New ACLU Television Advertisements Dramatize Post-9/11 "Lessons" in Civil Liberties

July 15, 2003 12:00 am

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New ACLU Television Advertisements Dramatize Post-9/11 “Lessons” in Civil Liberties

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NEW YORK – School may be out, but lessons in civil liberties are continuing in the American Civil Liberties Union’s new national television advertising campaign featuring schoolchildren who question the government’s restrictions on basic freedoms in the name of national security.

In two new 30-second advertisements that will begin running in select cities tomorrow, the ACLU depicts the shocked reactions of students who learn about new restrictions on their rights, including a law that allows government agents to secretly search people’s homes without immediately notifying them.

“If the government has its way, our children will be growing up in a world where the lessons in their civics classes will be about freedoms we have lost rather than the freedoms we hold dear,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “Who better than children to deliver the message that we must act today, because, as the ad says, freedom can’t protect itself.”

The advertisements focus on provisions of the now-notorious USA PATRIOT Act and other government policies that go beyond fighting terrorism and stray into the suppression of basic constitutional rights.

The first advertisement (transcript | video clip) takes place in a contemporary classroom, where a group of 12-to-13-year-olds have just finished a lesson on the Bill of Rights. One student asks about a new law “that allows government agents to secretly search your house and not even tell you.” As the teacher tries to explain, the students begin to pepper her with questions about other rights that are under attack. At the end of the advertisement, one puzzled student asks, “I don’t understand…Who’s defending our Constitution then?”

The second advertisement (transcript | video clip) also features students asking questions about the new law, and ends with a student asking, “Isn’t the whole idea of the Constitution to guarantee our rights?” The answer comes from their teacher, a Colonial-era “founding father” who steps from the shadows to say sorrowfully, “That was the original idea.”

Both advertisements end with the ACLU logo and the tagline, “Because freedom can’t protect itself.”

The advertisements will air from July 16 to September 5 on cable networks (A&E, CNN, CNN Headline News, FOX News Channel, CNBC, MSNBC) as well as on some local television networks in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC.
Benenson/Janson, an agency based in Los Angeles, created the ads.

The “classroom” series follows an earlier ACLU national television advertising campaign – its first ever – that graphically illustrated how essential freedoms have been curtailed in the name of security since Sept. 11. The total campaign budget is over $4 million.

The advertisements are part of “Keep America Safe and Free: The ACLU Campaign to Defend the Constitution,” which aims to promote public debate about proposals and measures that violate civil liberties without increasing our security. For more information on the campaign, go to /safeandfree/.

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