Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

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thoreau
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Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 21 Jun 2018, 12:49

Wendy Kaminer has a WSJ op-ed about internal debates at the ACLU. It's behind a paywall, so I've only read the excerpts quoted at Reason, but the WSJ has made an ACLU internal memo publicly available.

From this and other things I've read over the past year, it sounds like a lot of staffers at the ACLU are recoiling from defending the free speech rights of bigots. There are probably a few too many millennials who have absorbed the idea that "speech is violence" and whatnot.

Read on the surface, the memo leaves plenty of room to continue taking on free speech cases from across the spectrum, while also pointing out that there are hard questions to ask when figuring out how to allocate finite resources. My guess is that the sausage-making has never been as pretty as we want to believe, that they've always had internal debates where somebody's all "Hey, I've got a bunch of clients who got rail-roaded into long sentences by vengeful prosecutors and you want to pour a shit-ton of money into defending some bigot who's facing a fine at worst? Priorities, man!" There's probably always been somebody who had to decide exactly how much staff time to allocate, and the compromises have probably never been pretty.

At the same time, the memo reads like an attempt to persuade and/or appease staffers who want to take a sharp turn in how they prioritize free speech issues. And that worries me. The organization is probably still dominated at the higher levels by Boomer and Gen X civil libertarians who will continue to defend the people protesting outside the abortion clinic with as much vigor as the people receiving services inside it. But Boomers are aging, and as Gen X moves into senior management (in all organizations) they'll become more reliant on millennials in middle management. This doesn't augur well for the future when the organization was founded to protect civil liberties and the millennials moving into middle management don't want to defend "hate speech."

Yes, yes, all libertarian disclaimers about how a private organization can prioritize their activity however management and donors want. Noted. Well, I'm a pretty generous donor (DEMAND KURVE!!!) so my skin is all up in this game like a motherfucking dermatologist. And I won't be terribly happy if the ACLU loses what made it special. There's something special about an organization that defends the protestor outside the clinic AND the patient inside the clinic. There's something special about an organization that defends the Imam in the mosque from DHS while defending the nativist protestors outside the mosque. There's something special about an organization that defends immigrants without giving one tenth of one shit whether they have some macho views about traditional gender roles.The ability to frame these issues in terms of the liberties of each side, and to devote resources to defending freedoms integral to civil debate, that's important for a liberal democracy. If the ACLU becomes dominated by staffers who have zero-sum views about the freedoms of identity groups, Trump, Bannon, and Spencer will have triumphed ideologically.

Maybe I should tally up the donations I've made over the past few years, and note that in a letter...
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nicole
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by nicole » 21 Jun 2018, 12:55

To my mind that memo was their death knell as an organization that cares about civil liberties.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Jasper » 21 Jun 2018, 13:05

I grew concerned after the Charlottesville protest when the ACLU underlings first gave pause to defending marches.

This kinds seals the deal for me, tbh.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Dangerman » 21 Jun 2018, 13:06

Yeah. 'We won't advocate for anyone who exercises their Second Amendment rights along with their first.'

CIVIL LIBERTIES

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JasonL
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by JasonL » 21 Jun 2018, 13:08

nicole wrote:To my mind that memo was their death knell as an organization that cares about civil liberties.
Confirmation of 6 month suspicion, but I agree with this end point. People unwilling to defend the marketplace of ideas could only ever be a situational ally.

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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by JasonL » 21 Jun 2018, 13:11

More bothered by this than the gun thing. This is their wheelhouse and this is the abandonment of the notion of civil liberties in that arena.

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nicole
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by nicole » 21 Jun 2018, 13:14

JasonL wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 13:11
More bothered by this than the gun thing. This is their wheelhouse and this is the abandonment of the notion of civil liberties in that arena.
Agree. For them to abandon speech is the end, in my mind.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by JD » 21 Jun 2018, 13:19

I'm not surprised. The ACLU is still a valuable organization, but they've been sliding away from being an unbiased defender of civil liberties and towards being a generic left-wing protest organization.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Warren » 21 Jun 2018, 13:21

Back in the last century, I had friends on the right that insisted the ACLU was the hand puppet of the Soviet Union whose wilful purpose was to destroy the American way of life.
Seems like both the left and the right have turned themselves into the cartoon Bond villains the opposition once painted them as.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 21 Jun 2018, 13:39

JasonL wrote:More bothered by this than the gun thing. This is their wheelhouse and this is the abandonment of the notion of civil liberties in that arena.
This. Say what you will about the Second Amendment, but you used to know what the ACLU was good for, and you knew that they were REALLY good for it.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Dangerman » 21 Jun 2018, 13:59

JasonL wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 13:11
More bothered by this than the gun thing. This is their wheelhouse and this is the abandonment of the notion of civil liberties in that arena.
Yeah the gun thing was just to frame that thought.

