The Nation: Cutting the Hot Lines

Shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, the psychic temperature of the U.S. soared to such heights that many cities across the country hastily put together "rumor centers" to combat wild tales of impending violence. A typical call of those days: a tip that a gang of young blacks was standing on a Seattle street corner, armed with clubs and ready for trouble. The city's rumor center discovered that an out-of-uniform junior baseball team, carrying bats, was waiting for a bus. At its peak, the rumor center in Seattle enlisted the aid of 50 volunteers to handle 600...

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