Free Speech and Nazis
Like many of us, I’ve been struggling to process what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend, and what’s been happening in this country for a while now. The racism and hatred and violence didn’t magically appear out of nowhere. It’s been building up for a long time…in fact, much of it has always been there. It’s just boiling over into the open right now, making it harder (but obviously not impossible) to look away and pretend it’s not happening.
Part of the argument I’ve seen centers around free speech and the First Amendment. Free speech is a right, an important one, and rights apply to everyone. Even people you dislike and disagree with.
But freedom of speech in this country is not and has never been limitless. From the U.S. Federal Courts, here are a few examples of actions not legally protected by freedom of speech:
- Students making an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
- Making/distributing obscene materials.
- Inciting actions that would harm others (e.g., Shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.)
Now, here are some of the “alt-right” protesters who gathered in Charlottesville.
These people here? The ones wearing swastikas, waving Nazi flags, marching in T-shirts with Adolf Hitler quotes, and throwing Nazi salutes?
This isn’t protest. This is a threat.
The message here is not, “I don’t want you to take down a statue.” It’s “I believe in ethnic cleansing, in the murder of millions of Jews, Romani, and other non-white people. I believe people with disabilities should be forcibly sterilized or put to death. I believe non-heterosexuals should be imprisoned and killed.”
These people are pledging allegiance to a movement of mass murder. We know what the Nazis stood for. We know what they did. When people stand up in 2017 and proclaim themselves Nazis, we know what they’re saying. We know what they’re promising.
I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t believe freedom of speech protects the incitement of violence. I don’t believe it protects threats of genocide.
Maybe you don’t personally feel threatened by this. In many ways, neither do I. I’m a straight white man, unlikely to be a primary target of these hateful people.
Now imagine you’re Jewish. Imagine you’re black. Imagine you’re gay. Imagine you’re Romani. Imagine your ancestors were among the millions of people murdered by Nazis. Now look at those photos and tell me you’re not looking at a very real threat.
“But not all of the ‘Unite the Right’ marchers were openly wearing Nazi symbols!”
You’re right, and if you’ll read a little more carefully, you’ll see I never claimed otherwise. But they marched alongside Nazis. They chanted “Jews will not replace us!” alongside Nazis. They stood side-by-side with Nazis.
“Isn’t it so convenient for you to exclude speech you don’t like from the free speech umbrella? Free speech is an absolute right, and the true test is whether we’ll stand up for speech we disagree with!”
As established earlier, legally speaking, free speech is not an absolute right. Ethically–well, do you believe people have the absolute right to harass others? To threaten? To leak private information? To incite violence and murder? I don’t. Which means ethically, free speech isn’t an absolute right either.
I struggled with this. But in the end, I look at the photos and videos from Charlottesville, and I see deliberate intimidation. I see the threat and promise of violence. I see people proclaiming their loyalty to an enemy our country went to war against.
I see no reason to tolerate or accept that enemy.
Nor do I have any respect for those who knowingly collaborate with them.
August 17, 2017 @ 9:04 pm
This is why I have a man-crush on you. Thanks for taking a stand and so clearly putting to words what some of us struggle to verbalize.
August 17, 2017 @ 9:11 pm
Thank you for reminding me that even the Joker had no truck with nazis.
My grandfather fought them in World War II, and his grandson can do nothing less in the twenty-first century.
Lisa M Alter
August 17, 2017 @ 9:52 pm
This is much like my legalistic analysis of the free speech issue. I see the issue through the legal lens of limitations based on the time, place, and manner of the speech at issue. When neo Nazi groups want to exercise their free speech rights, they are subject to those limits. When they choose to meet at locations likely to draw crowds opposed to their message – and plan their meeting sites for this purpose – the choice of place may be limited. These groups are also trying to exercise their freedom of speech in a manner designed to be as inflammatory and antagonistic as possible. Various Internet and other communications support the intent to incite a violent reaction. Under these circumstances, a limitation on the manner of exercising their freedom of speech seems warranted. It is worse than shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it is tantamount to trying to lure as many people with opposing views as possible into the theater before shouting “Fire!”
John M. Cowan
August 17, 2017 @ 10:06 pm
At the risk of being pedantic, it’s not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. It’s FALSELY shouting fire and thereby inciting a panic that gets people injured or killed.
Otherwise, of course, I agree with everything you say. Scary times for our country.
August 17, 2017 @ 11:04 pm
I am not as comfortable as you in defining speech as action and limiting it on that basis.
My main problem is that the government would be the one who makes that call, and we have proven that America does not always elect people who can tell the moral difference between Nazis and anti-Nazis. So the result of trying to legally ban the speech of Nazis will probably be to limit the rights of people to demonstrate against them, or (and before this week I’d think this is hyperbole) to limit the right of people to speak fighting words like “climate change is real” or “the rights of citizenship should not be limited to white (non-Jewish) men”.
August 18, 2017 @ 1:43 am
I have two, somewhat different thoughts on this discussion. First, I was little in the sixties, and free speech was often challenged on the basis that it was “a threat of violence”, whether for Black Panthers to march, or for anti-war protesters to burn flags, or any number of other “un-American activities”.
The reason we allow those despicable Nazis to gather and speechify is because we have made it difficult to stop speech *precisely* because it protects our right to speak, too. It makes it safer for us to speak against a president who would as soon tear down the decency of our country’s laws as take a dump. It makes it harder (I know in the end, maybe not hard enough) for Nazis to get their voices heard without also having to let the rest of us be heard.
Damn it, I have *no* desire to defend these assholes. They are appalling, utterly despicable people (there, Mr President–see how easy that is?). I do *not* defend their thoughts or their wishes or their philosophy. But, though they wish to destroy my right to speak up against them (and they do wish to do that, quite clearly) I *have* to defend their right to speak their filthy lies, because we were the ones two generations ago who the government thought were “un-American”, and they were prohibited from stopping us by those selfsame laws.
