Should there be Nazi or white supremacist speech bans? No!

I have to say that I’ve been pretty disappointed the past few days with those readers who have said that Nazi and white supremacist speech should be banned, and that the U.S. should enact “hate speech” laws, similar to those in Canada and some European countries, making certain sentiments simply illegal to express in public. Likewise with symbols like Nazi flags with swastikas. The reasons offered were that such “hate speech” is likely to cause violence, either now or in the future. These people were, in effect, asking for a reinterpretation of the First Amendment, which allows all public speech save that that constitutes personal harassment in the workplace, is defamatory, or is a direct instigation of violence on the spot: “fighting words”.

How quickly liberals become authoritarians and opponents of free speech when they hear speech that they consider vile!

Well, what happened in Charlottesville was not a violation of the First Amendment, and the violence arose not because the right-wingers called for people to attack blacks, Jews, or immigrants. It happened because both sides came looking for a confrontation, carried guns or clubs, and the police, unprepared, did a lousy job of planning and keeping the groups apart. Had the bigots and Nazi sympathizers just marched, and not said a word, the same thing would have happened. Would you object to the mere presence of such people as a provocation?

And if you say that pro-Nazi speech or Holocaust denialism should be banned because it will lead to a revival of Nazi Germany, that’s simply not a credible view since the threat isn’t even remotely there, and, more imporant, what stifles the threat is free speech against Nazi speech. If you ban white supremacist and bigoted speech, it does not get rid of pro-white, anti-Jewish and anti-black sentiments; it merely drives them underground where they fester. Remember, some of the first acts the Nazis did when they got power was to prevent speech criticizing the government, and to persecute and kill people who spoke out against them.

This clip shows how foolish white supremacists look when they’re allowed to air their views. This is an interview by Christopher Hitchens of white supremacist and head of the White Aryan Resistance John Metzger (and his more notorious father Tom, who calls in). Can anybody worry about the country becoming ruled by these people when they’re allowed to speak freely and be criticized freely?

And if you say, well, Trump could put these “Nazis” in power, so we’ll become like National Socialist Germany, then the best remedy against that is to allow Americans to speak freely against the government. Thanks to the First Amendment, the Trump regime cannot simply ban speech to criticizing a fascist or authoritarian regime.

Others say, “Well, hate-speech laws have worked well in Europe and Canada, so let’s have them here.” But how do you know they’ve “worked”? Have they eliminated hatred and bigotry? Where are the data? Have the absence of such laws in the U.S. led to more violence in our country, or is any increased violence the result of other factors like less restrictive gun laws? Where are your data showing that the First Amendment is an inferior alternative to “hate speech” laws?

This raises the problem, one that Hitchens often emphasized (see video below), that if YOU decide that some speech is so vile it must be banned, you are establishing a principle that those in power can do the same thing; and that raises the possibility that speech that you favor can be banned. After all, one person’s hate speech is another person’s free speech. Speech that criticizes Islam, or even cartoons like Jesus and Mo, are seen by some Muslims as “hate speech” just as vile as people see white supremacist or pro-Nazi speech.  Those Muslims see “our” free criticism of Islam as verbal violence, likely to instigate attacks on Muslims in Western countries. Do not doubt that; we’ve heard these sentiments repeatedly. Do you think that if Linda Sarsour were (Ceiling Cat help us) President of the United States, she wouldn’t try to ban anti-Islam “hate speech”? Should we then ban Jesus and Mo or any criticism of Islam? No! If you give an authority the right to be The Decider, then don’t be surprised when that Decider finds some speech you favor to be “hateful” and therefore worthy of banning.

I’m not a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald, largely for the way he discounts Islam as a cause of terrorism, but we have to admit that sometimes our ideological opponents get something right. And on the issue of free speech, Glenn Greenwald got it right in his new piece on The Intercept, “The misguided attacks on the ACLU for defending neo-Nazis’ free speech rights in Charlottesville“.

Even before the bigots and Right-wingers showed up in Charlottesville, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was in court defending the right of the white supremacists to assemble in Emancipation Park, where the statue of Robert E. Lee was to be removed (the city wanted to sequester the demonstrators a mile away). And although the supremacists hadn’t uttered a word, the ACLU was already being criticized for defending these people, as it had been severely criticized a while back for defending Milo Yiannopoulos because ads for his new book had been banned on public transit.

It’s a sad day when censorship-favoring readers need to be schooled by Glenn Greenwald about the reasons why we permit Nazis to speak in America, but here’s part of what he says:

The flaws and dangers in this anti-free speech mindset are manifest, but nonetheless always worth highlighting, especially when horrific violence causes people to want to abridge civil liberties in the name of stopping it. In sum, purporting to oppose fascism by allowing the state to ban views it opposes is like purporting to oppose human rights abuses by mandating the torture of all prisoners.

One of the defining attributes of fascism is forcible suppression of views(“For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason,” wrote Umberto Eco); recall that one of Trump’s first proposals after winning the 2016 election was to criminalize flag desecration. You can’t fight that ideology by employing and championing one of its defining traits: viewpoint-based state censorship. Even if this position could be morally justified, those who favor free speech suppression, or who oppose the ACLU’s universal defense of speech rights, will create results that are the exact opposite of those they claim to want. It’s an indescribably misguided strategy that will inevitably victimize themselves and their own views.

Let’s begin with one critical fact: the ACLU has always defended, and still does defend, the free speech rights of the most marginalized left-wing activists, from communists and atheists, to hardcore war opponents and pacifists, and has taken up numerous free speech causes supported by many on the left and loathed by the right, including defending the rights of Muslim extremists and even NAMBLA. That’s true of any consistent civil liberties advocate: we defend the rights of those with views we hate in order to strengthen our defense of the rights of those who are most marginalized and vulnerable in society.

The ACLU is primarily a legal organization. That means they defend people’s rights in court, under principles of law. One of the governing tools of courts is precedent: the application of prior rulings to current cases. If the ACLU allows the state to suppress the free speech rights of white nationalists or neo-Nazi groups — by refusing to defend such groups when the state tries to censor them or by allowing them to have inadequate representation — then the ACLU’s ability to defend the free speech rights of groups and people that you like will be severely compromised.

