Civil Liberties

The Right's ACLU Blindness


Conor Friedersdorf collects a dozen or so pre-emptive righty condemnations of the American Civil Liberties Union for failing to get involved with that Cinco de Mayo case from a few weeks back of kids being sent home from school for wearing American flag T-shirts, and then points out that the ACLU has, in fact, helped the students out. Friedersdorf comments:

It's almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of the ACLU, so much so that right-of-center commentators across the Internet spontaneously mocked the organization for failing to intervene on the right side of this case, despite it being precisely the kind of case where the ACLU reliably does exactly what the critics themselves would want.

Reason on the ACLU here.

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  1. Does “Your Love is Like Nuclear Waste,” by Tuff Darts, count? It has an air-raid siren.

    1. ACLU has defended seveal “right-wing” interests in its past. The ACLU is colorblind to politics – they look for cases of civil rights violations to take, with no prejudices whatsoever towards whoever has been violated. There was a pretty high profile case like this earlier this year, and the group (or maybe individual) had no problem accepting the ACLU’s assistance, since it was their own ass on the line. Damned if i can remember who it was or what it was about…

      1. Was it the Rush Limbaugh drug thing where they tried to get Rush to turn over all his medical records? I seem to remember the ACLU was on Rush’s side for that.

  2. Oops, supposed to be w/the previous post. I’ll go back to work now.

  3. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

    1. Since the first two dont count I guess that makes you First SF. But to your point, 1,4,5,6,7,8 in my opinion. 2 (obviously not), 3 is archaic at this point (but I DO have an awesome story about it being used recently in the NE area), 9+10 I have never really seen any challenges here much less from the ACLU. Perhaps I am wrong on that but…

      (as for that story: Military silos in NE get hit by big snow, troops get taken in voluntarily by local farmers; food, shelter, maybe daughters, who knows. General sends equivalent room + board costs for genereal area to farmers after storm. Awesome the General even thought of it.)

      A shining point of light

      1. #9 is the putative basis for abortion rights and other liberal innovations.

    2. Yes, the ACLU defends all nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.

      1. No make that 8. I don’t think they care about #10 either.

        1. That pesky Tenth Amendment? Pshaw! How outdated! AND written by sexist white racist wealthy landowners!

    3. Since when does the ACLU care about the 10th Amendment? Or the P&I clause of the 14th for that matter?

    4. Exactly, NutraSweet. I love much of what the ACLU does, but their absolute refusal to just extend that to the 2nd, and their laughable excuses for such, prevent them from being a nearly perfect civil liberties organization.

      1. Maybe they’ve outsourced that one to the NRA? The 2nd Amendment is well defended.

        1. Sure. But why not? And why the torturous explanations for why not?

          1. I don’t think it’s a tortured position–the States’ Rights interpretation of the 2nd isn’t exactly fringe. IMO they interpret the 2nd Amendment exactly as written, which is not what individual ownership people are doing.

            1. And that’s why you, and they, have lost the argument. But hold on to your retarded opinion, that flies in the face of everything the founders wrote about their opinion on it. I’m sure it’ll serve you well.

            2. It may not be fringe, but it sure as hell is tortured.

              1. Unlike the pristine and totally comprehensible interpretation that completely ignores the first half of the text of the amendment.

                1. You just keep beating that dead horse, Tony. Just keep beating.

                2. Tony, the first clause is what is known as a dependent clause.

                3. >>>It’s almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of the ACLU

                  At one time that was exactly the case. The Christian right of the 80s and 90s used the ACLU as a bogeyman to rally the troops. To do so, they had to ignore that the ACLU had defended conservatives too. I’m surprised that there would still be that effort though, as the dynamic is not the same as it was then, and anti-ACLU hysteria seems to have died down.

        2. If they just said “Let someone else work on #2, we’ll handle the rest” that would be all well and good. But that’s not what they say, they say they view it as a collective right. Which is absurd and not held by legal precedent.

