One of the most chilling pronouncements I heard after the massacre at Sandy Hook was from an NRA apologist who said that what happened was just a “hazard of a free society.”
The ACLU has adapted this posturing, it has become the NRA of free speech.
We ask of it, like we do of the NRA when murders like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia or Sandy Hook happen, where is its soul? It responds it does not need a soul, it has the constitution.
Like the NRA with the Second Amendment, the ACLU exploits the anachronistic nature of the First Amendment, it cedes to its of lack of foresight, and it demurs to the primacy of white men in the constitution’s considerations: The framers did not foresee a world in which white men alone would have power or opportunity for speech. Like the NRA, it parrots sympathy for the victims of so called “hate speech” but this is all performative double speak: a ventriloquist chiding his dummy. It condemns violence and then lawsuit by lawsuit ensures that the perpetrators have open door access to carry out that violence. It sues cities who try to keep the Klan off its streets throwing “peaceable assembly” in their faces. Let this be the last day that we put “peaceable” and “KKK” in the same sentence. There is no such thing. It is a stars and bars unicorn.
The organization insists that when the Klan “crosses the line to harassment,” then it is no longer protected. We need to encode through law that KKK rallies themselves cross the line because they are used as tools of terror and intimidation. There is no well behaved Klan rally. Further we need to decide that the KKK’s emblem, the Confederate flag, is a directive for violence against American citizens and should be banned from all public life. There is a precedent here. We led the Allied forces in the de-Nazification of Germany after WWII ridding it of all its Nazi imagery and practice. Why is there a refusal to do this here?
The ACLU’s slogan of “Fight hate speech with more speech” is empty considering that counter speech is impossible when you have a noose around your neck or when your body is crushed underneath the wheels of a weaponized car. What happened in Charlottesville was not hate speech that merely offended, it was violent speech. It was intimidation speech. Rarely do we find these terms anywhere in the organization’s public lexicon.
In my home state of Mississippi, where the Confederate flag is the most prominent feature of our official state flag, the flag acts as a de-facto segregator. Its sole purpose is to intimidate Black Mississippians. It has been successful. What exists as a result is an economy and an electorate built on fear. It is why the vote to unionize Nissan workers failed. It is why we have the largest delegation of African American legislators in the country but still our children have to walk under Confederate flags everyday to go to school.
I donate to the ACLU because I believe its work to protect immigrants is vital. I don’t know if i will continue. Why would I give an organization money which facilitates terror? No amount of constitutional rectitude can make this right. The organization must acknowledge that we are living in 21st century America, one that looks more and more like speculative fiction with cataclysmic urgencies borne of a nation that has yet to square its reality with its constitutional myths.
Lee Rowland, free speech attorney for the ACLU has said “It is important to defend speech we hate because that means the First Amendment rises to the tide of us all.” Ms. Rowland, will the ACLU continue to hide behind milquetoast notions of “offense from hate speech” and persist in what seems to be an organizational project of defending speech that intimidates, that terrorizes?
And this tide that you speak of, it is drowning us all.