26 votes

The ACLU Retreats From Free Expression

52 comments

  1. [20]
    phos
    Link
    The Article text (sorry I thought the referrer link worked)

    The Article text (sorry I thought the referrer link worked)

    The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

    This is presented as an explanation rather than a change of policy, and free-speech advocates know the ACLU has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates. ACLU leaders previously avoided acknowledging that retreat, however, in the apparent hope of preserving its reputation as the nation’s premier champion of the First Amendment.

    But traditional free-speech values do not appeal to the ACLU’s increasingly partisan progressive constituency—especially after the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The Virginia ACLU affiliate rightly represented the rally’s organizers when the city attempted to deny them a permit to assemble. Responding to intense post-Charlottesville criticism, last year the ACLU reconsidered its obligation to represent white-supremacist protesters.

    The 2018 guidelines claim that “the ACLU is committed to defending speech rights without regard to whether the views expressed are consistent with or opposed to the ACLU’s core values, priorities and goals.” But directly contradicting that assertion, they also cite as a reason to decline taking a free-speech case “the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values.”

    In selecting speech cases to defend, the ACLU will now balance the “impact of the proposed speech and the impact of its suppression.” Factors like the potential effect of the speech on “marginalized communities” and even on “the ACLU’s credibility” could militate against taking a case. Fundraising and communications officials helped formulate the new guidelines.

    One half of this balancing test is familiar. The “impact of suppressing speech”—the precedents that suppression might establish, the constitutional principles at stake—is a traditional factor in case selection. But, traditionally, the ACLU has not formally weighed the content of speech and its consistency with ACLU values in deciding whether to defend it.

    Tension between competing values isn’t new to the ACLU. Given its decades-old commitment to defending civil rights and liberties, the organization has long navigated conflicts between equality rights and freedoms of religion, speech and association. The guidelines assert that “no civil liberties or civil rights value should automatically be privileged over any other.” But it’s clear that free speech has become second among equals. Where is the comparable set of guidelines explaining when the ACLU should decline to defend gay-rights claims that infringe on religious liberty or women’s-rights cases that infringe on due process?

    The speech-case guidelines reflect a demotion of free speech in the ACLU’s hierarchy of values. Their vague references to the “serious harm” to “marginalized” people occasioned by speech can easily include the presumed psychological effects of racist or otherwise hateful speech, which is constitutionally protected but contrary to ACLU values. Faced with perceived conflicts between freedom of speech and “progress toward equality,” the ACLU is likely to choose equality. If the Supreme Court adopted the ACLU’s balancing test, it would greatly expand government power to restrict speech.

    In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), for example, the ACLU defended the First Amendment rights of a Ku Klux Klan leader prosecuted for addressing a small rally and calling for “revengence” against blacks and Jews. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Clarence Brandenburg’s conviction, narrowly defining incitement to violence as speech both intended and likely to cause imminent illegal action. Brandenburg made an essential distinction between advocacy and action, which progressives who equate hate speech with actual discrimination or violence seek to erase.

    The ACLU would be hard pressed to take Brandenburg’s case today, given its new guidelines. The organization hasn’t yet endorsed a ban on hate speech, or a broader definition of incitement. The guidelines affirm that “speakers have a right to advocate violence.” But even if Brandenburg managed to pass the new balancing test for speech cases, some participants at his rally were armed, and, according to the guidelines, “the ACLU generally will not represent protesters who seek to march while armed.”

    All this is the ACLU’s prerogative. Organizations are entitled to revise their values and missions. But they ought to do so openly. The ACLU leadership had apparently hoped to keep its new guidelines secret, even from ACLU members. They’re contained in an internal document deceptively marked, in all caps, “confidential attorney client work product.” I’m told it was distributed to select ACLU officials and board members, who were instructed not to share it. According to my source, the leadership is now investigating the “leak” of its new case-selection guidelines. President Trump might sympathize.

    18 votes
    1. [19]
      set
      Link Parent
      While from some interpretations this is concerning, I think this is a necessary turn for us to learn how to be intolerant of intolerance.

      While from some interpretations this is concerning, I think this is a necessary turn for us to learn how to be intolerant of intolerance.

      21 votes
      1. [18]
        TrialAndFailure
        Link Parent
        Being intolerant of certain speech just makes us as bad as the people we censor, if you ask me.

        Being intolerant of certain speech just makes us as bad as the people we censor, if you ask me.

        6 votes
        1. [17]
          set
          Link Parent
          A blanket philosophy is an incredibly dangerous thing. Also, being intolerant != censoring. Just as everyone has every right to scream about whatever they'd like, I have every right to tell them...

          A blanket philosophy is an incredibly dangerous thing.

          Also, being intolerant != censoring. Just as everyone has every right to scream about whatever they'd like, I have every right to tell them to fuck off. Allowing these kinds of abhorrent opinions run unchecked and to expect me to sit down and listen while doing so?

          No thanks.

          26 votes
          1. [16]
            TrialAndFailure
            Link Parent
            Telling them to fuck off is a form of censorship. You can argue that it's an acceptable form, but it's disingenuous to say it isn't censorship at all.

            Telling them to fuck off is a form of censorship. You can argue that it's an acceptable form, but it's disingenuous to say it isn't censorship at all.

