Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

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thoreau
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 21 Jun 2018, 20:25

Here's some context, from a recent article in the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/m ... ottesville
The flare-up after Charlottesville was by no means the first such disagreement among ACLU staff. In 2008, shortly after the election, some objected when the organisation spoke out for the speech rights of four students who spray-painted “Hang Obama by a Noose” and “Let’s shoot that nigger in the head” at North Carolina State university. A more recent source of tension has been over the ACLU’s defence of the Washington Redskins football team’s right to retain its name, which many staff members consider so offensive they refuse to utter it. “There’s a lot of discontent, especially among staff of colour, across the country,” an ACLU lawyer in California told me.

Over the past two decades, the ACLU has expanded significantly, hiring younger and more diverse staff. “By doing that, they have ushered in a different way of thinking about the work,” Vince Warren, who was a senior staff attorney at the ACLU from 1999 to 2006, told me. The national office employs roughly 400 people, 40% of whom are people of colour. “We’re moving toward an honest examination of the limits of the first amendment and its place in the uneven structure of our society,” the ACLU lawyer in California said.
That last quote scares the shit out of me.

The other thing that terrifies me is how this is framed as a clash between diversity and free speech. Diversity is a religious matter for many people, even some younger Gen X types. I've seen the looks that certain people get on their faces when they are photographed in a diverse group. I've seen the way some people confess to growing up in places less diverse than SoCal. There's...there's something going on. We're in a religious moment, and while I've always grumbled about the excesses to which it's taken in academia, and the cynical ways that other organizations use it for PR, I suppose that one could dismiss these as isolated things, not reflective of anything bigger.

But if the ACLU's staff are now Woke, and they see Diversity and Inclusion as being in tension with free speech? Honestly, the First Amendment is now in the same boat as Piss Christ or pictures of Mohammed.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Mo » 21 Jun 2018, 20:44

It was easier for the ACLU to justify defending Nazis to their donors when they were just maginalized kooks in Peoria as opposed to presidential advisors.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 22 Jun 2018, 02:38

Mo wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 20:44
It was easier for the ACLU to justify defending Nazis to their donors when they were just maginalized kooks in Peoria as opposed to presidential advisors.
They still lost a fuckton of donors back then because the American left viewed them as nothing more than legal aid for left-wing causes that got government flack.

Maybe they're just devolving back to that.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Shem » 22 Jun 2018, 13:16

thoreau wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 12:49
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."
Slow your roll there, Ahab. Between this and the near daily Facebook posts, I'm starting to get concerned Macchiato Dick is going to pull you into the wine-dark Atlantic.

This isn't about some generational shift. It's not even really about free speech. It's about communitarianism versus individualism. We've always come down more on the individualist side in a global sense, and in the past five-ish decades, it's gotten more extreme even by our own standards. This is what a pendulum swinging back looks like. You want to slow that down, you don't do it by defending first principles. You do it by deciding the exact point at which you'll stop, and fight to make that the new norm. A new norm is the only thing that stops this. Because for all their atrocious behavior and odious ideology, the Bannons of the world do understand one thing; all these people you're afraid of are looking for a new set of rules. And this is a fight about who will decide what those rules are.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Warren » 22 Jun 2018, 13:28

Shem wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 13:16
thoreau wrote:
21 Jun 2018, 12:49
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."
Slow your roll there, Ahab. Between this and the near daily Facebook posts, I'm starting to get concerned Macchiato Dick is going to pull you into the wine-dark Atlantic.

