A very important article by Declan McCullagh at Politech about the direction the ACLU is taking:
Does the ACLU still believe in free speech? Maybe not any more
Wendy Kaminer, who co-authors thefreeforall.net with longtime Politech subscriber Harvey Silverglate, has a provocative and well-argued op-ed in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. Wendy asks whether the ACLU still broadly supports free speech, and answers the question in the negative.
Wendy points out that the ACLU has been silent on a key free speech case involving anti-homosexual statements that set an important (and awful) precedent before the 9th Circuit and was AWOL on the Muhammad “hate speech” cartoons. The ACLU has supported legislative restrictions on speech of pro-life groups offering abortion counseling. The New York Civil Liberties Union failed to criticize a New York City Council resolution condemning use of the “n-word.” And so on.
He raises some extremely serious issues.
This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Liberals and progressives have long been split between their totalitarian-minded leftist wing that loves to enforce political correctness through “hate speech” laws and campus speech codes — and those who recognize the social and political dangers inherent in banning speech that someone dislikes, and believe the answer to objectionable speech is more speech.
I’ve talked about this in the context of speech as discourse vs. speech as a manifestation of power, and cite Stephen Hicks:
What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.
If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don’t let them use those speech tools. Generate a list of denigrating words that harm members of the other groups and prohibit members of the powerful groups from using them. Don’t let them use the words that reinforce their own racism and sexism, and don’t let them use words that make members of other groups feel threatened. Eliminating those speech advantages will reconstruct our social reality – which is the same goal as affirmative action.
This is the position McCullagh and Kaminer suggest the ACLU is trending toward, and I think it’s a bad one if true.
Suggested reading: “Repressive Tolerance” by Marcuse.