And white supremacy still has strong legitimacy, despite many of us thinking it’s a stupid ideology.
An awful lot of people didn’t vote, though.
I’m not that young.
And white supremacy still has strong legitimacy, despite many of us thinking it’s a stupid ideology.
An awful lot of people didn’t vote, though.
I’m not that young.
Yet, it seems to be getting them traction, doesn’t it?
Yet, not everyone who votes for white supremacy is a working class bumpkin.
Sure. A good thing to keep in mind. But that sort of thinking has been turned around to reject all aspects of a liberal society, right down to democracy and equal rights.
Therein is the problem we circle right back around to, IMO. The whole ball of wax, from day 1 (meaning the beginning of the enlightenment project) was wrapped up in colonialism and white supremacy. They are as much a part of that legacy as the expansion of voting rights and the ability to move out of one’s social class. Hence our current predicament.
Honestly, I think culture plays a big role in defining class, at least in the US. There are concepts and ideas that get embedded in one’s head depending on what class one grew up in. I most certainly grew up working class and had to retool my brain for graduate school, something my friends in the program did not have to do in order to succeed in grad school. The problem is that such things are hard to define and pin down. I do know when someone else has the same trajectory as me (coming from a working class background into the middle class).
Again, constitutionally, all you are granted is the right to speak(/print/donate). You are not granted the right to an audience, a publisher, or a platform. The government cannot stop you from speaking (which, again, is why extremists love to use publicly-owned spaces for their hate-filled drivel - it’s the one place they can go where they legally cannot be prevented from speaking). If nobody wants to listen to you, or be associated with the things you are saying, that’s the vaunted “marketplace of ideas” essentially telling you that they don’t want to stock your thoughts on their shelves anymore. You have no legally-protected right to force someone to pay attention to you. Yes, that limits the reach and power of your speech, but it really ought to give you a moment’s pause if you’re noticing that your opinions are so far outside the mainstream that you’re being shut out of the conversation entirely.
As I’ve said before, societies must have means of establishing acceptable norms, and those means must extend beyond the force of government simply because of the outsized amount of power we give it to deprive us of our other rights for infractions. While I absolutely agree with you that concentrating the power of the marketplace in a small handful of companies is highly problematic, I don’t think the solution is to make those companies act like a government entity by forcing them to publish material or associate with people that they may find objectionable, nor do I think it’s whose to empower them to rule on what’s acceptable by corporate fiat. The solution is to either prevent companies from gaining that level of control in the first place (ideally), or break them up if they do obtain that degree of control. I think a lot of people - and a lot of Americans in particular - have forgotten that businesses exist at the pleasure of the government anyway, and the government should take seriously its responsibility to safeguard the private market by preventing the sort of monopolization we’re seeing these days.
That said, when it comes to the internet, I think the question of access is much more pressing than the question of publication. There are only a handful of ISPs in the US, and the majority of people in this country get their internet access from one of maybe 5 or 6 companies - Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. The ability of these companies to lock someone out of access to the internet is a very real problem. To the extent that the internet is the modern equivalent of the Roman forum, I agree that access to it should be guaranteed. However, I still don’t think any company on the internet is obligated to host your content, and that’s not a huge problem, because the hosting marketplace is actually quite healthy by comparison. You might have to go outside the mainstream if most companies find your content objectionable, but that’s not really any different than in the world of traditional publishing or public speaking.
If I were to be put in charge of “fixing” this situation, I would say that internet access is a right just like the ability to walk out your front door, and that the government should guarantee that right by providing some level of baseline service to everyone in the country - a publicly-held ISP that cannot terminate your service. Other private companies can compete for your business on speed, price, and features, but they aren’t obligated to service you if they don’t want to (I’d also provide incentives to encourage overbuild or promote leasing the government’s wires so that we don’t end up with huge swaths of balkanized rural areas that only have access to the public ISP). As for publication, there wouldn’t be anything like a publicly-held BBS or Facebook equivalent, but on the public ISP, you would be able to host your own website from your own home, thereby bypassing the issue of total corporate control over the means of publication. All ISPs would be required to carry all traffic passed through them (hello, Net Neutrality), thereby preventing corporate ownership of the “roads” leading to the “public forum”.
