Yeah, that’s nonsense, I agree. Fascism by its nature is anti-intellectual, so there’s no value to including it in “civil” debate. There’s an adjacent argument which says that hate speech laws better allow fascists to position themselves as anti-establishment - a glamorous role in a global political climate of anti-government sentiment. I think that may be a good point but I have mixed feelings.
Surely repression of radicals is not at its absolute limit, though, or you and I would be dead! The repressive capacity of the state is bounded by the power it can easily exercise. I think the tricky part is that for us, repression is highly contextual (often it’s bad, in some cases it’s fine or even good). But increasingly, the most important forms of state power are context-less. So the way we often approach politics is different from how the state does. We’re focused on directing power within a particular context, while the state is focused on increasing its power in the most general sense (and then inevitably using it against us).
Some struggles are recognizing this. For example, we don’t just oppose using military force against minority communities, we oppose the existence of militarized police altogether because their power is context agnostic. Even if the state claimed it was militarizing police to keep us safe from terrorists or nazis, it would not matter. If we tolerate the existence of that power it will inevitably be directed against marginalized communities and dissident movements.
The case this thread was originally about doesn’t really apply, since it’s not really setting a precedent about speech. That finding seems probably fine. But in general, expanded power to regulate expression seems similar to expanded police militarization, because the way the legal system works makes it effortless to apply those same precedents in another context.
Yeah, Citizens United is a strong counterpoint. But I’d say that empowering the (racist, patriarchal, imperialistic) state to reign in corporate influence is swallowing the spider to catch the fly and having the fox guard the henhouse (spider guarding the flyhouse? lol). Even if we overturned Citizens United somehow, the state can’t be trusted to reign in corporate influence. We have to do that ourselves.
I agree that the ideal of American Free Speech is bogus and never existed. But the influence of legal precedent and public norms do serve to restrain the state’s action against us, so it is of strategic importance even if the ideal is a myth.