            1 vote
            1. [13]
              set
              Link Parent
              It absolutely is not a form of censorship to voice your opinion. Your constitution should not be so weak that hearing a dissenting opinion causes you to stop holding an opinion.

              It absolutely is not a form of censorship to voice your opinion. Your constitution should not be so weak that hearing a dissenting opinion causes you to stop holding an opinion.

              17 votes
              1. [12]
                TrialAndFailure
                Link Parent
                It's not voicing your opinion that's censorship. I was talking about denying them a platform, which is what I thought you meant as well. Also, I don't understand your last sentence. Where did I...

                It's not voicing your opinion that's censorship. I was talking about denying them a platform, which is what I thought you meant as well.

                Also, I don't understand your last sentence. Where did I suggest anything about my constitution, or changing opinions?

                1. [11]
                  Gaywallet
                  Link Parent
                  The ACLU is not a public right. It's a private institution. It is not funded by taxpayers. There is absolutely no reason that it needs to serve as a platform for any opinion it disagrees with nor...

                  The ACLU is not a public right. It's a private institution. It is not funded by taxpayers. There is absolutely no reason that it needs to serve as a platform for any opinion it disagrees with nor defend any person it does not want to defend.

                  7 votes
                  1. [7]
                    JamesTeaKirk
                    Link Parent
                    I've always seen the ACLU as the greatest private defender of free speech in the U.S. For them to actively avoid defending certain speech is disappointing, and imo really pushes them into the...

                    I've always seen the ACLU as the greatest private defender of free speech in the U.S. For them to actively avoid defending certain speech is disappointing, and imo really pushes them into the realm of political action group, rather than staunch defender of free speech.

                    2 votes
                    1. [6]
                      Gaywallet
                      Link Parent
                      Why must everything be absolutist? The world doesn't work in black and white.

                      Why must everything be absolutist? The world doesn't work in black and white.

                      7 votes
                      1. [5]
                        JamesTeaKirk
                        Link Parent
                        I'm not saying it should/does, but the position of "Intolerance against Intolerance" seems really absolutist to me. I don't think we need to preemptively shut down a discussion. Take the comic...

                        I'm not saying it should/does, but the position of "Intolerance against Intolerance" seems really absolutist to me. I don't think we need to preemptively shut down a discussion.

                        Take the comic used to demonstrate the paradox linked above, it minimizes the decades of events and changes that occurred in a very specific environment for both Germany and the world that allowed Hitler's rise to power and ensuing atrocities.

                        1 vote
                        1. [4]
                          Gaywallet
                          Link Parent
                          When do we shut down a discussion? True, and we can never know how something will turn out if we changed something in the past, either.

                          I don't think we need to preemptively shut down a discussion.

                          When do we shut down a discussion?

                          it minimizes the decades of events and changes that occurred in a very specific environment for both Germany and the world that allowed Hitler's rise to power and ensuing atrocities.

                          True, and we can never know how something will turn out if we changed something in the past, either.

                          1. [3]
                            JamesTeaKirk
                            Link Parent
                            I think you're asking a bit much here. I'm now supposed to pick out an arbitrary standard based on a hypothetical discussion of any possible idea. I think the point here is that "intolerance to...

                            When do we shut down a discussion?

                            I think you're asking a bit much here. I'm now supposed to pick out an arbitrary standard based on a hypothetical discussion of any possible idea. I think the point here is that "intolerance to intolerance" is taking an extra unneeded step; Why do we need to blacklist topics/platforms, when we could stick with supporting liberty for the individual, so long as that individual's action don't impede another's liberty? It seems like a simple standard to strive for, and obviously it will never be perfect, but I'm just failing to see the need to stamp out certain ideas, and there's also probably an argument that stopping discussions on something will only encourage interest.

                            edit: I guess I sort of answered the question I said I couldn't answer. Definitely falling into ramble mode a bit here lol

                            1 vote
                            1. [2]
                              Gaywallet
                              Link Parent
                              Isn't that what intolerance to intolerance is? Or are you just saying that we shouldn't support intolerance but still give it a platform?

                              Why do we need to blacklist topics/platforms, when we could stick with supporting liberty for the individual, so long as that individual's action don't impede another's liberty?

                              Isn't that what intolerance to intolerance is? Or are you just saying that we shouldn't support intolerance but still give it a platform?

                              3 votes
                              1. JamesTeaKirk
                                Link Parent
                                I think we're really getting into semantics here. I guess my issue is that I think you should be allowed to discuss (for example) the merits of ISIS, and I think you should be able to proclaim...

                                I think we're really getting into semantics here. I guess my issue is that I think you should be allowed to discuss (for example) the merits of ISIS, and I think you should be able to proclaim that you agree with their actions and fly a flag in support. I don't think you should be able to personally impede another's liberty in the name of ISIS though.

                                But again, this is getting rather muddled, I think we all essentially agree, I just fail to see the need for a stated policy against specific ideas, and I have a lot of concern about how that policy might be abused.

                                2 votes
                  2. [3]
                    TrialAndFailure
                    Link Parent
                    Whether or not they're legally obligated is irrelevant to my point. I'm talking about morality, not legality.