I certainly agree with you that the issue of regulating speech is a very thorny one, and there’s no perfect way to do it such that only the “right” things are regulated. However, just like democracy is the worst form of government (except for all the others), social moderation of speech is the worst form of “market” regulation (except for all the others). I don’t think it’s enough to simply say “everyone can say whatever they want, and any repercussions are unacceptable suppression.” Social control over what counts as “acceptable” speech can certainly lead to things like Nazi Germany if the pendulum swings far enough in that direction, but I think that exercising our right to freedom of association by ostracizing those who advocate for such a course of events, and trusting in the basic decency of most of the people in this country to do the same, is our best shot at avoiding it.
As I pointed out to another commenter, the US is not the only country in the world and current law is not an answer to questions about what the law should or could be.
I agree with most of the rest of your post. There are a few bits I don’t think I understand.
What do you mean by that? I get the power of government to deprive us rights bit but what other means are you thinking of? Do you mean ignoring people, debating them, etc.? If so, I agree.
I do find the concept of ‘acceptable norms’ difficult in the context of a discussion of freedom of speech.
If you are only free to speak if your speech is kept within the bounds of what society considers ‘acceptable’, then you do not have freedom of speech.
In reality that is of course the factual situation as Mindysan has pointed out. Certain kinds of speech are far more effectively and aggressively suppressed than others.
I agree. I don’t think this is particularly a concern at present. I do think that it is something that bears watching. As you say, it is better to prevent the situation arising than having to fix it once it has happened.
I like your proposal for a minimum standard, guaranteed service. It seems to me a good start but I think there would still be considerable problems.
For a start, if there is better, faster access which can be denied, then you inevitably end up with at least two tiers of internet access. The basic level may be good enough but if the poor and unpopular can be marginalised and ostracised, they will be.
Hosting your own website is of course a good idea but not much use if no one can access it or find it. If Google or other search engines decide to and can make your site hard to find, having it sat there with no visitors is not in my view allowing you effective freedom of speech.
I’m sure those issues (and I’m sure there are plenty more that I can’t think of) could all be solved though.
You really don’t need to go that far. I suspect if you looked around the US, you would find plenty of areas where the consensus as to what can and can’t be said or discussed is quite strong and any speech which falls foul of that consensus is pretty effectively suppressed (by the community).
For example, I knew a chap once who was about as worldly as you can imagine in most ways - drink, drugs, promiscuity, swearing - but due to his upbringing was deeply upset by casual blasphemy.
I struggle to do that a lot of the time.
Allow me to elaborate. The missing link between a person mumbling to oneself and obtaining a platform is this: Is your mumbling compelling enough that people want to listen?
Can we really say that these people have not had their say? They convinced a few like minded people, but they antagonized just as many people if not more.
I would argue that what is happening to white nationalists is fair and from a certain point of view, possibly even beneficial. Their message is not spreading, and people don’t want any part spreading it. What looks like censorship to you, looks like feedback to me.
Reading over this thread, the general consensus seems to be that limiting free speech is bad, it’s the Nazi thing that’s a sticking point. It seems to me then that the real argument here is this:
Is chanting “Blood and soil!” the same as screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater?
Would a reasonable person fear the rise of Nazism as much as they would the rise of white nationalism?
PA system and stage are property, not speech (#Showerthoughts: since money is speech, does civil forfeiture count as censorship?), people are not property and I think we can dismiss the idea of a captive audience as a legal obligation outright, cant we?
As long as you have free speech, you can convince somebody to give you a PA system and a stage, that will allow you the opportunity to build an audience. In the 90’s when I was still playing in bands, many friends made the same categorical mistake, they wanted to be rock stars but started off by developing a drug habit before mastering their instrument or even learning how to write a song.
Your post being flagged out of view is a delicious irony. You planned that, didn’t you? I hope you did.
Dropping in to link to this for anyone interested…
Personally, I grew up in a jurisdiction where shouting “Blut und Erde” might just about have been legal, waving a swastika about wouldn’t have been. Shouting Blut und Erde would certainly have got you ostracised by most of society.
As @Israel_B says - does banning people from waving swastikas or saying Nazi stuff actually make any difference?
The consensus seems to be that in practice it doesn’t - there are plenty of neo-Nazi groups in the US and plenty in countries that ban NS-related regalia, etc. At best banning that kind of speech sends out a message - which may or may not be important of itself. As you say - feedback.
