This tweet is doing the rounds:
With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, we lost a champion for abortion and gender equality. And on the anniversary of her death, the fight to protect abortion access is more urgent than ever. pic.twitter.com/vIKadIHouN
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 18, 2021
Of course, Ginsberg didn’t say this. Instead, she said:
The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choice.
This is not a semantic point. Ginsburg’s oft-stated view was that the legal right to abortion was necessary in order to give women equality with men, because men did not have to fear unwanted pregnancies. To remove the references to gender is to destroy this argument and to substitute in a completely new one.
Most of those who have criticized the ACLU for this behavior have noted that, once again, the organization has caved to the terminally woke. And, indeed, it has. But there is another point that needs making, and that is that what the ACLU has done here represents a flat-out repudiation of the core value for which the ACLU is supposed to stand: anti-censorship.
Altering people’s speech so that it fits in with contemporary societal norms is censorship. Yes, it’s also pathetic and revisionist and Stalinist and manipulative and, sadly, wholly indicative of where the Left seems ineluctably to be headed these days. And no, it’s not the same — or as bad — as when the government does it. But it’s censorship nevertheless. For whatever reason, the ACLU is scared of offending people who believe that it is bigoted to imply that only woman can have babies. And so, in an attempt to head off their criticism, it has altered a famous quote from a famous woman who implied that only women can have babies. In doing this, it has censored her.
Once upon a time, the ACLU understood that there is no meaningful difference between organizations that do this in pursuit of policies that are considered virtuous and organizations that do this in pursuit of policies that are considered evil. Explaining his decision to take the famous Skokie case in 1977, David Goldberger noted that “the power to censor Nazis includes the power to censor protesters of all stripes and to prevent the press from publishing embarrassing facts and criticism that government officials label as ‘fake news.’” And so it is here. Again, we are not dealing with government censorship; if it wishes, the ACLU can spend all day libeling the dead. But we are dealing with the core habits of our civilization. And if outfits such as the ACLU are happy to rewrite well-documented speech in pursuit of transient contemporary goals, the case against others doing so is badly weakened.
In 1861, Alexander Stephens said of the Confederacy: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.” Mercifully, this idea does not fit well with our modern sensibilities (or, for that matter, with the Declaration’s). Should the United Daughters of the Confederacy follow the ACLU’s lead and respond to this by redacting the parts of the sentence that give it its meaning? Should they attempt to limit the discomfort of their members by tweeting out:
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that [some people] [are] not equal to [other people].
And if not, why not? The claim that they’re different because one is being done “for bad” and one is being done “for good” is just special pleading. Indeed, it is worse than special pleading: It is the acceptance of the Soviet-esque idea that it is acceptable to rewrite history if it helps the cause of progress. Everyone in America should reject this. But the ACLU? They should be setting their hair alight.
Instead, they’re leading the charge.
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