It’s easy to be dismissive of this serious aspect of the debate if you’re some white American or non-Muslim American whose free speech is very unlikely to be depicted as “material support for terrorism” or otherwise criminalized. But if you’re someone who cares about the free speech attacks on radical leftists, Muslims, and other marginalized groups, and tries to defend those rights in court, then you’re going to be genuinely afraid of allowing anti-free speech precedents to become entrenched that will then be used against you when it’s time to defend free speech rights. The ACLU is not defending white supremacist groups but instead is defending a principle — one that it must defend if it is going to be successful in defending free speech rights for people you support.

. . . Beyond that, the contradiction embedded in this anti-free speech advocacy is so glaring. For many of those attacking the ACLU here, it is a staple of their worldview that the U.S. is a racist and fascist country and that those who control the government are right-wing authoritarians. There is substantial validity to that view.

Why, then, would people who believe that simultaneously want to vest in these same fascism-supporting authorities the power to ban and outlaw ideas they dislike? Why would you possibly think that the List of Prohibited Ideas will end up including the views you hate rather than the views you support? Most levers of state power are now controlled by the Republican Party, while many Democrats have also advocated the criminalization of left-wing views. Why would you trust those officials to suppress free speech in ways that you find just and noble, rather than oppressive?

As I wrote in my comprehensive 2013 defense of free speech in The Guardian, this overflowing naïveté is what I’ve always found most confounding about the left-wing case against universal free speech: this belief that state authorities will exercise this power of censorship magnanimously and responsibly: “At any given point, any speech that subverts state authority can be deemed — legitimately so — to be hateful and even tending to incite violence.”

Greenwald reproduces a tweet from Trump that shows the dangers of allowing someone to be The Decider:

He concludes with this:

Then, finally, there’s the argument about efficacy. How can anyone believe that neo-Nazism or white supremacy will disappear in the U.S., or even be weakened, if it’s forcibly suppressed by the state? Is it not glaringly apparent that the exact opposite will happen: by turning them into free speech martyrs, you will do nothing but strengthen them and make them more sympathetic? Literally nothing has helped Yiannopoulos become a national cult figure more than the well-intentioned (but failed) efforts to deny him a platform. Nothing could be better designed to aid their cause than converting a fringe, tiny group of overt neo-Nazis into some sort of poster child for free speech rights.

The need to fight neo-Nazism and white supremacy wherever it appears is compelling. The least effective tactic is to try to empower the state to suppress the expression of their views. That will backfire in all sorts of ways: strengthening that movement and ensuring that those who advocate state censorship today are its defenseless targets tomorrow. And whatever else is true, the impulse to react to terrorist attacks by demanding the curtailment of core civil liberties is always irrational, dangerous, and self-destructive, no matter how tempting that impulse might be.

If you think that your own left-wing sentiments are immune to speech bans, have a look at this piece in yesterday’s New York Times by a black woman whose Leftist speech has been disrupted or banned, and who gives instances of other progressives who have been subjects of calls for censorship.

Finally, if you’re still not convinced that the way the U.S. has defined and enforced freedom of speech has been salubrious, either read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, or, if you don’t have the time, listen to this very eloquent defense of free speech by Christopher Hitchens. It’s only 21 minutes long, and I’ve posted it before, but apparently some readers could stand to see it again:

h/t: Grania, Charleen


  1. Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    “Had the bigots and Nazi sympathizers just marched, and not said a word, the same thing would have happened”

    Is that true? Have you evidence for that claim?

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      That is my opinion, and, based on what happened in Berkeley, where there were Antifa riots by those who didn’t even hear Yiannopoulos, I think I have a case. The mere presence of a disruptive figure is often enough to start the violence.

      You have no evidence to the contrary.

  2. Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    When certain speech is banned, speech ceases to be a right and becomes a privilege. A privilege regulated by the state, and the current state is not a friend of progressivism.

    • Harrison
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Zealots always think they’ll be the only ones allowed to decide.

      This is infuriating but sometimes understandable. But certainly not at a time when their opponents are already the ones in power. Literally “I’m going to give you assholes more power and I swear that when it’s my turn I’m going to ruin you with it. And don’t you dare think of trying it on me first!” Yeah, smart plan.

  3. C.J.
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The antidote to hate speech is open debate with opposing reasoned arguments on full display. Free speech is absolutely the best solution, yet we must be careful to protect those innocent and naive who may be overtaken by persuasive brainwashing from things like fundamental religion and hate groups. And again, the solution to that is logical reasoning and perhaps a bit of empathy.

    • Alric
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      You can’t reason with hate.

      • C.J.
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        Thus the mention of empathy. Understanding how and why people get tricked and trapped by faulty reasoning and hatred, and then empathizing with them is perhaps the hardest part. Ill-prepared and abused minds are malleable things. Showing that you are a fellow human goes a long way. If you can’t get to that point, how on earth will you ever change their minds?

        • darrelle
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          Some other valuable tools of free speech are ridicule and scorn. As darwinwins pointed out the various methods that can be employed via counter speech are most effective at persuading the undecided / fence sitters / in the closet people that are watching. The committed haters are much harder to persuade. Portraying, or revealing their ideas and values to be ridiculous and loathsome is plausibly effective. Many people don’t want to be in the same group as the loathsome and ridiculous.

      • Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        You need not be reasoning with the haters. You are trying to reason with people who may be swayed by their message.

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          On every issue (abortion springs to mind), the Left has forgotten the goal is to gently persuade those on the fence, not bludgeon their hardened ideological opponents.

      • Michiel
        Posted August 16, 2017 at 3:43 am | Permalink

        Don’t be so sure of that. Just look at someone like Maajid Nawaz who was, and I’ll just quote Wikipedia: “a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This association led to his arrest in Egypt in December 2001, where he remained imprisoned until 2006. Reading books on human rights and interacting with Amnesty International, which adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, resulted in a change of heart. This led Nawaz to leave Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounce his Islamist past and call for a “Secular Islam”.”

