Tolerance

Hate Speech Is Free Speech

"No one has the right to a world in which he is never despised."

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If people are only free to say things that are unobjectionable to anyone, then they are not free to speak. The editorial board of the New York Times misses this vital point with an editorial today headlined, Free Speech vs. Hate Speech. Versus? As my colleague Robby Soave so well pointed out yesterday, there is no clause in the First Amendment that forbids the speaking of hateful words.

The Times editors write:

There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.

But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

Yes, the organizers may well harbor hatred against Islam and Muslims in their hearts. Nevertheless, expressing such hatred is not just "posing as a blow for freedom," it is the exercise, however distressing, of freedom of speech.

FreeSpeechNoApology
AP

Let's hop into the WABAC Machine to the late 1970s when our highest courts ruled that Nazis calling for the death of Jews is protected speech. In the 1977 case, the National Socialist Party of America vs. the Village of Skokie the U.S. Supreme Court properly ruled that the hateful Nazis had the free speech right to rally in a town where one in six residents were Holocaust survivors. Further, on First Amendment grounds, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled a lower court injunction that forbade…

…"[m]arching, walking or parading in the uniform of the National Socialist Party of America; [m]arching, walking or parading or otherwise displaying the swastika on or off their person; [d]istributing pamphlets or displaying any materials which incite or promote hatred against persons of Jewish faith or ancestry or hatred against persons of any faith or ancestry, race or religion."

Overruling that injunction was the right constitutional decision. In fact, the Times editorial board recognized it as such its editorial, Nazis, Skokie, and the A.C.L.U. which observed:

Opponents of the march argue that for a group displaying swastikas to stage a parade through such a town [with thousands of concentration camp survivors] constitutes a provocative act that goes beyond the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The Civil Liberties Union disagrees, holding to a principle that has guided it for many years. Its executive director, Aryeh Neier, himself a refugee from Nazi Germany asks: "Did the Wobblies have a right to speak in company towns? Did Jehovah's Witnesses or birth control advocates have a right to pass out leaflets in Catholic neighborhoods? Did Norman Thomas have a right to speak in Frank Hague's Jersey City? Did Paul Robeson have a right to sing a concert in Peekskill, New York? Did Martin Luther King Jr. have a right to march in Selma, Alabama, or in Cicero, Illiinois? To all these questions, the A.C.L.U.'s answer is  'Yes.'"

Any confrontation in Skokie would be painful, as the disciples of murderers flaunt their hated symbols in the faces of people who survived the gas ovens. But on this issue, the A.C.L.U. has no choice. As Mr. Neier explains, if his organization is not faithful to the principle that free speech must be demanded for all, then it does not deserve the words "civil liberties" in its name.

The Times' Skokie editorial concluded:

As long as the Nazis do nothing illegal, they are entitled to the protection of the law. The argument that they will provoke violence simply by appearing on the streets of Skokie only emphasizes the obligation of the police to keep the peace—and gives an opportunity to the people of Skokie to demonstrate their respect for the law.

The happy truth is that Americans have become much more accepting of all kinds of racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual diversity. As a consequence, much hateful speech has disappeared from public discourse. Not because it is being suppressed by government monitors, but because defenders of minority views have vigorously exercised their right to free speech to counter hateful expression and encourage growing tolerance.

In my article, The Human Right to Offend, in which I review Jyllands-Posten Flemming Rose's terrific book, The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech, I note:

The European Court of Human Rights has defined hate speech as "all form of expressions which spread, incite, promote, or justify hatred based on intolerance (including religious intolerance)." This completely turns the concept of tolerance on its head.

As Rose correctly argues, tolerance properly understood is the ability to accept speech one dislikes. "When we focus on non-discrimination and equality, and aim to empower the aggrieved, tolerance is no longer about the ability to tolerate things we don't like," he explains. "It becomes the ability to keep quiet and refrain from saying things that others may dislike." Calls to ban offensive speech sacrifices diversity of expression in the name of respecting diversity of culture. "If we accept the idea that people have a right not to be offended, we will end up with a tyranny of silence, for almost any speech may be deemed offensive," declares Rose.

