Honolulu Lite


Sunday, July 29, 2001

ACLU turned
Thomas molehill into
PR mountain

Author Beatrice Hall wasn't a member of the American Civil Liberties Union when she wrote the famous phrase "I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

Had she been a member of the ACLU, particularly the Hawaii chapter, she might have written something like, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it, except not in Hawaii. Actually, Mr. Uncle Tom Supreme Court Justice Big Shot Clarence Thomas, I wouldn't fight to the death for your right say anything. I wouldn't fight at all. Wouldn't break a fingernail so you can spread your venomous right-wing propaganda. You're disgusting and evil, and you don't deserve to speak your mind, especially at a conference celebrating free speech. So put a sock in it, fat boy. You may interpret the Constitution when you are sitting up there in the sky box in your black muumuus with your puppet master Tony Scalia, but we at the ACLU are in charge of free speech down on the field. So, in the interest of civil libertarians everywhere, let me rephrase my original statement: I DO disapprove of what you say, so keep your big fat Uncle Tom mouth shut."

No, Beatrice wouldn't say that, even if she had been a member of the ACLU. Back in the early 1900s, people still practiced the quaint art of civility. It's been replaced with the idea that if you believe you are on the righteous side of an issue, you are free to behave in any manner you see fit. We were treated to such a spectacle when some members of the Hawaii chapter of the ACLU went off the rails during the discussion of whether Clarence Thomas should be invited to take part in the 2003 Davis Levin First Amendment Conference in Hawaii.

The anti-Thomas assault was so embarrassing that the Hawaii ACLU-ers were chastised by the ACLU national director for, among other things, making Clarence Thomas a sympathetic figure, which is no easy trick. By calling him names and refusing to allow him to speak freely in a debate about speaking freely, the Hawaii ACLU put its foot in its mouth and then shot itself in the mouth. It eventually backtracked, agreeing now to allow Thomas to take part in the conference, thereby cleverly assuring that Thomas will get a thousand times more coverage than he would have gotten if the ACLU hadn't made a big deal out of everything. You can't buy that kind of publicity. It takes several knuckleheads working full time to bring down the wrath of the national media.

A major gripe by those who didn't want Thomas to take part in the conference was that he'd be getting a paid vacation to Hawaii. It galled them that not only did they hate the man and everything he stands for, but now they have to pick up the tab for his hotel room and back rubs by the pool.

Well, I think I can help on this point. The ACLU has agreed to bring Thomas to Hawaii. The least I can do is make sure he doesn't have any fun. He can stay at my house. I'll make sure he doesn't get to go to the beach. I'll keep him busy at Windward Mall when he's not at the conference. He'll return home thinking he had been in Hoboken, not in beautiful Hawaii. OK, we might hit one strip bar. But I'll make sure he doesn't order a mai tai. He won't see so much as a paper umbrella.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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