        We all now know Nawaz as a staunch defender of reason (well, granted he still believes in god/allah, so not 100% reasonable), secularism and a reformed islam, even though he used to be in the “hate” camp. I’m sure there are more examples.

    • Michiel
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 3:47 am | Permalink

      Indeed, and exactly the reason why extremist islam/islamism has been allowed to grow in power so much even in our Western societies is because the open debate about islam has been stifled for decades by claims of racism and islamophobia. Just imagine how powerful nazis and white supremacists might have been now if we had made criticising nazism and white supremacism a taboo for a couple of decades.

  4. Craw
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    One of the best posts you’ve ever made.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      I agree.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Me too.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I’ll go a fourth. (Now we can play Bridge. Whose deal?)

    • Posted August 16, 2017 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      I have to agree too, but am saddened that Jerry has to keep repeating it. When will they ever learn?

  5. Alric
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Have free speech bans caused chaos and repression in other western democracies?

    This reminds me of the gun control debate where gun control has obviously reduced gun deaths, and the number of gun masssacres, and yet in the USA we refuse to follow their example.

    There are no slippery slope fears with hate speech laws. Fascists will not consider your fairness if they come to power. It is also not true that it is difficult to identify hate in most cases. Case in point, nazism and white supremacy. These couldn’t be less ambiguously recognized as hate. Worried about ambiguity? Make the laws as specific as you want.

    • Craw
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Experience has shown the futility of debating you, but I’ll just note how constricted your view of history is. “Hey Denmark was fine in the 90s, what’s the problem dude?” Censorship and attendant repression were rife in Europe within my lifetime; censorship is used to oppress as we speak in much of the world; and modern Europe is paying the price, as discussions are driven underground.

      • Alric
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        Yes. Hate will be suppressed. That’s the point.

        • Craw
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

          It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone describe the Stasi quite the way you do.

          • Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

            Alric, European-stye laws on limiting free speech in all likelihood lead to self-censorship. You and I therefore don’t know what arguments are failing to get to the public square. We are losing our right to hear.

            When all other rights have been taken away, which right will you use to get them back?

            • Alric
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

              Is this a widespread problem in countries with hate speech laws?

              • Craw
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

                Is it a widespread problem in countries with censorship? 99% of human history says yes.
                You want us to trust censors with what you claim is an exception. Can censors be trusted? Not in the long run.

              • BobTerrace
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                And not in the short run either.

              • Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

                It could be and probably is. To get anecdotal, I was suspended from work while being investigated for alleged racism after I criticised Islamism in a training session.

                It took me 10 hours to compile my defence. The atmosphere of self-censorship on all matters Islam (and concomitant faux-outrage at criticism of the miserable little religion) runs pretty deep, at least in my workplace in Birmingham, UK.

              • Taz
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

                Have they done any good? The worst incident in Charlottesville was the car being used to deliberately kill and injure people. Never happens in Europe, right?

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

              “When all other rights have been taken away, which right will you use to get them back?”

              You sampling Sir Thomas More there, Dermot? 🙂

              • Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                Well, dang ma poons, I thought I’d composed a bon mot. Unconscious plagiarism, no doubt, ‘cos I’ve seen that clip before – and fairly recently. The other explanation is incipient Alzheimer’s. Well spotted, Keith,…er, Ken.

              • Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

                Actually, he’s sampling Robert Bolt, the writer of the screenplay.

              • Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                If I were World Censor-in Chief I could reasonably expect to have had complaints about the following people landing on my desk within the last few months: Eliot Higgins, James Damore, Milo Yiannopoulos, Sam Harris, Raif Badawi, Tarek Fatah, Mona Eltahawy, Maajid Nawaz, Donald Trump, Masih Alinejad, Emmanuel Macron, Anne-Marie Waters, Rodrigo Duterte, Pauline Hanson, Ken Livingstone, Peter Singer, Jerry Coyne, Jordan Peterson, Germaine Greer, Gina Miller, Ricky Gervais, spox from BLM, KKK, Hamas, Pegida etc.

                Assuming I found them guilty of hate speech, I would then have to pass them over to the secular authorities, just like the Inquisition did, and thereby establish the moral boundaries of permitted discussion.

                It’s a big job. Who is up to it?

            • Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              Did someone say “Brexit”?

              • Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

                No, I didn’t Matt: I was thinking of the UK’s hate speech laws which apply to states of being (disability, ethnic group etc) and, uniquely, to an adult’s rational choice, their religion but not their politics.

                I also had in mind the holocaust denial laws of the Germanic countries. In reference to which Kevin Myers recently got slaughtered in the UK media by people who either hadn’t read him, couldn’t understand him or deliberately misrepresented him. And even though:

                1) He’s not a holocaust denier.
                2) The UK doesn’t, as far as I know, have any holocaust denial laws.

                That’s another problem with hate speech laws and the atmosphere they generate. The demonstrably innocent get the Salem treatment.

        • C.J.
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          It think we would all prefer if hate were suppressed, but who decides what is hate? Just look at otherwise well-intentioned intellectuals at Berkeley and other universities banning the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher. These individuals do not promote hatred, yet their speech would be banned.

          • Alric
            Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

            De-platforming is another issue.

            Make the less clearly about Nazism and white supremacy. No confusion.

            • Craw
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

              There cannot logically be Islamic supremacy? Sounds like you start by saying ban hate and within the hour shift to ban just the hate I say. You cannot maintain impartiality or a commitment to principles for the duration of a debate a single web page. We should trust you to censor us? And even if we did trust you, why should we trust the guy who comes after you?

            • Taz
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

              But you’ve broken the First Amendment. You’ve erased the part that says “Congress shall make no law. . .” Sure, the first law congress makes may be about Nazism and white supremacy, but what about the next one, and the one after that?

              What about some of the BLM slogans? “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon”. How about the popular feminist hashtag “#killallmen”?

              But you won’t even admit that Antifa exists, so I’m sure in your warped little view, white supremacy is the only form of hatred there is. I’m not sure our current Republican congress (you know, the people who actually make the laws), agrees with you.