          1. Neither side had clear precedent until Heller.

            For the record I believe the 2nd does imply an individual right, but it applies to a social situation that no longer exists in this country. And there isn’t a clear precedent about what the scope of the right is (can I own a nuke?)

            1. Completely aside from the interpretation issue, does it even register with the left that every authoritarian regime that has ever exist has put disarming their citizens at the very top of their list? Eliminating the possibility of effective resistance to tyranny is among the very first steps taken when subordinating a populace.

              1. I hate to break it to you, but in a fight between you and your merry men and the feds, you will lose. Armed revolution in this country is neither a possibility nor sanctioned by the constitution.

                Of course if the paranoid right had bothered to exert the tiniest amount of energy fighting the military-industrial complex, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.

                1. “I hate to break it to you, but in a fight between you and your merry men and the feds, you will lose.”

                  Hiding in the woods, maybe. Hiding among civilians and carefully limiting their attacks to federal agents, they can provoke the feds to draconian measures which will create animosity between Washington and the US.

                2. Beats going down without a fight, Tony. Unless you enjoy being frog-marched to prison for the crime of being alive during a state of martial law, that is.

                3. I hate to break it to you, but in a fight between you and your merry men and the feds, you will lose.

                  Because the US government would bomb it’s own cities in an attempt to go after domestic “insurgents”.

                  Come on Tony. Any US revolution would have 10 times the advantages the Iraqi insurgents had, given that (a) the government is NOT going to allow civilian casualties to occur. And (b) I can’t see libertarians alienating everyone by beheading people on tapes and such.

                  Any libertarian insurgency would probably be composed primarily not of terrorist style bombings, but more likely efforts to form enclaves where the Feds can’t reach, and defend them.

                  Admittedly, the government did basically wipe out an entire Christian fundamentalist cult, children included, back in 1993 for resisting federal authority.

              2. No, it doesn’t, it seems to serve their purpose of feeling good. I mean, just imagine what would have happened were the Greek people armed!!! =)

                1. Max, it’s comforting to know you’d be on the side of government when the shit hits the fan. Makes it easier to identify the enemy that way.

            2. The individual right to bear arms was the ensconced interpretation until the 20th century. Various SCOTUS decisions of that period mention it in passing as if it were so obvious it didn’t require any justification.

            3. Neither side had clear precedent until Heller.

              Sir, I must respectfully submit that you haven’t the slightest fucking clue what the hell you’re talking about. Your statement is so incomprehensibly incorrect, it’s incomprehensible.

              Yes, there was no previous SCOUTS opinion declaring expressly that the 2A protects an individual right. However, there is PLENTY of SCOTUS precedent in which the court issued statements – albeit mostly, admittedly, dicta, which clearly indicated the justices’ understanding the “right of the people” referred to in the 2A was, just like the other “rights of the people” protected by the other amendments, an individual right – as was the common understanding for well over 100 years after the 2A was first drafted and ratified.

              The whole “collective rights” nonsense was a creation of some legal academics, in an effort to justify the early federal gun control legislation and how preventing criminals from owning machine guns did not violate their constitutional rights.

              Even in U.S. v. Miller, which the anti-gun crowd touts as holding the 2A was a collective right (which it so plainly and clearly did not), the court clearly assumed and understood the right to be an individual one.

              Do some research and read up on your history. Look at what the framers and contemporary writers and legal scholards had to say about the right to keep and bear arms at the time. Look at St. George Tucker’s version of Blackstone’s Commentaries and see what he has to say about it. In case you’re not familiar with that publication, it probably was the most quoted and most highly regarded statement of the law for many decades, and the SCOTUS often cited and quoted it, as did many other courts and legal scholars.

      2. In the grand scheme of things does it matter? The IJ is another civil liberties non-profit and they don’t handle 2nd Amendment cases. That niche is filled by the NRA and other organizations.

