreme Court would modify the definition of obscenity, but they would still keep the “contemporary community standards’ test to define what is or is not protected speech.
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Defining Freedom of Expression and the Supreme Court (Part Two): Fighting Words, Libel, Hustler Magazine, Public Schools and Symbolic Speech

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Jerry Falwell, who unsuccessfully attempted to sue Hustler Magazine in 1988, establishing that parody is protected speech.

This is part two of an examination of the limits of freedom of expression established by key Supreme Court decisions.  Please read the first part here.

Over two decades after the Schenk decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case relating to “fighting words” – words spoken at close range in intent to provoke physical action.  In November 1941, a man by the name of Walter Chaplinsky was arrested for calling a Rochester, New Hampshire police officer a “damned fascist” and a racketeer on a public street in close proximity to the officer.[1]  While he was fined and not imprisoned, Chaplinsky appealed the ruling on the grounds that his rights to freedom of speech were violated.  In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) the Supreme Court reached a unanimous decision upholding the New Hampshire law. The Supreme Court established a precedent that speech, “likely to provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of peace”[2] is not constitutionally protected.  While freedom of speech is hallmark to any democracy, the Supreme Court has determined that fighting words do not need to be constitutionally protected because they can potentially bring disorder to society.

In the turbulent 1960s, several important cases involving the freedom of expression were appealed and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), an elected police commissioner sued the New York Times for an advertisement in their paper that was critical of police in Montgomery, Alabama.  The advertisement made a series of statements about police treatment of civil rights leaders, some of which were not factual.  Despite the fact that he was never mentioned by name, L.B. Sullivan felt the article libeled him because to be critical of the police was to, in turn, be critical of the commissioner.  A case without precedent, Sullivan’s lawsuit against the New York Times traveled all the way to the Supreme Court.

Sullivan’s lawsuit was symbolic of something much greater at the time.  “Many Southerners bitterly resented northern efforts to promote civil rights of African American in the South.  To many in Alabama, the New York Times symbolized all that they disliked.”[3]  Rather than have the case tried in New York (as that is where the New York Times was based), Sullivan had the case tried in the Alabama Supreme Court.  Sullivan was awarded a sum of a half million dollars based on Alabama’s libel law.  Disagreeing with the ruling, the New York Times appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court – an unprecedented action at that time because state law had always handled libel cases.[4]

Unlike the Alabama State Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in the New York Time’s favor.  In the eyes of the justices, the factual errors that were made in the advertisement were of “mere negligence and not actual malice.”[5]  Their ruling set two precedents.  First, the Supreme Court set a precedent that in order to be guilty of libeling public figures, there had to be a deliberate attempt to publish falsehoods or show a “reckless” disregard for the truth. Second, overturning the Alabama Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices applied the First and Fourteenth Amendments (capitalize?) to determine that states cannot award damages to a public official without proving “actual malice.”
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Trading Flags: The Shifting Loyalty of Jubal A. Early

Jubal A. EarlyThe year 1861 divided the nation and a great many men were forced to make the incredibly difficult choice as to which allegiance was strongest in their hearts. Men across the country made their choices for numerous reasons such as devotion to the Union, belief in the Constitution, defense of their State, the support of the peculiar institution, among others. As we look at Jubal A. Early, he represents such a man torn between two allegiances. A man who in 1860-1 argued vehemently against secession in the state of Virginia, yet ended up forsaking his military oaths of defense of the country.1 Here was a man who twice left his comfortable civilian life to take up arms for the Republic; the epitome of the American citizen-soldier so glorified during the Revolutionary War, turning his back on the flag he bravely defended only to raise the flag of the newly founded Confederacy.2 What could make a man trade flags by resigning from one military to join another?

Early was raised in the state of Virginia and therefore exposed to slavery throughout his life. Although there is no record of Early himself owning slaves (other than perhaps a servant) his extended family owned numerous slaves as part of their holdings throughout Virginia. He held that the blacks were property and that there could be no abolition of slavery because the Constitution guaranteed to protect an individuals property. “He believed the government established by the Constitution protected liberty and the sanctity of private property, allowing Americans, whether above or below the Mason and Dixon’s Line, to prosper.”3 Along this line of argument he believed that every state had decided for itself whether to be “slave” or “free” at the time of its inception and at the signing of the Constitution there didn’t appear to be any obstinate hurdles regarding the issue of slavery. “Slavery was a domestic institution and should not be subject to interference from the North in the form of ‘moral suasion, legislative enactment, or physical force’.”4 Despite being a centralist in regards to slavery, equally disliking fire-eaters and abolitionists, Early felt that the institution of slavery should not be touched by meddling Northerners.