Insult fundamentalists justify their efforts to restrict speech with the catchphrase, "Freedom of speech is not the same as the freedom to offend." In fact, there is no freedom of speech if people cannot offend those who would deny women equal rights, persecute homosexuals, and commit violence against people who do not share their faith. "The idea that if you say something that might be construed as offensive, you somehow restrict the liberty of others is nonsense," argues Rose. He is entirely right.

Finally, in my article, "No one has the right to a world in which he is never despised," I quote United Nations representative for the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Austin Dacey, and argue:

We must never reward violence. "We can understand the practice of violent retaliation against sacrilege as analogous to the violence employed by terrorists in pursuit of a political goal, or by kidnappers and extortionists in pursuit of personal gain," argues Dacey. In such situations, government officials properly adopt the "No Compliance Principle" – they do not give into the demands of the terrorists and kidnappers. Doing so will simply encourage others to engage in terrorism and kidnapping later. Similarly, refusing to comply now with the demands by violent Islamists to shut down free speech will prevent even more harm in the future. "By adopting a presumption of refusing to comply, and being seen to refuse to comply, we are doing what we can to uphold the rule of law and to contribute to a culture of open public discourse, in which no lawful expressive acts are prevented by threats of violence," explains Dacey.

Reverence for free speech ultimately protects the free exercise of religion. If a believer cannot speak in defense of his faith, then he has no real freedom of religion. That is why an attack on free speech is a greater blasphemy than is an insult to the divine.

So as much as it distresses me and the editors of the New York Times, there is no "versus"—hate speech is free speech.

See also, my editor Matt Welch's wonderful take-down the pusillanimous insult fundamentalists at PEN who refused to honor the memory of the Charlie Hebdo editors who were murdered by Islamic extremists for exercising free speech.

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  1. I don’t get how people can’t grasp that polite speech is never going to need protection. (And the logical result, that it’s only controversial speech – including hateful speech – that will.) Even when I was a ‘modern’ liberal, this was pretty obvious.

    1. Am I giving people too much credit by thinking that of course they understand the distinction but that, for them, the goal of social justice justifies censorious means?

      1. For some, yes. Others are just useful idiots who never bother to think for themselves for more than 2 seconds. they just spout whatever nonsense their professors tell them to.

        1. And then of course there is the individual in New York who, instead of listening to his professors, went out of his way to pen a small batch of inappropriately deadpan “confessions” in the “name” of a well-connected academic department chairman. And we can all agree, I think, that this is far worse than hate-speech, because hate-speech is at least nominally protected by the First Amendment, and this, on the contrary, is punishable as a crime in the United States. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:

          http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. ‘Modern’ liberalism has moved from promoting the individual’s right to let his or her or ou’s freak flag fly to an obsession with defending minority cultures or groups no matter how many individual rights have to be ignored.

  2. qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies

    This (bolded) is an out-and-out lie.

    1. You beat me to it. How the NYT is oblivious to the laws in the UK, France, etc. that specifically make this a crime is outrageous.

      1. Don’t forget Australia, where the mere mention of the idea that banning “hate speech” is wrong will get you physically attacked, according to Tanya Cohen anyway.

        1. Still convinced she’s a troll. No one could write an article about how ‘civilized’ Australia is due to their anti-hate speech laws and then say ‘By the way, if you criticize those laws mobs of Australians will literally beat you.’

          As someone who actually knows some Australians, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that argument is nonsense, so she’s obviously either lying or a troll.

    2. This can not be said enough. Only US has freedom of speech. All other Western nations merely give you permission to speak, to be withdrawn at discretion of the judiciary.

  3. Of course, those who declare that “hate speech is not free speech” are being disingenuous, in that they limit their definition of “hate speech” to “speech I don’t like”. Expressing hatred for the “wrong” people will be fine.

    Principals, not principles.

  4. We are seeing the predictable final outcome of political correctness. The second you disallow speech someone finds offensive, someone will find absolutely anything offensive.

