Perception vs. Reality

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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39 Responses

  1. Scott says:

    So the ACLU sides with the Right on this one case, so what? That would be say, one case of every hundred or more?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

      @Scott, Read Conor’s whole post. The ACLU sides with the Right quite frequently.Report

      • Scott in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson,

        I did read it and the article cites three other instances, just three. I guess you idea of “frequently” is a bit different.Report

        • Aaron in reply to Scott says:

          @Scott, the point isn’t whether the ACLU sides with the right or the left, and what the percentage is — the point is that the ACLU defends infringements of civil liberties. Whether those infringements come from a conservative or a liberal point-of-view doesn’t matter: they defend civil liberties, not political ideologies. Sometimes it’s trying to get the 10 Commandments off of courthouse lawns, and sometimes it’s defending the Klan’s right to march. I don’t understand what’s so controversial about it — I’d think that conservatives would love that.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to Aaron says:

            @Aaron, Exactly. Now Scott’s going to point to the yahoo in Arizona that complained about not getting help from the ACLU as proof that the ACLU isn’t really interested in defending civil liberties over political ideologies. This one instance will be viewed as proof of ACLU’s ill motives far more than the multiple instances cited in Conor’s post are proof of the ACLU’s dedication to civil liberties. That said yahoo seems to have gone out of his way to personally antagonize the relevant local ACLU will be ignored. That he also was apparently nonetheless given pro bono assistance in his case from another organization (thereby rendering assistance from the ACLU moot) will likewise be ignored.Report

          • Scott in reply to Aaron says:


            “the point is that the ACLU defends infringements of civil liberties.”

            Yes the ACLU defends what it defines as civil liberties which may or may not be in agreement with the views of the Right but are not “frequently” so.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

              @Scott, the “Right’s” definition of civil liberties tend to be identical to that of the “Left’s”.

              “I have the right to never, never, never ever be offended and you have the right to get a thicker skin.”Report

            • Aaron in reply to Scott says:

              @Scott, huh? Is this supposed to be a refutation of some kind? Because from where I’m sitting, that looks like a totally anodyne statement. “The ACLU and some conservatives disagree about priorities!” Oh no, stop the presses! The point is not that the ACLU (an organization with limited resources) chooses which battles it wants to take on, and that sometimes (perhaps even often) conservatives will disagree with the choices. The point is that the thing that conservatives describe when they describe “the ACLU” is not what the actual ACLU that the rest of us see does.

              Talk Radio Host A creates a strawman about an organization that annoys him. His listeners accept that conception of the organization regardless of its actual relationship to the organization in question. Conservative Talk Listener 1 and CTL2 can talk balk and forth all they want about this imaginary institution, asking rhetorical questions and scoring imaginary points, but the point is that they look like fools. They are not talking about something that anyone else can see.Report

              • Scott in reply to Aaron says:


                So then you would agree with Mark’s statement that “the ACLU sides with the Right quite frequently?” If not, then what percentage of the time do you really think the two agree?

                Why is it surprising to say that the Right believes that the ACLU takes up left wing issues more quickly, more often and fights much harder for left leaning causes than for right leaning ones and that this belief breeds contempt for an organization that claims to fight for all “civil liberties?”

                “The point is that the thing that conservatives describe when they describe “the ACLU” is not what the actual ACLU that the rest of us see does.”

                Who is this “rest of us” you speak of? Is there some silent majority out there who feel the ACLU is being mischaracterized?Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:


              So because the ACLU doesn’t frequently enough defend the type of cases that you happen to prefer… that justifies lying and saying they aren’t working on a case that you happen to like?

              If that’s how you treat your friends, wow. Just wow.Report

  2. Trumwill says:

    There’s no excuse for railing on the ACLU for failing to take action on an issue on which it has taken action.

    That being said, I will take the ACLU as true guardians of liberty when they take the Second Amendment a quarter as seriously as they take the First. And when they stop being squishy on campaign finance reform. Until then, I see them as a liberal group with an independent streak rather than a really independent group.

    Realistically, though, the ACLU knows who butters its bread. Even if they did take the conservative-friendly stances on guns and CFR, it’s not as though conservatives would be lining up to join. Meanwhile, while they can get away with taking positions that liberals don’t agree with, they can’t afford to actively alienate liberals by taking oppositional stances on issues that liberals are extremely excited about.

    Even if it’s a utilitarian stance (or non-stance), hat’s not a knock against the ACLU. In their (reasonable) view, they can do better work when they have the funds to do so.

    Whether they truly have a blind spot in favor of some civil liberties over others or whether they’re looking out for their selves, or more likely a bit of both, it does make some of the conservative skepticism of the group understandable.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Trumwill says:


      Realistically are they needed on the second amendment? The NRA appears to have that more than covered.

      I think conservatives hate the ACLU for their actions not their in-actions. They hate the ACLU because they stand-up for the rights of religious and non-religious minorities. “Prayer in school” is one of the bigger bugaboos. The right hates the ACLU because they help enforce the separation of church and state.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

        @ThatPirateGuy, I don’t disagree with you as to why conservatives hate the ACLU. Or at least many or maybe most conservatives do. That doesn’t mean that conservative perceptions of the ACLU are all wrong, though. Or that liberal perceptions are all correct.

        Are they needed on the second amendment? Not right now, though in the late 90’s they needed all the help they could get. Even if they don’t need the help, that’s reason for the ACLU not to aggressively oppose gun control. It’s not a reason for the ACLU to go on record opposing the Heller ruling.Report

        • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Trumwill says:


          Good point about the DC v Heller case. The day that case came out is the day I stopped caring about the gun control issue entirely. I used to be ambivalent, but that ruling made me see all further argument as irrelevant. It has been decided you can have your guns, no-one can take them away now, so stop pestering everyone and freaking out.

          As far as I can tell though the ACLU is on the side of angels most of the time. The times they aren’t bounce off of me in light of what they do right. I can get on board with rapping them on the knuckles where they get it wrong but I’d rather have them than any other organization.Report

        • Bob Cheeks in reply to Trumwill says:

          @Trumwill, I don’t care for the ACLU because they’re a bunch of baby killing communists….though I try to be even handed, so there!Report

      • Trumwill in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

        @ThatPirateGuy, I forgot to mention, I think that the prayer-in-school is only part of the story for conservatives. The other part (and the bigger part, when it comes to the more general conservative population) is protecting the rights of the accused. My friend and coblogger not-so-playfully calls them the American Criminal Liberties Union. This is, I should say, where I think the ACLU’s actions are most important.Report

  3. Bob Cheeks says:

    JB, God’s there alright, talked to Him this morning, and saw Him in the baby’s eyes, and, dude, I got your back! Talk to me about smoking. There’s nothing I’d care to have more than a decent Honduran/Dominican wrapped in a grand Conn, leaf, two fingers of Maker’s Mark, and an intelligent Communist to argue with.Report