That said, there is no question that Ms Alter’s points are well based in law, and that credible threats of violence are different than peaceful exercise of one’s rights. This rally needed to be stopped, as evidenced by the violence that was incited by their speech. So free speech ceased to be the issue, and violence quite rightly became the issue in this case. In the long run, though, they will be more able to come for our free speech if we make it easier to go after theirs.
August 18, 2017 @ 4:09 am
Nazis marching and embracing Hitler’s words/beliefs is legally protected speech (we have lots of precedent). I am not sure at what point it becomes incitement/fighting words unprotected, but quoting Hitler ain’t it. At least as the law stands.
As Eleanor points out, curtailing speech has its risks too. Lots of right-wingers and cops would love to shut down Black Lives Matter for (in their imagination) whipping up people to kill cops.
August 18, 2017 @ 4:10 am
What sick little creep you are.
August 18, 2017 @ 4:11 am
August 18, 2017 @ 5:21 am
I believe the guy with the nazi armband and red hat was some months back at a Trump rally rather than this weekend. He was making a point?
August 18, 2017 @ 5:26 am
When I was a kid watching war films I used to wonder what I would have done if I’d lived then. The tv series V was an examination of it in the 80s- what would it take/how would it look. But I never, never expected to actually face this in my lifetime. Not nazis, not happening again. Something new or different maybe but not almost exactly what my ancestors faced in the lead up to the second world war. But here we are. And I have to stand up – I have to speak against it and when the time comes I will have to fight against it. There is a good chance children I love will be of an age to go to war about this.
But when we said Never Again – we meant it – we will not sit quietly by while fascists take over our world.
August 18, 2017 @ 7:03 am
I’m not that surprised it’s happening. The far right was muttering about a “second American revolution” back in the Clinton years. The journalist David Neiwert has written a lot about how Rush Limbaugh and similar right-wing bullshitters took fascist and extremist themes and packaged them to be more respectable to the mainstream.
August 18, 2017 @ 8:38 am
Well said, Jim. In my (admittedly non-expert) opinion, this goes beyond simple speech, which I do think should be protected, however repugnant, and into harassment, threat and incitement to violence, which should not be tolerated.
Another point I think is important, however, is that the First Amendment *only* protects speech from *governmental* prosecution, and that within certain limits, as Ms Alter and others have pointed out. There is nothing which says individuals and businesses may not mock Nazis and their stupid propaganda, refuse to rent them rooms, refuse to host their noxious web presences, refuse to publish their books, or act or speak against them in any other (legal) way.
It is frightening that our government will not act against, or even repudiate, these despicable individuals and their actions. But that doesn’t mean that we ourselves are powerless to do so. Indeed, I think we’re morally obligated to do so, and I’m glad that so many have and are.
August 18, 2017 @ 9:00 am
Guys who get worked up over a statue are well aware of the power of symbols. Hence, they know very well what those nazi flags, swastikas and salutes convey. They know they are being threatening. The menace isn’t a collateral damage resulting from their just exercise of free speech, it’s the whole point.
August 18, 2017 @ 10:47 am
What SherryH said. My stance on “free speech”:
If the Association of Angry White Men With No Chins wants to spend their own money to get Some Guy With A Blog And A Random Roman Name* to speak privately on their own property, whatever. They are totally free to do so, and I don’t see any point in intruding. But:
Any private space has the right to say they won’t rent their meeting hall or whatever to the organization.
If said private organization *does* rent a space to neo-Nazis and the rest of us find out, we have the right to take our wedding/bar mitzvah/class reunion/etc business elsewhere in the future, and to urge others to do so.
In any *public* space, the Organization of Functional Citizens Who Aren’t Overcompensating has the right to show up, boo, play bagpipes, and otherwise demonstrate that we don’t want them around. The local government also has the right to say that, okay, you get to show up, Association idiots, but not with sticks and guns.**
Colleges are weird, because if the Young Fascists of America decides to take up a collection and invite a speaker, they’re still using college property, which in theory everyone else’s tuition money pays for, so I’d say it counts as public space for the purpose of protesting.
If you’re a member of the Association or the Young Fascists, and your current or potential employer/SO/family members/publisher/drinking buddies find that out and decide they want nothing to do with you, they have every right to do so, and I would in fact cheer them on.
Throwing the first punch technically still has to be illegal, because we must have a society, but I’d chip in for bail money, just as I would for anyone who did so against a sexual harasser or for other justifiable reasons.
* Which pisses me off extra as the daughter of a Latin teacher, and also…whatever the issues Ancient Rome had, you nitwits, they did not give a damn about your race. (Or your religion, if you were willing to make the required gesture toward the Emperor.)
**If the Charlottesville police were really standing down because the neo-Nazis were armed, maybe, again, some more, it’s time for the gun-fappers to rethink their stance on open-carry. Not that they will.
August 18, 2017 @ 12:19 pm
Part of why they march is to get us to come down against free speech. It’s part of a larger plan to block us from having our own right to speak up later due to rules put in place to block them.
August 18, 2017 @ 12:26 pm
We are falling into the trap of Poppers “Paradox of Tolerance” by standing by and letting the Nazi’s bring their message of hate.
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.
We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies
August 18, 2017 @ 1:25 pm
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”
Can’t agree. It’s a lot harder to counter them with our own free speech (and as Isabel points out, shunning, shaming and restricting demonstrations involving guns) but I think it’s a better approach. And no, I do not believe the intolerant automatically win in this situation.
August 18, 2017 @ 5:27 pm
The ACLU defended the right of the white supremacist groups to protest march peacefully. Instead they attacked and threatened people, which is not free speech, but a crime. If you say to others that you are going to kill them, that’s not free speech. You are violating their civil rights.