              • ploubere
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink


            • Xuuths
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

              Um, no, de-platforming is NOT another issue. It is exactly the same issue: censorship.

    • Paul S
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Alric, I’ll be as blunt as possible. I will not relinquish my rights to you or anyone else. You do not get to decide what speech is permitted and what’s not.

      I don’t care about your personal sense of morals or your beliefs and that should be of great comfort to you because if we were to ban hateful speech, your attempts to deny my rights would be the first one I’d ban.

      /rant off

      Apologies to our host.

      • Alric
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Fortunately, not up to you.

        • Taz
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          No, it’s up to the Constitution which agrees with him, not you.

          • Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

            Alric is one who would like to see the Constitution shredded.

        • Craw
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          Exactly! That you cannot see the irony is precious.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      You can ignore it. Burning a cross dressed in a white robe in ones’ front yard. Yawn

    • ploubere
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      No slippery slopes? That assumes universal agreement on what constitutes hate, when in fact there is no universal agreement on any topic, anywhere.
      If we allowed the government to decide what constitutes hate, this very site would likely be banned, for insulting religionists, republicans and science skeptics, for starters.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      No Fascists are anywhere near coming to power.
      Unless, as seems likely, you will label anyone not progressive liberal as Nazi.

      There is no comparison with gun control legislation.
      None whatsoever.

      You have pretty much proved the invalidity of your position by implying that all those alt right types are Nazis.

      And, how does doubting the holocaust happened make you a Nazi? Or wondering about transgender issues rather than towing a line.
      Or abortion?
      Or countless things.

      There is more than a slippery slope, which would be real enough, there is the zealotry of the ideologically pure ‘good ones’.

      Free speech is a very valuable thing to hand over to ideologues.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Nazism is hateful, that doesn’t mean speakers for its cause should be silenced.

      Unfortunate is the case that most cannot realize that no form of hate speech offends me. It is uniformly boring and useful because I can learn who is saying it and avid them.

  6. BobTerrace
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    There is a rally by a right wing group scheduled in Boston this Saturday. The mayor of Boston said that anyone who obtains a proper permit will be able to have a rally and will be protected by the police department. He also stipulated that the sides will be separated and that any violence will cause everything to be shut down immediately.

    Mayor Walsh is a strong supporter of free speech.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      The Mayor of Boston is making it clear that a public rally (free Speech event) must have limits, rules of responsibility and so on. Free speech must have limits when it comes up against the safety and protection of the public and all the citizens within the Mayors responsibility. None of the rally participates will be allowed to arrive with weapons and they will be watched to insure this is so. Additionally, I would not allow any other apposing rallies to be held at the same time. These things are common sense in a civil society and there is no opposition to free speech. This is smart opposition to violence.

      • tomh
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        Massachusetts’ gun laws are very different than Virginia’s. As long as the laws are enforced, the Nazi’s won’t be able to march in brandishing weapons.

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          And what of Antifa? You have left them out of your statement about bringing weapons.

          I do not wonder why.

          • tomh
            Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink


          • Alric
            Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            Antifa is a myth

            • ploubere
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

              You’re a troll, aren’t you?

              • Michiel
                Posted August 16, 2017 at 3:52 am | Permalink

                Yeah it seems like it.

            • Posted August 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

              Not so. They’ve appeared at a number of marches/demonstrations to disrupt, break windows and cause injury.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          I do not care if you are talking about Nazis or Micky Mouse fan clubs. No weapons. And if you think in Virginia that you cannot ban weapons from a protest event, better look again. I do not care what the basic gun laws are, they have nothing to do with what you can regulate at a protest event.

          • Paul S
            Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

            Correct, weapons could have been banned. However I believe this was not the first time the nazis or a related group has marched in Charlottesville. Possibly they’ve been armed in the past without violent incidence but I cannot confirm that.
            Personally I would never allow weapons at a protest, but it’s possible the police and other government officials thought this year would be the same non-event.
            Hindsight shows us they were wrong.

          • tomh
            Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            “if you think in Virginia that you cannot ban weapons from a protest event, better look again.”

            Are you sure about that? After all, Virginia has state preemption laws regarding guns.

            § 15.2-915
            “No locality shall adopt or enforce any ordinance, resolution or motion, and no agent of such locality shall take any administrative action, governing the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof other than those expressly authorized by statute.”

            • Randy schenck
              Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

              And so – what does the statute expressly authorize. Does is say anything about protests , marches, rally? 15.2-915 does not clarify anything regard the permit for such a protest. Now if the statute or the courts of Virginia expressly covers this and states – all protesters can come on down, armed to the teeth, locked and loaded. Well then, I would say something is seriously wrong in Virginia. Give us the evidence because until then, I do not believe it.

              • tomh
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

                I’m not sure why you believe that. Virginia has no laws prohibiting firearms in the following places: Parks; Hospitals; Sports arenas; Gambling facilities; or Polling places. There are no exceptions made for demonstrations taking place at these locations.

                Look, forty-five states, including Virginia, allow some form of open carry. Perhaps there are states that treat demonstrations differently, but in Virginia (and most other states) so long as armed demonstrators do not openly threaten anyone, their protests are perfectly legal.

                By the way, don’t think I’m in favor of any of this. I think guns should be banned period, but the way the laws stand it’s not as easy as saying, ban guns at demonstrations, and to keep saying that’s what they should do, just distorts the issue.

              • Randy schenck
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

                I am not distorting the issue, I am the guy bring it up. As a very good Slate article shows – we are at the intersection of speech and open carry. The right to bear arms now overrides the right to free speech. Therefore, we have a problem in many of these states which the Virginia mop clearly shows. Instead of all this discussion about free speech and who gets it and who does not, we need to say that for the future, non-violent demonstrators have lost their right to assemble and express their ideas. The people who bring weapons have won and that is very dangerous. The police are too scared to step in and do their jobs because of all the guns.
                The second amendment interpretation have destroyed a much more important amendment – the first.

