Several branches of the American Civil Liberties Union are joining forces to file a complaint against the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for their refusal to accept certain forms of advertising on public transportation. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the ACLU stick up for civil liberties only when it directly affects a liberal cause, their patchwork of plaintiffs in this case includes at least one odd duck: Controversial conservative Milo Yiannopoulos. He is, along with abortionists Carafem, PETA, and the ACLU themselves, one of several entities who has had his advertisements banned due to WMATA’s restrictions.
In all cases but one (you guessed it), the clients were trying to deliberately make a left-wing political point or at least trying to sell a left-wing product such as “10 Week After” abortion pills. But it’s the ACLU’s defense of Yiannopoulos that bears reproducing here, because it at least temporarily restores our faith in the left’s belief in free speech.
From the ACLU’s blog:
Milo Worldwide submitted ads that displayed only Mr. Yiannopoulos’s face, an invitation to pre-order his new book, “Dangerous,” and one of four short quotations from different publications: “The most hated man on the Internet” from The Nation; “The ultimate troll” from Fusion; “The Kanye West of Journalism” from Red Alert Politics; and “Internet Supervillain” from Out Magazine. Unlike Mr. Yiannopoulos’ stock-in-trade, the ads themselves were innocuous, and self-evidently not an attempt to influence any opinion other than which book to buy.
WMATA appeared to be okay with that. It accepted the ads and displayed them in Metro stations and subway cars — until riders began to complain about Mr. Yiannopoulos being allowed to advertise his book. Just 10 days after the ads went up, WMATA directed its agents to take them all down and issue a refund — suddenly claiming that the ads violated the same policies it relied on to reject the ads from the ACLU, Carafem, and PETA.
To anyone who’d be outraged to see Mr. Yiannopoulos’ advertisement — please recognize that if he comes down, so do we all. The First Amendment doesn’t, and shouldn’t, tolerate that kind of impoverishment of our public conversation. Not even in the subway.
If you go to the blog post itself, you’ll not be surprised to see dozens of comments from liberals who are indeed outraged to see the ACLU support MILO, and they’re finding all kinds of interesting (read: disturbing) ways to defend the Washington Metro Transit Authority. But for the time being, we applaud the ACLU for remembering (as they so seldom do) that even the viewpoints they disagree with need to be defended from government censorship.
In fact, in today’s political climate, they need defending the most.