                    Whether or not they're legally obligated is irrelevant to my point. I'm talking about morality, not legality.

                    1 vote
                    1. [2]
                      Gaywallet
                      Link Parent
                      Okay, I was a bit confused because there are specific legal guidelines surrounding free speech and public "platforms".

                      Okay, I was a bit confused because there are specific legal guidelines surrounding free speech and public "platforms".

                      5 votes
                      1. TrialAndFailure
                        Link Parent
                        No worries. I could have been clearer with my points.

                        No worries. I could have been clearer with my points.

                        2 votes
            2. [2]
              TheJorro
              Link Parent
              The word "censor" has such a wide-ranging definition. I always thought that taking it as an ultimate concept is a mistake. So many things can be a form of censorship that taking an absolute...

              The word "censor" has such a wide-ranging definition. I always thought that taking it as an ultimate concept is a mistake. So many things can be a form of censorship that taking an absolute anti-censorship stance just isn't practical to everyday life since we all perform some aspect of censorship everyday, whether that be ignoring an article from our news feed or blocking someone on Twitter.

              3 votes
              1. TrialAndFailure
                Link Parent
                That's a good point. I guess I'd do well to focus my language a bit. Blocking someone on social media definitely doesn't sit within what I object to!

                That's a good point. I guess I'd do well to focus my language a bit. Blocking someone on social media definitely doesn't sit within what I object to!

  2. [14]
    guamisc
    (edited )
    Link
    Eh, I've been struggling with this a lot recently. The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and various Amendments in the US seemingly don't always fit with the needs of society. Take the first amendment...

    Eh, I've been struggling with this a lot recently. The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and various Amendments in the US seemingly don't always fit with the needs of society.

    Take the first amendment for example, free speech. Why do we have it? I see it as two main reasons: to protect dissenters from government oppression and to encourage healthy debate which is vital to a functioning democracy. However the recent SCOTUS ruling that money == speech has basically killed the second part of that in my view. You cannot have healthy debate if you are never heard, and you would be hard pressed to get a message out over the screaming torrent of money flooding into propaganda in this country.

    Also you can take a look at how the 14th amendment has been ruthlessly used to expand the idea of corporate personhood and the protections they enjoy. Even the author of the amendment commented that it wasn't meant to apply in that fashion. Yet capitalism is going to do what it does: ruthlessly exploit everything to its advantage.

    I think as we've grown up as a society and advanced political and socioeconomic science we can now have a deeper understanding of the effects of these things. I'm glad that the ACLU is moving beyond the black/white understanding of the "text" of these amendments absent insight on how and for what society-improving reason these things exist.

    Edit: if not of

    13 votes
    1. nacho
      Link Parent
      I mean, it only makes sense right? The US has the oldest constitution in the world. It's also one of the least changed. It's the only constitution in existence written in the 18th century. The...

      Eh, I've been struggling with this a lot recently. The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and various Amendments in the US seemingly don't always fit with the needs of society.

      I mean, it only makes sense right? The US has the oldest constitution in the world. It's also one of the least changed. It's the only constitution in existence written in the 18th century.


      The idea that people would foresee the right principles to guide society more than 200 years in the future is nuts. It's just obvious we have no idea what governing document makes most sense in 2240.

      The US has the only constitution still in force today that gives so many unfettered rights to individuals at the expense of the needs of society. All other countries have moved away from having similar almost limitless individual rights.

      That happened more than 150 years ago for most of the west. That makes me think at least.

      7 votes
    2. [9]
      tyil
      Link Parent
      Would you say some parts of these texts could use a rewrite? And if so, which ones would you like to see changed and in what way? If not, why would you want to keep them as-is, even if they don't...

      The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and various Amendments in the US seemingly don't always fit with the needs of society.

      Would you say some parts of these texts could use a rewrite? And if so, which ones would you like to see changed and in what way?

      If not, why would you want to keep them as-is, even if they don't seem to fit the needs of today's society?

      5 votes
      1. [7]
        guamisc
        Link Parent
        Literally almost all of the original 10 need a rewrite, like my above criticism of the first. Additionally I believe that there is an abuse of the first by the government (or rather specific...

        Would you say some parts of these texts could use a rewrite? And if so, which ones would you like to see changed and in what way?

        Literally almost all of the original 10 need a rewrite, like my above criticism of the first. Additionally I believe that there is an abuse of the first by the government (or rather specific groups/individuals) regarding the petitioning for redress of grievances and freedom of the press.

        The second is vastly too vague and can be interpreted several ways, if it truly does preclude effective gun regulation it must be changed or removed. I don't want this post to devolve into long posts about gun policy, so let's just leave it at that.

        The fourth needs to be drastically expanded to include 21st century technology. My password protected email accounts hosted by google should be included in my papers and effects: the government should have to go through me and not Google to get at that data. Data privacy in general needs to also be updated like Europe's GDPR where 2nd and 3rd parties cannot collect or retain data about me without my consent or ability to force them to purge my data.

        The fifth needs to be slightly reworked, but is mostly OK. People learned in the law should not be able to spam "I do not recall" as a way to effectively neuter being supeona'd on anything due to the way how contempt and the fifth amendment work.

        We don't enforce the 6th nearly well enough or in an even manner for all classes of people in the US.