Beating a black man nearly to death is not free speech. Beating counter-protesters with a lead-weighted stick (an illegal weapon,) is not free speech. Plowing a car into a crowd of counter-protesters and killing and maiming them is not free speech. Physically attacking a line of counter-protesting clergy is not free speech. Threatening counter-protesters with assault rifles and handguns is not free speech. Physically attacking trapped counter-protesters trying to leave the park after the police ordered everybody out and cancelled the rally is not free speech. Slamming sharp-edged shields into fleeing counter-protesters as knived weapons is not free speech.
They armed themselves with both legal and illegal weapons. They openly said that they would use them. They made death threats to the people protesting them. And when the cops reacted to early violence by cancelling the rally, blocking off the statue and ordering everybody out of the park, they went to town on whoever they could find, including innocent bystanders. This was not a free speech issue — they already had won that issue with the permit. They abused their permit and it was revoked. The counter-protesters also had a permit. And they didn’t like that very much.
August 18, 2017 @ 10:09 pm
Fair enough. I get my dudgeon up a little high about free speech issues, but they were *not* protesters exercising free speech, they were violent, organized and purposefully agitating others. They must be allowed *by the government* to speak, but they must *not* be allowed anything more by the government, or by any of us.
I recommend that decent folk look to support those like the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center, who work to stop these bastards in their tracks legally; the best, and ultimately the most satisfying, response.
Kit M. Harding
August 19, 2017 @ 3:15 am
I really wish y’all would stop quoting that “fire in a crowded theater” line without understanding the context. For reference, it comes from a Supreme Court decision where it was being used to justify forbidding public opposition to the draft and uphold the Espionage and Sedition acts. The mere fact of its *being* applied to something is therefore sufficient to make me look at it and go “No. Flat-out no.”
Elsewise, I’ll just reference Ken White of Popehat: https://www.popehat.com/2017/08/14/america-at-the-end-of-all-hypotheticals/
He expresses the ways in which I disagree with you here significantly more eloquently than I can. (And with more force, him being a lawyer and all.)
If they commit crimes in the process of their march, let them be prosecuted for that crime. But there’s this trap I see the left falling into, frequently, which is that they take adding new *laws* to be the solution to a problem with enforcement of those laws. The problem in Charlottesville was that the police didn’t take any steps to *stop* the violence once it had begun. Very few arrests of those who had actually committed crimes happened. Cracking down on free speech gives them more ammunition against the people the police *are* willing to go against, which tends to be protests for leftist causes. It’s harder, and a longer process, to fix police enforcement in America, but it’s the only thing that will solve this.
August 19, 2017 @ 3:51 pm
Yelling fire falsely is a criminal act that creates violence, deliberately endangers people and deprives them of their civil rights. So it is an example of speech that is not free speech but instead a violent act against others that is a crime, and is a bit of relevance.
The white supremacist march intended to violate its protest permit from the beginning, just like someone deliberately and falsely shouting fire in a crowded building. The purpose of the march was to get into violent interactions with the antifa protesters and have them filmed so that they could gin up more money from the right on the grounds that they were being persecuted and physically attacked by the “left.” Instead, those counter-protest groups mostly protected other counter-protesters, such as the unarmed, attacked clergy.
So it’s perfectly reasonable for cities to assess whether a protest group has violated their permit. In this case, the Charlottesville cops assessed that the protest group had already violated their permit before speeches began and were committing crimes of violence and threatened violence — violating the civil rights of others, so they cancelled the rally and defended the ridiculous statue (university/city property.) But that trapped a lot of people in the park they were ordered to leave and the racist protesters decided to go hunting. The cops did indeed stand around and do little, defending their guard positions, and causing a woman to lose her life.
But that’s not a free speech issue, as noted, but a law enforcement one. And currently, 100 white supremacists are holding a rally in Boston — with about twenty thousand counter-protesters. They aren’t having their free speech curtailed by the government — if they march peacefully.
It is also not a free speech issue to refuse to host groups on private property that have committed violent crimes — on camera — and plan a similar event for the locale, or for a private corporation to not allow those groups to use their electric platform to commit and organize violent crimes — which is a liability and complicit issue, not a free speech one. Groups that use sites like GoDaddy and Twitter agree to do so according to a code of conduct. If they violate the code of conduct, the sites can kick them off at any time. That is not a government curtailing their free speech. That’s them again abusing and breaking a contract, just as they abused and broke their protest permit.
None of those are “new” laws or civil codes. They are not even laws being protested with civil disobedience, as when counter-protesters pulled down the monument in Durham. I agree that many people get overly enthusiastic about trying to use totalitarian law to shut down totalitarians, but that isn’t what Jim is doing. And the reality is that we as a society — not just law enforcement — tend to shut down the free speech of liberals and allow that free speech to be threatened and censored, while supporting violent crimes of totalitarians as free speech that has to be protected way past the definition of the term. There has to be some balance. Which doesn’t lessen the need for police and court reform that is the goal of Black Lives Matter.
August 19, 2017 @ 4:42 pm
“It is also not a free speech issue to refuse to host groups on private property that have committed violent crimes — on camera — and plan a similar event for the locale, or for a private corporation to not allow those groups to use their electric platform to commit and organize violent crimes — which is a liability and complicit issue, not a free speech one.”
If it’s private property and the owner says Stay Out I don’t think it’s ever a free speech issue.
“The problem in Charlottesville was that the police didn’t take any steps to *stop* the violence once it had begun.”
August 20, 2017 @ 6:18 pm
I’m not going to disagree with your view of neo-nazis, but I would like to make a few facts clear.
Like you said, the people wanting to protect the confederate monuments aren’t all nazi sympathizers, and those who originally stood up for the monuments did NOT join in with the anti-jew and anti-black rants. Confederate sympathizers like myself only want our monuments left alone and nothing else. The confederate flag has NO connection with the nazi swastika and anyone who tries to connect the two are only showing their own ignorance.
