Following the election of Donald Trump, I donated to the ACLU and ProPublica in my belief that these organizations would help protect the institution of free speech, assist in the critical examination of ideas through a free press, and provide a platform to advance civil liberties to all in our American community.
I was shocked and dismayed, therefore, by your editorial on Tuesday which repudiated UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ’s call for a “Free Speech Year.” You wrote that “White supremacists often use ‘free speech’ as their call to arms” and went on to cite Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned “free speech week” event later in September as your evidence.
I suppose, then, that the ACLU has a white supremacist agenda by making free speech a cornerstone of its activism, even as it dedicates entire divisions to advancing LGBTQ rights, fights to make America a home for all, and advocates for the rights of prisoners and lobbies against mass incarceration. The ACLU, it must be remembered, won landmark civil rights cases for flag burners and Nazis alike.
The call against free speech damages liberalism’s moral authority and constitutional foundation. Your editorial effectively ceded ground for protecting this most fundamental of civil liberties to Nazis and provocateurs, allowing them to gain sympathy with the “I’m not racist, but…” contingent of American society. This is a grave mistake that empowers those who spew racist and violent propaganda.
William Robertson is a junior at UC Berkeley.