On the rights of criminals: "Legal frames especially in the United States are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of legions of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists' civil rights. There are many such cases."
On the abuses of freedom: "Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Soceity appears to have litle defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror...Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born out of a humanistic concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature."
On freedom of the press: "The press, too, enjoys the widest freedom. But what use does it make of this freedom? The press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, and without any verification? Thus we see terrorists made into heroes, or secret matters pertaining to the national defense publicly revealed, or shameful intrusion into the privacy of people under the false slogan: everyone has the right to know everything."
On the atrophy of the spiritual life: "Mere freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds some new ones....We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life."
Thirty years ago, the very chattering classes mentioned in Solzhenitsyn's address ridiculed the man as a reactionary and a crank. The literary critic Susan Sontag wrote about Manhattan cocktail parties at which the cultural left would laugh at Solzhenitsyn. No one--certainly not liberals and libertarians--wanted to hear what the New York Times called Solzhenitsyn's "hectoring jeremiads."
But today when you go to Asia you hear everywhere the slogan, "Modernization, yes; Westernization, no." Throughout the Muslim world there is a reaction--exploited of course by the Islamic radicals--against what is perceived as the shamelessness and decadence of Western values and culture. Even in the West there is deep ambivalence about what has happened to cherished notions of liberty, the rule of law, freedom of the press, and the pursuit of happiness.
We don't have to agree with Solzhenitsyn on everything to say that, far from being a reactionary, here was a man who was ahead of his time in diagnosing some of the serious ailments of the modern era. Not only was he right about the Gulag; in many respects this forlorn Russian hermit was also right about us.