The man who gave a voice to unheard Americans is speaking up today against illegal listening in on them.
In a New York Times Op Ed, 95-year-old Studs Terkel recounts the history of illegal wiretapping during the Red Scare day of the 1920s, McCarthyism in the 1950s and now the Bush Administration's dismantling of the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.
A Pulitzer Prize winner, Terkel became famous for taping and airing conversations that, in his words, "celebrated the lives of the uncelebrated among us, for lending voice to the face in the crowd."
In a new memoir, the once-blacklisted liberal compares himself jokingly to Richard Nixon, saying both "could be aptly described as neo-Cartesians: I tape, therefore I am," or in his own case, "I tape, therefore they are." Terkel's oral histories brought so-called ordinary Americans into history.
Now he is enraged at an executive branch that listens to them too much against their will and at a Congress "moving in a haphazard fashion to provide a 'get out of jail free card' to the telephone companies that violated the rights of their subscribers.
"Some in Congress argue that this law-breaking is forgivable because it was done to help the government in a time of crisis. But it’s impossible for Congress to know the motivations of these companies or to know how the government will use the private information it received from them."
The man who taught us how to listen to America deserves to be heard on a subject he knows well.