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.