Only with apprehension and some alarm can the American press view the current activities of Senator Eastland's Internal Security Subcommittee. No properly conducted investigation of Communist infiltration of newspapers is objectionable; but the present inquiry shows signs of becoming a fear-breeding witch hunt, and that in an area where freedom of thought and expression is most valuable.
On their records neither Senator Eastland, nor his colleague Senator Jenner, inspire much confidence as objective and self-controlled investigators. Although it is still too early to see what course their present investigation will take, developments so far indicate that the senators are more bent on intimidating one newspaper, the New York Times, than on seriously appraising the extent of Communist infiltration of the press.
In the first three days of public hearings, six out of seven witnesses the committee called were either present or former employees of the Times. The newspaper, moreover, has charged that the committee's counsel tried in closed hearings to establish a connection between a witness's former association with the Communist party and the character of the news published in the paper. These alleged attempts at intimidation the Times attributes directly to the senators' hostility to the paper's editorial policy.
Whether or not these charges are wholly true, we are reassured that the Times will not be intimidated. It has again reiterated its policy of firing any discovered Communist on the grounds that such a person would be unable objectively and honestly to report the news. At the same time, the paper has wisely repudiated the doctrine of "irredeemable sin." Former association with the Communist party, or the use of the Fifth Amendment, is not in itself reason for dismissal. The Times has judged its employees, and will continue to do so, on their work and the paper's confidence in them as individuals.
The New York Times has set a standard which we hope will become the policy of any newspaper whose employees face the Eastland subcommittee. If, intentionally or not, the investigation intimidates one free newspaper more damage will have been done than a whole corps of Communist proofreaders could do.