    The concept had no choice but to implode.

    1. Unfortunately, I see this disease-riddled intellectual corpse shuffling along for several more years.

      1. I see it shuffling along until precisely January 20, 2017, assuming a Republican is elected.

        Then dissent will again become the highest form of patriotism.

    2. I fear there is still a lot of pain & suffering that the PC cult will inflict on us before their insanity is finally refuted and stopped. Blood has already started flowing, but they want a lot more blood to sate their thirst and appease their false idols. This stuff doesn’t end until we draw blood right back.

      Sonno matti questi catzoni.

      1. Blood has already started flowing, but they want a lot more blood to sate their thirst and appease their false idols.

        As long as it’s someone else’s blood, there’s never enough to sate their thirst. One drop of their own, on the other hand…

  5. out of all the political disputes or however you want to characterize them, this one is the most depressing. let’s cast off one of our most cherished principles for .. for nothing.

    1. I think it’s nearing its end. It has become so absurd the people will simply, and rightly, ignore those calling for restriction.

      1. I’d like to agree, but then I’ve thought we’d reached that point several times in the past few years and outrage mobs just keep steaming along, and organizations keep prostrating themselves before said mobs.

  6. Did the New York Times talk about how terrible the Black Mass in Colorado was? Rightfully, the legal attempts to stop it failed; protestors peacefully protested it, outnumbering the people doing it.

    Our government literally paid money for Piss Christ as well; people made a whole movie about Larry Flynt’s juvenile insults implying incest in an outhouse.

  7. I respectfully disagree.

    Hate speech is absolutely not free speech, but this is by definition, not the result of any type of analysis.

    The left defined hate speech so as to create a category of speech that they can declare to be equivalent to violence and therefore subject to violent restraint. Left out of this is the fact that the obvious conclusion to equating speech and violence will be the escalation of violence. As long as that violence is perpetrated upon the Unliked, they won’t care.

    But in any event, they do not believe Hate Speech is Free Speech because they defined it that way.

    Whereas the correct interpretation is that Hate Speech is not Free Speech because Hate Speech does not exist.

  8. But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

    It can be, and obvious was, both. Pam Geller is obviously the bigot the leftist idiots thought Charlie Hebdo was.

    I think the problem here is that in recent years it’s become a commandment among the left that you must always signal your right ideas and right intentions when talking about something. Otherwise you open yourself to friendly-fire from rabid morons that have a knee-jerk reaction to every slight.

    As a result, leftist writers are afraid to stand up for Pam Geller because they hate her and they need to communicate first how much they hate her rather than simply say they defend her right to say what she wants.

    1. You’re conflating two different things. Geller can be a bigot while the event is not one of bigotry. There’s no reason to assume everyone attending did so out of any bigoted beliefs and furthermore I have seen no evidence that anything bigoted occurred at the event.

      What’s happening here is that they’re declaring this event to be hate speech because they’re projecting their feelings about Geller onto the event rather than considering it rationally.

      1. I don’t see what’s so hard about it all. Geller’s a jerk but the right of jerks and non jerks to merely speak is paramount, those who would use force to violate that right are far beyond jerks, they’re evil and deserving of force as a response.

        1. See the ACLU and Skokie.

    2. Yep. The disclaimer is more than obligatory, it’s absolutely mandatory…..”Look, I’m all for free speech, and Pam Geller should be free to do whatever she wants, but…..”

      Or, “I’m for free speech, but this was about insulting Muslims, not free speech”

      As if you can separate the two ideas! As if insulting people isn’t entirely contained within the concept of free speech!

      The idea that the content of the speech matters one tiny iota when it comes to upholding the right to say it, and to unequivocably condemn violence to suppress it, is completely incomprehensible to me. I don’t give a watery shit about Pam Geller one way or another. Who she is and what she advocates is immaterial,

    3. As a result, leftist writers are afraid to stand up for Pam Geller because they hate her and they need to communicate first how much they hate her rather than simply say they defend her right to say what she wants.

