Robby Soave has a post over at Reason that deals with a movement within the American Civil Liberties Union to move away from their century-long-held principle of robust support for the First Amendment.
“Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed,” wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memo obtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.
It’s hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment.
If it’s true, I find not only worrisome but also disappointing. The ACLU has been a valuable ally in the opposition to legislation here in Maryland that would gag the Internet by making speech that hurt the feelings of a minor punishable by upto three years in prison. If the ACLU were to switch sides on that, a bill would certainly pass our legislature.
It seems fairly clear to me what’s happening here. Leadership would probably like the ACLU to remain a pro-First Amendment organization, but they would also like to remain in good standing with their progressive allies. Unfortunately, young progressives are increasingly hostile to free speech, which they view as synonymous with racist hate speech. Speech that impugns marginalized persons is not speech at all, in their view, but violence. This is why a student Black Lives Matter group shut down an ACLU event at the College of William & Mary last year, chanting “liberalism is white supremacy” and “the revolution will not uphold the Constitution.” Campus activism is illiberal, and liberal free speech norms conflict with the broad protection of emotional comfort that the young, modern left demands.
The ACLU’s capitulation to the anti-speech left should serve as a wake up call for true liberals. What has taken place on campus over the last decade does matter, and though the scope of the problem is frequently overstated, we should all be concerned when the nation’s premiere civil liberties organization is increasingly afraid of defending the First Amendment—not because the Trump administration scares them, but because college students do.
Read the whole thing.