        1. That niche is filled by the NRA


      3. So long as they aren’t fighting against it, I don’t care that much about silence on the issue.

    5. *nods in agreement, waving his machine gun over his head*

    6. They aren’t completely sold on 1, either. They are really big on the establishment clause. Not so much on the free exercise part.

      1. Examples (that do not involve state employees or funding)?

  4. Let’s sing a song of ten…

  5. The fact that the majoirty republicans find the idea of a agency that protects civil libirties as repulsive is enough to tell you to stay far away from them.

  6. Back when I was a conservative (early to mid 1990’s) I hated the ACLU with a vengence. I viewed them as perverters rather than defenders of liberty. I saw them as ENDANGERING liberty by “using” it in ways that took the meaning out of it. This is much the way many conservatives today view the debate over gay matrimony. I no longer believe this (although I probably do not agree with them on everything even now) but this may help those who have never been on “the right” to understand this perspective. I am not defending this blindness but merely explaining it.

    1. I don’t understand that perspective at all. Especially with the conservative love of police state tactics to handle terrorist suspects, it just indicates to me that they think the Bill of Rights is exclusively made up of the 2nd and 3rd Amendments.

      1. Back then, before 9/11 “changed everything” conservatives were not all that fond of police state tactics. Think Ruby RIdge and Waco.

        1. There were also many conservatives who reflexively defended the murder of Randy Weaver’s wife. Bill Weld, then governor of Massachusetts, comes to mind. George Herbert Walker Bush, then POTUS, also comes to mind.

          I bet that if you checked, you would find that many other conservatives sided with the ATF and FBI. Senator Hatch? Dan Qualye? Jesse Helms? Bob Dole?

          1. The universe in which Bill Weld and George H.W. Bush are conservative is not the one I live in.

            Not to say that actual conservatives are innocent of the charge of loving police state goonery. Being so thoroughly out of power and seeing the other side’s abuse of power does seem to have had a clarifying effect, though.

            Maybe I’m an optimist, but I see the older strain of American conservatism emergism–government skepticism.

            1. Proofreading. I need to do it.

            2. No real Scotsman, eh?

              1. I don’t know enough about Bill Weld to comment on him. I never lived in Mass. But George H. W. Bush is neither Scotsman nor Conservative. Being a Republican is not the same as being a Conservative.

            3. Yes, I think you are right. I know some of those conservatives as well. I tend to get along a lot better with them.


  8. Yes the ACLU has a retarded blind spot when it comes to the second amendment. But the hate that some people seem to have for it seems rather misguided. On the issues where they do care about the constitution, they seem to be principled and consistent. It’s not as if they are actively fighting against gun rights (correct me if I am wrong).

    1. I was a donor to the ACLU until they sold my information to the DNC and i started getting all this left wing crap in the mail. I stopped sending them money after that.

      1. The NRA does the same thing, though they claim that they don’t. It is nice having the local post office afraid of you, though.

  9. Anyone else see this?

    ?[Christie] then opened the floor to questions. A few were softballs, including the declaration by Clara Nebot of Bergenfield that Christie is “a god” to her relatives in Florida.

    But borough teacher Rita Wilson, a Kearny resident, argued that if she were paid $3 an hour for the 30 children in her class, she’d be earning $83,000, and she makes nothing near that.

    “You’re getting more than that if you include the cost of your benefits,” Christie interrupted.

    When Wilson, who has a master’s degree, said she was not being compensated for her education and experience, Christie said:

    “Well, you know then that you don’t have to do it.” Some in the audience applauded.”

    I am starting to kind of like Christie

    1. Me too. He doesn’t mince words. I like that. I also like him taking on problems head-on.

    2. I think that even with all of her education, Wilson isn’t that good at math.


      1. And according to an update on the post, it looks like she was lying to begin with: A public records search turned up her name and a salary of … $84k.

        1. Wow, that is some hard core math FAIL. No wonder she’s a teacher!

        2. I’m willing to wager that she was figuring she didn’t make $83k a year by just counting her take home pay… not her gross.

