Free speech more popular than ever; only racists are less tolerated


Unfortunately sometimes it’s an “ass-whole.”


“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the cause of the fire was free speech. The defendant talked so hatefully, the house burst into flames!”


(The fire in question being preceded by a group of militants explicitly calling for arson whilst distributing Molotov Cocktails to passers-by.)


Hate-mongering isn’t illegal, but incitement to violence is; and the line between the two is not only dangerously thin, but where that line is placed is determined by people with privilege unlikely to be directly affected by the decisions they make.


I’d argue that Nazism is one of those forms of hate-mongering that is a call to violence in and of itself. There’s no such thing as nonviolent ethnic cleansing.


I’d agree with you. This isn’t about “sticks and stones;” words have power.

Any group that thinks gassing people they don’t like in ovens is ‘all good’ is one that automatically loses all standing with civilized society; they are a threat to us all, not just the people they actively target, and they deserve no quarter.


Which is exactly why we have and need free speech: to speak out, denounce, and educate others about the evil promoted by Richard Spencer and his herd of hatemongering half-wits.


I’ll add that any group whose programme limits free speech to members of their own race or religion has automatically forfeited any platform offered by a non-governmental institution devoted to liberal-democratic ideals. That still leaves Nazis with plenty of venues to spew their garbage and in no way violates their First Amendment rights.


Again, I concur. I’ll never feel bad about denying hatemongers a public platform.

I’ll never have a moment’s remorse about any misfortune that befalls them or those who deign to defend them.

I will never be counted among the people who just sat idly by as the threat escalated until it was finally too late:

Nazi’s in the 1930’s didn’t start out by putting people in mass unmarked graves; they started with manipulative speeches which incited existing resentments of minorities.

The ‘fire’ is metaphorical, no matter how dense some people may pretend to be; but the danger is quite fucking literal, and it’s not “fine.”


We’ve got a very lengthy thread about the benefits and efficacy of free speech that’s been running for months:

If you have an actual novel case to make for how free speech protects us from naziism, lots of people here would be interested to hear it.

I think we all agree that death threats cross a line (and certainly law agrees with that). I think we all agree incitement to violence crosses a line (and, again, that’s what the law says).

Many of us find it insane that somehow chanting nazi slogans while you march with torches doesn’t cross that line (despite the fact that nazis are an explicitly genocidal group, and, last I checked, genocide was involved both violence and death).

Beyond that, there’s a question of non-genocidal, non-murderous hate speech.

First of all, some of this is simply coded instructions to attack people. Once you establish a clear pattern that whenever person A mentions a woman that woman immediately gets death and rape threats, it starts to look like they are directing those actions. Sort of like a mob boss ordering someone flowers in a cheesy movie.

Secondly, we have a problem with what people have called “stochastic terrorism”. You know there are a certain number of unhinged people out there who will take action, so you say things that play to those people. The people who promoted pizzagate created the situation where a person went into a pizza parlour with a shotgun. The people who promote crisis actor conspiracy theories create situations like this:

Where people went to the site of a mass shooting and told the pastor of the church that his murdered daughter never existed.

Now on one hand, that pastor wasn’t physically injured and the guys vandalizing the church were arrested, so maybe you don’t think the damage done by the speech was sufficient to warrant an kind of response. Or maybe you don’t think the link was sufficient between the speech of the person promoting “crisis actor” conspiracies and the people who acted on them. But to flip that around, I could also point out that there is absolutely no benefit to a “public debate” about whether or not that man’s daughter was murdered in his church.

Everyone agrees there are limits on free speech. From reasons like the prevention of violence to reasons like protecting private profit (check out copyrights!). If you want to say we need to protect free speech, I think you need to have a coherent explanation of what you think the limits of it are, otherwise we’d just be talking in circles.


Sadly I don’t think all of us do, actually. Some people seem perfectly ‘okay’ with it, perhaps because they aren’t the ones being actively targeted.

We passed that point days ago.



I admire the tenacity of y’all, but talking forever to a wall will never make it turn into something else.


Gurl, the sealioning has been persistent yet selective; note how many poignant, rational, well thought out arguments @Humbabella (among others) has presented repeatedly only to be steadily ignored.

That’s why I tend not to bother wasting good keystrokes in general.


@cre8love4all and I did, right here, in this thread.

If you want to say we need to protect free speech, I think you need to have a coherent explanation of what you think the limits of it are, otherwise we’d just be talking in circles.

I have. I said the limits of free speech extend far beyond common decency and considerations for the feelings of others, despite the histrionic protestations and demands that such speech must be silenced. In a free society such as the one in which we live, we don’t deny someone the right to say something just because we don’t like it.

Silencing the polo-clad Spencer Youth does not make us somehow safer or better than them, nor do I follow the logic of supporting the First Amendment while simultaneously “denying hatemongers a public platform,” but, well, to each her own.

As an aside, I don’t appreciate the insinuations and accusations that I’m a troll or a Nazi. As I’ve repeatedly stated, supporting someone’s right to free speech does not mean supporting the content of their speech. Insinuating that I support Nazis because I would allow them to spout their filth in public uses the same fallacies and character assassination in which the alt-right routinely engages.


Ugh…the wall keeps echoing itself, in a way that somehow demands a response…

So you’re perfectly fine with a university paying a person to use a lecture hall on their campus to advocate pederasty? Just because others could then use their free speech rights to argue that pederasty is wrong?