Also, Antifa were the first ones who resorted to violence that day, which is exactly what the nazi groups wanted. Antifa are just as much of a hate group as any white supremacist. The idea that they’re fighting for the right cause is just a cover to give them a reason for committing vandalism and assault. they are doing nothing but fanning the flames and making the situation worse. If we are to condemn all hate groups we mustn’t overlook antifa.
That’s all I needed to say about this.
August 21, 2017 @ 3:29 pm
“Antifa are just as much of a hate group as any white supremacist.”
Because Antifa hates white supremacists? Yes, that’s pretty horrific.
“they are doing nothing but fanning the flames and making the situation worse.”
No, they’re not.
August 21, 2017 @ 3:35 pm
And regarding the evil antifa: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/what_the_alt_left_was_actually_doing_in_charlottesville.html
August 21, 2017 @ 3:59 pm
“Nazis themselves saw a clear line from their own beliefs to those of the antebellum South. Although Hitler took a decidedly negative view of the United States, attributing its economic woes in the 1930s to its allegedly degraded racial stock, he believed a Confederate victory would have set the country on a proper course. “The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality,” he explained in 1933 to a fellow Nazi leader, “were destroyed” when the South lost the Civil War. Northern victory ushered a “corrupt caste of tradesmen” into power and hastened the condition of racial “decay.” It also destroyed the possibility that a “truly great America” ruled “by a real Herren-class” might have emerged, casting aside “all the falsities of liberty and equality.” ” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/08/17/worshiping-the-confederacy-is-about-white-supremacy-even-the-nazis-thought-so/
August 21, 2017 @ 4:32 pm
The confederate flag has NO connection with the nazi swastika and anyone who tries to connect the two are only showing their own ignorance.
Lot of ignorant people on the pro-confederate side, then.
And as far as Antifa is concerned…this is a Facebook post by a Charlottesville resident, Time Pierce:
We’re home from the anti-Nazi rally. Everyone safe, if a little dehydrated and sunburned. Lots of thoughts, but most of all I want to talk about what I saw transpire with Black Lives Matter and the Nazis:
First, BPD maintained a strict perimeter keeping protestors from coming into contact with Nazis. We couldn’t get closer than about 100 yards. But of course periodically someone would arrive at or leave the rally site, and they’d have to be escorted in or out. That was when things got the most chaotic: protestors crowding in, shouting “shame”, “go home” and a lot worse.
One of the functions that I saw BLM play repeatedly here was to provide a buffer. Several times I saw one or more BLM/Antifa marshals leading a cordon to escort one of the Nazis into or out of their rally. This is consistent with what BLM has said before about violence at protests: if violence breaks out, BLM will be blamed first and people of color will be targeted first, so they train people assiduously on non-engagement and anti-escalation.
I got to see this first-hand today. At one point a Nazi was being escorted out of the rally very close to where I was standing. He was wearing a flag as a cape. Someone stepped on it and it slipped to the ground. I lost my head and grabbed for it. He snatched it back up. I yanked on it.
At that point, the BLM marshal who was attending the cordon whapped me on the back of the head. “DON’T!” he told me firmly, and then returned to leading the group away.
I was stupid. I was acting without thinking and risked escalating the situation. Escalating could have led to a fight and that could have led to a riot. It’s exactly what I shouldn’t have done. And the guy who stopped me from escalating was a six-foot-six dude wearing a bandanna over his face and carrying an enormous BLACK LIVES MATTER sign.
I’m relaying this story because there’s an incredible narrative that right-wing pundits have constructed about how BLM incites riots, burns cities down, creates violent conflicts, etc. I’m telling you about this because I want you to know this is bullshit. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Come with me and you’ll see it too. BLM doesn’t start riots. They’re in the business of stopping them.
August 21, 2017 @ 6:52 pm
Josh C: “Confederate sympathizers like myself only want our monuments left alone and nothing else.”
You know that makes you worse than neo-Nazis, right? Those monuments are cheap metal, mass produced and put up in the early 20th century to celebrate Jim Crow laws of segregation and discrimination against black Americans, keep them from voting. And throughout the 20th century along with lynchings and terrorizing black Americans to a new spike in the 1950s-60s against school desegregation and the Civil Rights Act — to again preserve persecution and discrimination against black Americans. They went up in states that didn’t exist during the Civil War and in states that had actually fought for the Union in the war. They were meant to intimidate black Americans and celebrate WHITE SUPREMACY as the proper way of life over democracy.
But let’s say that you don’t care about the motives of the 20th century Americans who put up the monuments and only about the Confederacy that they celebrate, over the U.S.A. itself and the black victims of the Confederacy. The British colonial planters in the 1600’s needed cheaper labor in the New World. But enslaving the indigenous populations of the Americas hadn’t worked out well. So they made up the idea of white and black “races” to enslave those from West and South Africa, take them far from home without resources as prisoners. They made up the idea of “white” supremacy and that it was a unquestionable holy cause.
The slave market became the number one economic industry in the Southern agricultural states. Slave labor based agriculture was their number two. Additionally, they leveraged higher political power for themselves with the three-fifths bargain for their help in the Revolution, giving them more votes off of black slaves who had no votes. That slave economy began to fail but they had hopes of exporting it to the Western territories to keep it going.
But the Northern states had developed more industry with cheap immigrant labor and needed Southern agriculture less. They started banning slavery in their states, which led the Southern states to fear a federal ban, which would collapse their slave economy and close the West to slaves. So they tried to block Northern states’ rights to end slavery. When that didn’t work, they tried to leverage their slave voting power in the federal realm. When that didn’t work, they turned traitor and decided to set up a new country built around their slave economy, which they loudly trumpeted was their aim in their declaration of war and their new constitution. They’d had two centuries of being anti-democracy, totalitarian slavers and they couldn’t see a different way of life for themselves. So even though the North/U.S. had factories to make weapons, a huge shipping fleet, control of the federal armies and a network of very motivated spies in black slaves, they went to war and lost.
