By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Watch what you say

I meant to link to this astounding story in yesterday’s New York Times, but Jon Keller beat me to it. The lead:

The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization’s policies and internal administration.

The great Nat Hentoff told the Times, “You sure that didn’t come out of Dick Cheney’s office? For the national board to consider promulgating a gag order on its members — I can’t think of anything more contrary to the reason the ACLU exists.”

What’s especially distressing about this is that we need the ACLU more than ever. Also yesterday, the ACLU launched a campaign aimed at getting to the bottom of the NSA spying matter. From the ACLU’s announcement:

ACLU affiliates in 20 states today filed complaints with Public Utility Commissions or sent letters to state Attorneys General and other officials demanding investigations into whether local telecommunications companies allowed the NSA to spy on their customers.

This is vital work. Obviously, though, the organization needs to do a better job of living up to its own principles.

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How about everyone’s back yard?


So go, already


  1. Anonymous

    Hypocrisy from political extremists. Quelle surprise.

  2. metallicaMobes

    surprise surprise, the ACLU only wants one side of the story out in the public?No Way!

  3. Ernie Boch III

    I actually think it is a free speech issue and the ACLU is on the right side.Board members can choose to be on the Board or not. They know the rules. The ACLU has an absolute right to contract with board members and have it conform to its rules so as to have an effefctive message.It is when the inmates run the asylum under the cover of free speech is when I have problems.

  4. RichC

    Actually, the quote in that article which best shows what is wrong with the current-day ACLU and why the ACLU should be beaten with 2x4s is the following:“Take hate speech,” he [ACLU head Romero]said. “While believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities.”Not condoning such speech — fine and admirable. Not “believing in” it? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Well, what it means is that it affirms the capture of the ACLU by those anti-freedom forces which elevate made up, collective pseudo-“rights” (like some bogus “right” not to be offended) over actual, real rights (like the right to free speech that the ACLU defended once upon a time).

  5. Steve

    Pegged the irony meter! What the heck are they thinking?(Are you sure this didn’t come from Drudge?)

  6. Harold Banks Fan

    The top-of-the-head response is, naturally, to talk or irony or contradiction. But look deeper. First, it is a proposal, one that will be openly debated. For a committee to make a recommendation that seems outlandish does not mean that the organization itself is drifting from its ideals. Second, look at the efforts by the right to recast the rather strict constructions ACLU as a radical fringe group. Given the nature of the ACLU mission, perhaps the proposal can be seen as a sort of poison pill should its ranks be infiltrated by hostile forces. Finally, it’s interesting to note that we have double irony here… a proposal is criticized for merely being suggested. Is that itself not criticism of speech?

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