I’ve got some thoughts about Charlottesville, and then Charone Frankel of Habeas Humor to talk about whether the ACLU holds any responsibility for Nazi movements in America, since they’ve defended them in the past (and had a small hand in the Charlottesville case).
– Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chicken https://cryptome.org/ward-churchill.htm
– ACLU brief https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/ward-churchill-v-university-colorado-et-al-amicus-brief
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4 Replies to “SIO68: On Many Sides in Charlottesville and the ACLU with Charone Frankel”
I wasn’t really sure I had anything to add to this conversation until your guest made the analogy about superheroes.
There’s an Op-Ed in the New York Times today critiquing the way the ACLU acts on their blanket mission statement by focussing on the way economic factors interact with political speech, essentially arguing that the organization could better achieve its stated goals with a more nuanced approach to the cases it takes. Honestly, it’s not my area of expertise, and the article didn’t feel especially thorough or compelling, but insofar as the ACLU is inadvertently/reluctantly subsidizing the legal fees of hate groups in the furtherance of their own goals (e.g., setting legal precedent), while not taking on other potential cases, for valid and justifiable reasons (e.g., less clear-cut, more difficult to find, less generalizable precedents), there does seem to be room for criticism as it relates to collateral damage and the overall effectiveness of their approach. That’s not to say the ACLU isn’t doing the best they can in the context they’re in, just that their approach is not above scrutiny.
There seem to be two questions in my mind. The first is, whether the value of the ACLU doing this work in the way they do it (i.e., setting legal precedent that instantiates into law limitations on the government’s ability to restrict speech) justifies the cost of their doing this work in the way they do it (i.e., offering political and economic support to hate groups). The second is whether they can do this work in a different way that might better achieve their goals and/or reduce that cost.
I’m not sure if this analogy will bear out, but I’m thinking of libertarians who object to traffic laws. If I want to drive from my house to the grocery store, my freedom is limited to driving on roads, stopping at stoplights, and maintaining my vehicle. Being an absolutist, claiming that “I have an absolute right to get to that grocery store, and any restrictions put on me are tyrannical” ignores the fact that not only would it be terrible to have cars driving through backyards, ignoring oncoming traffic, and having jet engines duct-taped on their sides, it could also result in a de-facto restriction on my ability to get to the grocery store (e.g., the roads are too dangerous for trucks to bring the groceries, maintenance crews can’t service the bridge I need to cross, there are miles of gridlock, etc.). The idea that fewer restrictions means more freedom may not necessarily be applicable to real-world situations.
To the point about superheroes, as compelling and validating as it may be to read a story in which our hero has their value questioned only to return triumphantly to save a vulnerable city that has turned its back on them, I have to wonder about the real world analog. My mind leaps to arguments I’ve had with conservatives who accept that brutality and racial disparities are a real problem in law enforcement, but are quick to point out that if someone tried to break into my house, I’d be calling 911 for help. The fact that police serve a valuable function in society, and that I would be grateful for them saving my life if it were necessary, doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t talk about reducing violence and racial bias in law enforcement.
And, just to be clear, it was repeatedly stated in the episode that people who work for the ACLU are not secret hate-group sympathizers, and that there doesn’t seem to be an unconscious bias towards defending hate-groups. I see why that is necessary to point out, and what accusations it’s refuting, and I agree with the sentiment, however, I don’t think it refutes the argument that the ACLU is serving a function that is, in part questionable, but only that it is not doing so wilfully/happily. I thought that was worth noting.
The case she cited about the professor who was fired from standford and tried to go to a uni in Colorado who alleged that he was discriminated against because he was a Marxist: She said that would’ve been right exept there were these other instances that probably lead to him not being hired. But why would that have been right? I thought political affiliating isn’t a protected group. Is it different in Colorado or am I missing something else?
they mention it around 40:00 I think
In potentially relevant news, today the ACLU announced they will no longer be taking on cases involving hate-groups that intend to march with firearms.