        7th is OK.

        We don't enforce the 8th well enough either. The working poor basically can't make bail, be it $2,000 or $2,000,000.

        9th and 10th are tricky in that I don't think they should exist in the form that they do because they can be interpreted in various ways. They were written at a time when we were "These United States of America" and not "The United States of America". Some things naturally have to be federally controlled in a country with the free movement of goods and people and leaving it to the states is not a viable option.

        In the similar vein after the abuse of the 14th by corporations, there needs to be a strict definition about the "rights" afforded to non-person entities. A company does not have beliefs, free speech rights, etc. and need to be explicitly barred from gaining them.

        Voting and apportionment system reform because people are disenfranchised by our system. We also need new amendments about the right to healthcare, housing, education, etc in that vein. Amendments curtailing political $$$ spending and corporate power in general (monopolies like vertical ones or oligopolies too).

        If not, why would you want to keep them as-is, even if they don't seem to fit the needs of today's society?

        Because rural, right-wing people have entirely too much pull in today's government, they have been over-represented (despite their whining about being forgotten) across all levels of government for decades. They Democrats have to win the national popular vote by like 6-8% to draw even in the US HoR the so-called "chamber of the people". The Senate is tilted for similar reasons, and should be reworked because of the aforementioned "these vs the US of A" that I mentioned earlier. President too, and by proxy the Judicial branch. The state houses are also tilted because they represent regions and not people.

        I have no faith that a constitutional rewrite under today's rules would effect a better Constitution due to how the power is distributed to the, frankly, regressive parts of America.

        12 votes
        1. [6]
          Prometheus720
          Link Parent
          So you think a group of people has way too much pull in the federal government, but you don't want to shift power to more local centers like states and municipalities? As far as I'm concerned, let...

          Because rural, right-wing people have entirely too much pull in today's government, they have been over-represented (despite their whining about being forgotten) across all levels of government for decades.

          So you think a group of people has way too much pull in the federal government, but you don't want to shift power to more local centers like states and municipalities? As far as I'm concerned, let the hillbillies be hillbillies. And let California be California. I shouldn't be affected by someone else's moralizing halfway across the country, whether that's yours or a hillbilly's. I am blown away that you are against the 10th amendment. Decisions should rarely be made at the federal level--look at the EU. They're doing great, and they don't need a strong centralized power. And please, don't say a word about the Articles of Confederation. That was 200 years ago in a time of poor transportation and communication technology, and low education. I think things are very different now, and more localized power is a good thing.

          Democracy is impossible at the national level in a place the size of the US. It's barely possible at the state level. That's my opinion.

          1 vote
          1. [5]
            guamisc
            Link Parent
            Yes? I want the federal government to be representative of the people. How people always use the argument you're making never makes sense to me. The problem isn't the federal government, it's that...

            So you think a group of people has way too much pull in the federal government, but you don't want to shift power to more local centers like states and municipalities?

            Yes? I want the federal government to be representative of the people. How people always use the argument you're making never makes sense to me. The problem isn't the federal government, it's that it isn't representative. You seem to have formed a conclusion that you then make up reasoning to support rather than thinking about ways to solve the issue and then arriving at a conclusion.

            As far as I'm concerned, let the hillbillies be hillbillies. And let California be California. I shouldn't be affected by someone else's moralizing halfway across the country, whether that's yours or a hillbilly's.

            Except that you are affected whether you want to believe that or not. The lax environmental enforcement that would happen in certain places would absolutely affect us all. I live in the Chatahoochee river basin, everything that happens in that basin affects everyone who lives there.

            I am blown away that you are against the 10th amendment. Decisions should rarely be made at the federal level--look at the EU. They're doing great, and they don't need a strong centralized power.

            They have been trending towards more centralized power since it was formed because it has turned out to better in the long run.

            And please, don't say a word about the Articles of Confederation. That was 200 years ago in a time of poor transportation and communication technology, and low education. I think things are very different now, and more localized power is a good thing.

            More localized power for local issues is a good thing. Just like your EU example has proved there is an advantage to centralizing certain things.

            Democracy is impossible at the national level in a place the size of the US. It's barely possible at the state level. That's my opinion.

            It is when a good portion of the population has been brainwashed. The answer isn't to teardown one of the greatest creations of modern society (the government), it's to fix the problem. It's to show how the government is effective (because it is) and that much of it's problems come from the fact that we keep electing a party that has made breaking the government a priority.

            It seems you've basically determined the federal government is the problem and I wholly disagree, the problem is the business interests which have infested it. We're just going to talk past each other for forever.

            3 votes
            1. [4]
              Prometheus720
              Link Parent
              I think that a government is intrinsically a business interest, and its ability to convince us otherwise is endlessly fascinating to me. The government is statistically not interested in you at...

              I think that a government is intrinsically a business interest, and its ability to convince us otherwise is endlessly fascinating to me. The government is statistically not interested in you at the federal level.

              You see, it isn't just about representation. It isn't just about making sure the people are heard over business interests. Let's assume that happens. Then, what happens next is that the people who are being represented have to duke it out. And even if the people as a whole are represented, that doesn't mean that YOU are represented.

