The Free Speech Union criticizes the ACLU

February 11, 2022 • 10:30 am

Here’s an article from the new American chapter of the Free Speech Union FSU, which also has a Substack site.  Ben Schwarz, one of the authors, is a friend who used to be the national and literary editor of The Atlantic, but now spends a lot of his time defending free speech (I believe he started the FSU). Click on the FSU’s take on the American Civil Liberties Union:

Why only two cheers instead of the usual three? You know why: the ACLU is undergoing mission creep towards progressivism.  It’s prioritizing which speech cases to defend based on whether they “align with our [progressive] principles”, one of their attorneys (Chase Strangio) has called for banning Abigail Shrier’s book on transgender adolescents, and the organization has put its weight behind defending the “right” of transgender women—medically treated or not—to participate in women’s sports. But Schwarz and Zobenica point out other egregious un-ACLU stuff:

Would that it were the only shift. As the Times also noted, during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, in 2018, the ACLU—which had so long and so consistently stood up for the rights of the accused and the presumption of innocence—ran an ad that (as nearly as it could within defamation laws) found Kavanaugh guilty in the face of mere allegations (however numerous) of sexual misconduct. For an organization that helped defend the Scottsboro Boys’ rights of due process when confronted with allegations of rape to rely on a simple formula of “believe women” suggests another decided shift in the organization’s priorities.

The Kavanaugh ad solemnly notes: “The ACLU doesn’t support or oppose candidates to political or judicial office. We’ve made a rare exception. Brett Kavanaugh isn’t fit to serve. We’ll get as loud [as] we have to for our opposition to be heard.” This gambit of doing something you stress you don’t do, because, says you, circumstances give you no other choice is unworthy of its presumed solemnity. Fortunately, it’s something one can credibly attempt only once, if that. Let the supposed exception start to look more like a rule, and all claims to be above the fray quickly collapse.

But as the Times notes, that same year, 2018, the ACLU entered the fray again, pouring “$800,000 into what looked like a campaign ad for Stacey Abrams during her bid for governor of Georgia—a questionable move for a nonprofit organization that calls itself nonpartisan.” That the ACLU indulged in partisanship not once, in a “rare exception,” but twice in the same year suggests yet another shift in the organization’s priorities.

I didn’t really know about these matters, but should have. The donation to a campaign ad, and making a one-time exception to diss Kavanaugh, is not really in the “old” ACLU’s line of work  But it is now, as they’re becoming, like every other liberal organization, woke.

I would give the ACLU 1.4 cheers, not two, but the authors seem to have a sentimental streak about the old ACLU—the one we all supported and the one that helped me for free in my lawsuit against the government against having been called up illegally for conscientious-objector service.

Yes, it’s true that some of the “progressive” agenda overlaps with the “classical” mission of the ACLU, particularly defending the civil liberties of the oppressed (the “free speech” overlap is waning). But now the progressive tail is starting to wag the civil-liberties dog, and it may get worse.

I’m downgrading my cheers to one.

16 thoughts on “The Free Speech Union criticizes the ACLU

  1. Why even one? This behaviour is worse even than our our Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has been endorsing Human Rights Commissions, hate-speech laws, and affirmative action since Day One.

    Honestly, I thought from the title of article that the ACLU had done something two-thirds toward the way of redeeming itself. Not.

  2. I’m similarly disappointed in the ACLU and have stopped donating as a result. My contributions seem to been replaced, however. I’m left with the FFRF as a worthy organization worth supporting.

  3. I agree. The old head of the ACLU, Ira Glasser(1978-2001), is also very dissappointed in the ACLU. He was interviewed last week on Bill Maher, because of a movie “Mighty Ira”(2020), documenting his fights for free speech. The Skokie Nazi march, he said he would do it all again to defend the Nazis rights to march through Skokie Illinois. You probably know more about this. The Holocaust survivors in that area tried to stop them. I remember it. We watched a cartoon about it at school, elementary school . One of my teachers was a Holocaust survivor from the Ukraine. She said in the Ukraine, with a loud voice full of emotion that I never heard before, they ” look you in the eyes when they are stabbing you’ after that cartoon, when there was time for discussion.

