A Response to Recent Events in CharlottesvillePosted: August 17, 2017
First let me state clearly what long-time followers of this blog should already know: I am a passionate defender of the right to free speech. I believe in the First Amendment, and have often said that while I may not agree with what you have to say, I will fully defend your right to say it.
There are lines. Some ideologies, some belief systems are not only inherently hateful, they are inherently violent and intent on doing violence toward others. There is a point at which even allowing these viewpoints to be aired is an act of violence, as those who espouse these beliefs have shown time and again they will not stop with speech but will follow it up with action.
I am writing about those who espouse Nazi ideology, the KKK, white supremacists, and anyone who would stand with them.
In order for a civilized society to function, let alone thrive, we must all agree to live by at least the most basic rules. Those rules must also be reciprocal; “one set of rules for you, another set of rules for me” is a relic of a bygone age. It pains me to suggest that any viewpoint, no matter how odious, should not be allowed in the public sphere. But “I just want to have my say in peace” are words that have never been uttered in sincerity by anyone affiliated with any of these groups, and to labor under the delusion that they will ever be willing to participate in civil society by the same rules as the rest of us is a fantasy.
Rights are not absolute; “your right to punch ends where my nose begins,” as the oft-quoted aphorism goes. These groups and others like them have made it clear through word and deed that they will not be satisfied to live in a society that encompasses any noses other than their own, and they will gladly throw the first punch. That being the case, they have surrendered the right to voice those views or to demonstrate in the public space.
This is not a radical notion. If I threaten to harm someone by name (“I’m going to kill John Smith”), that is a crime. If I threaten to harm someone by description (“I’m going to kill that guy in the blue shirt”), that is a crime. If I threaten to harm a group of people (“I’m going to kill everyone I see in a blue shirt”), that is a crime. None of this is “protected speech”. Simply changing it to “should” rather than “will” is not a magic formula, especially when there is a history of violent action among a particular group, and that action is motivated by that same speech. Likewise, solicitation and incitement to riot are not covered as “protected speech”, and yet that is exactly what is happening again and again at these “rallies”.
This has to stop. We claim to be a civilized nation. It is time we stop letting evil use our own ideals against us.