A West Point graduate from the class of 1837, Jubal A. Early did not strike many as a commanding battlefield figure. Seeing no future in the military, Early resigned from the United States Army just a year after graduating. However short and unrewarding his early military career, Early experienced some fighting against the Seminoles in Florida.5 After his short military service, Early spent the better part of the next 15 years practicing law in his home state of Virginia. This time was broken with another short return to military action during the Mexican-American War from 1847-1848. “Impelled by his sense of patriotic submission, he accepted a commission as major of the First Regiment of Virginia Volunteers” to fight against a Mexican foe who sought to deprive the Texans of their rights.6
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Defining Freedom of Expression and the Supreme Court (Part One): Introduction and Early Cases

ImageIn recent weeks, the Obama Administration has been taking heat for perceived abuses of the First Amendment after seizing the telephone records of members of the Associated Press and statements which seem to favor increased electronic surveillance. Recently, David Sirota detailed many perceived first amendment violations in regards to freedom of the press and likened Obama to Richard Nixon. While we have seen such criticisms lobbed frequently during the Obama and Bush Administration, it is the Supreme Court (through the process of judicial review) that usually determines if such violations have taken place.  The Supreme Court has a long history in defining the parameters and limitations of Freedom of Expression.  Over the next few days, I hope to detail them as well as provide some thoughts about Freedom of Expression and the digital frontier.  I hope you enjoy!  Thanks!

The exchange of ideas and freedom of expression are an essential part of American Democracy.  The First Amendment to the Constitution (approved in 1791 along with nine other amendments) protects the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press on American soil.   While these rights are well known, they are not absolute.  Over time and through court rulings, the Supreme Court of the United States has helped define proper limitations to freedom of expression.  According to John R. Vile, speech “Can be so related to action that the First Amendment’s seemingly absolute prohibition on government infringement of the former has been subject to numerous judicial qualifications.”[1]  In addition, the function of the press as a watchdog over government transgressions and its correlation to speech has also needed judicial interpretation.

While the courts have certainly aided in the understanding of these freedoms, the rulings are not without controversy.  Recent decisions related to cases of flag desecration and freedom on the internet have caused significant concern.   Other concerns have been voiced relating to federal encroachment of freedoms correlating to government efforts to promote homeland security and counter terrorist action.  The freedoms of both speech and the press have evolved over the years and will continue to evolve as technology and changed circumstances at home and abroad.

In a speech to his Army officers in 1783, George Washington stated, “If freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led to the slaughter.”[2]  Eight years before ratification of the First Amendment, Washington demonstrated an understanding of the importance of freedom of speech in the American tradition.  While attempts have been made (such as Alien and Sedition Act in 1798 and the shutting down of newspapers critical of Lincoln during the Civil War) to stifle freedom of expression during sensitive times in America’s history, they are usually short lived.  The Supreme Court ultimately has always had authority in cases where Constitutional interpretation was needed, but it had not chosen to exercise its rights in regards to the First Amendment during the 19th Century.  During the 20th Century, however, numerous cases have lead to a better understanding of the constitutional limits on freedoms of speech and press in America.
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How Thomas Paine Popularized American Independence

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Oil Painting of Thomas Paine by Auguste Milliere (1880)

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine anonymously published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense.  Identifying himself as “an Englishman,” the recent immigrant to Philadelphia aimed to persuade the common American colonist to believe in the cause of American independence on the account of British tyranny.  While the idea of independence was espoused by several members of the Continental Congress and many of the colonial elite, it was Paine who helped spread the idea of independence and colonial unity throughout the American colonies.  The historian Robert Ingersoll wrote, “It is but the meager truth to say that Thomas Paine did more for the cause of separation, to sow the seeds of independence, than any other man of his time.”[1]

Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1737 in the small town of Thetford, County Norfolk,England.  The son of a Quaker corset maker, Paine attended grammar school but received his “exceedingly good moral education” from his father, inheriting the belief in “the essential goodness of mankind, as well as a lifelong commitment to public service.”[2] Since Quakers rejected Anglicanism, they were outsiders who were not afforded many of the rights of other citizens.  Raised in a Quaker household, Thomas Paine witnessed equalities in the British system that may have shaped his belief in it being a tyrannical government.

As an adult working in London, Paine would meet Benjamin Franklin through his interest in Whig politics.  In January 1775, Thomas Paine would arrive in the United States without “money, reputation, or prospects” and with nothing more than letters of recommendation from Benjamin Franklin.[3] Despite only modest writing experience, Paine would shortly become the primary contributor to Pennsylvania Magazine, a magazine which would grow in readership with Paine’s pen. Paine would often write about radical ideas of the time period – the idea of women’s rights or the abolition of slavery.  However, “he saved his sharpest quills for the subject increasingly close to his heart – the fundamental corruption, venality, and tyranny of the English system of government.”[4]
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