Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2013-08-07/WikiProject report

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Request for suggestions[edit]

  • Alright, this is my first report. If anyone wants to give me some tips, that would be perfectly fine with me. buffbills7701 00:21, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
    • The report is interesting. The only comment I can make is that information is repeated: when you ask a question about a wiki project to members of that wiki project, many of them may repeat the same information. Not much can be done about this other than asking them questions that will naturally get them to give different answers and summarizing their answers to the more general questions instead of listing them all. For example, when asking about the project's purpose (as in the first question in this case), you can summarize the answers, while you can list them all when asking about gaps of coverage in articles (as in the third question), since they're then more likely to be different. -- Rastus Vernon (talk) 03:26, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
      • My only tips: longer introduction to the topic and project (plus, as Rastus says, you can sometimes use the information interviewees give you to eliminate a question and beef up the introduction), and prune prune prune. You don't have to print every word you're given! Other than that, I think that this is an excellent first report. Thanks Buff! Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 07:20, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
        • The above feedback is good. Also, you may want to include a sidebar providing news about WikiProjects (if there's enough news to report) or offering similar interview subjects from our archive as a sort of "further reading". Other than that, you did well. I look forward to your next Report. –Mabeenot (talk) 14:59, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Attacks on free speech by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.[edit]

Pictured above, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.. wrote the notorious decision upholding the federal government's criminalizing dissent during World War I (Schenk v. United States), and so he should be recognized as an enemy of free speech.

Holmes also supported forced sterilization. Kiefer.Wolfowitz 12:57, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

All most interesting points, but those are topics better discussed at the talk page for the individual, at Talk:Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.. Also, Newyorkbrad might have something to say about the history related to that individual, I think he's knowledgeable about the subject matter. — Cirt (talk) 16:40, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
In the development of constitutional law as in other aspects of society, progress toward more progressive or more modern (or as we might think more free or "better") ideas comes incrementally. Justice Holmes, like his colleague Justice Brandeis and his admirer Judge Learned Hand, certainly voted to uphold restrictions on speech that might not be acceptable to a single Justice today. But there's also no doubt that he helped to move the state of First Amendment law, particularly in the realm of "sedition" prosecutions, in the direction of greater openness and freedom. A point often overlooked is that the currently robust (though of course imperfect) state of freedom of speech in the United States was by no means a historical inevitability; one need only read the opinions in Near v. Minnesota (1931) or Fred Friendly's book about that case to see how things could readily have evolved in a very different direction. It later fell to moderately "liberal" but also flawed Justices ranging from Harlan Fiske Stone (the sole dissenter in Gobitas) to Hugo Black to William Brennan to consolidate modern First Amendment thinking, and of course there were disputes and backslidings along the way. So Holmes was by no means a perfect champion of pure speech, but it is impossible to tell the story of how the First Amendment traveled from a virtual dead letter a hundred years ago to the core of American freedom today without recognizing his role.
Buck v. Bell was of course an appalling piece of work (see Stephen Jay Gould's essay on the case for trenchant, non-lawyerly criticism), both for its substance and also for the flippancy with which Holmes dashed off the opinion without regard to the human beings whose rights the heart of what is now understood as a collusive case. (Of twentieth-century opinions, only McReynolds' dissent in Gaines and Burger's concurrence in Bowers stand out in my mind as equally nasty.) What is remarkable to the modern reader is how uncontroversial this opinion was at the time; Chief Justice Taft, no admirer of the "Bolshevik" Holmes, admired it greatly, and it spoke for eight members of the Court; there was no written dissent (Justice Butler dissented without opinion or explanation, a vote usually attributed to his religious beliefs). Buck v. Bell embodied bad social policy, bad science, and bad constitutional law: one can readily say that such a man as Oliver Wendell Holmes should have risen above all three of these things, but if so the fault must be ascribed as well to Brandeis and Stone and all the rest, not to Holmes alone, who despite his greatness was in this respect sadly an embodiment of the tenor of his times.
Holmes' Wikipedia article has occasionally been edited by one of his principal modern biographers, Sheldon Nowak; I'm sure he could address all of this far better than I have. Newyorkbrad (talk) 21:39, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
Certainly, Holmes was not hardly leading anyone, including the legislature and governor of Indiana where the first sterilization law was adopted (1907) or of Virginia, or 33 other states -- he went along, unfortunately. As for Free speech, he was a thoughtful and prescient advocate for free speech in Abrams v. United States. Alanscottwalker (talk) 22:34, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Thank you both for the informative and interesting comments.
George Anastaplo's unconventional and Straussian book, The Constitutionalist, has appendices on Schenck v. United States, including pamphlets by the Socialist Party of America against the draft, which used the natural rights language of the Declaration of Independence.
In terms of leading public opinion, the libertarian journalist H. L. Mencken's criticisms of Holmes and of the jailing (and failure to pardon) Eugene V. Debs was popular and scandalous at the same time. It is easy to over-emphasize the reaction of the WWI-era (like the 1950s). Mencken was not banned for primatology metaphors.
Best wishes, Kiefer.Wolfowitz 15:51, 13 August 2013 (UTC)