  4. Just check out the ACLU’s twitter feed ( to see how woke they are now. Every other tweet and reply is about trans rights. I agree it’s an issue but aren’t there other civil liberties worth protecting? Are trans people really under so much of a threat that the full weight of the ACLU must be brought to bear on it?

    Meanwhile, Christopher Rufo is leading the charge to trap the Democrats into a bad response to the GOP’s efforts to make anti-CRT in education a major win in the November midterm elections. There are many “educational transparency” bills being introduced in red states, demanding that politicians and parents get access to what educators are teaching their kids about racism. The Bulwark are suggesting that Dems and the Left not take the bait and use the ACLU’s response as exactly how not to respond if the Dems want to do well in the midterms:

    @ACLU: “Curriculum transparency bills are just thinly veiled attempts at chilling teachers and students from learning about race and gender in schools.”

    Here’s what Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark says:

    Spoiler alert: this issue is a stone cold winner for Rufo & Co. My advice: don’t take the bait here, because fighting “transparency” is not the hill you want to die on. Now to be clear: this does not mean bizarre ideas like cameras in the classroom (a non-starter once parents realize their kids are being filmed), or laws that encourage parental litigation. But openness about curricula and reading lists is actually a good thing, which is why many school district already are quite transparent. They’ve posted information about teaching materials and curricula — and it has not triggered Ragnarok.

    1. Still a big no stars from me. The ACLU actually tried to block the women’s organization WOLF from accessing public records.

      “However, a bill was recently introduced in Washington state to exempt information on “gender identity” from disclosure under public records laws. This bill was introduced after a lawsuit was filed last year by the ACLU to prevent disclosure of the number of men who had been transferred to women’s facilities. The public records request being blocked was submitted in response to (verified) reports that the state has been transferring sex offenders to women’s prisons, one of whom went on to rape a cognitively disabled woman.”

      (From WOLF, ( , Feb 8, 2022)

  5. I suppose it’s a reference to EM Forster’s Two Cheers For Democracy. Quite appropriate really – if I remember what he meant it was one for accepting variety and one for allowing criticism. Now where have we heard that before?

  6. It seems that there is a general degradation of principals going on around us. If the principal, in this case, is that free speech is good and censorship is bad, that should be one’s guide for behavior. The liberties in the Constitution and the rules of Due Process shouldn’t be only tools for Us (and not Them). The continual ratcheting up of “emergencies” makes people think what they are doing is exceptional when it is merely debased.

    1. “The continual ratcheting up of “emergencies” makes people think what they are doing is exceptional when it is merely debased.”

      Well put.

  7. Ok, I’m going to be a total jerk here, and remind DrB of what I told my students: “The principal is your pal.” Sorry. I had no choice.

      1. “It’s a damn poor mind can’t come up with but one way to spell a word” — Mark Twain (or at least, like a lot of other pithy sayings, generally attributed to him).

  8. I’ve been in synch with the goals of the ACLU for as long as I can remember — going back, I suppose, to the 1960s, when I first became politically conscious.

    But I never officially joined the Union until the 1988 presidential campaign when Poppy Bush attacked his opponent, MA governor Michael Dukakis, for being “a card-carrying member of the ACLU” — at which point I thought, screw it, I want a card to carry, too.

    I still carry that card — though, gotta admit, no longer with quite the same pride as I used to.

  9. The ACLU has fully accepted the Woke View which is encapsulated in this 2012 comment (Since, somewhat ironically, ‘memory holed’ on YouTube).

    “Free speech is the right to educated speech. If you utilize your right to ‘freedom of speech’ but then are socially or politically apathetic, you don’t vote, educate yourself on social issues, if you are not involved in the community, if you are not involved in being a citizen, an educated citizen, you have no right to free speech.”

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