          1. Nope, at the tax bracket for $92700, she would pay (.

            92700x.72=$69,984 take home pay.

            1. Weird unicode stuff, should read:

              Nope, at the tax bracket for $92700, she would pay 28 percent.

            2. It’s marginal, dude. Every dollar is taxed at the bracket it falls into.

              1. Okay, recalculated and the total number is…$76,275, still not $83k.

    3. It is also interesting that she points to past events, rather than present performance, to justify making more money.

      Imagine someone in the private sector whose performance was consistently horrid demanding a raise because they had a master’s degree and experience.

      Yes, Ms. Wilson you have a worthless master’s and experience churning out uneducated ignoramuses, here is $100k, thank you.

  10. The liberal media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of epistemic closure.

    Suddenly, unanimously.
    And that’s funny.

  11. The day that the ACLU helps out on at least ONE freaking 2nd amendment case, I stop thinking they are little more than garden variety left wing douche bags.

    1. I wouldn’t say that, really. I’m not remembering the case right now (having a bout of CRS), but in recent years, I seem to remember them taking on 1A cases on the side that might be characterized as counter-liberal.

      I don’t think it’s so much that they’re consistently, knee-jerk liberal, but that they have taken a disingenuous position on the 2A, for whatever reason.

      But I have seen them side with, for example, students at universities whose free speech rights are being shut down – where the typical lefty might side with the school administration.

  12. My beef with ACLU (aside from their selective defense of the BoR, which is their prerogative, but not one I have to agree with), is a recollection from way back that they don’t always get the positive/negative rights distinction. Sorry, can’t dredge up any specifics, but to my mind that’s a pretty fatal flaw.

    1. Ditto.

    2. Actually, I think goes back to … surprise surprise …. Title II of the civil rights act. And the ADA.

      The ACLU is on the “public accommodations” side of that. And the Boy Scouts case, for example.

      It’s a civil liberty to get into a private business or organization, but it’s NOT a civil liberty to run your own business or club. That’s the problem.

      That may boil down to the positive/negative rights distinction, but it’s really all about Title II.

  13. It’s almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading educating its audience about the nature of the ACLU and occasionally missing the rare instances when they actually do defend civil liberties

  14. One of my professors in college was a big ACLU guy going back to the 50s. He quit the organization in the late 80s because he said they had become just a funded arm of the Democratic Party.

    1. The same way the NRA became the funded arm of the Republican Party.

      1. ReallY? You think that a Republican could get away with being pro gun and escape the wrath of the NRA?

        And further, so what? If that is true about the NRA, they have sold out their cause. That fact, in no way excuses the ACLU.

        I am sorry but “they do it to” didn’t work in first grade and it shouldn’t work here.

        1. One could argue that the ACLU became more Democratic as the Republicans became less civil libertarian.

          1. Yeah, haha. Maybe the Republicans feel like the ACLU is always against them because Republicans wipe their asses with civil liberties.

            1. Hello? Good morning? Have you seen the bullshit Our Dear Leader and his cronies have been foisting off on the `murican peeple?

              And their shenanigans overseas (e.g., Predator drone bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan).

              Pay attention to current events much?

        2. The ACLU is not to fond of Obama and Holder over their Miranda proposal.


          They also took out a full page ad in the NY Times over Obama changing his mind on the 9-11 trials. The ACLU is not too happy with the current administration.


        3. Dude, the ACLU has harshly criticized Obama and Holder over the Miranda proposal. They also took out a full page ad criticizing Obama over the 9-11 trial.


            besides there are plenty of well-funded, expansive and freedom-minded conservative legal groups that focus on all ten amendments, right?


        4. John, I used to be a dues paying member of the NRA, and can attest to their meddling in things not firearm related. The publications they would send me were way to deferential to law enforcement, and had too much “family values” talk. (Not the sporting mag they sent, I liked that one.)

