Wendy Kaminer, in the Wall Street Journal, also reveals that the ACLU is now accepting the Hard Left notion that mere speech can inflict harm, even if one does not call someone pigeon pie and eat him up.
The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm â€œmarginalizedâ€ groups by undermining their civil rights. â€œSpeech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,â€ the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and â€œConflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.â€
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 nationâ€™s premier champion of the First Amendment.
But traditional free-speech values do not appeal to the ACLUâ€™s increasingly partisan progressive constituencyâ€”especially after the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The Virginia ACLU affiliate rightly represented the rallyâ€™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 â€œthe ACLU is committed to defending speech rights without regard to whether the views expressed are consistent with or opposed to the ACLUâ€™s core values, priorities and goals.â€ But directly contradicting that assertion, they also cite as a reason to decline taking a free-speech case â€œthe extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values.â€
In selecting speech cases to defend, the ACLU will now balance the â€œimpact of the proposed speech and the impact of its suppression.â€ Factors like the potential effect of the speech on â€œmarginalized communitiesâ€ and even on â€œthe ACLUâ€™s credibilityâ€ could militate against taking a case. Fundraising and communications officials helped formulate the new guidelines.