In this case, I believe the PA system and soundstage were metaphors.
If we take them as actual physical objects, the question wasn’t whether a right to free speech requires you to be given them but rather whether a legal system which allows them to be taken from you (deprivation of property rights) because of your views effectively protects freedom of speech.
Under most legal systems, the state is not just required to refrain from interfering in your freedom of speech, it is also supposed to prevent others from doing so and to provide effective remedies if that happens.
Well, imprisonment and/or seizure of assets have long been used to that end, so yes, it could be.
Well, it’s the convincing someone to give you a PA system and a stage (whether real or metaphorical) that’s at issue here.
What if you can’t?
Does your right to free speech extend to areas that the overwhelming majority of your society thinks is beyond the pale or only to areas that 70% think is unacceptable? 50%, 30% - how divergent from the mainstream do your views have to get before it’s ok that no one will give you a platform or let you build one of your own?
Note - I think we’re all agreed that we’re not actually at the stage of not being able to build your own platform -yet.
Will we ever be - who knows. I think we’re close enough that the discussion needs to be had before the corporate control approach becomes entirely entrenched - if that’s not already too late.
I thought that was the route to being a rock star - but seriously - your guys were at least able to buy a guitar or steal one, or hit something with sticks and if nowhere else would let them play, they could stand on the street and play until too many people started throwing stuff at them.
Thought experiment: why is social popularity the deciding factor, rather than empirical judgements of truth and danger?
Is this best dealt with as a democratic question, or a judicial one?
Well, from the side of the debate I seem to have ended up on, social popularity wouldn’t be the deciding factor, nor would truth. Danger might be but that ends up of course coming back to social popularity. Unpopular views are always considered dangerous.
As far as empirical judgements are concerned, where would we get those from? How do you assess truth? “Truth is beauty”, yes but what is beauty?
In a properly constituted society the two should be the same shouldn’t they?
Hell no. There’s a reason we don’t do murder trials by public plebiscite.
Ah, that’s a different thing.
In a properly constituted democratic society, judicial decisions are taken on the basis of laws and norms established by the people through the democratic process.
Therefore the judicial process is part of the democratic process.
YMMV as to whether there currently exists a properly constituted democratic state.
I’d argue that the social popularity standard is the current de facto system in the USA, and that a judicial standard would produce better outcomes. Localised prejudices have too much influence under the social standard; see the history of abolitionist publishers in the antebellum South for the most obvious example.
And before the “you want to give more power to Trump!?” replies come in: no, I don’t. A government like that will abuse every power it has.
But that isn’t an argument for freeze peach absolutism, it’s an argument for the importance of preventing fascists from seizing control of your government. Once they do, laws are nothing but words.
(I’m catching up, having been out-of-town and mostly offline for a while)
I’m glad you brought that up. It is also an important film in terms of filmmaking, and (I believe) the same could be said for Triumph of the Will. However – I have never actually seen either of these in their entirety, and there’s a long list of other films I’d rather get to first. At the same time, I’d like to be able to watch them, if I so chose. Where would one draw the line when it comes to works like these? There’s undeniable merit in both films, yet both were undeniably in service to abhorrent ideologies.
I’m also not interested in flipping some bit from
1 somewhere, if/when I watch either (or any) film on YouTube or Netflix, or check it out from the public library. But I can imagine (FWIW) someone going on a murderous rampage, and these films show up in their browsing history. “Why didn’t we keep track of it before!?”
I wish I could find an online scan of Love and Rockets #45. There’s a piece in there called “The KKK Comes to Hoppers.” Here’s a synopsis I found online:
Ray Dominguez is hanging with Mando and Ignacio. The KKK comes to town, showing Birth of a Nation, supposedly to raise money for a white family whose son was murdered by Chicanos (and which refused the money). A riot starts, but dies down. Later in the day the kids see a truck leaving-- they never see the KKK guys at all.
And, yes, of course there’s a difference between the Klan hosting a screening of Griffith’s film, and watching it in a film class: Ray also mentions that he’d previously wanted to watch the film, but certainly would not in those circumstances.
