The ALCU Spoke Volumes With Its Silence
A recent memo sheds more light on a trend that we've noticed for some time.
Forty years after it made a principled defense of the First Amendment on behalf of some apologists for one of the most evil ideologies in history by facing down the town of Skokie, Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union has been in the news for reports that it is making a retreat from the broad-based defense of free speech.
While many will be inclined to point to the clashes between antifa and alt-right protesters in Charlottesville (prior to which the ACLU successfully used legal action to protect the alt-right’s freedom to rally in that city) as the cause for this retreat, it was arguably evident long before The Wall Street Journal obtained an internal ACLU memo indicating that the organization wasn’t quite willing to call out all government efforts to suppress speech.
In March 2016, as the presidential primary campaigns were in full swing, a number of Democrat attorneys general sought to use the Racketeer-Influence and Corrupt Organizations statue, also known as RICO, against so-called “climate change deniers.” These AGs all favored legislative action to combat “climate change” — even with little evidence that man was a significant contributor — and were willing to use their power to punish their political opponents.
To any reasonable observer, it was a clear violation of the First Amendment. This is the type of thing that would lead to an ACLU press release, followed by its lawyers working with those targeted. That’s how it would operate, right?
Well, a search on the ACLU’s website around the time that the “AGs for Clean Power” announced their intentions comes up with no release calling out this threat to abuse power. At least one attorney general went so far as to subpoena Exxon Mobil and the Competitive Enterprise Institute — which he later withdrew after a fight. Nothing from the ACLU — not even a release to celebrate the withdrawal of the subpoenas.
More recently, New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s weaponization of bank regulations against the National Rifle Association drew nothing but silence from the supposed defenders of free speech. That was true even as Cuomo clearly stated his belief that those who support of Second Amendment rights had too much political influence in the wake of the Parkland school shooting (which was marked by an appalling record of FBI fumbles, Broward County bumbling, and a cowardly deputy sheriff)).
When the IRS Tea Party-targeting scandal originally broke, the ACLU condemned the abuse of power. But it has done little to hold the agency accountable. Much of the heavy lifting on that has been from the targeted Tea Party groups themselves.
The fact is, the ACLU memo obtained by The Wall Street Journal is only putting on paper what has been obvious for a while: The ACLU is increasingly unlikely to call out “progressives” when they attempt to abridge free speech. Their silence on the IRS, the attempt to hit so-called “climate change deniers” with RICO charges, and Cuomo’s retaliation against the NRA speaks volumes.
The ACLU once did laudable work as a voice for free speech for all sides of the political spectrum. With a growing cycle of tit-for-tat in our politics — including Democrat-fomented hatred — the loss of that voice could very well have deleterious effects for our country down the road.