Beacon Press: Worst Instincts
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Worst Instincts

Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU

Author: Wendy Kaminer

An insider’s account of ethical meltdown at a revered organization that has abandoned its principles in the landmines of groupthink

When an organization committed to free speech succumbs to pressure to suppress internal criticism and disregard or “spin” the truth, it offers important lessons for other associations, corporations, and governments. Wendy Kaminer, a renowned advocate of civil liberties, calls on her experience as a dissident member of the American Civil Liberties Union national board to tell an inside story of dramatic ethical decline that has much to teach us about the land mines of groupthink.

Note from the Author

Ch. 2, The Problem with Partisanship, note 2.

This book is not a comprehensive expose of ACLU controversies, (which would be too tedious for me to write or you to read,) and the Beacon Press archive only documents this book; but my colleagues and I have been in the process of making a comprehensive record available in another publicly accessible archive.
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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

  • Read a commentary on the book by Harvey Silvergate in The Boston Phoenix

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Worst Instincts

ISBN: 978-080704436-0
Publication Date: 6/1/2010
Pages: 160
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $16.00
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.
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