              • tomh
                Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                I don’t disagree with any of that. The distortion comes when people keep saying, just ban guns at protests, since laws need to change before that can happen. The way it stands now, that is not possible.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

          Quite a few right wingers brought only shields, I wonder why.
          To shield from what?

          • tomh
            Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

            Maybe Nazis like to carry shields. Makes them feel important, like real-life soldiers. And they can march with them!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Christ, keep this up, next thing you know they’ll be dumping tea in Beantown Harbor.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Hey, long as they have a permit and don’t bring weapons. What is the tax on Tea?

  7. Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Hitch interviewing the Metzgers is one of the best lessons in the uses of free speech.

    For the gray areas leading up to incitement, there are already laws against disturbing the peace, which can be used with discretion.

  8. Jeff
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I agree with you completely about the importance of free speech, even for the most vile, but I wish you’d be less even-handed in condemning both sides in Charlottesville. You say “both sides came looking for a confrontation” and “carried guns and clubs” but from all the pictures and videos I’ve seen one side was much more heavily armed and much more willing to use their clubs. More importantly, one side consisted of Nazis and white supremacists and the other of anti-racists. One side was right and the other was wrong. I give the anti-racists a lot of credit for sending up for what I consider to be American values. Standing against racism is just as important as standing up for free speech.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      You apparently haven’t read my previous posts where I did exactly what you are saying I didn’t do: condemning racism and the bigots who marched in Charlottesville. And yes, I admire and stand with those who went to protest the supremacists–those who didn’t carry weapons and weren’t spoiling for a fight. Read my posts on this issue over the past few days. Had I been in Charlottesville, I would have been protesting the bigots.

      I’m not Trump: I condemned white supremacists, Nazis, and other bigots from the get-go, so please don’t tell me I am too “even handed.”

      I have explained before, in many posts, why I am harder on the Left’s ideology-policing than on the Right’s because the Right is irredeemable and doesn’t read this site anyway.

      • C.J.
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        “I am harder on the Left’s ideology-policing than on the Right’s because the Right is irredeemable and doesn’t read this site anyway”

        This should be a general disclaimer on your site. Would save you a lot of typing 😉

        • darrelle
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          It wouldn’t do any good.

          • Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

            Nope, it wouldn’t. That’s why I have to keep issuing disclaimers, which I shouldn’t have to do if people actually read what I wrote.

      • Alric
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Your disclaimer should include the accurate statement that there is no comparison between the level of systemic violence promoted by the right, and the sporadic skirmishes with individuals on the left. Your current writing makes both sides appear symmetrical.

        Please watch the VICE report on the Charlottesville demonstrations:

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          Alric, DO NOT tell me what kind of disclaimer to make, including the one above that is designed to support your views. And, no, my current writing does not make both sides appear symmetrical. Read the posts of the last few days.

          I’m getting tired of having to deal with people like you who accuse me of having views that I don’t have, based on your ignorance of what I’ve written before.

        • biz
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Just because you claim it doesn’t make it true. Before Charlottesville the last several political riots (Berkeley, Middlebury, etc) were all left-wing perpetrated. Plus the mainstream left in incidents such as the women’s march is honoring left wing extremists lately (Asaata Shakur, Ramsea Odeh, Angela Davis, Linda Sarsour) much more than the mainstream right is honoring their extremists lately. Hell even Trump just condemned racists.

          The far left has revealed itself to be more dangerous than the far right lately, but they are both plenty dangerous.

      • Jeff
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I know you’re on the side of the angels. But in a previous post, you wrote, “I think the best response of the Left would have been to ignore the demonstrators completely.” Now you say if you had been there you would have “demonstrated against the bigots.” The new statement is the one I like!

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

          As you see, I go back and forth on this.

          • Posted September 23, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

            This is very understandable. I have gone to counter-protests in the past and fully sympathize with those who peacefully counter-protested in Charlottesville. But, thinking of the current situation, I think it would be better if anti-racists organized their own rally separated in time and space from the swastika march. This would show the presence and commitment of anti-racists without creating dangerous confrontation.
            (Of course, confrontation could still ensue if the swastika guys come to counter-protest the anti-racist rally, but my observation of such people is that they tend to be less violent when outnumbered.)

      • ploubere
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        This is the same accusation I received when I posted a similar message to Jerry’s in a leftist FB group. The complaints were that it’s unfair to hold both sides to the same standard, meaning that it should be okay for the counter protesters to punch Nazis, but not vice versa. (Someone also complained that the term Leftist was derogatory).

        I agree with Jerry. If anything, the Left should be held to a higher standard. MLK, Gandhi and Mandela understood this.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      d the other of anti-racists

      The other side consisted of a mix of:
      * Peaceful anti-racists;
      * Aggressive yet non-violent members of a racist org founded by marxists;
      * Aggressive, violent, armed marxists / anarchists.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      Nstanding up for something good with the intent to fight is no good.

  9. Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    One should find time to read Mill’s On Liberty. Also, The Subjection of Women. Relevant, even today.

  10. Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    One of the problems with free speech is that often enough you can’t hate without violence. Free speech is a speech that can consider itself without violence. This is the antithesis of speech that arises by hate. Can we abide the violence that comes with free (hate) speech? That is the significant question, I think.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    How quickly liberals become authoritarians and opponents of free speech when they hear speech that they consider vile!

    Almost everyone claims to be a free-speech proponent. And hardly anyone is, at least when it comes to permitting speech one finds abhorrent. That’s true of those of us on the Left, and it’s at least as true of the fair-weather free-speech fans on the Right.

    The toleration of speech one finds detestable is an acquired skill, and it takes a constant struggle to maintain it. But in the end, one can expect only so much free speech for oneself as one is willing to tolerate from the other guy.

    (And that’s about as much aphorism as I can put up with from myself for the moment. 🙂 )

    • Xuuths
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Is it really that difficult or rare? I don’t believe so. It’s just that the people who can’t/don’t do it are the ones getting more press.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Studies have shown that, while most Americans pay lip-service to free speech in the abstract, when confronted with material that really flips their switch — be it flag-burning, or Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, or depictions of child or animal abuse, or ethnic and religious epithets, what have you — many of those same people want there to be a law against it.

