Beyond the Pale

by

JU mentioned in a comment the other day that he finds electioneering depressing. Well, yes. When the attack ads are as vicious, slimy, and utterly false as they have been during this election season, it does tend to make one pessimistic about the state of the country and of democracy in general. I will be the first to admit that both parties use negative ads to distort their opponents’ positions — and that that is wrong when anyone does it. But as this article demonstrates, whatever their other faults, Democrats ain’t got nothin’ on Republicans when it comes to dirty and false campaigning. (I can probably get away with saying this now since all those who once would have challenged me are no longer involved with the blog). If anyone can point out to me a Democratic ad from this year that is anywhere near as disgusting as the ads discussed in this article, I would be willing to rethink my position.

P.S. What the f**k is up with the whole NAMBLA thing? I’m about tired of hearing about it. Can we just set the record straight right now: the ACLU does not defend the right of men to have sex with underage boys. Rather, they defend the First Amendment associational right of the organization to exist. Geez.

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15 Responses to “Beyond the Pale”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Hadn’t heard anything about NAMBLA and the ACLU. Is that on political ads running in your area?

    As for electioneering, it wears me out pretty much every time, not just this year. I can’t tell that this year is noticeably worse than past cycles (and I’m living in TN this year). Maybe that’s because even in 1980, the earliest political campaign I can really remember, we were already in the Lee Atwater/”Southern Strategy” era. I dunno. I don’t know that much about the history of campaigning.

    I think it’s just depressing to me to be reminded that the American people are such that the way to win their vote is not to have an intelligent policy discussion, but to hold a hog-calling contest.

  2. DeJon Redd Says:

    Don’t have much energy to argue against your point, Sandi.

    But one question I’ve mulled over is the “Harold, Call Me” add. Is it really racially loaded? I just don’t know.

    I’ll say that even if I’m just too dense to see the racial overones in this add, it still is an obvious punch below the belt. And each new negative ad bring me one more eye roll closer to complete apathy.

  3. Sandi Says:

    I think that the “Harold, Call Me” ad is racially loaded. Not in quite as obvious a way as Willie Horton, but it does bring up the specter of white women having sex with black men, a motif that has a lot of history and baggage in the South.

    I forget who it is that has been using NAMBLA in his ads (maybe someone in New York?) — I think it was discussed in the story I linked to. But it has been all over the place. Whenever you say ACLU these days, NAMBLA is the next word out of a conservative’s mouth. The organization was also featured on Oprah a couple of months ago and she said some things I thought were uncharacteristically anti-civil liberties. The thing is you have to separate the actions from the viewpoint. If someone wants to have the viewpoint that men should be able to have sex with underage boys, it’s their right to have that view and to form an organization to promote it if they want to. If members of the group take actions in support of their viewpoint that are illegal, they can be prosecuted for those actions. Same as NORML, same as the KKK or whoever. Any different treatment of this distinction toward NAMBLA just reflects the “eww, gross” feeling most people have about males having sex with males and plays on the fear that “gays are out to convert your children.” (which is so absurd I won’t spend any time on it).

  4. Sandi Says:

    Welcome back, Joe. So nice to have you around again.

  5. Sandi Says:

    But here’s the point: If NAMBLA doesn’t have a First Amendment right to exist, then neither do many other organizations that have as their central viewpoint and purpose that something that is currently illegal should be made legal and is fine to do. If you want to take that position, then we can discuss the merits of it. But we can’t single out this one organization because it grosses us out.

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Sandi’s quite right. If NAMBLA doesn’t have the right to exist and argue for their position, neither does the Christian Coalition or the American Red Cross or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

    Either we all have those rights, or none of us do.

  7. juvenal_urbino Says:

    And the ACLU is right to defend those rights.

  8. Whitney Says:

    So, you’re saying it is OK to defend their right to want to do something, but not necessarily right to defend their desire to actually carry out what they want to do?

    In the case of NAMBLA, what they want to actually do is clearly illegal and often, if not always, acting against persons not fully capable of reasoned consent. I’m a huge proponent of protecting children, so while I see your point, the fact that the ACLU is putting out $$ to defend these men’s rights to want to violate a child’s…it just makes me kind of sick. I understand your point. I just wonder where the line gets drawn.