So that’s your sympathy, Josh — for the proto-fascist white supremacist totalitarians who ran concentration camps for TWO HUNDRED YEARS of atrocities against black Americans to build an economy of blood and human bodies. (And yes, that economy included the white people in the South who didn’t have enough scratch to own slaves themselves — it was all dependent on slavery to keep working.) Not monuments to celebrate their black victims’ suffering and release, nor to the white and black Union soldiers who saved the country and helped bring all of it back towards democracy and freedom. That part of history holds little interest, as does all the other, more truly national monuments Trump is currently trying to destroy. You want to worship and venerate the proto-fascist killers and torturers who went to war to protect their slave economy from the federal government becoming more humane.
The KKK, which also does this, is what the American Neo-Nazis aspire to be. The Confederacy was one of the most effective and vicious killing and torture machines ever created. And the 20th century white Americans who put up the monuments to it wanted it back and aimed at black people against democracy, justice, freedom and humanity.
So congrats — the neo-Nazis look up to YOU, Josh, and the white supremacy and violent genocide and torture of the Confederacy. You must be proud of all the white supremacy killings that have been done not in Hitler’s name but in the name of the Confederacy the last couple of years. And you must be proud of the police who did indeed line up and defend your precious cheap racist statue while doing little about the actual violence to human beings, which cost a young woman her life.
You want to make the argument that the Klan and other Confederacy preservers just stood peacefully to the side in Virginia while it was only the neo-Nazis who attacked people, that the antifa protesters spurred violence instead of defending unarmed clergy from a mob and performing emergency medical care on the people mowed down by the van? That’s not what the camera evidence shows. And what history does show is that sympathizing with white supremacists who fervently believed in a slave economy and humans as property is not admirable nor conducive to a real democracy. It’s a continued act of harm against black Americans, and while you can free speech it all you want (and Jim can edit my rant here as he sees fit,) most of us here are going to do our best to help black Americans advance their equal civil rights and get rid of the white supremacists monuments that celebrate and praise their ancestors’ enslavement and deaths.
August 22, 2017 @ 10:05 pm
KatG, You don’t know what I know because you weren’t raised in a southern state like I was. True southern history is passed down through word of mouth from one generation to the next. My great grandmother lived until I was in my early teens. She was born in 1908 and she told me things you can’t find in any history books, things she learned from actual confederate soldiers. In truth, the civil war wasn’t started over slavery, slavery was added later as a campaign tactic for Abraham Lincoln. Half of the slave owners in America lived in union states and sent their slaves down south to work because agriculture was easier in the warm climate. The union slave owner would then receive a percentage of the profit made from the plantation their slave worked on, thus union citizens didn’t want slavery to end any more than confederate citizens. The war started over the unreasonably high taxes the union imposed on cotton and all other goods shipped to northern states. Taxes they KNEW poor southern farmers couldn’t afford. The purpose was to force these farmers to sell their land and move up north. Union soldiers also had made it a habit of riding onto confederate farms and burning them to the ground. You can’t blame the confederates for rebelling against this. They knew they were going up against an army with superior weaponry and numbers, but they had to protect their family and their land. It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees. That’s why we honor these soldiers and the sacrifices they made. Trying to connect them with nazis is completely preposterous. These people flying nazi flags alongside confederate flags are just as clueless as the extreme liberals they despise.
And just because someone defends a confederate monument doesn’t mean they’re part of the KKK. That’s another inaccurate assumption people often make. I’ve never been a part of the Ku Klux Klan, White Nationalists, Neo-nazis or any other white supremacist group. I, like many others, respect the confederate soldiers because I know what they were REALLY fighting for. Anyone who cares for their family would’ve done the same in their situation.
August 23, 2017 @ 8:44 am
@Josh C – Excuse me, what? You claimed, “In truth, the civil war wasn’t started over slavery, slavery was added later as a campaign tactic for Abraham Lincoln. ” You realize that this is a lie, right from the start? The Confederate states were pretty explicit in their support of slavery as something that needed to be preserved, it’s in the Confederate States Constitution:
“No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” – Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4
“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.” – Article 4, Section 2
Then check Article 4, Section 3, Clause 3 as well please.
You’re engaging in the worst kind of revisionist history out there. The South likes to pretend that the Civil War was about State’s Rights…and to some degree it was. The rights of the States to continue to let them own people. Yes, there were other economic factors, but when you take a bald look at the time period, and the history, and the reasoning, you see that it was really about slavery. I’ve lived in the South for over 20 years, and have a lot of family that’s been here their whole life. You’re engaging in some serious revisionism to try and justify these things.
August 23, 2017 @ 9:14 am
” The war started over the unreasonably high taxes the union imposed on cotton and all other goods shipped to northern states. ”
And yet somehow that first South Carolina declaration of secession doesn’t say boo about those terrible taxes. They do say a lot about slavery. The North tolerates abolitionists. The North opposes slavery. The North refuses to surrender runaway slaves. The North elected an anti-slavery president. We’re leaving. And other declarations likewise focused on slavery.
Plus of course, it was specifically he election of Abraham Lincoln, an anti-slavery politician (the three-fifths clause had previously given the South the power to elect sympathetic occupants to the White House) that triggered secession. I’ve never heard anyone claim, despite all the talk of taxes and tariffs, that if Stephen Douglas had won, the South would secede. Not that Lincoln had passed any policies or done anything at all, just that he got elected. It’s a strain to argue “state’s rights” extends to the right to secede because a state doesn’t like who got elected.