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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by JasonL » 21 Jun 2018, 14:00

Under the terms of that notice I can't see them defending the Black Panthers for example. That would seem to be ... problematic.

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Eric the .5b
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 21 Jun 2018, 14:17

thoreau wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 12:49
At the same time, the memo reads like an attempt to persuade and/or appease staffers who want to take a sharp turn in how they prioritize free speech issues. And that worries me. The organization is probably still dominated at the higher levels by Boomer and Gen X civil libertarians who will continue to defend the people protesting outside the abortion clinic with as much vigor as the people receiving services inside it. But Boomers are aging, and as Gen X moves into senior management (in all organizations) they'll become more reliant on millennials in middle management. This doesn't augur well for the future when the organization was founded to protect civil liberties and the millennials moving into middle management don't want to defend "hate speech."
I've been worrying about millennials and the next generation for awhile. The people this culture started making walk through metal detectors just to go to school back in the 90s were going to be trained heavily against individual rights.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Jasper » 21 Jun 2018, 14:22

nicole wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 13:14
JasonL wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 13:11
More bothered by this than the gun thing. This is their wheelhouse and this is the abandonment of the notion of civil liberties in that arena.
Agree. For them to abandon speech is the end, in my mind.
Yep, same.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Fin Fang Foom » 21 Jun 2018, 14:29

I am not really bothered by the ACLU refusing to represent (for free!) people who are agitating against civil rights.

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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 21 Jun 2018, 14:42

When are you bothered by anything most people here are bothered by, FFF?
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Fin Fang Foom » 21 Jun 2018, 14:51

Eric the .5b wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 14:42
When are you bothered by anything most people here are bothered by, FFF?
Well, you bother me, so there's that. And Trump too. So, those two things.

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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 21 Jun 2018, 15:01

Fin Fang Foom wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 14:29
I am not really bothered by the ACLU refusing to represent (for free!) people who are agitating against civil rights.
Well, I'm a donor and I'm bothered because I'm donating to defend principles, not people.

If you're not bothered, maybe the easiest way to handle this is I stop my donations and you increase yours. DEMAND KURVE!!!
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 21 Jun 2018, 16:19

Fin Fang Foom wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 14:51
Eric the .5b wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 14:42
When are you bothered by anything most people here are bothered by, FFF?
Well, you bother me, so there's that. And Trump too. So, those two things.
I'm not aware that most people here are "bothered" by me.

But Trump, I'll give you that.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Kolohe » 21 Jun 2018, 17:29

Dangerman wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 13:06
Yeah. 'We won't advocate for anyone who exercises their Second Amendment rights along with their first.'

CIVIL LIBERTIES
Tbf, it's been a runnning joke as long as I can remember that the ACLU skips 2 when it counts to 10.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 21 Jun 2018, 17:59

thoreau wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 15:01
Fin Fang Foom wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 14:29
I am not really bothered by the ACLU refusing to represent (for free!) people who are agitating against civil rights.
Well, I'm a donor and I'm bothered because I'm donating to defend principles, not people.
Same. Though, going by the outsize hate Blues have for libertarians (because libertarians->Kochtopus->all things bad, I guess), we're probably on the list of people to go after, once they get the all-clear sign for Nazis.

And yes, before anyone asks, I do believe that. I can only watch Blue-aligned people default back to ranting about libertarianism as "a real example of a chaotic evil philosophy" and how we're the worst part of the Right whenever they have a moment where they're not focused on Nazis or gun owners.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 21 Jun 2018, 18:28

Maybe the most significant thing about this is the erosion of the American Civic Religion around the First Amendment. Yes, it's always been the case that you can get a whole lot of people to endorse a whole lot of illiberal things if you ask them the right (wrong?) question. However, there's been just enough reverence for the First Amendment that if you frame it in terms of the First Amendment you can usually get a useful number of people to say "Oh, yeah..." They may not give full-throated endorsement to whatever speech is at issue, there will always be people saying "Hate speech isn't free speech" or "Indecency isn't free speech or whatever, and people who are on the good side one day might switch sides when the context switches. Still, many (not all) people will pause, and that matters. With enough reverence for the American Civic Religion, we as a country have usually been able to cobble together enough of a coalition to either prevent violations of speech rights, or at least roll back those violations after a time.