              Centralizing power is like creating nuclear weapons when they have not previously existed. You should never create a dangerous weapon that could fall into the wrong hands. You destroy the ring in Mount Doom--you don't use it to fight Sauron. Governments exist at the behest of business interests and monied classes. They do not exist for you, because you can't fund them or their members.

              1 vote
              1. TrialAndFailure
                Link Parent
                Just wanted to say I love this metaphor.

                You destroy the ring in Mount Doom--you don't use it to fight Sauron.

                Just wanted to say I love this metaphor.

                3 votes
              2. [2]
                guamisc
                Link Parent
                I could not disagree with you harder. The ability of people to teardown the only thing standing between us and neofeudalism is what I find endlessly fascinating. You are essentially describing...

                I could not disagree with you harder.

                The ability of people to teardown the only thing standing between us and neofeudalism is what I find endlessly fascinating.

                You are essentially describing government as a weapon, where as it is probably one of the crowning achievements of mankind.

                1 vote
                1. Prometheus720
                  Link Parent
                  It is both at once. It is a military organization full of paid mercenaries and drone operators who kill innocent civilians right alongside their targets--and it is also a huge charity which has...

                  It is both at once. It is a military organization full of paid mercenaries and drone operators who kill innocent civilians right alongside their targets--and it is also a huge charity which has improve the lives of many people. But you are not in control of which side of the coin will show when it lands. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. And there will always be people who wish for the weapon side to be used. Whether they're normal voters who are just warhawks, or high-powered, greedy business magnates, they don't want government to be a charity. They want government to work for THEM.

                  I personally am in favor of divorcing charity from violence and aggression. I don't think a government, if it is a crowning achievement of mankind as you say, should engage in such things. Ever.

                  1 vote
      2. nacho
        Link Parent
        The bill of rights (as interpreted in constitutional law) give extreme rights to individual people. That creates huge areas of interpretation where the various rights conflict. In which places do...

        The bill of rights (as interpreted in constitutional law) give extreme rights to individual people. That creates huge areas of interpretation where the various rights conflict. In which places do which rights overrule the others?

        The obvious solution to that problem starts with acknowledging that the rights aren't nearly as absolute as the constitution banally suggests.


        In my opinion, a rewrite of the Bill of Rights that looks at both the rights, and how they interact is paramount for creating a predictable legal system where the people determine their own rules through a democratic process.

        The Supreme Court determines what's legal and not in too many cases. That's why what we're allowed to do has changed in practice so much while the law hasn't changed a single comma: those changes should happen through democracy, not through the votes of a handful of judges.

        4 votes
    3. [4]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. TrialAndFailure
        Link Parent
        Very interesting quotes! Would you happen to have a reading list or something? I'd like to learn more about these ideas you've been presenting.

        Very interesting quotes! Would you happen to have a reading list or something? I'd like to learn more about these ideas you've been presenting.

        1 vote
      2. [2]
        guamisc
        Link Parent
        Government and constitutions exist because there is no way that humans can efficiently run society as individuals. We've made governments since the beginning of society. There is no perfect...

        Government and constitutions exist because there is no way that humans can efficiently run society as individuals. We've made governments since the beginning of society. There is no perfect government, so far as I know of, but they are wholly preferable to the areas of this planet which have functionally none. Constitutions exist to put restraints on governments so that temporary majorities inflamed by this, that, or the other thing cannot run roughshod over everything as they could do in the case of their expiration every 19 years.

        My solutions are to fix the things that are broken, improve representation, blunt corrupting forces, and tackle other problems that arise.

        1 vote
        1. TrialAndFailure
          Link Parent
          I don't think it's really fair to insist that because societies have always had governments, governments must therefore be necessary for societies. There are a lot of things people have been doing...

          I don't think it's really fair to insist that because societies have always had governments, governments must therefore be necessary for societies. There are a lot of things people have been doing since societies began, like genocide and sexism and raping and pillaging. Yet nobody would claim that any of those are necessary for society.

          The fact that governments are familiar to us speaks nothing about how well we'd manage without them.

          2 votes
  3. [6]
    RespectMyAuthoriteh
    Link
    Unfortunately the ACLU isn't the only group that has strayed from its original mission over time. For example, The Sierra Club has this as its mission statement: To explore, enjoy, and protect the...

    Unfortunately the ACLU isn't the only group that has strayed from its original mission over time. For example, The Sierra Club has this as its mission statement:

    • To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
    • To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources;
    • To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

    However, in recent years they've started taking positions on a bunch of different issues like abortion rights that really have nothing to do with their stated mission that is focused on the environment.

    I think one major cause of this is that, over time, the most zealous members of a group are the ones who are the most dedicated to get involved and ultimately run for board positions. Once these zealous types get on the board of an organization, they will often start pushing for things that have little to do with the original mission. It's unfortunate because it ends of hurting the group's credibility in the longer term. It's like if a longtime neighborhood seafood restaurant suddenly decides it's going to start offering pizza in addition to the seafood. The public's perception of the quality of their seafood menu items is going to be diminished.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      Hypersapien
      Link Parent
      Are you familiar with the history of the NRA? The used to be a good organization that promoted gun education an common-sense gun control laws. Then they were taken over by far right radicals in...