This isn't about some generational shift. It's not even really about free speech. It's about communitarianism versus individualism. We've always come down more on the individualist side in a global sense, and in the past five-ish decades, it's gotten more extreme even by our own standards. This is what a pendulum swinging back looks like. You want to slow that down, you don't do it by defending first principles. You do it by deciding the exact point at which you'll stop, and fight to make that the new norm. A new norm is the only thing that stops this. Because for all their atrocious behavior and odious ideology, the Bannons of the world do understand one thing; all these people you're afraid of are looking for a new set of rules. And this is a fight about who will decide what those rules are.
No, I don't think so. From everything I can see from my mother's basement, it looks like "right think is the only allowable think" is the new normal.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 22 Jun 2018, 13:32

I certainly agree that this is about norms, about the tension between written and unwritten rules. I think we see that in a lot of places, from the Trump administration flouting norms of governance to millennials in key places* wanting to re-evaluate the mission of civil liberties groups. Hell, I think that some of the fights over campus rape policies come down to lacking conceptual space for "There are things that aren't crimes but also aren't done by decent people." With no middle ground between "Totally legit" and "Somebody needs to be [punished for this" you get terrible decisions by authorities trying to adjudicate messy sexual encounters. Hell, police need some line between "Use of force so bad that it's definitely a crime" and "Totally appropriate; give him a paid vacation while we do the paperwork to document that." They need a category of "We can't justify taking away his freedom but we can't bring ourselves to trust him either." A society needs norms that kick in to check behavior before somebody makes a literal federal case out of it.

I think it's dangerous to frame norms as solely about what we'll allow, though. I think a lot of it has to be about how we'll respond. Trump didn't win because people allowed fringe guys to speak; he won because a whole bunch of people didn't engage in effective persuasive speech. (No, I don't want to get into the debate over precisely which neglected state or which alienated voter bloc was pivotal, which mistake was decisive. Let's just stipulate that if reasonable people had been more rhetorically effective Trump never would have even gotten close.)

I wish millennials knew names like "2 Live Crew", "Andres Serrano", and "Robert Maplethorpe." I wish they'd watch Dee Snider debate Al Gore. Maybe then they'd understand how easy it is for the boundary of free speech to shift from Klansmen to LGBTQIA+ and Latinx artists.

*I admit to having no informed basis on which to judge whether millennials, en masse believe in social justice rules of rhetoric and debate. However, when there's a staff revolt at an organization that's been pivotal in free speech fights, it's clear that this stuff has spread out beyond the Oberlin cafeteria. This stuff matters on some level.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by dhex » 22 Jun 2018, 15:01

Generation safety is a thing, though I largely cosign Shem's analysis on this one.

We forget how bugfuck nuts opposition to the aclu was forty years ago.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 22 Jun 2018, 15:10

dhex wrote:Generation safety is a thing, though I largely cosign Shem's analysis on this one.

We forget how bugfuck nuts opposition to the aclu was forty years ago.
I haven't forgotten that. I would hope that ACLU staff would understand that at least as well as I do.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by JasonL » 22 Jun 2018, 15:23

This stance, the idea of "de platforming", the general media treatment of items off narrative, those are what are going to empower a persistent bannon faction. The most salient feature of the right is media hate these days. The new norm can't be no above ground platform for anyone more than 5 degrees off middle liberal.

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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 22 Jun 2018, 15:30

JasonL wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 15:23
This stance, the idea of "de platforming", the general media treatment of items off narrative, those are what are going to empower a persistent bannon faction. The most salient feature of the right is media hate these days. The new norm can't be no above ground platform for anyone more than 5 degrees off middle liberal.
This.

And while there's a lot to dislike about the notion of an "Intellectual Dark Web", if people feel like they need to read John McWhorter and Heather Heying in the incognito browser mode as Richard Spencer, then the reasonable and unreasonable are getting lumped together and we'll pay a price down the road.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 22 Jun 2018, 17:34

dhex wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 15:01
We forget how bugfuck nuts opposition to the aclu was forty years ago.
It's not the opposition, it's that the opposition is now calling from inside the house.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by dhex » 22 Jun 2018, 19:29

Truth, but post Skokie they ate it hard in a lot of places and a bunch of money and some staff skeddadled.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 22 Jun 2018, 19:32

dhex wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:29
Truth, but post Skokie they ate it hard in a lot of places and a bunch of money and some staff skeddadled.
And the people who donated and went to work for them since then knew what the ACLU was about.

