lectual quality of our schools andnmake us more competitive as a nation,neconomically, culturally, andnpolitically. (ECK)n”Censorship a big loser” in Maine—nor so the headlines went after a proposednobscenity law went down tondefeat in a statewide referendum. Thenlaw—which specified penalties of upnto five years in prison and fines of up ton$10,000 for anyone who chose “tonmake, sell, give for value or otherwisenpromote obscene material in Maine”n—was voted down by more than antwo-to-one margin in what UPI describednas “heavy voter turnout.” ThenAmerican Civil Liberties Union callednit “one of the most resounding defeatsnfor censorship in American history.”nA closer look indicates that manynvoters in Maine were not so muchnopposed to censorship as dissatisfiednwith this particular law. According ton(they also urged us to purify ournpages from the lingering tracesn—“Leave that stuff to Mother ]onesnand The Nation”), but some oldernsubscribers thought we were goingnsoft. A fair number seemed to realizenthat while Chronicles has a definitenset of principles that amount tonan editorial position, we are stillnopen to a variety of points of view.nAchilles hated a lie like the gatesnof hell, and we feel the samenway about every variety of politicalnposturing.nSeveral specific articles were repeatedlynsingled out for approval:nClyde Wilson’s review of John Lukacsn(both gentlemen seem to haventheir followers), Arthur Eckstein’sn”Sympathy for the Devil” (severalncomplained about the title—theynmissed the Rolling Stones allusion),nRobert Nisbet’s Ingersoll Prizenessay, “anything by Russell Kirk,”nAndrei Navrozov’s “Bianca and thenCommissar,” and Professor Kopff’snessay on Vietnam films. Of thenPerspectives, the more politicalnpieces (e.g., on the sanctuarynmovement and on American radicals)nwere better appreciated thannessays on literary criticism and victimsncompensation, “Stuck-up,”nBob Burton Brown, a professor of educationnin Jonesport, Maine, manynconservatives felt they could not supportnthe law because its wording wasn”vague” and “imprecise” and becausenit provided no definitions of key terms.nSome people shared novelist StephennKing’s concern that the languagencould be interpreted to cover works ofnmodern fiction (Nabokov and Joycenmight be in trouble). Others worriednthat the law failed to distinguish betweennliterature sold to adults and thatnsold to children. The proposed lawnhad already been voted down by “annessentially conservative state legislature”nbecause it was so “fundamentallynflawed.” Brown, who was present innthe state legislative chambers duringndebate over the measure, characterizednthe chief sponsor as “a good man”nbut not an astute legislator: his emotionalnappeals against pornography remindednlisteners of “Old Uncle Harry”nfrom down on the farm. The inten­n”arrogant,” and “ignoramus” werensome of the gentier terms applied bynthe disgruntled, and several readersncommented on the editor’s habit ofnequivocation. (Those are particularlyntreasured and will be introducednsome day as evidence for thendefense.) Another wrote in an entirenletter to declare that Chroniclesnhad no future because its editornlacked a flamboyant personality andndid not even have a gift for snappynphrases. He was even kind enoughnto supply a list culled from hisnfavorite celebrity editors. He hadnthe incense ready, but the shrinenwas empty. Overall, however, 97npercent said they were very ornsomewhat interested in the Perspectives,nfor which the editor is, believenme, suitably grateful,nI’m not sure we’ll ever do thisnagain, although we received a greatndeal of insight and not a few verynsensible suggestions. Several askednfor a more ordinary letters columnn—which we are planning, but wenneed to receive more (and morenserious) letters. Perhaps the mostncurious phenomenon was the mavericknstreak. Chronicles readersnmust have done poorly in kindergarten,nbecause even as adults theynnntions were virtuous, the law unwise.nIt is not entirely clear that a staten(much less a Federal) law on censorshipnwould even be a good idea. Communitynattitudes and requirementsnvary a great deal from town to town,ncounty to county—even in a smallnstate like Maine. Modern historynseems to suggest that the growth ofngovernment power is almost never angood idea, especially when the purposenis laudable. At the local level, ordinancesnusually have some reference toncommunity sentiment, but at the statenand national levels this is decreasinglyntrue. The first object of an anticensorshipncrusade should be the eliminationnof the role of the Federal courts whichncontinue to confuse the issue withntheir cant about First Amendmentnrights. Since government is itself thensource of the problem, it is probably anmistake to think that by invoking itsnpower we can arrive at a solution.nwon’t stay within the lines. Theynwrote on the back, folded/stapled/nand mutilated the form, combinednsections, and wrote in their ownncategories. More than a few put in anbox something like “Just conservativenenough” and checked it. I hopennone of them is working for thengovernment.nWe also realized, somewhat tonour sorrow, that Chronicles is in factnserving two quite different audiences:nour loyal old subscribers tendnto be conservative, religious, andnless interested in popular culture or,nfor that matter, music, poetry, andnthe drama, than in social and ethicalnissues. Newer readers, however,nresent any attempt to dictate a politicalnline and are most interested innarticles that range across the lengthnand breadth of American culture.nThe best result of the survey hasnbeen to confirm our resolve. Wenrealize that there is still a savingnremnant, to use Albert Jay Nock’snbiblical language, still a readershipninterested in the fate of Mr. Eliot’sn”permanent things.” It appears tonbe a larger number than we hadndared to hope and far more exuberantnthan we imagined.nSEPTEMBER 1986 / 9n