August 23, 2017 @ 10:22 am
First off, emeff the nazis for real.
The thing I think us liberals are forgetting is that conservatives control most of the country, and to them, BLM etc are terrorist groups set on violence. Several republican states and cities have tried to pass laws making it illegal to protest and making it legal to run into protesters, for example. When we start labeling speech violence, we assume that WE will be doing the defining of what constitutes violent speech. That is not a safe assumption.
I’m from the bay area, and almost every protest here for the past twenty years have been marred to some extent by violent actions by a fringe group of what used to be called black bloc anarchists and this year is being called antifa. 300 people show up to protest peacefully, 15 assholes in black with their face covered start breaking shit and it is called a “violent protest.” Any BLM protest was considered a riot because of the actions of a few individuals, when the movement itself was, I understand, explicitly peaceful.
We keep acting like we control the narrative and we control the laws, because we are right. We don’t.
August 23, 2017 @ 3:52 pm
1) You don’t know where I grew up or who my people are. And the fact that you grew up in the South does not give you a license pass to support racism. Black Americans grew up in the South too.
2) I never said you were in the Klan. But the Klan were there at the protest and they have the same agenda you do — to protect 20th century monuments to traitorous slavers rather than their black American victims, monuments that were erected specifically to push Jim Crow laws and intimidate black Americans in the 20th century — their hey day. That’s what you are supporting, whether you are Klan or not.
3)”Union soldiers also had made it a habit of riding onto confederate farms and burning them to the ground.” — Wow, you really know nothing about pre-Civil War history, the impact of the Mexican-American War or really anything.
4) “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” — That’s what black American slaves thought when they repeatedly rioted, ran the Underground Railroad, spied on the Confederacy, fought in the Union army and burned Southern farms where they’d been enslaved to the ground. How is it that you can support monuments to those who profited from slavery, who owned slaves, who declared their desire and intent to fight to preserve slavery and slave labor farms, but not to those black Americans who were tortured, killed and enslaved by it in America? How is it that white Confederate families defending their land — land they stole in the first place — is of dire importance to you to celebrate, but black American slaves defending their families, trying to keep their children from being snatched from them and sold, trying to SURVIVE — that you have no interest in celebrating? Why are we supposed to have monuments honoring the “sacrifices” of traitor soldiers, but not the sacrifices of the Union soldiers also protecting their families and land, and the very much larger sacrifices and suffering of black American slaves? Black Americans are often Southerners too and just as much a part of Southern history and culture as the white Confederate families who enslaved them and let slavery continue for two hundred years in the U.S. They are Americans. You care not about preserving, celebrating or memoralizing their history at all. Why? Oh right, you’re a racist fascist who believes only white lives matter, just like the Nazis and the Klan, that a slave cotton economy is somehow a justifiable cause for war because white families benefited from it.
4) The Neo-Nazis support your cause of preserving Confederate monuments. They are working with the Klan, with white supremacist militia, with the Sons of the Confederacy, etc., to do so. And while they were the main force of recent violence, they haven’t been the ones always doing it. Dylan Roof wasn’t a Nazi. He was a Confederate sympathizer who wanted to jump start the coming race war that would continue the “Lost Cause” mythology of the South.
5) The white men who put up those Confederate monuments in the 1920’s also lynched black Americans and put entire black towns in America to the torch. Why should we preserve their cheap mass produced racist and violence motivated monuments that have so little historical significance most museums don’t need them, instead of supporting putting up monuments to the black Americans who died defending their land against the monument makers’ Confederate sympathizing pomgrom? Those black towns again are also part of Southern and American history.
6) I have actual historical facts, including the written documents of the leaders of the Confederacy, as already quoted to you by others. Your racist grandmother’s fairy tales while she was being raised in the era of the Klan and their attempts to lie about the Civil War, an attempt that was done for political and land grab aims, are irrelevant. You want to believe in a “secret history” to justify your bigotry, that doesn’t change your bigotry and that you are supporting continued violence against black Americans and monuments to those who wanted to continue a culture of their slavery.
7) What about the Southerners who tried to end slavery instead of fighting to preserve slave lands? Who fought for the Union and to preserve America and its Bill of Rights ideals? They are very much a part of Southern history, and yet you don’t give a crap, Josh. The Northerners had slavery — but the Northern states were changing about slavery. And that created an economic problem for the South, as has again been extensively documented. Their fear of a federal law banning slavery was huge.
The Confederacy was quite clear about what it wanted even before it went to war. It deliberately tried to stop Northern states from banning slavery. It wanted to import slavery to the Western states. This is all historical record. It is historical record when the monuments went up, who put them up and why they did so — they weren’t shy about it because they had governmental power. It is historical record the arguments in Congress about what the Southern States wanted and why they were trying to secede if they didn’t get it. The very Southern history that you say you want to preserve and honor contradicts your own claims.
But you have chosen to believe a pack of lies, no matter how easily disproven they are by the historical record., by their own written words. Because to you, white Southern Americans are more important than black Southern Americans and it’s the white ones you want to honor and remember, not their black Southern victims. It’s white supremacy.
That’s the same outlook as the Nazis had and the neo-Nazis have now. The Germans also fought in WWII to protect their lands and families — on the claims that Europe had stolen from them and were harming and endangering them in the wake of World War I. (And claims that the Jews were also harming them, leading to their being killed and put in concentration camps.) There were tons of poor Germans who weren’t Nazis forced into the German military to fight and senselessly die for the Austrian dictator leading their country. And yet Germany still does not put up monuments venerating and celebrating Hitler and his generals just because those German people “rebelled” and sacrificed.