'Sabotage" might be slightly too strong a word for this, but only slightly.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 22 Jun 2018, 19:41

I do get why internal constituencies had some pretty heavy feelings after Charlottsville. No matter how justified they were based on the facts at the time, they went to court to make that protest happen and then people were killed. Any human being is going to feel like shit after that. I wouldn't blame anyone at the ACLU for having all sorts of doubts and saying all sorts of things the day after.

But organizations aren't supposed to make substantial changes of course based on how shitty they feel on a particularly tragic day. They're supposed to pause, process it, and think.

The first page of the memo, talking about making sure they aren't supporting people who give off strong indicators that they might go violent, that part is a reasonable response. If their response started and ended there I wouldn't be upset.

The language in the rest of the memo indicates a willingness to soften the viewpoint neutrality that made them such an admirable organization.

I'm sending them a letter this weekend. I'm a pretty frequent donor, so I am literallyjoebiden the DEMAND KURVE here. In terms of the Gryllularity, I've got so much skin in this game that I'm practically a Jame Gumb victim.

More seriously, I know that my donations don't buy me any decision-making role, but I think they demonstrate that I'll be writing in good faith, from a position of genuine support for the organization's goals.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by dhex » 22 Jun 2018, 19:42

Calling it sabotage misses the point I think. It's a genuine difference about what counts as freedom - if you follow Balko on Twitter you'll see a lot of those kinds of exchanges.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by nicole » 22 Jun 2018, 19:48

Eric the .5b wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:32
dhex wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:29
Truth, but post Skokie they ate it hard in a lot of places and a bunch of money and some staff skeddadled.
And the people who donated and went to work for them since then knew what the ACLU was about.

'Sabotage" might be slightly too strong a word for this, but only slightly.
I believe the preferred term is “entryism.”
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 22 Jun 2018, 20:52

nicole wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:48
Eric the .5b wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:32
dhex wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:29
Truth, but post Skokie they ate it hard in a lot of places and a bunch of money and some staff skeddadled.
And the people who donated and went to work for them since then knew what the ACLU was about.

'Sabotage" might be slightly too strong a word for this, but only slightly.
I believe the preferred term is “entryism.”
That seems backward, since the ACLU is a small group, and entryism is about infiltrating larger groups.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by Eric the .5b » 22 Jun 2018, 20:54

dhex wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:42
Calling it sabotage misses the point I think. It's a genuine difference about what counts as freedom - if you follow Balko on Twitter you'll see a lot of those kinds of exchanges.
It doesn't matter if the difference is genuine or not. The ACLU has stood for a particular stance on what freedom is and how it should be protected. Going into an organization with a different stance, intending to undermine that stance, is basically subversion (to pick a better term).
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by JasonL » 22 Jun 2018, 22:29

It would be easier to digest, still wrong but easier, if the people interested in this view of what counts as freedom constrained the dangerous speech talk to only real actual nazis. It keeps looking overtly like “any political other”.

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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by dhex » 23 Jun 2018, 09:39

Eric the .5b wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 20:54
dhex wrote:
22 Jun 2018, 19:42
Calling it sabotage misses the point I think. It's a genuine difference about what counts as freedom - if you follow Balko on Twitter you'll see a lot of those kinds of exchanges.
It doesn't matter if the difference is genuine or not. The ACLU has stood for a particular stance on what freedom is and how it should be protected. Going into an organization with a different stance, intending to undermine that stance, is basically subversion (to pick a better term).
The aclu has shifted across positions quite a bit historically. The last major shift was in the early 80s on gay rights.

I don't think it's a good shift that appears to be forming.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 23 Jun 2018, 13:42

Redacted
Last edited by thoreau on 23 Jun 2018, 13:42, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by lunchstealer » 23 Jun 2018, 13:56

D'ya mind if I share that without attribution?
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 23 Jun 2018, 13:59

lunchstealer wrote:D'ya mind if I share that without attribution?
You can show it to people but don't repost it elsewhere.
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by lunchstealer » 23 Jun 2018, 14:10

Gotcha
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Re: Is the ACLU getting too Woke?

Post by thoreau » 23 Jun 2018, 14:32

Actually, on second thought, post it anywhere you like, and even use my real name, but don't mention Thoreau.
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