      Leftists ceased to be liberals some time in the last two decades and have become progressives in every sense of the word. The left would have done everything to make sure the assclown Illinois Nazis has their march in Skokie. The left of today wants people that deny “climate change” thrown in the slammer.

      1. The left of today wants people that deny “climate change” thrown in the slammer.

        Well, yeah. I mean, they’re like heretics and blasphemers and stuff.

      2. Or lined up against the wall…

    4. “Pam Geller is obviously the bigot the leftist idiots thought Charlie Hebdo was.”

      Wow, there sure are a lot of “clearlys” and “obviouslys” being thrown around here.

      It’s far from obvious to me that Geller is more bigoted than Charlie Hebdo.

      I imagine I’d disagree with Geller on many points – she’s an Objectivist, after all – but this worse-than-Charlie nonsense needs to stop.

      Did Geller ever insinuate that Christian and Jewish leaders are morally equivalent to violent Islamists?

      Did Geller ever portray a condom being used as a consecrated Host?

      (hint: the answer in both cases is “no”)

      So it’s not “obvious[]” at all.

      I don’t see how a journal run by French leftists which mocks violent and nonviolent religions alike is someone on a higher moral plane than an activist who focuses on admittedly violent tendencies within a particular religion without any moral equivalence bullshit.

      1. Could the difference be that Hebdo hasn’t to my knowledge taken some of the illiberal positions Geller has (such as cheering the indiscriminate killing of Muslims in Burma?)

        1. Link?

          1. Any link to support your assertion?

            1. Let me ask for the third time: Do you have a link to support your assertion?

              1. OK, Bo, you have procedurally defaulted and failed to support your assertion after being asked three times to do so.

                So I can safely ignore your accusation.

              2. Sort of.

                She’s not cheering the killing of Muslims so much as she is jeering the reporting of the killing of muslims. She has bias in this fight, but I don’t see her calling for genocide.

      2. Geller is a Zionist nutjob that wants Israel to eradicate Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and colonize it.

        She was also behind that bullshit to stop a mosque being built in New York because of 9/11.

        1. “wants Israel to eradicate Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and colonize it.”

          Link?

          “She was also behind that bullshit to stop a mosque being built in New York because of 9/11.”

          Wow, that’s much worse than wanting to ban Muslim women from wearing burkas!

          (scroll down to “on the inside”)

          http://www.slate.com/blogs/bro…..ained.html

          1. Eddie, I know a lot of girls nowadays don’t really go for the hardcore Catholic moral scold type of guy, but surely you can do better than white-knighting a whackjob like Geller.

            1. If damning her with faint praise, saying she’s *no worse* than Charlie Hebdo, is white-knighting, then knightly standards have certainly declined.

              “Ah, forsooth, thou art not uglier than an ogre…so, can we make out now?”

            2. No, it’s actually a proper comparison. Banning Muslim women from wearing burqas in public, which is an entirely mainstream position in France, shared by Charlie Hebdo, is much worse than advocating against building one mosque in a specific location.

        2. So? What difference does it make where Geller falls on the Offensiveness Scale or what her “true” intentions were in holding the contest? How does any of that matter and why should it even be part of the discussion? It seems that some people feel ‘icky’ defending Geller but if she is in fact ‘icky’ doesn’t that make it even more important to defend her right to free speech? Defending speech doesn’t necessarily equate to defending the speaker and when allow ‘buts’ and other qualifiers to creep into our defense we at least imply that we really don’t value free speech all that much.

        1. Hey, Francisco, the jerk store called, and they ran out of you.

  9. If we’re going to go back to previous NY Times articles, why not this from the paper’s art section. Here, surprisingly, the reporter describes the Mohammad cartoonist as a “good artist” who produces “serious art.” In fact, the reporter adds, the cartoons weren’t even meant to be offensive at all!