      2. Except the NRA doesn’t claim to defend “civil rights” then selectively choose the ones they like.

        1. Are we forgetting that the NRA is a cheerleader for law enforcement? If you are for gun ownership, be for gun ownership and make no bones about the fact that each and every individual, including a convicted felon, has the god given, natural and inalienable right to protect himself from the depradations of inarticulate, high school second stringers who couldn’t score, public sector parasites wearing Caesar’s special badges.

          1. The law enforcement organizations here in Hawaii have a very frosty adversarial relationship with the local NRA chapter.

            No love lost at all.

          2. What, a felon convicted of gun-related crimes? Granted, maybe the lifelong prohibition should be considered part of the sentence rather than an ex-post-facto thing.

  15. Nitpicks are there to be had, but overall the ACLU is at least as principled as any group of its sort out there. The contempt Republicans and “conservatives” show for every single thing the organization does is just one more reason that I want very little to do with Republicans and “conservatives”.

  16. Same thing happens in reverse. Some lefties will preemptively assume your a Republican and dismiss you if you oppose, for instance, campus speech codes, hate crimes or hate speech laws.

    Although the ACLU’s stand on these is muddled itself.

    1. They also do little if anything about religious freedom, especially abroad even thought they often speak about about other issues of international rights.

      1. They’re too busy fighting off the domestic Jesus freaks for that. It’s a full-time job.

        1. I’m not sure that “fighting off Jesus-freaks” is exactly civil-libertarian. I always thought they over-emphasized the Establishment Clause (bending it into something almost unrecognizable) while giving the Free-exercise Clause short shrift.

  17. You know, I’ve actually clicked on Friedersdorf’s article. It turns out that Limbaugh didn’t say anything about the ACLU (non-)involvement in this case. And I’ve never heard about any other conservatives mentioned by Friedersdorf. And not even all of these conservatives brought up the ACLU themselves, their anonymous commenters did:

    Jules Crittenden mentioned the controversy. Said his first commenter: “Where are the ACLU, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and their myrmidons to protest such egregious actions?”

    At Radio Voice Online, a commenter asked, “Question of the day: why is it that when students wear Che shirts or pseudo erotic, near prostitute quality garments, or wear gang colors, or have their pants hanging mid thigh, the ACLU cockroaches come out of the woodwork to defend the student’s first amendment rights, but when students act patriotically, as in this case, the are suspended and sent home?”

    It is thin gruel at its thinnest. Sullivan has higher standards attacking Althouse for comments on her blog.

    1. Which ones are quotes fom anonymous commenters? I clicked on some of them and they are legit.

      1. While Hazel Meade may be the real name of a commenter, Dimsdale, SeniorD, and grrizzly are not. But even if the commenters’ names were real, it would provide only laughable support to the thesis that The Right Denigrates ACLU. Come on, internet comments on some third-rate supposedly right-wing sites.

        1. As a general propostition, I agree with the thesis of the article. I have personally experienced the phenomenon hundreds of times. Often, I take the opportunity to educate the “conservative” ignoramus who reflexively denounces the ACLU.

          1. In the greater Boston area, the following are talkmasters, generally regarded as conservatives, who have and do reflexively denounced the ACLU:

            Howie Carr
            Jay Severin
            Michael Graham
            Avi Nelson (who once tried to unseat Ted Kenedy)
            Tommy the felon Finneran
            Todd Fineberg

            The late David Brudnoy was an exception. He would give some props to the ACLU when deserved.

            1. What is the purpose of this list? Are we supposed to picket? Hold a witch trial? Know who these people are?

              1. The purpose of the list is to provide support for my statement.



                Yes, an erudite, informed Hit & Run poster should know some of the names.

            2. Brudnoy is far more libertarian than conservative (indeed I’m pretty sure he was a member of the LP).

              I think I picked up a lot of my libertarianism from listening to Brudnoy every night when I was a young lad.

