by Poppy Coburn
Friday, 3
September 2021
Reaction
11:51

The ACLU turns against free speech

The once-vital group is being captured from within by hyper-partisan activists
by Poppy Coburn
Credit: Getty

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a series of tweets yesterday on their stance on a proposed new wave of pandemic legislation. The organisation announced that it supported vaccine mandates – which most people might think of as an infringement of civil liberties, even if a necessary one —  on the grounds that “far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties”.

What makes this statement so remarkable? Well, the founding statement of the ACLU set out its intentions as being “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution”. The entire modus operandi of the ACLU has been to provide legal challenges to any state infringement on these fundamental rights, even if the people in question are morally odious.

A New York Times piece released in June examined the identity crisis within the ACLU, and framed it as a generational issue: essentially, that the battle between the older staff who hold traditional liberal views on issues like free speech and open debate are clashing with increasingly partisan, activist young lawyers who place their commitment to social justice above everything else.  

This is not wrong — attitudes certainly have shifted on issues like censorship between millennials and their parent’s generation — but it does not capture the full extent of the problem. Why, exactly, did all these young employees at the ACLU suddenly decide to turn against the very principles that the organisation was founded upon? 

A clue may be found in the ACLU’s financial statements. Donald Trump’s 2016 election was a monetary gift for liberal institutions, and the ACLU enjoyed a hefty Trump windfall. The union raised over $1million in donations within a day of the Republican nominee’s electoral victory, and top lawyers enjoyed significant pay-rises. The donation money was also put towards a hiring drive, massively expanding the scope of its operations with young ‘activist-lawyers’, who were less interested in abstract ideals of liberal justice and fairness and more interested in fighting the supposed rise of fascism in the US. One internal meeting ended in a heated argument, with young staffers demanding that the ACLU “no longer defend White Supremacists”. 

While the ACLU has historically strived to paint itself as being a politically-neutral organisation, the post-Trump years have shown an undeniable shift away from non-partisanship. Perhaps the most egregious example of the ACLU’s defence towards the Democratic Party was their decision to spend $800,000 on campaign ads promoting Georgia Governor-hopeful Stacey Abrams, ostensibly for her work on supporting voting transparency. The group also broke with tradition in actively rallying against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as well as attempting to oust prosecutors who stood in the way of criminal justice reforms. 

While previous ACLU icons like Ira Glasser, a Jewish man who defended the first amendment rights of actual fascists, shunned the media spotlight, the new batch of lawyers presented themselves as partisan celebrities. Chase Strangio, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s ‘Transgender Justice’ project, was named as a Time magazine top 100 most influential person, and regularly jumps on his social media account to release statements that would have once been unthinkable from a free-speech lawyer. He proudly declared that gender critical author Abigail Shrier should have her books censored, and that “Stopping the circulation of [Shrier’s] book and these ideas is a 100% a hill I want to die on”.

The ‘civil liberties’ component of the ACLU is starting to seem like distant history.

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago

Donald Trump is far more liberal than the average millennial.
I do wish people would stop using the word ‘liberal’ when discussing progressives. They are illiberal.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
9 months ago

They are Marxists who have deliberately confused notions of “race” and “class” in order to reignite “class war”. And such is the craven confusion and cowardice of those who should be alert to such ruses, that they are succeeding.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
9 months ago

I do wish people would stop using the word ‘progressives’ to describe ideological reactionaries.

Andrew D
Andrew D
9 months ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

I agree that positive-sounding words like ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ shouldn’t apply, but I don’t think ‘reactionary’ is right either. What about ‘bigots’?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

YES, “What about ‘bigots’?”

I am a white man in the Deep South USA working construction, I suppose I am even a Redneck, and do not find the White people I know are racist. They wish the Black people the best – want them to be successful, The more successful every one becomes, the more successful everyone becomes; they do not treat them differently.

99% of all the Racism I see is the Liberal/Lefties promoting hate on the White people and division between every group possible, and causing society to no longer be unified, but break into groups who do not like each other.

The Neo-Marxists, Post-Modern, Critical Theory, Liberal-Lefty-Woke are really just – Racist Fa*cis ts (National Socalism is the melding of Government and Industry – and that is exactly what they wish, look at Social Media, MSM, and Corporate leadership, it is the government Mouthpiece, it and the Democrat Party are almost one)

They are the Bigots!

David Yetter
David Yetter
9 months ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Calling them “Progressives” at least has the virtues of tying them to their intellectual forebearer Woodrow Wilson, whose policies were taken as models by the Fascists and Nazis, and of not suggesting any connection to liberty as “Liberals” does.
Neither the woke nor the older-school “Progressives” are at all reactionaries: they are driven by the vision of supposed shining future that has never yet been (and in the view for those of us with an understanding of the fixedness of human nature, whether we derive that understanding from Darwinian biology or from the Scriptures of our religion, actually can never be).
Reactionaries at least have the virtue of yearning for a past which, even if their view of it is through rose-colored glasses, is provably feasible as a social order, having as a model an actually existing and functioning human society, even if getting there from now might be infeasible.