You’re either failing to grasp or ignoring the difference between “silencing” and “refusing to provide a platform.” If Nazis are denied the legitimizing venue of a university lecture hall, that’s not silencing them – it’s telling them we’re not about to help you promulgate your fucked-up views, which advocate abuse of others. And it doesn’t prevent them from expressing their views elsewhere.


Yes, this @FlippyHambone

Remember that “free speech” as in the first amendment only means the government can’t prevent you from saying something in a public area on public land. But any private business or enterprise absolutely can and will. Obligatory link to XKCD … again.



There used to be an apoplectic ‘street preacher’ who stood outside the subway entrance that I used regularly. He’d stand there literally for hours; hysterically screaming his ‘sermons’ at the top of his lungs, all red-faced and veins bulging… despite the obvious and consistent lack of people paying him any attention.

As long as he stayed twenty feet from the actual entrance itself, or that of any business or residence, the local beat cops didn’t bother him. That was the first amendment, in action.

But the moment he decided to encroach on the pedestrians walking by, or when his actions began to interfere with the surrounding flow of commerce, they were on him like white on rice for creating a public disturbance or trespassing, or both.

For the most part, he chose to abide by the set parameters and those of us who passed him by learned to invest in good headphones. (Since I moved back to the area I haven’t seen him in years; I can only assume he eventually screamed himself into a stroke.)

That is a prime example of tolerance for the sake of free speech without disseminating it, or giving it any amplification or the appearance of ‘legitimacy.’


Novel? No, nothing in defense of a nazis’ right to speak, and nothing critical of the way in which people criticize nazis has been anything i haven’t read before a hundred times. Of course people use the same arguments every time, people argue for free speech for nazis find those arguments compelling. But since they are so well tread, it should be obvious that anyone who disagrees is already familiar with them.

Try googling “why do people support free speech for nazis”.

I gave specific examples of borderline cases where people attempt to shield attempts to incite actual violence behind a cloak of free speech. It wasn’t histrionic. Pizzagate did lead to a potentially deadly situation. Specific internet commenters do have groups of attack-dog-like followers who issue death threats to anyone who their leaders speak badly about.

The problem is that when someone else likened the speech of white supremacists to violence or threats, you assumed they were talking about someone saying something trivial that they disagreed with. You didn’t think, “Well, there are certain cases where the line is blurry, so maybe this person is speaking from a reasonable place.”

The first hit in my search for “why do people protect the speech of nazis” was an editorial by the national legal director for the ACLU who wrote, among many things:

The future of the First Amendment may be at issue. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 40 percent of millennials think the government should be able to suppress speech deemed offensive to minority groups, as compared to only 12 percent of those born between 1928 and 1945. Young people today voice far less faith in free speech than do their grandparents. And Europe, where racist speech is not protected, has shown that democracies can reasonably differ about this issue.


He goes on, of course, to argue as strongly as he can for the first amendment and rejects the European approach he makes reference to. But it’s hard to take defense of free speech seriously from someone who won’t even recognize that hate speech is threatening. That’s why David Cole expressed sympathy for that idea in his piece, because he realized that the tide of history is turning, and he has to actually make his case to people who disagree with him, not laugh them off. The line between calling someone a racial slur and making a threat of violence can be pretty wide in some cases, but it can be pretty thin in others, and sometimes there’s no line at all.

I don’t think I insinuated that. But the thing is, you can repeatedly state that supporting someone’s right to speech doesn’t mean supporting the content of their speech, and, just like any other opinion, other people can disagree with you.

If a person says to you “you are a nazi” then, fine, I can take issue with that. But if someone says that supporting the free speech of nazis is supporting nazis, that’s just one of the many opinions you have to contend with when you support the free speech of nazis. It’s not ad hominem, it’s a logical conclusion (obviously one based on premises you disagree with).

My final thought, though, one I imagine many people in the thread will get a kick out of: I read through that the ACLU legal director to verify that, yes indeed, I’m not up against novel arguments for free speech, but the standard faire and I came across this gem:

A. Mitchell Palmer, J. Edgar Hoover, and Joseph McCarthy all used the advocacy of violence as a justification to punish people who associated with Communists, socialists, or civil rights groups.

Those lessons led the Supreme Court, in a 1969 ACLU case involving a Ku Klux Klan rally, to rule that speech advocating violence or other criminal conduct is protected unless it is intended and likely to produce imminent lawless action, a highly speech-protective rule.

So wait, the government, despite the first amendment, suppressed and jailed communists, but when they tried to do the same thing to the KKK the ACLU convinced the supreme court that now the first amendment prevented it?

If he was trying to say that the first amendment wasn’t supporting white supremacy, he couldn’t have picked a more ironic example.


Done by people of privilege, with political power and the requisite “complexion for the protection, as” the old folks used to say.

Perhaps… instead of clinging to the Amendments like they were some kind of gospel from on high, perhaps we should examine amending them again to reflect the changes and advances that our society has made in the last 200+ years.

Maybe we ought to think about rewriting our laws with the people’s actual well-being in mind; a truthful representation of the actual populace, in a time when ‘citizen’ doesn’t mean “only those who are White, Xtian, heterosexual, land-owning males.”

But of course, that won’t happen under the current admin, obviously… if ever… but it does bear serious thinking about, should we live to see the dawn.

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