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Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU Hardcover – May 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Kaminer (Free for All) weighs in on her disillusionment with the ACLU after serving on the national board in post-9/11 America. She contends that under the stewardship of Anthony Romero, who stepped into the executive director position one week before the September 11 attacks, the ACLU has become increasingly partisan, personalized and focused on fund-raising at the expense of its core beliefs. Kaminer describes herself as a œdissident member of the board, and revisits her many battles with Romero and his supporters as she fought their refusal to challenge the government's terrorist watch lists or aid Guantánamo Bay detainees—as less financially stable groups spearheaded the cause. Kaminer admits that she œcan't claim objectivity, and she is least effective when she allows herself too much leeway on this point, for example, psychoanalyzing those she disagrees with or peppering her writing with references to Branch Davidians and œthe Kool-Aid. However, her depiction of how group members not only follow the herd but also ostracize the œtroublemaker is compelling, and her book is brave and informative. (June)
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Kaminer . . . weighs in on her disillusionment with the ACLU after serving on the national board in post-9/11 America. . . . Her depiction of how group members not only follow the herd but also ostracize the 'troublemaker' is compelling, and her book is brave and informative.—Publishers Weekly
"Standing up to your political enemies is easy, fun, and often profitable. Taking public issue with your friends and allies on a matter of great principle is none of these, but it is a far more important service to others. I am enormously grateful to Wendy Kaminer for the intellectual integrity and moral courage this book represents."—Congressman Barney Frank
"Witty, trenchant, devastating, Worst Instincts is a study of institutional decay, of how good organizations, blinded by the righteousness of their mission, do bad things."—Jack Beatty, author of Age of Betrayal and On Point news analyst
"The willingness to criticize your own based on principles you would apply to others is a measure of integrity. Kaminer's important book about her beloved ACLU has that integrity. She tells a startling, sad, and exceptionally well-documented story."—Ira Glasser, former executive director, ACLU
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
To some extent the group has been taken over by its clients: feminists, racial interests, gays, pornographers and religion haters. The people who used to be coming to us for help and now running the show, and mostly looking after people just like themselves to the exclusion of bona fide enduring First Amendment principles. I've about had enough and am now supporting groups like FIRE and EEF, who are in many respects like the ACLU used to be.
Kaminer's book details the groupthink mentality that has taken hold of our major civil liberties lobby. "Human" rights, i.e., the rights of collectives such as ethnic minorities against individual critics and dissenters, have taken precedent and the very people the ACLU should be defending are getting hounded out of the group. There's been a coup at the ACLU, with the rights of individual critics and nonconformist getting the short end of the stick, sometimes even expelled.
Ms. Kaminer is to be congratulated for her courage in writing this book. I loved the ACLU of the 60's and 70's, began to feel uncomfortable in the 80's and 90's, and am totally out of place today. There are many more like me, I'm sure.