      Are you familiar with the history of the NRA? The used to be a good organization that promoted gun education an common-sense gun control laws.

      Then they were taken over by far right radicals in 1977.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-nras-true-believers-converted-a-marksmanship-group-into-a-mighty-gun-lobby/2013/01/12/51c62288-59b9-11e2-88d0-c4cf65c3ad15_story.html

      13 votes
      1. RespectMyAuthoriteh
        Link Parent
        Yep, it happens to all kinds of groups. A large non-profit organization my mother was involved with at one time had several people at the upper level who wanted to start putting out press releases...

        Yep, it happens to all kinds of groups. A large non-profit organization my mother was involved with at one time had several people at the upper level who wanted to start putting out press releases in support of things having nothing to do with the group's core mission. They weren't successful in that case, but if they had just 1 or 2 more like-minded people they likely would have been successful.

        4 votes
    2. [3]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      Are you saying that the ACLU is less of an institution for deciding to no longer defend free speech cases by people who are actively trying to remove the rights and liberties of other individuals?...

      Are you saying that the ACLU is less of an institution for deciding to no longer defend free speech cases by people who are actively trying to remove the rights and liberties of other individuals?

      They have limited resources and to me it makes perfect sense to not defend a case on the first amendment when the perpetrator was trying to violate the 9th, 14th, 19th and/or the equal rights amendment. Even if they had unlimited resources, it seems to me that they shouldn't be prioritizing one amendment over another and that they should only be defending challenges to amendments that do not set precedence for other amendments.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [2]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          Can you please point out where they address their treatment of the 2nd amendment? I do not see it in this article. EDIT: I just reread the entire article and see nothing about a refusal to get...

          Can you please point out where they address their treatment of the 2nd amendment? I do not see it in this article.

          EDIT: I just reread the entire article and see nothing about a refusal to get involved with 1st and 2nd amendment cases. Only a refusal to defend free speech when the speech is meant to harm.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. Gaywallet
              Link Parent
              Thanks for the link. This helps clarify things a bit. Historically the ACLU has never defended the 2nd amendment in this capacity. It has always held the stance that the 2nd amendment refers to...

              Thanks for the link. This helps clarify things a bit.

              Historically the ACLU has never defended the 2nd amendment in this capacity. It has always held the stance that the 2nd amendment refers to collective rights and not individual rights.

              If they were to take on a case that involved the first and second amendment at the same time (such as open carry at a protest), they wouldn't be arguing for open carry - they'd be arguing for free speech. I don't see how this really changes anything, other than stating that they no longer want to defend first amendment rights when the person has clear or implied intent to harm another group or infringe upon their other rights.

              3 votes
  4. [3]
    phos
    Link
    The Article The document in question Summary: From the Journal It's probably important to note that this document was leaked, the ACLU didn't release it to the public. They're currently...

    The Article

    The document in question

    Summary:
    From the Journal

    The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

    This is presented as an explanation rather than a change of policy, and free-speech advocates know the ACLU has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates. ACLU leaders previously avoided acknowledging that retreat, however, in the apparent hope of preserving its reputation as the nation’s premier champion of the First Amendment.

    It's probably important to note that this document was leaked, the ACLU didn't release it to the public. They're currently investigating the leak apparently. In my mind the secrecy is the worst part of this. If you're going to move in this direction, it'll make things much easier if you publicise policy changes.

    The document itself is a bit of a mixed bag, with some bits that support one view and some that support the other.

    (Possibly) important quotes from the internal document:

    We also recognize that not defending fundamental liberties can come at considerable cost. If
    the ACLU avoids the defense of controversial speakers, and defends only those with whom it
    agrees, both the freedom of speech and the ACLU itself may suffer.The organization may lose
    credibility with allies, supporters, and other communities, requiring the expenditure of resources to
    mitigate those harms. Thus, there are often costs both from defending a given speaker and not
    defending that speaker. Because we are committed to the principle that free speech protects
    everyone, the speaker’s viewpoint should not be the decisive factor in our decision to defend speech
    rights

    So it looks like they are reaffirming that they will still defend controversial applications of free speech. They then go on to say that because of their limited resources, they'll pick cases that are more in line with their values, though still supporting some controversial cases. They do say that they won't support gun carrying protesters (fair enough), people that promote violence:

    Whether the speaker seeks to engage in or promote violence: The First Amendment is
    not absolute, and in particular, does not protect intentional incitement to imminent violence,
    conspiracy to commit violent acts, true threats directed at specific individuals, physical
    obstruction of the exercise of constitutional rights, or intentional destruction of private or
    public property. Speakers have a right to advocate violence and hate so long as it does not
    fall in the above narrowly defined categories

    Obviously time will tell what they mean by this. The bit the WSJ seem to focus on is this consideration given:

    The impact of the proposed speech and the impact of its suppression: Our defense of
    speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which
    we are also committed, depending on factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are
    contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which
    the speech will occur. At the same time, not defending such speech from official suppression
    may also have harmful impacts, depending on the breadth or viewpoint-based character of
    the suppression, the precedent that allowing suppression might create for the rights of other
    speakers, and the impact on the credibility of the ACLU as a staunch and principled
    defender of free speech. Many of these impacts will be difficult if not impossible to
    measure, and none of them should be dispositive. But as an organization equally committed
    to free speech and equality, we should make every effort to consider the consequences of
    our actions, for constitutional law, for the community in which the speech will occur, and
    for the speaker and others whose speech might be suppressed in the future.