              1. I guess that should be “was”… RIP.

                The only political talk show that would be grounds for maintaining my Sirius XM subscription is one that was a new incarnation of the Brudnoy show. I’ve had Sirius for five years, not necessarily for Stern and plan to maintain the subscription indefinitely; I’m just saying that the rest of the service could disappear if it had a show like Brudnoy’s.

                1. He was also pro-Iraq war. He also tended to agree with Judge Bork on judicial activism.

                  Having said that, yes, he was largely libertarian. But he was no Murray Rothbard or Harold Browne or Ron Paul or Lew Rockwell. More like Tulpa. But hey, that’s better than 99.9% of humanity.

                  1. levi-

                    You do have good taste. Brudnoy was a joy. Like you, I miss him.

          2. I actually agree with the thesis of the article too. It is the quality of the presented evidence that I have a problem with.

  18. The ACLU does some wonderful work… but they many of their locals are run by some far left attorneys or progressive agenda attorneys who chafe conservatives to no end.

    Gots to be honest about them though when they stick up for the conservative man though.

  19. The ACLU does some wonderful work.

    The approved phrasing is:

    God bless ACORN the ACLU … They’re doing God’s work in some of the toughest neighborhoods in America.

  20. If the ACLU was willing to include economic rights within the ambit of “civil rights,” I would be more willing to send them a check.

  21. I’m glad they sent a letter. It seems a little like an ass covering, “See we did something move.” more than anything else. I guess it’s better than nothing. The question is what level of ire would exist if the situation was Mexican flags on the fourth of July. Sadly I’m thinking it would be more than a letter. But heh, they got a letter out of it.

    1. Although I appreciate the ACLU’s efforts in the name of civil liberties concerning the police state, they are feeble at best, concerning civil liberties when it pertains to freedom of association. I tend to agree with hmm, this is an easy one for them.
      From their letter to the school district (…..5_9139.pdf ):
      “Here, the District took swift action to correct the vice principal’s mistake in censoring the students’ patriotic speech, and we commend you for that.”
      I can’t help but think that the ACLU wouldn’t have been filing a lawsuit if the it hadn’t been corrected. IMO if you want to support the Bill of Rights support the IJ, the fight for all 10, including the 2nd.

      1. The ACLU can’t file a lawsuit themselves,only the kids can with the ACLU supporting/representing them. I’m sure that they have probably offered to do so.

  22. Libertarians are right wing Republicans at heart. Therefore they must also hate the ACLU. Therefore they must hate civil rights. Therefore they are fascists.

    1. Yeah! Because not having enough government = fascism! Why didn’t we see it until now???

      1. Hover your cursor over the TonyTroller link – it’s the same as “Juanita”s.

        I smell a triple-agent troll.

        1. Who’s the third?

          1. A troll pretending to be a Tony troller… hold on, I gotta whip up a flow chart here.

    2. Do you have a brother that’s a tiger?

      1. Congratulations, you got the joke.

        1. Do I get a prize?

    3. It’s one thing to respond to a troll. It’s something else to respond to a troll who post AS”THE TROLL”

  23. Actually, I stopped caring about the ACLU when I was 18. My school district, I was in highschool at the time, would not release my report card to me and said a parent had to come in to take delivery of it. Being 18 and legally an adult they had no leg to stand on this policy. I called the ACLU and their response was, “We don’t get involved in issues like this.” After that I decided they would never get any of my money.

  24. It’s almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of the X, so much so…

    This being distinct from liberal media echo chambers… how?

    Not that he’s wrong, just that the observation fails to provide any distinction between one political party’s perceived bugbears and the other.

  25. I admit it. Sometimes I can be a little biased. But I don’t seek to silence anyone or adopt such glib rhetoric as my MO.

  26. I got a parking ticket this morning. ACLU! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?!?!?

  27. Looks like we need to create our own, libertarian, civil rights protecting institution.

    Let’s organize!

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