The American Civil Liberties Union has long fought for the free speech rights of the oppressed… or at least it has pretended to do so. A new leaked memo shows its true colors when it comes to liberty. The memo says that the organization will “weigh its interest in protecting the First Amendment against its other commitments to social justice, racial equality, and women’s rights, given the possibility that offensive speech might undermine ACLU goals.” In other words, they will only help people they like.
Here’s some bad news: if you’re reading a blog written by me, they probably don’t like you. One of their eliminating criteria is carrying a weapon. If a speaker carries a gun (a right the Constitution guarantees), they won’t defend him or her even if they are unfairly silenced or harassed. If a speaker exercises his Second Amendment right, the ACLU won’t help him out regarding the First.
“Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed,” the confidential memo read. As Robby Soave, of Reason Magazine wrote, “It’s hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment. Moving forward, when deciding whether to take a free speech case, the organization will consider ‘factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur.'”
That all sounds good, but maybe National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke said it best. “Unfortunately, this means in practice that the ACLU is considering abandoning its defense of the First Amendment,” he tweeted.
But it’s even worse than that. The memo emphasizes this does not constitute a real change in their policies, something we all instinctively know. As ACLU former board member Wendy Kaminer wrote, the ACLU “has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates.” This has been obvious over the years as the ACLU sat idly by, silently allowing conservatives to be abused by the government.
I, for one, am glad this information is now public. At least the rest of us know exactly where they stand.
Hat Tip: Reason Magazine
Image Credit: Edwin Shelton on Flickr