Freeze Peach 🍑 (USA)

This is a thread to discuss the limits of free speech, both legal and moral, the consequences, both legal and social, and the best way to fight hate speech. I ask that everyone acknowledge that we all oppose hate speech, but we sometimes differ on what we see as the best way to fight it.

There will also inevitably be some disagreement on what constitutes a threat under current laws in various countries, and what practically constitutes a material threat irrespective of laws. I ask that everyone recognize that we live in different countries with different cultures and different legal approaches, none of which are perfect or have been flawlessly implemented, and to please be respectful of cultural and legal differences. For example, please do not flame each other over the substantial differences between Germany and the US, legal or historical, though politely discussing the utility of the differing legal regimes is fair game.

I’m making this thread because I don’t want this discussion to take over the Charlottesville thread.


I’ll get started.

I’m an American, and I think that our right to free speech is very important.

However: Free speech is and has never been absolute. For instance, you will not be protected from prosecution if you order a subordinate to kill someone else. That’s illegal. Additionally, genocide in the US is very illegal.

So I’d say that setting up a nazi rally advocating the genocide of a race is not much different than threatening that race with credible death threats. Especially when the nazis have actually already killed people.

I don’t think a rally like that should be protected because it’s not a valid free exchange of ideas, it’s a group of people publicly planning genocide. And as such they should be treated by the police, national guard, and private citizens as the terrorists they are.


Just to be the devil’s advocate and to get this out of the way – genocide is a well-known nazi desire, but is there footage of today’s rally members explicitly advocating genocide?


I can’t say.

What I can say is that they did kill at least one person yesterday, then tried to blame it on Antifa.


Nice, a good idea.

So, rather than taking potshots maybe I’ll put where my view comes across from. No explicit laws of FoS here - courts have found we have ‘implied’ freedom of speech which means not a great deal.

Saying that, the leading cheerleaders of free speech in Australia all appear to be white, middle-aged men with pre-existing media platforms. They cry foul when they can’t abuse Aboriginals/gays/women. It seems to be a very, very common theme that the people screaming the most about free speech tend to be the ones from a position of privilege who want to kick down.

So is free speech regarded as important here? Yes, to a degree. There’s a social expectation of limits - ie if you want to shout out that all gays should be exterminated, then you can shout it out within your own home, and not to the public.

So that’s where I’m approaching it from. The American perspective will obviously be different - both from a legal POV as well as the practical (and current) outcomes.


I know the ACLU (which I regularly support) is taking a lot of heat over Charlottesville, possibly deserved. So while I am on totally board with the moral argument for preventing this gathering, does anyone know if there was a strong legal argument for denying the initial permit for the protest?


Right. Though in the interests of staying on topic, I don’t think driving into a crowd constitutes a form of speech. I don’t know what to say about their blaming it on Antifa in terms of free speech.


There’s precedent for time and place restrictions on certain speech on public lands. For instance a baseball stadium could be a public building, but Joe Q. Public doesn’t have a right to march out on the field during a game and start drawing the Arecibo message in the grass.

But that’s not the same as banning a group from public speech or prosecuting them for what they say.

There’s also precedent against the government restricting speech based on the message.

However there’s an interesting corner of law, not well examined or explored by the courts where, if an act of speech is very likely to cause violence or directing violence, then it may not in fact be protected.


As I stated elsewhere: we don’t silence the speech we find offensive. We cheer the speech of which we approve. The solution is not less bad speech, but more good speech. To that end, you might be surprised to learn the ACLU has a long history of supporting offensive free speech–including the free speech of Nazis. You seem to be confused about the critical distinction between supporting the content of what someone says, and supporting his or her right to say it. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I have neither the time nor the inclination to educate you on the details of the First Amendment, so I’ll just leave you with this pop-culture reference in which Aaron Sorkin makes the point you’re clearly willfully ignoring–I’ve read enough of your posts here to know you’re smart enough to understand the difference between free speech and murder. I mean come on.


If the content of your speech is literally trying to convince someone to kill another person, it’s not actually protected speech.


This seems like a good jumping off point for something I wanted to bring up.

While the Twitter reaction to the ACLU meandered, it is important to note that the Virginia ACLU in Charlottesville posted a tweet “reporting” that a “witness” (mind you they were covering the white supremacist side of things looking for police violations) said the driver of the car was reacting to antifa protesters throwing a rock at the car. While the Virginia ACLU deleted the tweet and the media personnel involved apologized for reporting and not documenting including his personal name in the action, the national ACLU came out with their tweets about defending hateful speech because the Virginia branch was getting (justifiable) shit for it and then people started in on the national ACLU resulting in the usual suspects making articles about why criticizing the ACLU is foolish.

Just pointing out that these things are a little hard to follow, and tend to be less obvious than people want them to be. Whatever your feeling about the ACLU leveraging federal funding for universities to make their arguments against rescheduling protests after violence breaks out, many people are criticizing the ACLU not for supporting White Nationalism by defending it in court but for literally posting a defense for a white nationalist that committed an act of murder.


Tangential to the events, but I didn’t think it deserved a dedicated thread.


I realise I’m an outsider looking in here, but of late my view has become fuck the ACLU, and fuck their freezepeach absolutism.


Ah yes. Free speech, as long as it’s speech you like!


I support free speech. I don’t support immunity from the consequences of free speech. What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light, and in the light it’s incumbent on all of us to eviscerate it.


There is a reason why nowhere in the world outside of America thinks that freeze peach absolutism is a good idea.

Yesterday was a demonstration of why.


…which is the same reason we have our First Amendment. As you may have noticed from our history, our First Amendment doesn’t protect speech we like. Our First Amendment protects speech we don’t like. That’s a good thing.


The quintessential authority on these matters has now weighed in:

(Yes, that Mike Godwin.)


The first ammendment doesn’t protect death threats. What should we call it when a bunch of people show up screaming about how they want to wipe out other races?


Could you elaborate on why protecting the free speech of Nazis is a good thing? Because again with the absolutism - not a good thing.


I am aware of your history. It is not a good thing. YMMV.

The First Amendment did not protect abolitionist publishers in the antebellum South. It did not protect emancipated Americans during Reconstruction. It did not protect anti-conscription campaigners during WWI. It did not protect union organisers in the 1930’s. It did not protect Japanese-Americans during WWII. It did not protect civil rights workers in the Jim Crow South. It did not protect socialists during McCarthyism. It did not protect Gay Rights campaigners in the 1970’s. It did not protect whistleblowers during Bush and Obama. It is not protecting you now.

Rights on paper are only worth the paper they’re printed on. You can’t restrain fascists with laws after they’re in power. You need to stop them from gaining power to begin with.