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          Good point. I need to remember this next time I get angry at the regressive censors here. It is an easy trap to fall into and I should be more understanding.

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          Grow up in a family or society of Evangelical Christians and/or people raised in the south or midwest that routinely use disparaging names for yellow, brown or black people and those from other cultures. You will learn to curb your tongue to not be ostracized or punished.

          If/when you grow, are exposed to education and become a little more sure of yourself, you may try reasoning, discussion, or refusing to remain in the presence of vile speech that offends you, if there is no other choice.

          Use of weaponry will not ever change beliefs, but exacerbates enmity and brutality.

  12. Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    The lesson we should all be learning now is that our laws need to be as unambiguous as possible in order to protect our rights when the worst people imaginable rise to power.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      Hard to write laws prohibiting people when I can always imagine worse.

  13. mfdempsey1946
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    The Charlottesville events, the evil of their instigators, and the resulting flood of commentary recall a long-ago quotation that still seems pertinent.

    It was spoken by a lawyer whose practice involved serving as a defense attorney for gangsters. I don’t have his name or remember if he was a mob lawyer like Sidney Korshak (not that it matters in the present context).

    Anyway, this lawyer was often condemned for working with hoodlums, and he responded as follows:

    “If they can take away the rights of the sons of bitches, they can take away your rights, too.”

  14. Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    When do bans ever accomplish anything unless the actual materials to be banned can be completely removed? When have drug bans been effective at preventing and eliminating drug use and addiction? How successful was the Soviet Union at eliminating religion from Russia?

    I don’t understand how someone can thoughtfully argue for the suppression of speech. Say you actually were living under a fascist regime that banned some core part of your beliefs, e.g. declared that women are inferior to men, or that you are only entitled to full citizenship rights if you believe some particular religion. You may play along with the rules of the regime for your own protection, or peace of mind, etc., but would you actually change your beliefs, your thoughts?

    I don’t believe it. And I think there is plenty of evidence throughout history to back that belief up. No one has ever been convinced of a truth by having their own opinion declared legally wrong. Banning hate speech does not address the hate. It’s simply a way to fool yourself into believing that the hate is no longer there.

  15. Rich Sanderson
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    ** W******n has just tweeted that Ex-Muslims are “Nazis”.

    This means that, along with punching women, Dan Arel approves of punching Ex-Muslims, as well.

    Amazing how Dan and ** are the best of mates, these days. Regressive dregs such as Aki Muthali are hanging around with these creeps, now, as well.

  16. yazikus
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    It happened because both sides came looking for a confrontation, carried guns or clubs, and the police, unprepared, did a lousy job of planning and keeping the groups apart

    While I don’t doubt that this is technically and specifically true for some skirmishes at the rally, the murder committed seemed to be against peaceful counter-protesters. Framing the whole thing (and the violence done) as a ‘both sides were doing it’ brawl does a disservice to the victims.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      I was referring to the skirmishes and clubbing, not to the car murder, which was clearly an unprovoked attack by a white supremacist.

  17. starskeptic
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this, Jerry
    My girlfriend wrote much the same sentiment in an impassioned letter to the Northern Star in the 90s when the neo-Nazis, once again denied their march in Skokie decided on DeKalb and the NIU campus.

  18. Mobius
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Yesterday on Democracy Now a young woman who was present at the car rage incident said that the ACLU should be criticized for supporting the white supremacists’ right to protest. This is wrong. The white supremacists have every right to stage a protest. What they don’t have is the right to become violent at that protest. And, of course, unless there is evidence violence is planned one can not know with certainty that a protest will turn violent.

    That said, I do think the police should have taken a bigger roll when it became apparent that many of the protestors were carrying weapons or had come armed and armored for a melee.

  19. Taz
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I certainly don’t want fascist symbols banned. I prefer my Nazis to be identifiable as much as possible.

    • ploubere
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink


    • Posted August 16, 2017 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      Perhaps we should mandate that they all wear a swastika stitched onto their clothing. 😉

  20. Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Quaerere Propter Vērum.

  21. jay
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Just consider the violence ‘instigated’ in some places just for criticising Mohammed. Would that not be an argument for banning speech under the same principle?

    Had the Nazis just been ignored, things would have been much different. The antifa came armed for violence, they appear to have been a bit coddled by the state.

    Personally I view BLM as no better than the Nazis, but they can be hateful, racist, andd violent , yet they get a pass from the media.

  22. Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Jerry, although it did bear repeating, the 3rd paragraph of the Glenn Greenwald quote repeats the bottom half of the 2nd paragraph.

  23. Tom
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    All true.
    Although even in the fairly recent past even mainstream politicians have not been above provoking street violence when it suited them. We always need to keep one eye on the loonies and another on what our political representatives may be doing.

  24. Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I totally agree. Free speech has to mean free speech. Any censorship would be turned on speech I value.

  25. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    One of Christopher Hitchen’s favorite movies was the one about the Catholic martyr Sir Thomas More. This dialogue from the film is worth posting:

    Alice More: Arrest him!
    More: Why, what has he done?
    Margaret More: He’s bad!
    More: There is no law against that.
    Will Roper: There is! God’s law!
    More: Then God can arrest him.
    Alice: While you talk, he’s gone!
    More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
    Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not God’s– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.

  26. Les Faby
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The Nazi march in Skokie propelled the building of the US Holocaust Museum. The answer to bad speech is more good speech.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Everyone who can should visit the Holocaust Museum. Also, the museum in Hiroshima’s Peace Park.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Corollary: It is the most vile of speech that wakes us from our tents of apathy.

      I prefer a life to be woken up by fires of angry men, than to lie down pretending my childhood dreams will protect me from hate.

  27. Steve Gerrard
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    It would help if the policing were the same for 1000 white men armed with rifles as it would be for 1000 black men armed with rifles. Free speech – sure. Free roaming around a park with rifles, while the police “stand down”? Not so much.

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      You have an instance of the latter to share with us, so we can compare?

      Or are you just imagining?

