Light/Breezes

Light/Breezes
SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

CALIBRATING FREE SPEECH

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment
Bill of Rights

    It is the "First Freedom" and on it I am an absolutist. It is as close to sacred as a secular statement or law can be.
     It means we must tolerate hearing even those things we find offensive. Reasonable people understand the implication of beginning to limit expression of a particular group or idea-where does it end?
    There is an however to this and the Charlottesville march and incident and its aftermath illuminates the however.
     The right to free speech does not extend to nazis or white supremacists. Here is how this free speech advocate gets to that point.
     I begin by quoting an unlikely source, Richard Spencer the American white supremacist. Spencer said "nazis are out of the bounds of humanity."  In this case, I agree with him.
     Like many of his generation, my father was a combat veteran of WWII where the issue of the legitimacy of the nazi idea was prosecuted. Later the Nuremberg trials further established the outlaw, vile and inhuman nature of that belief and the participation in it. 
      The nazi government of Germany undertook behavior that is the most evil in human history. I find succor then between the bounds of a white supremacist and the defining history of WWII to say clearly there is nothing legitimate or protected in a nazi belief, statement or attitude. The nazi history of barbarity disqualifies them from any human right or endeavor.
      White supremacy is a specious idea at best. More, it is fundamentally wrong and it is just stupid. With the exception of a isolated tribe or clan that has never had contact with others, there is no place on this planet where "blood lines are pure." Beyond that, the United States fought a brutal war fueled in great part by the foundational attitude and attendant arguments of white supremacy. 
     Those ideas allowed slavery to exist in our national experience and contributed to the inhuman and barbaric treatment of human beings. We didn't need a war to establish the foul nature of that belief, but the side that pressed racial supremacy was defeated none-the-less, ending any claim to it being a legitimate idea.
      The sheer lunacy of white supremacy, combined with the  tragic and bloody U.S. history of that issue places that view outside the bounds of protected speech.
      We would not permit those who believe in child sacrifice, cannibalism, public beheading, public rape, or the likes of ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram,etc., to march or express their views. White supremacists and nazis are no better and no different. In fact as a civil society we are better off when those attitudes and behavior are criminalized.
      I think I'm safe in saying we have history on our side, to say nothing of the greater moral arguments. There is nothing good or right about white supremacy or nazim. They have no legitimacy or credibility. They are more than offensive, they are off the human scale. Humanity would be better if we never again had to cross them.
      Waring elephant seals just up the coast from here have more right to free speech than nazis or white supremacists.
         It is my assumption they also have more intellectual
power than the human slugs who are so out of touch with humanity.

the night i saw the nigger
    First, my apology to anyone who might be offended, but that is exactly how Dick Gregory identified himself the first time I saw him.
     It was at Ball State University in the mid 60's. Gregory performed his social comedy and was pushing his 1964 book Nigger. Throughout the concert he kept urging us to buy his book and send a copy to the President because he said he "wanted to see a Nigger in the White House!"
     Over the ensuing years I would cover or interview Gregory as he advanced his social activism. On one occasion when I was scheduled to interview him I had a sore throat and a cough. Before the interview began Gregory asked the hotel staff to bring him hot water, tea, lemon and honey to make me an elixir.
     Gregory was a ground breaker. He found a way to combat racism and segregation with a great and skilled sense of humor. He was also was a sincere and dedicated advocate of human dignity and liberty. 

     See you down the trail.

15 comments:

  1. I don't think government should be in the business of restricting any speech or expression except as permitted under existing Supreme Court decisions, e.g., advocating or intentionally inciting violence or harm to persons or property. This is one slippery slope we should avoid.

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    1. I did not come to my view easily. I respect your attitude and suggest the very history of the nazi movement and that of white supremacists put them in the category of advocating violence and harm to persons. You cannot operate death camps or advocate slavery and avoid advocating violence and harm. Nor can you separate today's nazi from those in Germany nor today's white nationalists from the confederacy. You are for pulling down the statues of confederate leaders-I am for applying court decisions to the criminals active today.

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    2. Let's not forget that it's possible to be a white supremacist and even call yourself a neo-Nazi "just" because you think the races should be separated and that non-whites should have fewer rights without advocating violence or physical harm. So, would you limit someone's speech solely for advocating those viewpoints because they identify themselves as white supremacists or neo-Nazis? What if the called themselves "real Americans" instead?

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    3. The issue is nazism. The evils of the past are relevant and should inform our actions. You cannot separate the 1932-1942 Nazi actions from those who avow allegiance or advocate the nazi idea today. They are part of a continuim. To permit nazi ideas to be expressed or more importantly publicly displayed is an affront to the victims of the nazi ideology. History has judged that ideology to out of the bounds of humanity and violent by its nature, and dangerous to civilization.

      White supremacists do damage and harm to the psychology and emotional well being of non whites. Their view is by nature destructive and therefore harmful to the mental health of other citizens. Their view does emotional violence. That puts them outside legal interpretation of who is entitled to first amendment protection.
      This who incite violence or harm are not so entitled. I agree, it is a slippery slope but in the case of white supremacist and certainly nazis, the argument to deny has validity.

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    1. And my good friend, I refer you to my response above.

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  3. I remember Gregory saying that he hoped the next time his mother heard the word, "N*&%er," it would be someone making reference to his book.

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    1. He used the word. It's a trigger word. It seems inappropriate for a person like me to use the word. One of the guys in NWA-I think it was Ice Cube said they had appropriated the word-once used by non Blacks as a disparaging word-and were making it their own. That is appropriate.

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    2. A lesson learned by gay activists.

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  4. Indeed, a tough one. I wonder what happens when an intolerant, racist asshole gets in power and gets to appoint Supreme Court justices and also has Congress on his/her side, because then that I-R-A can possibly alter the standards, even to the point of, say, considering a particular religion to be hateful and harmful and thus illegal. Are we far from that now?

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    1. I think we can protect free speech in its fullest iteration and deem anything linked to nazism as illegal and out of bounds of humanity and thus also out of bounds of the protections of the first amendment.

      As for the I-R-A you cite--we live in dangerous times. The evils of the past are relevant and should inform our actions. You cannot separate the 1932-1942 Nazi actions from those who avow allegiance or advocate the nazi idea today.

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  5. I think we should take a lesson from Germany, where giving the nazi salute and things similar are illegal. They have more experience with the effects of nazism than any country.
    It's interesting that until recently the most sacred and oft-quoted by the neocons and their ilk was the second amendment. Now it's the first.

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    1. I've taken heat from a few folks for advocating what many consider could be a "domino effect" reduction of rights of free speech. "Eliminate one cause you can eliminate all causes." I don't think so, because international law has ruled on nazi ideology and the evil it has done. A 2017 nazi is still a nazi.

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