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Douglas Andrews / September 24, 2021

Behold the Anti-Free-Speech ACLU

Once the nation’s leading defender of free speech, the ACLU is now little more than an activist for “progressive” causes.

We suppose it’s to the credit of the American Civil Liberties Union that it hasn’t yanked down that smoking-gun Twitter post. Of course, it’s to the deep and everlasting disgrace of the ACLU that anyone there felt it to be an acceptable post in the first place.

At issue is an artistically rendered quote from former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a quote the ACLU bowdlerized because it contained scientifically accurate (and therefore deeply offensive) language from the obviously insufficiently awokened RBG.

This is what Ginsburg, herself a former ACLU lawyer, said to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1993 during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings:

The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choice.

And this is the way the one-time free-speech champions at the ACLU quoted her in their September 18 tweet:

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to either [their] well-being and dignity. … When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

The indignity. Ginsburg must be thrashing about in her grave. And that army of Notorious RBG acolytes? They must be equally aggrieved. Or perhaps not. After all, what’s a little historical whitewashing among “progressives,” especially those who’ve abandoned their once vigorous defense of free speech from all across the political spectrum?

Agree or disagree on her larger abortion argument, there’s a reason why Ginsburg said what she said, and not what today’s ACLU desperately wishes she’d said. That reason? Women bear children. Men don’t. To argue otherwise does violence to biology specifically and to science generally.

“Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis,” went the New York Times headline on June 6 of this year. But we don’t see a crisis here so much as a surrender, a capitulation. As the Times went on to note, it was the ACLU that defended the free speech rights of American neo-Nazis in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, the home of many World War II Holocaust survivors. But one wonders: Would today’s ACLU go to bat so boldly for free speech?

We think not. And former ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser seems to agree with us. As Reason’s Nick Gillespie writes: “Glasser says he’s worried about the future of both free expression and the organizations that defend it. In 2018, a leaked ACLU memo offered guidelines for case selection that retreated from the group’s decades-long content-neutral stance, citing as a reason to decline a 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.’ Glasser fears that, by becoming more political and less absolutist when it comes to defending speech, the ACLU might be shrugging off its hard-won legacy.”

Hmm, ya think?

And does anyone else see the slippery slope inherent in the two words “or others” that appear directly after “white supremacists” in that leaked memo? For example, Donald Trump has been tarred by the deranged Left as a white supremacist; shouldn’t the ACLU therefore refuse to protect his speech when Big Tech shuts him down? And if the ACLU refuses to defend Donald Trump’s free speech rights, then by what rationale would it defend the rights of those who support Donald Trump? Or those who espouse conservative views? Or those who support the white supremacist Republican Party in general?

Sure enough, then-ACLU President Susan Herman put it this way back in 2017: “We need to consider whether some of our timeworn maxims — the antidote to bad speech is more speech, the marketplace of ideas will result in the best arguments winning out — still ring true in an era when white supremacists have a friend in the White House.”

It’s simple, really. Leftists used to be in favor of free speech when they believed their ideas could stand up in the marketplace. These days, though, when they have to argue that men can become women and women men, their arguments become untenable.

And so free speech itself becomes untenable.

What we’ve said before applies to the Left, to Democrats, to Big Tech, and to the ACLU: They wouldn’t need to censor us if they weren’t afraid of losing the argument.

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