Whether they owned slaves or not, the white Southerns believed culturally and legally in the lie of “whiteness” made up in the 1600’s as a business decision, that those designated “white” or white-adjacent could own land, have farms and businesses and keep their families with them, and that black people could not have those things, and should be treated as animals and killed if they refused to be on their knees. The people who put up the monuments in the 20th century also believed that black Americans shouldn’t be able to have successful businesses, own land and farms, vote, etc. and so they lynched them, raped them, burned them out, changed the laws to harm them and block their rights in the states where they could manage it (the South,) penned them up there through segregation — and put up the monuments and street signs to keep black Americans cowed and on their knees. White supremacy — that’s what you are supporting, that’s the only history you want to preserve and honor. And the Neo-Nazis want that too. Common cause, common beliefs — that lead to “Unite the Right.” You can try to shrug them off — I realize you’re a little panicked here. But white supremacy only has one color and its first weapon is always violence. I hope that one day you stop insisting that we venerate the perpetrators of American atrocities in history and instead better support their victims who achieved brave and great things despite them.
Patrick: “When we start labeling speech violence”
Threatening to kill someone is violence. That’s something we do have to keep pointing out.
“We keep acting like we control the narrative and we control the laws, because we are right. We don’t.”
To create social and legal change, we have to go forward and declare that equality and rule of law with regards to civil rights are not only right but what will be and what we seek and stand for (and which helps all Americans.) There are high costs to that. There are higher costs if we don’t. Or we can just keep accepting our white supremacy society that Josh is so in love with venerating and let targeted people die, like the woman at the protest and the others killed by white supremacists before her just this year. And they are going to keep calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist movement instead of a justice reform movement, just as they did the Civil Rights movement, just as they did claiming black people were violent and dangerous and that meant they should be slaves and killed, or segregated and controlled by Jim Crow unconstitutional laws. It’s a long term, numbers campaign. People like Josh would not be so desperate to keep those fake Confederacy monuments up on any excuse, except that they are deeply afraid that the white supremacist narrative is and will be changing. They’ve lost a few times and they don’t want to lose further.
August 23, 2017 @ 6:22 pm
My point is that I want the government to have as small a role as possible in deciding what speech is or isn’t ok, because I don’t want Jeff Sessions’ justice department or judges that Trump appoints to be deciding what speech is or is not ok. Trump said a bunch of racist stuff in his campaign and he still got elected. He basically came out in support of neo-nazis and his favorability went up among his supporters. Ours is not the only argument in this, and the people that agree with Trump control more of the country than we do, even if they do not have the numbers and are totally wrong.
Much of the movement to stop peaceful protests have been carried out by conservatives under the guise of preventing violence or labeling the protests inherently violent. Why is the left joining in that chorus? I think the strategy on the left to label speech it finds objectionable as “violence” and fight to restrict peoples ability to express that speech in accordance to their first amendment rights is a huge mistake that will totally backfire. It already has. The protests of Milo Y in Berkeley did more for his brand and to amplify his voice than he could have dreamed of. I grew up listening to 2 Live Crew not because they were good, but because people were trying to get the government to not let me listen to them. We are in danger of making the Alt-right the 2 Live Crew of this generation, of making their ideas seem dangerous and thus worth engaging with.
Do what they did in boston – let ’em speak and then show just how small their ideas are.
August 24, 2017 @ 1:19 am
“I think the strategy on the left to label speech it finds objectionable as “violence” and fight to restrict peoples ability to express that speech in accordance to their first amendment rights is a huge mistake that will totally backfire.”
Except that there really isn’t such a strategy on the “left.” The ACLU got the Nazis their march permit in court, for example. It wasn’t the speech of the ultra-right that was the problem — they’d held marches before. It was that they openly said they planned to beat people up, causing the residents of Charlottesville to say that they didn’t want an army invading their town. The marchers came armed with illegal as well as dangerous legal weapons, which violated their permit, and they proceeded to attack people as soon as they got there. Which is why the police shut down their protest, as well as the counter-protesters’ protest, which also had a permit. Whereupon members of the ultra-right protest went after more people violently. That isn’t a free speech issue, except that the free speech of the counter-protesters was shut down by the protesters and the government/cops did nothing to protect their free speech. I’m not for violent protests, but there is a difference between violence and speech. By claiming that all of it is free speech — when it comes up on the right but not when it comes up on the left usually — basically we go into the realm where someone’s civil rights being violently assaulted and blocked is described as “speech,” rendering the concept meaningless. To have rule of law, you have to have law — government. Otherwise, it’s just rule of force — whoever brings the most guns wins and decides who gets to talk.
The protests of both Milo and the small slice of antifa that went violent in Berkeley by students in Berkeley who wanted both gone was exactly the same as the counter-protests in Boston — an expression of free speech. By claiming that the actions of antifa means the students in Berkeley shouldn’t have used their free speech to protest Milo or the violence — you might as well not protest any of the Right, in Boston or elsewhere. Because there’s always going to be someone who goes for violence, sometimes people posing as the other side, sometimes someone just taking up the opportunity, and even if there’s not, the Right is going to make something up since their whole victimization routine requires the notion that left-leaning protesters are violent to them. The right already has declared the counter-protesters in Boston to have violently attacked them, increasing their brand. The Women’s March in D.C. was supposedly a violent attack, etc.
Milo’s brand amplification lasted about ten minutes. Sometimes the amplification lasts and sometimes it does not. But if we squelch protest from the left, then the Right fully have the floor and it’s just their message. And they have the President, who gets to talk whenever he wants. Basically, the labeling that most of the left wants to use government to violently suppress the right’s speech is their messaging and is not borne out by the facts. And the various parts of the left are not going to give up protesting and counter-protesting and their free speech on the grounds that the right might exploit it for their messaging, since they’ll do that anyway.
August 25, 2017 @ 11:35 am
The protests of both Milo and the small slice of antifa that went violent in Berkeley by students in Berkeley who wanted both gone was exactly the same as the counter-protests in Boston — an expression of free speech.”