Different scenario, I guess, but I’m still reminded how Factsheet Five would not only review anything and everything sent to them, but (IIRC) would also run any advertisement. Of course, since the reviews were subjective, they didn’t hesitate to describe a racist publication as such. But as for their ads, I remember an “International Men’s Movement” or some such (“legal harems” etc.) running an ad on the back cover of several issues. I could imagine writing a review of anything that was submitted (the later publishers, I think, were even more inclusive, but would point out e.g. “you’re going to get a call from the authorities if you send off for this”), but not so much taking money* to publicize something to which I was morally opposed.
*(albeit a small amount – no one, certainly not Mike Gunderloy, got anything close to rich publishing Factsheet Five)
Since I’ve seen both Triumph and Birth, I’ll chime in a little here. (When I checked these out from the library, I also checked out Die Nibelungen at the same time, so yes, I am probably on a list.)
I think these films are of incredibly great historical importance, but actually, I wouldn’t make too much of their aesthetic qualities. I thought TotW was incredibly boring, strikingly photographed, but too dully monolithic to engage me over time. If I were a committed fascist, I might have been enraptured, but I’m not, so I was just bored.
On the other hand, BoaN was great, greatly funny. A lot of advances in cinema went into the film, and these advances are very skillfully used, but they’re used in the service of a story which is both abhorrent and ridiculous, and on the occasion I watched the film, my brain chose simply to be incredibly amused by all of the incredibly accomplished foolishness. Should I watch it again, it’s extremely likely I wouldn’t be able to recapture that giddy feeling, and then what would I be left with? I think I’ll stick with Glen or Glenda, thanks.
I don’t know that you really needed these capsule critiques, but then I’m not absolutely certain why you want to see these films. If you want to study historically important films, then, yeah, these two probably belong on your list. (Especially if you’re interested in history beyond mere film history, because these two films are two of the very, very few which actually did change the actual world, not just the entertainment industry.)
If rather you’re looking for a good time at the movies, might I recommend a double feature of Rules of the Game and Duck Soup?
Well yeah, that’s pretty much it. But again, almost 30 years after learning about either one, I still haven’t made the effort.
I guess it was propaganda, not in the same way as these two films, but I did enjoy Man with a Movie Camera.
Thanks, film class!
EDIT: I just remembered that I wrote this, for an English class of all things. I put it on the web because one or both of the films had come up on the old Miles Davis mailing list (which usually veered way off topic).
Now, those I’ve seen, more than once.
Sure, it’s propaganda, but I’d call it considerably more innocent. Undoubtedly, the USSR had its crimes by 1929, but this film attempts to extol its virtues, and if it overlooks the negative side of the Soviet Union, the same can be said of thousands of Hollywood films, which are their own propaganda.
They are freely available. No one is stopping you from renting, buying, or borrowing them and seeing what they’re about. Where one draws the line is a great question, and I think it’s one we’re trying to hash out here. More applicable to current events is probably The Turner Diaries, a novel written by William Pierce advocating for a white uprising against the government. It’s well known to be influential in the Oklahoma City Bombings and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dylann Roof also read it. It’s been shared by samzidat, as well as through right wing/racist publishers. Is it censorship if Simon and Schuster refuses to print and sell it? What about a work like the anarchist cook book, another book which publishers have refused to print, but that still gets around.
And yet people seem fine with scholars carrying around texts in Arabic get pulled off airplanes. This is already happening, and no one cares until it starts to be about the fringes of white power.
I think we need to look at what is actually happening here in our culture regarding censorship, who has the power to censor speech (acknowledging that it’s not just the government, maybe), and figure out where the line is. The first amendment has NEVER meant that all speech is free. We know this, because we know history well enough to know this. People have been censored by the government, all the time. The question is whether or not we think they should do so going forward. I’m not convinced either way, honestly.
The better questions are
Is it censorship if Simon and Schuster refuses to print and sell [The Turner Diaries]?
No. The First Amendment protects your right to write all kinds of vile, odious garbage. The First Amendment does not mean anyone is required to publish or read it. Also, The Turner Diaries was published by National Vanguard Books.
What about a work like The Anarchist Cookbook, another book which publishers have refused to print, but that still gets around.
People have been censored by the government, all the time. The question is whether or not we think they should do so going forward. I’m not convinced either way, honestly.
No, they should not. But if you’re concerned about people reading books you think are hateful and dangerous, perhaps you should add the Bible to your list.