Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More “Where’s the ACLU” Nonsense

Like Eugene Volokh, I can only laugh at the absurdity of the “where’s the ACLU” argument, which is incredibly popular among anti-ACLU halfwits. The latest incarnation is from a Rabbi and published in Human Events, and it’s about the Duke soccer players. “Where’s the ACLU to defend the Duke lacrosse players?”, the title asks. The good Rabbi lists a number of problems with the Duke lacrosse investigation, all of which are probably accurate; that investigation has been a mess from the very start and eventually I expect those charges will have to be dropped.

But the real purpose of his article is to ask why the ACLU hasn’t jumped in to defend the accused in the case. This is an absurd question, of course, and anyone who actually knows how the ACLU works and isn’t interested in cheap demagoguery would know that. Has the ACLU been asked to do anything in the case? He doesn’t even bother to ask, nor does he seem to think it matters. He also doesn’t seem to know that the ACLU handles civil cases and appellate work, not criminal cases.

The Duke lacrosse case is a criminal case that has yet to go to trial. There is nothing at this point the ACLU could do even if they were asked to do something. They don’t do criminal defense. On appeal, the ACLU might well take the case if asked to do so. Even if not asked to, they might well file amicus briefs in the case on appeal. But no such briefs are allowed in a criminal case, and the defendants all have very competent and highly paid attorneys representing them.

And as noted, the ACLU can’t just go and represent someone who hasn’t asked them to do so. It’s an idiotic argument, so of course it will come as no surprise that Jay at STACLU swallows it completely and links to it. And I think we gained valuable insight into how the STACLU mind works in a comment after that post. When someone pointed out that the Rabbi’s column was little more than a series of complaints with nothing coherent or logical to tie them together, Jay replies:

It probably made him feel better as that is the purpose of most rants. That, and it was probably preaching to the choir a bit too. Why does everything have to have the purpose of changing other people’s minds? Sometimes you just want to express the outrage you’ve been holding inside and hope that some others will identify and share that same emotion..or at least understand it.

As if being an emotional rant means it doesn’t matter whether the arguments are logical and accurate. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it? And we get another good example of this kind of emotional argument immune to reason with Glib’s argument in this post, where he admits that the ACLU is correct but still criticizes them for filing a lawsuit. The suit is over a school that is confining a student to a room by himself because he has a mohawk haircut and he refuses to cut it. Glib admits the suit is correct:

OK, if the school allows another kid to wear this idiotic hair style (as the district solicitor admits later in the article), this kid should be allowed. The “this one is too high” standard won’t “stand up” in court. Why not just apply the standard consistently or adopt a dress code? That would end this garbage and allow the school to educate.

And yet he still calls the suit the ACLU filed on behalf of the student an “inanity”. And bizarrely, he has the following list of ACLU clients that he finds distasteful:

Butt painters, people that can’t prove legal citizenship wanting drivers’ licenses, child rapists who want to prowl parks, raging hate-trolls who revel in the deaths of troops, homosexuals and Amish schoolgirls, porky terrorists in Gitmo who spit at Marines…the ACLU’s clients certainly are a tasty slice of America…

You’ve gotta love the fact that he thinks homosexuals, amish schoolgirls and students whose rights are violated are equivalent to Gitmo detainees. And they are, of course, but not in the sense that he means it. To him, that’s just a list of bad people who don’t deserve defense. Oh my god, you mean the ACLU defends homosexuals? Why yes, in fact they do. Because homosexuals are human beings with the same rights as other human beings. Kids with mohawks, they’re human beings too believe it or not.

But the truth is that no matter how heinous he may find someone to be, all have the same unalienable rights that deserve to be defended. And only a demagogue or a fool equates defending those rights with defending every attribute of the person whose rights have been violated.

Comments

  1. #1 Nick
    December 22, 2006

    You’ve gotta love the fact that he thinks homosexuals, amish schoolgirls and students whose rights are violated are equivalent to Gitmo detainees.