    Violating the sensitivities of adults is hugely different than violating the sensitivies of those who have not yet fully developed them. Do I make a bit of sense at all? To be clearer (than mud) the desire to hurt someone is not illegal, so long as it isn’t carried out, and you all believe it should be protected. Yea? Nay? But to actually carry out actions that violate another is not OK and should not be defended. Yea? Nay?

    I understand where you are coming from (like the ACLU might also defend the super-cult church’s right to meet and indoctrinate their kiddies) in terms of we may not understand it, but they have a guaranteed right to talk about it.

    However, why is the ACLU defending the rights of mentally disordered individuals (pedophilia is a certified mental disorder–a paraphilia-type disorder) to get together and extend their fantasies and delusions. Also, Sandi, you may be able to answer this. Do the folks at the ACLU actually believe in the good of the “organizations” they defend or is it all the principle?

    also, my word verification sums up how this makes me feel inside: ubppuvcg

  9. Joe Longhorn Says:

    JU Said:
    Sandi’s quite right. If NAMBLA doesn’t have the right to exist and argue for their position, neither does the Christian Coalition or the American Red Cross or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

    Either we all have those rights, or none of us do.

    And just how do the Christian Coalition, Red Cross, and VFW act as proponents for illegal activity?

    I don’t get it, Big Dan.

  10. juvenal_urbino Says:

    See, Everett, the word of God is at work here, wholesale. 🙂

    I threw in the ARC and VFW just as examples of other voluntary associations whose rights are identical to those of NAMBLA, not so much because I know of specific legal changes they currently advocate. The CC, OTOH, is an easy one. They advocate making a whole host of things legal which currently are illegal. Displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses. School-sponsored prayers and Bible-reading. Allowing religious owners of businesses to discriminate in hiring, religious property owners to discriminate in leasing, etc.

    All of those things are currently forbidden by law. The CC wants them all to be legal. Advocating for the legality of those things, planning legal and political strategies toward those ends, and suckering school boards and other people into lawsuits so the CC can argue its point is a big part of why people came together to form that particular voluntary association.

    IOW, what they do looks exactly like what NAMBLA or any other voluntary advocacy group does. The only difference is the specific illicit activities they want legalized.

    We may find NAMBLA’s issues laughable or distasteful or offensive, but they have as much right to try to change our minds as anybody else does. As long as they don’t engage in their desired activity while it’s still unlawful, they’re doing nothing illegal and have as much right to exist and strategize and advocate as the CC or AARP or NRA. (Or the ARC and VFW, to whatever extent they conduct legal/political advocacy.)

  11. juvenal_urbino Says:

    So, you’re saying it is OK to defend their right to want to do something, but not necessarily right to defend their desire to actually carry out what they want to do?

    I’m saying you or I or an ACLU lawyer might find them and what they want to do reprehensible, but that doesn’t change their rights under our constitution. And insofar as we allow the rights of the unpopular to be eroded, we allow our own rights to be eroded by exactly the same amount. So not only is it alright to defend the constitutional rights you, me, and NAMBLA all share, it’s a laudable public service.

    In the case of NAMBLA, what they want to actually do is clearly illegal and often, if not always, acting against persons not fully capable of reasoned consent.

    I’m not interested in making NAMBLA’s social policy argument for them, but I do want to make a broader point that requires it for just a second. So. A possible NAMBLA response to those two points would be: a) yes, it’s illegal now, but that’s what we’re trying to change; and b) we don’t agree that what we advocate has been truly demonstrated to be harmful to anybody, and furthermore, the same argument you make used to be legally recognized as true with regard to grown women — i.e., that women didn’t have the mental capacity to be trusted to make their own decisions on important issues — until voluntary organizations not unlike ours came along and convinced the nation otherwise.

    Maybe that’s not what they’d say, but they could. And on those two points, they’d be right. Their whole point — their raison d’etre — is to convince the rest of us that what we think is true of “man-boy love” isn’t, in fact, the case, just as the suffragettes convinced the rest of us that what we thought was true of women’s mental capabilities wasn’t, in fact, the case, and just as the Southern Christian Leadership Council (another voluntary association, constitutionally identical to NAMBLA) convinced the rest of us that what we thought was true of black people wasn’t, in fact, the case.