  28. Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    In recent comments here some insisted that doxxing people they see in photos from the march is an ethical tactic to shame them. People in public demonstrations have no expectations of privacy so they cannot be upset by those who call them out on social media; those calling for the doxxing have a point. The problem, as I see it, is this is exactly the kind of thing real Nazis did to control people. One would think that those opposed to the fools today playing at being Nazis would be careful to avoid using their tactics.

    I feel thought, that they are not out to merely shame people – they are out to destroy them. Get them fired from their jobs. Get them ousted from their schools. They want to ruin people’s lives for what amounts to a thoughtcrime. Well, I wouldn’t shed any tears over some of them, especially the violent.

    But the biggest problem with anti-racist zealots out to use social media to destroy those they disagree with is that sometimes people completely innocent of the thoughtcrime accusations are swept up in the pograms;

  29. Dianne Marie Leonard
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    There is a difference between free speech and terrorism. I remember when the ACLU went to court on “free speech” grounds to allow Nazis to march through Jewish neighborhoods in Skokie, ILL. The Nazis lied about this in court, but their purpose was not free speech. They specifically wanted to terrorize people in those Jewish neighborhoods. The ACLU bought the lies. Now, the Nazis could have marched through the center of town. But, no–they wanted to march through not the downtown but *Jewish* neighborhoods. Their purpose was terrorizing people, many of whom remembered–had lived through–the Holocaust. Their message was: You are not safe. When we have the power we will repeat the Holocaust. That Nazi march served the same purpose as lynchings and cross-burnings by the KKK–to terrorize communities. That is the purpose of the violent right-wing demonstrations now: terrorism, not free speech. The ACLU falls for the lie each time. That’s why they kicked “communists” out of the ACLU in the 50s–because communists understood the difference, but the ACLU was giving power to “liberals” who didn’t know or care about the difference. Despite numerous solicitations, I have not given money to the ACLU for this reason.And I don’t think we should fall for the lie again. (Sorry, Jerry. Your bullshit detector is on the fritz.)

    • Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      With such amazing powers of mind-reading, you should be in the carnival.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      An interesting, differing perspective.
      Good to hear.

  30. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately for me that did not much help with understanding of hate speech laws. My realpolitik position has nothing to do with whether or not US implements them or if they are used to attack speech someone feels vile instead of speech that promotes violence. I do not see any statistics that say they are useful, nor any statistics that says they are hurtful.

    One useful point here is that Greenwald, akin to the slippery slope argument that Jerry promotes – which since this is under jurisprudence with type cases is not a practical problem, on the contrary I hear different nations have different practices – is that *democracies* could slip.

    Some quick googling tells me that has not happened. Sweden democratically instituted hate speech laws in 1948, and is still a democracy. In fact, it has loosened its law, until 2000 showing nazi symbols under public meetings was considered hate speech. [ ; ].

    The type case prescription is that “rational and objective discussion” is exempt [ibid].

    Also to add to history (see last link above):
    – That mainly extremist nationalists and racists have been opposing the law, so I can putatively assume it may work to hinder them. [I note that some correlation with violence may be implied, but not tested.]
    – The ironic fact in the site context that a contributing factor to making the laws was pressure from US Jew organizations.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      One useful point from Greenwald.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      And I suppose the correct expression is Jewish organisation, or at least that is how I usually write. Sorry, this was right after dinner for me, still trying to restart brain.

    • Paul S
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      I think your answer is in the Hitchens’ free speech video above. And the answer is that David Irving was jailed not for hate speech, but before he spoke.
      Austria still survives as a democracy, but that didn’t do David Irving much good.

  31. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Does a body good to see these videos of Hitchens in the full bloom of youth.

  32. Brian Jung
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    When Nazis show up at a demonstration with weapons and swastikas they are promoting genocide as well as brandishing the means with which to begin carrying it out. The threat is real and imminent. How could it possibly be construed as anything but “fighting words?”

    As I understand it, the only thing missing in this scenario from the courts’ definition of fighting words is that the threat is not directed at an individual. This seems arbitrary. If you are a person of color within range of an armed Nazi waving his swastika flag then whether the threat is directed at a specific individual or not is meaningless.

    I don’t think we should ban neo-Nazis or swastikas. And though I understand the impulse to create them, I am also opposed to special categories for “hate speech.”

    However, I do think that our limited definition of “fighting words” prevents consideration of the full context in which such words are uttered and provides terrorists with loopholes through which they can drive truckloads of violent threats. It leaves the threatened with too little recourse and too little protection under the law.

    We know there are lines drawn between protected and unprotected speech. The classic example is yelling “fire” in a crowded theater–not protected for obvious reasons.

    Where those lines are drawn has been determined by the courts. But how do we know they’ve gotten it exactly right? Is shifting the legal definition of “fighting words” a little bit to help recognize particularly menacing types of threats really going to bring our democracy crashing down? Is there really no room at all for adjustment?

    • Paul S
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      The classic example is yelling “fire” in a crowded theater–not protected for obvious reasons.
      Wrong. See Hitchens’ video above.

      • Brian Jung
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        I’ll check out the Hitchens video as soon as I can. I’m not in a place where I can watch videos right now.

        However, I’m using the example as Holmes originally did, simply to assert that First Amendment rights are not absolute. I’m not claiming that any particular case is analogous to the theater example.

        While I don’t think it’s wrong here, I’d agree it’s a bit lazy. And it’s a cliche. I’ll stay away from it in the future.

        • Paul S
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          It’s the second Hitchens video in the post and he starts his talk with the Holmes quote.

  33. Paul S
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    This just in, sort of. It’s yesterday’s news.

    As the group gathered at the old Durham County courthouse around the Confederate Soldiers Monument, one person climbed a ladder and tied a rope to the top of the statue as the crowd chanted, “We are the revolution.”

    How can anyone be happy about this.