If even the ACLU has a critical mass of staffers who have lost their belief in the American Civic Religion, we're kind of screwed.

Also, I thought that the ACLU was for intellectual types, smart and idealistic law grads, people who read a lot, etc. How dumb do you have to be to think that relaxing the protections of the First Amendment will benefit marginalized groups? It's never the dominant factions who need free speech protections. This is, like, Civil Liberties 101! (Maybe I should tell the SJWs at the ACLU that it's not my job to be their 101 teacher.)

I get that your random idiot on the street isn't a free speech absolutist, that your typical teenager on Tumblr has not thought through the principles behind free speech protections. I guess I figured that anyone who wanted to work for the ACLU would have figured this out.

Something is seriously wrong in our culture if the college kids who want to work for the ACLU don't value absolutist speech protections. Something went very wrong in their acculturation.

And there will be a ripple effect. I don't claim that substantial numbers of minds have ever changed when the ACLU defends an anti-abortion protestor or a racist or whoever. But I've heard people express a certain amount of respect for an often bleeding-heart organization that will go to court for the right-wing when freedoms are at stake. It certainly takes more than a few ACLU free speech cases to mend America's rancorous political culture, but I always felt like civil liberties absolutists were at least doing their part to mitigate the rancor, by showing that we can disagree on outcomes while agreeing on protections for the processes that we use to get those outcomes. The ACLU's portfolio of cases was bigger than the sum of its parts, because it was more than just a set of court victories on whatever issues, it was also a message about what America should be. If they narrow their focus we will lose something.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 21 Jun 2018, 18:34

thoreau wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 18:28
Also, I thought that the ACLU was for intellectual types, smart and idealistic law grads, people who read a lot, etc. How dumb do you have to be to think that relaxing the protections of the First Amendment will benefit marginalized groups? It's never the dominant factions who need free speech protections. This is, like, Civil Liberties 101! (Maybe I should tell the SJWs at the ACLU that it's not my job to be their 101 teacher.)
The responses I always run into are hate speech/Nazi-censoring laws in Europe haven't caused totalitarianism, so fuck your free speech concerns, and censoring Nazis and censoring other out-groups is totally different, so fuck you for suggesting that doing one makes it easier to do the other.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 21 Jun 2018, 18:46

Censorship of Nazis is so extreme that maybe, on some level, they're right. But I'm not interested in getting the "optimal" amount of censorship (if that's even a thing), I'm interested in getting as little of it as possible. Maybe they're right and we can stay at the same equilibrium as Europe. But I'd rather not find out.

And, frankly, I'm not seeing the harm from allowing a little more hate speech. We didn't get a President who calls Nazis "very fine people" because we let guys with swastika tattoos get parade permits. We got him because he had a reality TV show on NBC. We got him because he held his rallies. We got him because CNN covered his speeches. That's the speech that gave us Trump. That's speech that no sane person would ever ban. So maybe the problem is not that we protect the most odious fringes, but that we don't make effective use of the speech rights that we have, that we don't speak back in ways that change minds.

So go ahead "liberals", turn a blind eye to bans on hate speech. Then sit there with your jaw dropping when they use those precedents against Palestinian activists. "But, but, they're marginalized! You aren't supposed to go after them!" Yeah, look up the word "marginalized" in a dictionary and then we'll talk.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 21 Jun 2018, 19:05

thoreau wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 18:46
And, frankly, I'm not seeing the harm from allowing a little more hate speech. We didn't get a President who calls Nazis "very fine people" because we let guys with swastika tattoos get parade permits. We got him because he had a reality TV show on NBC. We got him because he held his rallies. We got him because CNN covered his speeches. That's the speech that gave us Trump. That's speech that no sane person would ever ban.
To be absolutely fair (and to damn with faint praise), many of them totally would ban all that speech if they could.

Not on carefully parsed SJW grounds. Just as enemy speech.

That's why I don't trust them.
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