MUZZLING THE WATCHDOG

Adequately proving that they can be dangerous when aroused, the intelligentsia of New York have met together in solemn conclave to offer their support to a bill before the State Senate. This measure provides that publishers of allegedly obscene books as well as independent booksellers are to be held liable before the courts. Though at first glance this resembles the work of the Watch and Ward at its most obnoxious, further investigation reveals that there is stratagem embodied in the bill which fully justifies is proponents.

For this law, if passed, will force vice societies to prosecute not merely the owners of small bookshops, but the Simon and Shusters, too. When faced by the sort of opposition that the latter can offer, the self-appointed censors will be less eager to enforce their ethi-co-literary standards on the rest of the community. As matters now stand, independent book-sellers cannot afford to take up cases in court, but find it less costly to settle their difficulties by with-drawing the books in question. Thus there are very few test cases where publicity and opinions can be mobilized to fight the suppression of literature that rightly belongs to the reveling public. If, however, the publishers are implicated, they will be willing and able to contest the actions of the local Catos, and their strength will encourage the minor sellers to force the issue also.

Whether or not this particular bill is enacted, a similar one should be presented to the Massachusetts Legislature. The council of supporters formed in New York by Roger Baldwin '04, has indicated the way out for Boston. With the backing of the universities and such sensible people as the state contains, the measure might be pushed through, despite the watchdogs of the public conscience.