    Basically, they want to do mostly cases that support their own beliefs, but they will do more controversial ones, because that sets a bad precedent. I'd advise reading the whole document, it's not that long.

    META: is this sort of post allowed in news? Apologies if it's off topic.

    EDIT: Oops, didn't mean to post this as a comment.

    9 votes
    1. Silbern
      Link Parent
      No worries man, you didn't do anything wrong. If you fill out the text section, the website will always put it into a comment, if you put a link in; that's how it's designed. Also, something else,...

      EDIT: Oops, didn't mean to post this as a comment.

      No worries man, you didn't do anything wrong. If you fill out the text section, the website will always put it into a comment, if you put a link in; that's how it's designed.

      Also, something else, this article is paywalled, you have to be a subscriber to be able to read it, so you might want to perhaps link a screenshot or a pastebin of the text somewhere.

      8 votes
  5. [2]
    Prometheus720
    Link
    Tildes seems to have a VERY strong theme around free speech vs. hate speech. All I want to say is this: The point of free speech is to protect the populace and the press and allow them to...

    Tildes seems to have a VERY strong theme around free speech vs. hate speech. All I want to say is this:

    The point of free speech is to protect the populace and the press and allow them to criticize the government, and to further the discussion and improvement of ideas. The latter requires that ideas be expressed.

    Now, whether you like it or not, ideas are ideas. And the point of letting them be heard is so that, if they are bad ideas, we will have a chance to convince someone, or if they won't be convinced, we can at least convince a public audience that the idea was a bad one. We can crush the idea publicly. We can also extract good ideas from otherwise poor ideologies--alt-righters are obviously wrong on immigration, but only to a certain point. One country trying to take in tens of thousands of traumatized, marginalized, and culturally maladjusted refugees from a foreign warzone could be a recipe for disaster if it isn't handled intelligently. Smaller numbers and a greater spread does make it a little more likely that they will integrate. Anarchism might be a little pie in the sky, but principles like Least Intervention, decentralization of power, or the NAP are instructive for normal people, if not always useful. And to me, a certain group of liberals is interested in opposing older ideas about free speech--I think the idea of hate speech has been taken too far in some ways, but it also has some merit. And here it is.

    Hate speech, to me, is anything that does not express an idea--there is no attempt to explain, to provide evidence, to convince, or to have a dialogue. Screaming a slur at someone else could be considered hate speech. It is more of an action than a transmission of an idea. And I still think that the concept of free speech should provide limited protection--calling someone a slur is NOT worthy of jail time, but it could be worth someone losing a job/position or maybe civil law proceedings. I think allowing the state to prosecute people for things like that is begging for biased proceedings wherein hate speech is used as a tool to "get" people that the state couldn't otherwise "get," and not as a tool of social improvement. Therefore, civil law is probably a better path to take in extreme cases. The best path to take is a collective path of removing soapboxes from bigots so that they can be convinced 1 on 1, instead of in front of a crowd of followers.

    Then the question is, what is the difference between some kind of ethnic slur and some other insult? A targeted insult is based on some information about the target as an individual. As hurtful as it may be, it's not bigotry--it is a statement about another person. It is conveying an idea with evidence.

    6 votes
    1. jgb
      Link Parent
      Excellent comment: This particular section I agree with strongly. It's so harmful and counter-productive to just look at people espousing views you don't agree with and shout 'Bad! Racist! Nazi!'....

      Excellent comment:

      We can also extract good ideas from otherwise poor ideologies--alt-righters are obviously wrong on immigration, but only to a certain point. One country trying to take in tens of thousands of traumatized, marginalized, and culturally maladjusted refugees from a foreign warzone could be a recipe for disaster if it isn't handled intelligently. Smaller numbers and a greater spread does make it a little more likely that they will integrate. Anarchism might be a little pie in the sky, but principles like Least Intervention, decentralization of power, or the NAP are instructive for normal people, if not always useful.

      This particular section I agree with strongly. It's so harmful and counter-productive to just look at people espousing views you don't agree with and shout 'Bad! Racist! Nazi!'. It might feel good - you'll get a lot of positive reinforcement from the people on 'your side', and you'll feel as if you're helping to squash harmful ideas. But the fact of the matter is that this only serves to widen political divides and further ostracise those with radical viewpoints - causing them to push back in an almost Newtonian sense by becoming even more radicalised. It's a lot harder and less rewarding to try and consider where other people's viewpoints come from and how they might have merit, but it's a fundamental step in fostering healthy political discourse.

      2 votes
  6. [6]
    Awoo
    Link
    This is a particularly European viewpoint, so it runs contrary to a lot of American views and I get downvoted a lot on reddit for saying it, but here's my opinion. Your right to anything should...

    This is a particularly European viewpoint, so it runs contrary to a lot of American views and I get downvoted a lot on reddit for saying it, but here's my opinion.

    Your right to anything should end at the precise point where your actions are causing harm to others.

    This applies to physical, verbal, and metaphysical things.