Last edited 9 months ago by David Yetter
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

I do agree that ‘progressive’ has a positive sound (but is better than liberal). So what do we call them?

Ian Howard
Ian Howard
9 months ago

Idiots?

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
9 months ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Beat me to it.
The word progressive has to be the most egregious piece of Gramscian language capture in history.

Last edited 9 months ago by Philip Stott
Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
9 months ago

Yes they’ve done an excellent job with their branding. Liberal Progressives sounds so positive, when the actual groups these terms commonly denote are intolerant, authoritarian and bigoted.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

They are Neo-Marxists!
Neo Marxists are directly from the ‘Frankfurt School’ of Wiemar Germany, using Marx as a base, but adding in ‘Critical Theory, Freudian Psychoanalyst, Existentialism of the Nihilist kind, and gave us ‘Post Modernism, that most evil philosophy..

“There are many different branches of Neo-Marxism often not in agreement with each other and their theories. Following World War I, some Neo-Marxists dissented and later formed the Frankfurt School.” (wiki)What they did was take Marx and his power theory of man as being all economic, the oppressors, and the oppressed were about Land Labor and Capital – Money., explaining all society. They then changed the thing from Money Power to Class and Race Power.

Neo-Marxism is that oppressors and oppressed are Identity Politics in action. That there is no society – merely ‘Identity groups…’ Gays, Blacks, Whites, women, Poor, educated, trans, middle class, underclass, people with criminal records, Christian, Muslim…..and believe the entire world is about power from one group of identities (say White Male Protestant, employed, educated) and how they interact with another group (they oppress them is the answer), say, Black, Women, low income, – or what ever group, of Single Identity, are in relation to Oppressed and Oppressor. Neo-Marxism is about identity politics and $ is just one aspect of it.

They do not believe an ‘Individual’ even exists! A Person is a collection of Identities, and all identities seek to oppress the other identities, but some are very good at it (oppressors), and some really bad at it (Oppressed).

And their answer to this? EQUITY! Take from one group and give it to the other till are are equitable (equal) no matter how deserving or meritocratic they are.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Neo-Marxism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Marxism

But as you know Wiki has been Captured by the Neo-Marxists, so it is almost politically biased.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
9 months ago

Perhaps America needs some kind of civil liberties union to protect it from the ACLU.

George Glashan
George Glashan
9 months ago

the anti-ACLU? or i cant believe its not the ACLU? or they could call it ” get A CLU”, badoom-tish … no?… i’ll get my coat.

Last edited 9 months ago by George Glashan
David Yetter
David Yetter
9 months ago

We actually have some: the American Center for Law and Justice, the Center for Individual Rights, and specific to religious freedom, (which as I noted is the area where the ACLU has not merely failed to live up to its original calling, but actually reversed sides) the Becket Foundation.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
9 months ago

With ordinary labour unions: the bosses expect you to give 110%, the workers would like to give 90% and with a bit of negotation you get to 100%, and everyone is happy.
I expect civil-rights unions to work the same way: they would like maximum individual freedom for people, the State wants maximum fealty, and so you meet in the middle, and maximize human happiness subject to constraints.
With the ACLU becoming politicized like this, it is like a labour-union that wants the employees to give 110%. It is a road to serfdom.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

“the bosses expect you to give 110%, the Labour Unions would like to give 10%”

And with negations get to 55%. And so the Rust Belts of England and UK where the Unions broke industry leaving the country, industry, and workers impoverished.

Peter LR
Peter LR
9 months ago

What! Abigail Shrier’s book ‘Irreversible Damage’ is in turns brilliant for its courage and devastating for its revelations of masochism disguised as self-discovery. It uncovers the appalling abuse via internet grooming and severing of parental support.

David Yetter
David Yetter
9 months ago

The erosion of the ACLU’s commitment to actual civil liberties began long before Trump descended the escalator to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination. The first change was that they started actively opposing free exercise of religion when commitment to a religion’s moral code ran afoul of the latest left-wing notion supporting sexual license. It has been a long-standing jibe on the American right that the acronym actually stands for “Anti-Christian Litigation Union”.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
9 months ago

I am like really struggling with how anyone, let alone the ACLU, would defend the Constitution
It’s white supremacist creators, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, owned some 600 and 100 slaves respectively. So how could any thing worth saving come out of such despicable authors? The ACLU should therefore eradicate itself and free up some SJW lawyers to do harm elsewhere.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
9 months ago

Because something good can still come from flawed people.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

“So how could any thing worth saving come out of such despicable authors?”

haha, you are mad….

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
9 months ago

Ever since those white supremacists wrote that wretched document America has been slowly sliding into obscurity and its once-hopeful citizens have emigrated back to Europe, S. America, Africa and Asia leaving it a shell of a republic. America is empty now, or nearly. The last of the holdouts are crossing illegally into Mexico as we speak.