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John Gilmore on ACLU, free speech, and its checkered history

Previous Politech message:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] ACLU replies to charges that it doesn't 
consistently defend free speech [fs]
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 16:56:37 -0700
From: John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
CC: politech@politechbot.com

ACLU does a lot of good work, but they sure aren't perfect.

Anyone who thinks the ACLU is an unbiased defender of freedom should
look into the school choice movement.  ACLU always ends up on the
wrong side of those lawsuits, seeking to overturn laws that allow
parents to choose what school their child will go to.  It's apparently
because they have a strong political tie to teachers' labor unions,
which oppose parental and student choice about who'll teach them.  See
http://friedmanfoundation.org for the real freedom side of that story.

I know ACLU can't litigate every case -- nobody can, not even the
government.  But it hurt to find that I'm too white to have had my
freedom of speech violated, when I got thrown off a plane for wearing
a small button whose message the airline objected to.  Now ACLU is
suing for Raed Jarrar, a guy whose T-shirt contained Arabic lettering
(that TSA and the airline couldn't even read, but objected to) which
got him thrown off a plane.  But he's an Iraqi with dark skin -- and
the case they're filing isn't about freedom of speech on common
carriers.  It's an "airline profiling case" about discrimination
against dark people.

There seems to be an ACLU policy, or a very strong habit, of
conflating amicus briefs with legal representation.  As in Steve
Shapiro's message about the San Diego anti-gay t-shirt case.  And in
their discussions of Guantanamo cases, in which they imply to their
members that they are right up there fighting on the barricades.
Actually, they participate only as observers or amici, but you
really have to read between the lines, and get a few clues from
non-ACLU sources, to figure that out.

There's also a bizarre meme there that involves not giving credit to
any 'competing' civil rights organization.  It's like entering a
Disney world that only contains Disney-branded products.  ACLU just
sent me a new book ghost-authored by its director, Anthony Romero, all
about post-9/11 civil rights tussles.  I looked in vain to find any
mention of the Center for Constitutional Rights (which took the
Guantanamo cases from the beginning all the way to the Supreme Court,
without the help of the ACLU -- see http://ccr-ny.org).  After long
discussions of CCR's cases that skip mentioning CCR, they were listed
in an appendix among a laundry list of civil rights groups.  There was
no mention at all of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which filed
the first case against NSA's domestic wiretaps, and which is now
co-lead-counsel with ACLU in the case that merges EFF's, AT&T's,
CCR's, and about 30 copycat cases -- see http://eff.org).  Curiously,
everything was worth writing about civil liberties in the six years
after 9/11 was apparently done by the ACLU.

	John Gilmore
	a donor to ACLU, CCR, EFF, FIRE, the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation,
	& co-founder of EFF
PS:  ACLU's active opposition to the Second Amendment is, of course,
their most classic blind spot.

PPS: The best org to call if you encounter censorship in a school is
http://thefire.org, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Censorship to enforce political correctness is epidemic in colleges,
frequently to shut down "conservative" or "religious" speakers.

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Jun 18, 2007 in category free-speech

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