    You have the right to do whatever you want with your body physically but if it's causing harm to others then you should rightfully be prevented from doing something. This might be punching someone. This might be speeding in a vehicle. This might be smoking in an enclosed public space.

    You have the right to speak in any form you want, but your speech should be prevented when it is known to be harmful to others. There is a veritable fountain of studies on the topic and hatespeech, even when undirected at any individual or NOT seeking to incite actions, is harmful, objectively, causation not correlation, it lowers qualities of life, lowers social living standards, raises suicide rates, raises violence against minority groups, etc. It objectively causes actual harm and death to others.

    I agree wholly with the right to free speech. I however believe that everyone's right to not be harmed has greater priority over all other rights.

    Before the typical "who decides what harm is?" point comes in - the courts do. The same courts that decide what is an is not physical harm. The same courts that decide what is and is not murder. The same courts trusted to judge on "harm" in all other areas of law.

    Speaking in generalisations of course. There are caveats and nuances. But the general principle remains true and I think is roughly how we try to approach it over here. We don't always get it right of course, nobody does, but no system is ever going to be perfect. We should aim for the system of least harm.

    6 votes
    1. [5]
      TrialAndFailure
      Link Parent
      It's interesting to read this, because my view is like its polar opposite -- free speech of any sort should be protected no matter the emotional cost to any people. I wonder how our environments...

      It's interesting to read this, because my view is like its polar opposite -- free speech of any sort should be protected no matter the emotional cost to any people.

      I wonder how our environments have shaped these opinions of ours.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        Really? Whenever I hear people say that, I always want to hear the reasoning that leads there. You don't have to answer the specifics, but the argument you're making makes huge demands on things...

        my view is like its polar opposite -- free speech of any sort should be protected no matter the emotional cost to any people.

        Really?

        Whenever I hear people say that, I always want to hear the reasoning that leads there. You don't have to answer the specifics, but the argument you're making makes huge demands on things like the following:

        What's your stance on defamation?

        On targeted harassment through the use of speech?

        On impossible threats that aim to terrorize and silence?

        On shock/gore-blasting people (what about children?) ?

        On intentionally and systematically humiliating people through various types of speech and imagery?

        On legal incitement to violence that doesn't violate the Brandenburg test for incitement, but obviously leads to and encourages harm to others?

        On systematically intimidating people due to their innate, unchosen characteristics? (hate speech)


        Most of the time when people respond to those concerns when I ask, they acknowledge that they draw the line somewhere.

        Usually the answer describing why hate speech (by use of a narrow, specific legal definition; tonnes of developed countries have them and tested legal practice using them) should somehow be allowed while the other already disallowed types of speech naturally and obviously are extremely different in priniciple, seem to me to boil down to arguments of familiarity/habit rather than of principle.

        More speech isn't necessarily freer speech: words have power. You can use them to intentionally intimidate people away from speaking. That's why there are so many types of speech that are already illegal, even in countries with the very most open speech laws: modern society requires speech restrictions. Many of them. Or society breaks down.

        6 votes
        1. TrialAndFailure
          Link Parent
          I just feel incredibly hesitant to leave it up to governments to decide what qualifies as unacceptable speech. Regarding all of your examples, I'd like to believe that society itself can handle...

          I just feel incredibly hesitant to leave it up to governments to decide what qualifies as unacceptable speech. Regarding all of your examples, I'd like to believe that society itself can handle the discipline through social consequences, not legal ones. I don't believe society will break down if the government takes a completely hands-off approach.

          Of course, then we get to the issue of when it's morally acceptable for society to discipline someone for speech, which I don't have an answer to.

      2. [2]
        Boudicasfolly
        Link Parent
        Americans are raised with the “myth” that Freedom of Speech and the ability to say anything has always been our right and is crucial to our “freedom.” This simply isn’t true. A review of first...

        Americans are raised with the “myth” that Freedom of Speech and the ability to say anything has always been our right and is crucial to our “freedom.” This simply isn’t true. A review of first amendment jurisprudence crushes this argument.

        But it’s so ingrained in our zeitgeist, that even other reasonable, intelligent people see it as sacrosanct and will defend the rights of Nazis and other hate groups. We’ve been brainwashed.

        2 votes
        1. TrialAndFailure
          Link Parent
          It's not defending their rights that's the problem. If Nazis and other hate groups do indeed have rights, we're morally obligated to defend them, whether we agree with them or not. I think what...

          It's not defending their rights that's the problem. If Nazis and other hate groups do indeed have rights, we're morally obligated to defend them, whether we agree with them or not. I think what you're trying to say is that they don't have those rights in the first place.

          1 vote
  7. Brian
    Link
    My understanding is the ACLU will no longer represent people wanting to host rallies where there's a high likelihood of violence. I don't really blame them. If your group has a history of using my...

    My understanding is the ACLU will no longer represent people wanting to host rallies where there's a high likelihood of violence. I don't really blame them. If your group has a history of using my legal services and promising a peaceful protest, then running people over with cars an saying vile shit trying to justify a murder on the Internet, it's perfectly justifiable to fire a group of clients.

    Discord was just subpoena'd for the content of the chat of the organizers surrounding that murder. Marc Randazza is the attorney who filed the motion to quash.

    3 votes