Not the same. In berkeley many of the protesters were actively trying to prevent him from speaking. With the argument that his speech was violence and therefore not protected. This is a frequent argument, especially among younger activists/college students.
Milo has become a poster child for the alt-right, and their example of the erroneous concept of liberal intolerance of their intolerance. (funny they only care about “free speech” when it is their right to express their opinion to communities they are hostile to). Now bannon is rumored to be speaking in Berkeley in the fall. It’s all part of the right’s attack on public universities, which they hate because they teach facts that disagree with the right’s perception of reality.
I don’t mean to argue that the left shouldn’t protest. By all accounts, the counter-protesters in C-ville saved lives, and the counter protesters in Boston led to many planned alt-right rallies being cancelled. I also don’t mean to imply that the nazi’s marching in c-ville with their guns looking to break heads is protected speech, although it is a very intentional conflict between the 1st Amendment and the 2nd Amendment.
August 25, 2017 @ 7:38 pm
“Not the same. In Berkeley many of the protesters were actively trying to prevent him from speaking. With the argument that his speech was violence and therefore not protected. This is a frequent argument, especially among younger activists/college students.”
It’s an argument that you aren’t getting the nuances of. First off, it’s not that Milo’s speech alone was being considered violence. Milo was already the poster boy of the alt right before he got to Berkeley, due to media coverage stemming from his Breibart platform and his involvement with GamerGate — he spoke all over the place and no one censored him. And he also gathered fame by doing speeches at universities to rile things up. And at those speeches, Milo would dox student activists, trans students, etc., forcing them to stand up in the audience if possible, and publicly encourage his alt right followers to dox them further, stalk them and beat them up. It was part of his show — not to speak simply horrid views but to violently target people and have them attacked and have them be subject to identity theft as “enemies.”
And it was that reason that the students at Berkeley didn’t want him speaking there — because he was trying to violently harm students in these engagements. Just like the people in Charlottesville didn’t want extreme right marchers who issued death threats on the university campus and town. The people in Charlottesville lost that legal action — because the ACLU and others argued in court that the extreme right should be able to have a march permit as long as they did a peaceful march — a permit right they then violated. And the students at Berkeley also lost their argument with the university, which felt they had to follow the procedures they had for the venue. So the students planned a protest march on their university grounds to counter Milo’s speech and to make it very clear — just as they did in Boston with the extreme right — that they disliked his ideas, and they were against him committing violence against the students.
The anti-fascists are not really an organization and don’t have any leadership. They are a loose bunch of different anarchist groups who have different views about how to work against fascism, some of them unfortunately strategizing violence. And that Berkeley black bloc group, that does sometimes go for violence, showed up and got violent. So the students demanded that they leave because they just wanted to do a protest. The students were attacked by the black bloc — their free speech was squashed — and the violence got underway, whereupon the cops cracked down on everybody.
Milo was not in any real danger, but yes, he used that incident to pump up his rep. But the media were already fascinated with him before that and what really made him big was not Berkeley but Twitter finally banning him for, again, crimes and violent criminal action online — doxxing info purposely for identity theft, stalking people, threatening them and urging others to physically harm them, both related to GamerGate and otherwise. And he dropped like a stone on his comments about child sexual abuse coming to the forefront again. He lost his platform, his book deal and most of the interest of the alt-right. The Mercers still are funding him for some Internet fun and he self-pubbed the book, but there’s a reason you’ve heard very little about Milo the last few months — he’s become a minor figure.
The students in Berkeley had a right to protest, even though non-students showed up and turned violent. They had a right to object to Milo’s speaking engagement because it wasn’t simply a case of free speech — it was violent acts and illegal crimes that Milo was doing that included speech, that was regular behavior for him and very dangerous. The students at Berkeley had a perfectly legit claim to object to his engagement on those grounds. But they lost their claim and Berkeley allowed him to speak — no censorship. And the students’ protest did not censor him either. The violence of a few and the actions of the cops let him take advantage and claim censorship — with full lying about the facts.
And the Boston protest is also claimed by them to have included violent attacks against them, the cops gassed peaceful protesters in Phoenix at the President’s rally in which he basically called for the crowd to attack the press, once again. Right now, they are desperately trying to work up various spins that they weren’t the violent ones at all in Virginia, that counter-protesters started it, etc. And there is a very strong tendency in our white supremacist society to try and label extreme right violence and harassment as “free speech” that has to be protected, while the rights of others to protest and criticize them are curtailed on that excuse. And given that we now have a federal government full of that philosophy, calling students hot headed censors when a lot of them have a far better understanding of the First Amendment than their elders, is I think too broad a brush.
What folks like Josh don’t get is that the monuments aren’t theirs. The monuments belong to all of us Americans, including black Americans. And the majority of us want those monuments, celebrating both Jim Crow and slavery, taken off of government and public university property, which we have a right to speak for. It doesn’t erase the history of the South — removing the monuments tells the full history of the anti-bellum South, a history that was far more diverse than Lee and Davis, not just the history and veneration of white slaver leaders of the Confederacy. It tells that we, as Americans, are committed to this being a country for everybody, including black Americans and their history — that we are moving past the horrible, anti-democracy, genocidal values of the Confederacy that controlled our government for too long. But people like Josh want the monuments not to move to private venues where they can sit and have their free speech, but to keep them on government property, courts, schools as official monuments, forcing black Americans to walk past them, showing the power and support for white supremacy — show that they are still in power, Jim Crow all over again. Those monuments are part of 20th century racial violence and terrorizing, celebrating the leaders of 18th century racial slavery and terrorizing. And people will keep protesting them being official government symbols. There are going to be lots of protests and sadly some of them will get violent, from the cops if nothing else.
Appreciate the borrowing of soap boxes, Jim. I’ll give them back to you now. 🙂