    Ha ha, I hope you didn’t fall for that little joke of mine. Of course, the reporter was describing Andres Serrano and his *Piss Christ.*

    http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12…..ality.html

    1. Which is also true. Serrano is a Christian and didn’t make the picture with any intention of insulting the religion.

      1. So I can wipe my arse on toilet paper imprinted with the visage of Christoper Hitchens, and then claim no offense was meant because I’m a civil-liberties supporter just like him…and you’d buy it?

  10. Tolerance means not tolerating intolerance.

  11. I don’t think there should be any prohibitions on merely offensive speech. Of course it’s offensive and even morally wrong to say some of the things people say. But should we use force to stop a minority viewpoint? Really? That’s the solution?

  12. “But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.”

    And…so what? The KKK has been doing this for decades, and nobody seriously believes their crappy little marches should be banned. If the Garland folks are doing the same thing, then the appropriate response is to ignore them, not to create another instance of the Streisand Effect in action.

    1. I’ll also reiterate: If I lived in Garland I would have attended this event not out of any bigotry on my part but because it is a duty to stand up to religious lunatics attempting to dictate the acceptable boundaries of our free speech rights. Therefore, the argument that this was just an ‘exercise in bigotry’ is an absurdity – some people may have been there out of bigotry, some may have been there out of a serious belief in freedom of speech.

      Furthermore, is hatred of a religion really bigotry? It can shade into bigotry if you begin despising individual members of that religion, but I unequivocally do hate Islam. I don’t hate Muslims and a lot of Muslims don’t follow the precepts of Islam that I despise. But I hate Islam and criticizing Islam is absolutely justified given the damage it’s done worldwide.

      That’s not bigotry, it’s an attack on a terrible idea which deserves to be attacked.

      1. I would say that bigotry is thinking poorly of all Muslims because of the precepts of the religion that you find abhorrent (or for even worse reasons). Thinking the religion has some bad ideas or precepts isn’t bigotry (I wouldn’t call it hate either, but it seems like I think of hate as a much stronger thing than a lot of people). Thinking that certain members of a religion who do evil things are evil fucks isn’t bigotry either.

    2. So what indeed. Of course the intention was to offend and think evil thoughts. Isn’t that usually the case with offensive speech? And, really, why bring that up when someone was attempting to exercise the heckler’s veto with extreme prejudice? I think the only thing worth talking about are the evil sickos that think they have to kill people who offend them.

      I think some people need to lose the word “but” from their vocabularies.

      1. If we got rid of the “if”s as well you know what would happen.

  13. was it Breyer with the “collective right to free speech” argument. this nonsense stems from that.

  14. Freedom is slavery. Up is down. Black is white. Freedom of speech is the ability to say what you are allowed to say and not what you are forbidden to say.

    Jesus Christ, these people are the walking, talking definition of useful idiots.

    1. Freedom means asking permission and obeying orders.

      “May I say this, and what else must I say while I’m at it?”

  15. But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

    Even if it were, it does not mean ipso facto their speech was not protected by the Constitution or that they suddenly eschew their right to speech by doing the event as an “exercise in bigotry and hatred.”

    By the way, the exaggeration with which the event is described tells more about the biases of the author than those of the event organizers. The winning cartoon, for instance, was incredibly tame in its content compared to the gross and pornographic nature of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The objections raised by the NYT against Pam Geller’s group are not originated by this extraordinary preoccupation with decorum but because the group happens to be conservative. That’s all. This attitude of selective outrage reminds me of a joke told in the movie The Bay Boy: The local priest of a Catholic town was told by the local sheriff that two boys were caught touching a girl in an improper way. The priest says “This is an outrage! Those two boys should be punished!” When the sheriff makes it clear that the girl was a Protestant, the priest sighs and says “well, boys will be boys!”

    1. I’m waiting for Francisco to rebuke you for introducing religion into a thread which was previously free of religion.

      1. You are really tiresome sometimes.

        The problem isn’t introducing religion. The problem is that you introduce religion into absolutely everything.

        1. “The problem isn’t introducing religion. The problem is that you introduce religion into absolutely everything.”

          Wait, that doesn’t even make sense. If the problem is my introducing religion into everyting, then how can it *not* be about introducing religion?

