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Who is Dora Anyway?

Dora is the Defense of the Realm Act, enacted in the United Kingdom on August 8, 1914, not long after the start of World War I. Basically a free and democratic society, the United Kingdom found it necessary to increase government power and to restrict civil liberties. Citizens were not permitted to discuss military subjects or to say discouraging things abut the war. Binoculars were illegal. Alcohol beverages were watered down and pubs were open only for three hours at lunchtime and 3 hours at dinnertime. Censorship was also introduced: letters from the front were opened and sanitized and journalists’ reports were reviewed by the authorities prior to being filed.

In our show, the Rogers are imperiled by Dora because they have discouraging things to say about the war. One of the state purposes of Dora was “to prevent the spread of false reports or reports likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or to interfere with the success of His Majesty's forces by land or sea.” The Marxist John Maclean was the first person arrested under the act. His crime was to discourage recruiting, for which he was fined £5. He refused to pay, and was sent to jail for 5 days.

The restriction of free speech was not unique to the United Kingdom or to the early 20th century, but codification of this restriction in law in a modern democratic society is shocking to our modern sensibilities. We shouldn’t be surprised, however. The muzzling of war critics and the restriction of civil liberties have been practiced in one form or another by all warring governments and in all times, including our own.


All text and music copyright © 2008 by Tony Scialli.