  34. Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    The concept of ‘freedom of speech’ is so inherently ambiguous and even self-contradictory that it defeats its own purpose. For by actively supporting freedom of speech you do necessarily suppress those who actively oppose freedom of speech. And if you do provide freedom-of-speech-deniers with freedom of speech you will end up without freedom of speech. Because when they will be in power to decide, they will take it from you regardless of your position when you were in power to decide. Maybe because of this ambiguity UN declaration of human rights does not have ‘freedom of speech’ among its fundamental values. It does have freedom of opinions though. Having said that, my position on banning Nazi ideology is the following: I do support active restriction on Nazi demonstrations. I do oppose, however, suppressing those who support Nazi’s right for freedom of speech (let’s call them ‘justifiers’). Simply because Nazi’s POV is more restrictive than my own, while the justifiers’ POV is more accepting. Anyway if Nazi end up in power, those armchair justifiers will be probably 2nd or 3rd object of Nazis’ hate because, well, they want too much freedom of speech and are not True Nazis.
    And ridiculing anyone in public is not a very successful strategy as the last US elections showed.

    • Paul S
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      This is backwards.
      For by actively supporting freedom of speech you do necessarily suppress those who actively oppose freedom of speech.

      By allowing free speech we are granting those who oppose free speech to express their views, freely.

      • Paul S
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        …speech the right to express…..

        • Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

          You’re right that sentence doesn’t make sense. Should have written “oppose “instead of “suppress. The rest is still valid though 🙂

    • Posted August 17, 2017 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      This is nonsensical.

      • Posted August 17, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        It’s history

        • Posted August 18, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          No, your comment is nonsensical. As best as I can make out, your logic proceeds: we must deny nazis their right to free speech, because if they ever got into power, they would deny us ours.

          Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

          • Posted August 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            Could you please elaborate what is ‘baby’ in this case and what is ‘bathwater’? The idiom is ambiguous.

  35. Phil Rounds
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    No armed nazis in America….period.

    • Posted September 23, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I am afraid this would require renouncing the 2nd Amendment and a profound change of the national psyche.

  36. Randy schenck
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Trump just did a short press conference on the Tube and it did not go well. One of his claims was he waited on condemning by name until he had all the facts. Of course the fake news did not have the facts. You know Trump never opens his mouth until he has all the facts.

    He also when back to his original claim that both sides were equally to blame. Another note: At least four of the CEOs on his jobs conference team have thrown in the towel and quit. I believe 2 or 3 had already quit for other reasons earlier. He berates many of these CEOs for going overseas, not manufacturing here but far as we know he does not make anything in the U.S. either.

  37. Mark Reaume
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    “…”With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.”

    —Jean-Luc Picard

    • Pali
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      “Villains who wear twirl their moustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged… But she, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mister Worf, that is the price we have to continually pay.”

      -also Picard, from the same episode

      Star Trek doesn’t always get it right, but when it does…

      • Pali
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        Bah, no idea how that “wear” got into the first sentence.

      • Michiel
        Posted August 16, 2017 at 4:05 am | Permalink

        One of the best STTNG episodes and a great Picard speech 🙂

  38. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    “Where are your data showing that the First Amendment is an inferior alternative to “hate speech” laws?”

    I’d turn that on its head – where are the data showing the First Amendment is superior?

    I think the issue is so complex I doubt there is any conclusion that can’t be argued either way.

    Thing is, free speech is not absolute. (Nothing can ever be absolute, in society.) In the US, there are laws against kiddie porn, against direct incitement to violence, against revealing ‘classified information’ (which may include military secrets but doubtless also includes embarrassing-things-they-don’t-want-us-to-know-about), and against publishing anything else that someone’s taken out an injunction over.

    So there *is* a line drawn, and as soon as that happens, you can get debate about where it should be. You’re already on the slippery slope, just a bit further up it than many European countries are.

    Suggesting the First Amendment is so magical and sacrosanct that enacting law xxx will destroy it (and free speech) – which is implicit in many of the arguments here – I just don’t believe it.


    • Kevin
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Functionally free speech is absolute. There is no where in the internet that someone cannot utter some proposition that others may or may not listen to or read.

      I can suggest, here, even in this comment that I wish the president to be dead (I do not) and there is no consequence. This is almost exclusively due to the noise (volume) of data we all digest daily.

      Forty years ago if I posted a threat to terminate a political figure the secret service would create a file with my name on it.

      Free speech lives under information transfer. As profound as it may seem to some that walking at night with confederate flags and tiki torches is spooky, the effect is weighted down by its own marginalization.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 16, 2017 at 1:07 am | Permalink

        I have to disagree. Because there is some cranny of the Internet where your statement can reside, unnoticed by everybody, that’s not really ‘free speech’.

        On this website we don’t have absolute ‘free speech’, PCC can and will zap any comment that’s too obnoxious (just as well in my view).

        Additionally, many Internet suppliers censor what you can see or read by using blacklist programs. This is done by some governments and many, many ISP’s and companies. (I’ve seen an argument that ‘it isn’t censorship if an ISP / your employer does it, because only governments can censor’ – which in my opinion is BS. My employer used to use such an obnoxious program which occasionally used to run rampant and censor anything that wasn’t on its ‘whitelist’, which at various times included, ironically and farcically, such things as the company’s own newsletter).

        (By the way, I expect the NSA has you filed somewhere in its database…)


        • Kevin
          Posted August 16, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          Audience and speech are separate. Most hateful things go unnoticed, but are said nonetheless.

          Private companies, like Faceb**k or Tw**ter know only that their customers can have their feelings hurt easily. They don’t care about free speech, they are running a business. Just like my employer prohibits me from saying things that could get me fired. Almost all of those things have nothing to do with free speech, but more to do with hurting people’s feelings and making our workplace less friendly. It’s to my employer’s advantage to restrict speech.

          If the NSA has files on me, they don’t share them. Because there are other government agencies who have files on me and they don’t seem to know anything about me unless I tell them. Like I said before, there’s a lot of noise and humans have not figured out how to deal with this kind of data.

  39. Richard Sanderson
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Another difficult day for PZ Myers and his tinpot FTB blog network.

    He’s had to give the boot to another woman, and another person of colour, who went “off message” and upset his pro-harasser regular commentators.

    Hilarious for us.

    • tomh
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Who is “us?” And I wonder why you would enjoy it so much.

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