          Are you saying I’m introducing religion into this particular religion thread?

          Or do you have specific examples, which you can link to, of my introducing religion into a thread which had previously been innocent of religion?

          1. To repeat: “do you have specific examples, which you can link to, of my introducing religion into a thread which had previously been innocent of religion?”

            1. And for the third time: “do you have specific examples, which you can link to, of my introducing religion into a thread which had previously been innocent of religion?”

              I’ll be generous and give you until 3:30 to respond.

              1. Heck, I’ll give you until 4:30.

                1. Come on, Zeb, you still have over an hour before the P.M. links to back up your accusations with evidence.

                  And the same goes for everyone else (are you listening, Francisco?)…go right ahead and present your evidence that I introduce religion into threads which were previously innocent of religion. Please be so kind as to provide links.

                  You have until 4:30, when I comment on the results on the P.M. links.

                  1. Come on, Zeb and Francisco, you still have a full hour to prove your claims before I shame your for making unsubstantiated accusations…

                    1. Oh, man, this is gonna be *awesome*…

        2. Sometimes???

    2. it does not mean ipso facto their speech was not protected by the Constitution

      The NYT editorial explicitly says it was protected speech. Strawman much?

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    See here. ?? ????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  17. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

    Geller’s “bigotry” consists of her repeated assertions that Islam is not compatible with the western traditions of freedom of speech and conscience.

    The events in Garland contradict her claims – how, exactly?

    1. They neither contradict nor support her claims.

      1. They certainly don’t contradict her claims.

        I certainly can see them providing some support for her claims, particularly to the extent they fit a pattern of Muslims using violence or threats to shut down speech and speakers that they disagree with.

        1. Any other religions or ideologies whose followers did that?

  18. If hate speech is free speech, is free speech hate speech??

    1. Depends on what the definition of “is” is. For real this time.

    2. This is what bugs me about this “debate”.

      Speech is “free speech” if it is not subject to coercion. It has nothing to do with the content of the speech.

      Speech is “hate speech” because of its content. It has nothing to do with whether it is subject to coercion.

      Arguing about whether speech is “hate speech or free speech” is like arguing whether an object is green or big. The two concepts are orthogonal.

  19. This topic is the first one that made me think I have failed to educate my 24yo daughter. We were discussing this and she said that they expected violence so they know it was racist. She said if they hadn’t had the event, they wouldn’t have had an issue.

    1. You should have responded by asking her if women who dress in skimpy attire and get drunk at a frat party shouldn’t blame anyone but themselves if they get raped, considering how often SJWs claim such things happen.

      Or, echoing Baelzar’s post below, ask her if someone who blows their nose with the American flag and stomps on it in front of a bunch of service members shouldn’t complain if they get their ass beat as a result. And then ask her why free speech and free association should only apply to people that she agrees with.

  20. The whole Andrew “Douche” Cuomo thing reminded me that you can legally walk into the middle of a group of active duty service members, place a US flag on the ground, smear it with poop, do the Gangam Style dance on it while simultaneously holding a Nazi salute and reciting from the Little Red Cookbook….and they cannot legally touch you. If that doesn’t qualify as “Fighting Words,” then a bunch of people holding a private event to draw pictures of mighty mo doesn’t even blip on the radar.

  21. Can someone explain why the 1st amendment keeps coming up? The 1st amendment applies to restrictions by the government, and this is not in play with the Geller controversy,and ironically, Geller has suggested government bans on speech with the 9/11 memorial controversy. And outside the narrow context of the first amendment, speech is not free when it comes to private parties (again, the case with Geller). Just because some nutjobs want to kill you for offensive drawings doesn’t make it a “free speech” issue but a criminal matter. Reason is being sloppy here.

    1. Can someone explain why the 1st amendment keeps coming up?

      Because people here are morons. Prepare to be flamed for being a statist.

      Reason is being sloppy here.

      They’ve been sloppy for a long time.

  22. Gee remember when the ACLU was for the constitution? Now they are an intolerant arm of the PC police.

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