    NAMBLA has as much right to organize and make their case as the suffragettes or SCLC or you or I do to organize and make ours. Actually, they don’t have “as much” right; they have exactly the same right. Our right is their right, and vice versa. If their right is lost or eroded, so is ours, because it’s the same right.

    I’m a huge proponent of protecting children, so while I see your point, the fact that the ACLU is putting out $$ to defend these men’s rights to want to violate a child’s…it just makes me kind of sick.

    One might reply that the ACLU wouldn’t have to put out money to defend these rights if others weren’t putting out money to abridge them. (Also, it isn’t strictly correct that the ACLU is defending NAMBLA members’ right to want what they want. The ACLU is defending NAMBLA’s right to exist as an organization, and to engage in lawful, constitutionally protected advocacy of its platform.)

    I understand your point. I just wonder where the line gets drawn.

    You mean the line between which constitutional rights should be defended and which ones shouldn’t? (That’s a real question. There are several lines here, and I’m not sure which one you’re referring to. To me, on closer inspection, they all boil down to that one.)

    To be clearer (than mud) the desire to hurt someone is not illegal, so long as it isn’t carried out, and you all believe it should be protected. Yea? Nay?

    That’s not, strictly speaking, the issue at stake in this instance, but for the record, yea. We can’t start outlawing desires and thoughts. It’s been tried; it’s never worked.

    But to actually carry out actions that violate another is not OK and should not be defended. Yea? Nay?

    Yea. That is, real acts that harm others have no constitutional protection. A voting majority may make such acts illegal, regulate them, or leave them totally unfettered, as it pleases. A voting majority may not, however, legally forbid attempts by lawful means to convince society that an act it considers harmful is, in fact, not harmful.

    We have to let each other try to change our minds. Our system of progressively self-correcting self-government is founded on it.

  12. Sandi Says:

    I think it’s even clearer when you look at the two organizations that I cited yesterday — NORML and the KKK (or substitute white supremacy group of your choice). NORML advocates for the legalization of marijuana. Now, it is possible to be a member of NORML and not smoke marijuana. It’s highly unlikely, because you know those people are toking up, but it’s possible. The organization exists for the purpose of advocating the idea that pot should be legalized. That its members probably smoke pot is a separate issue and can be dealt with using criminal laws without disbanding the organization.

    White supremacist groups are a more extreme example. I would be willing to bet that even though it’s not their public position, most such groups advocate all kinds of illegal activity, such as lynching and beating of people of color, behind closed doors. At the very least, they advocate legal segregation, which is now illegal as well. These folks, as reprehensible as their ideas are, have the right to form an organization and advocate for their view. If they commit illegal acts such as beating up people of color, they can be prosecuted for those acts under the criminal law while leaving their organizations intact.

    Whitney, I can assure you that no one at the ACLU thinks that NAMBLA is a great organization, just like no one thought the Nazis were great people when they wanted to march in Skokie. It’s purely a principle thing. Even though I worked for the ACLU, I have limits as to what I could personally do within the confines of my conscience. (which does not include defending the KKK, pornographers, or probably NAMBLA). But I’m glad that there is someone who will do it.

    I think what made the principle thing most palpable for me is realizing that if certain people got into power, I am the kind of person whose views would be thought dangerous and worthy of censorship. Once I stopped trusting that the government would always be made up of people reasonably enough like me that I would always be protected, it was easier to see why it’s so important that outlying ideas be allowed.

  13. Sandi Says:

    I don’t know how to do hyperlinks on the comments, but here is the link to the press release on the ACLU’s website regarding NAMBLA (which was represented by the Massachusetts affiliate, apparently in 2000). “Why did the ACLU defend NAMBLA?” is on the website’s list of FAQs. I wish the press release went into more detail about the case — I don’t know anything about the facts.

    http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/11289prs20000831.html

  14. Sandi Says:

    Oops, the whole link didn’t show up. The path to get to it is, http://www.aclu.org, click on “About the ACLU”, click on FAQs, click on “Why did the ACLU defend NAMBLA?” and it shows you their answer with a link to the press release.

  15. juvenal_urbino Says:

    The dreaded triple-post. Way to go, Sandi McThreadkill. 🙂

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