    I hate to defend Glib, but I think it’s just awkward sentence construction. “troops, homosexuals and Amish Schoolgirls” are all people whose deaths the “raging hate trolls” revel in. It’s a reference to Fred Phelps who pickets the funerals of troops and AIDS victims and who threatened to picket the funerals of the Amish schoolgirls.

  2. #2 NonyNony
    December 22, 2006

    I don’t understand this part of his rant:

    “raging hate-trolls who revel in the deaths of troops, homosexuals and Amish schoolgirls,”

    Is he offended because the ACLU defends “raging hate-trolls who revel in the deaths of (troops AND homosexuals AND Amish schoolgirls)”, or is he offended because they defend “raging hate-trolls who revel in the deaths of troops” AND “homosexuals” AND “Amish schoolgirls”? I know your reading was that it was the latter (since that would be the reading that indicates that they defend homosexuals), but I think it was a poorly worded version of the former (that the hate-trolls are reveling in the deaths of the troops, the deaths of homosexuals, and the deaths of Amish schoolgirls).

    I admit, the only reason I parse it that way is because I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would put the fact that the ACLU was defending Amish schoolgirls on their list of “demonic things about the ACLU”, but I suppose that could be a possibility.

    And, honestly, I just can’t understand the mindset anyway. I know that I wouldn’t want to be the person who had to defend Fred Phelps’s right to say offensive things to the families of dead troops and dead gay men, but at the same time having the government come in and shut him down at all puts too much faith in the government for my liking. I’d like Phelps to shut up, but I’m not comfortable with the government shutting him up, and I just can’t put myself in the mindset of someone who want the government to do things like that. And I’m glad that there’s a group out there that forces the government to live up to the contract that they’re supposed to be governing us by (just like I’m glad that the NRA is there to force the government to watch itself with gun issues – again even though I’m not comfortable with everything that the second amendment protects).

  3. #3 Ted
    December 22, 2006

    And I’m glad that there’s a group out there that forces the government to live up to the contract that they’re supposed to be governing us by (just like I’m glad that the NRA is there to force the government to watch itself with gun issues – again even though I’m not comfortable with everything that the second amendment protects).

    I concur. If I wasn’t knee deep in guns, the government would be running amok and would absolutely disrespect me.

    Having a group out there to force the government to live up to the contract frees me up to do the things I prefer to do (which is mostly sit around and surf the internets).

  4. #4 DuWayne
    December 22, 2006

    What? Kids with mohawks are human? I, for one, am a little skeptical of that assertion. Of course, I am beggining to beleive that kids as a group are somewhat less than human.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    December 22, 2006

    Ah, that may explain that bizarre grouping of people. It makes sense; I mean, I thought that was incredibly stupid even for Glib. As for Fred Phelps, as I’ve said many times, I have very mixed feelings about it. I can think of few people more loathsome on the planet than Phelps and his gang of merry bigots and nutballs. If they showed up at the funeral of someone I loved, I can’t imagine I could prevent myself from beating the hell out of the first one I could get my hands on. But I still don’t like giving government the power in cases like that, nor do I like vague and overly inclusive restrictions. In the end, I say let them do what they do even if it makes my blood boil; they only show their own lack of character by doing it.

  6. #6 Ed Darrell
    December 22, 2006

    It’s not even a fine point — but is there a Bill of Rights issue involved in the Duke situation that might lend itself to an ACLU defense?

    Heck, why doesn’t the ACLU jump in to defend Microsoft against antitrust, or Disney against copyright infringement? The simple answers are that there are no issues dealing with the Bill of Rights there.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    December 22, 2006

    There are certainly issues of possible prosecutor misconduct and due process violations in the case (incidentally, the rape charges were dropped this morning, but the kidnapping and “sex offense” charges are evidently still being pursued), but it’s still not the sort of thing the ACLU would likely get involved with until the appellate level. And of course, the Duke players already have high-priced attorneys arguing their case.

  8. #8 Jurjen S.
    December 24, 2006

    “raging hate-trolls who revel in the deaths of troops, homosexuals and Amish schoolgirls”

    That sounds like a description of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, doesn’t it?

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