There are two videos that accompany this essay. The first is a 90 second bit from FS1 host Colin Cowherd with Larry King on giving hatred a platform. The second is the great Christopher Hitchens giving a full embrace of free speech in spite of objectionable views. The second half of his speech, on religion being the primary source of hatred in the world, is demonstrably false. Politics is the greatest source of hatred in the world. I need only point to the discourse over Charlottesville and at the latest (just to be polite) this past election cycle. Religion, hasn’t been a force, especially in this country’s political conversation, for a -very- long time. Let us begin.
Here are two good reasons “we all can’t get along”. The first is because some of us, like these Nazi/Antifa/ISIS bastards just don’t want to. Second is because everyone is convinced the evil “most” worth focusing on is -those- people (Replace “those” with the group the political affiliation of your choice prefers to go after on a normal workday.) Taking both into account, the talk of “ending” racism/hatred/evil or whatever is a pipedream. We all seem to embrace or condone a certain kind of at least two if not all three.
There’s this group I’m a part of, it consists of about 75 people and is pretty talkative, especially this weekend, and yet remarkably civil. The question arose that, in order to prevent violence, should we not first start at restricting the kind of speech that might have the potential to lead to violence? To that, the answer is absolutely not, for a multitude of reasons. First of which, they are Americans, the First Amendment is absolutely their birthright as much as it is yours and mine. “Do we just sit and do nothing?” asks my well-intentioned friend. We do only if they keep it at speech. When there is violence, one is either able to respond or wait for the police. Until then, they are Americans with a right to speak as they wish. We’ll discuss the danger of restricting speech shortly.
As a counter to this idea, I’ve heard everything from “Nazis don’t have rights” to “Rights have limits”. Neither, however, have come from my friend. Let us look these two thoughts.
Nazi’s don’t have rights: People living under the Nazi regime did not have rights. Americans who embrace the Nazi ideas however, are Americans first and Nazis second. To put it bluntly, citizenship comes before individual beliefs. Be careful how you reject this notion. As we’ll discuss, if personal beliefs come before citizenship, you only need the majority to turn against you and you -may- regret your position but you -will- lack the ability to express such regret. Never suggest a restriction against another person that you wouldn’t wish to live under. Because you will live under that same restriction one day.
Rights have limits: The limit can only be “the point at which speech turns to violence.” Note, I did not say “inciting” violence. I specifically mean the point at which a protester speaking out against something proceeds to physically assault a dissenter
Here’s why that distinction is crucial: extremists exist in everything from the gun control debate (Gun control advocates suggesting people start shooting NRA members) to the abortion debate (the murder of George Tiller) to PETA (name the atrocity, frankly.) Accusing someone’s speech of inciting violence can only be proven after the fact and saying that an opinion “has the potential” for inciting violence could only mean that speech could be restricted if two things happened. First, that the potential was statistically significant, which I’m not sure how to quantify potential violence and I’m pretty sure you aren’t either, and second if the restriction happened in a vacuum. Because of extremists in every debate, every form of protest, from ones on racial issues to ones about abortion to (as we saw in Dallas) police brutality, to as we saw in November, differences in preferred candidate, has the -potential- to incite violence. By the logic that “potential” is enough, all of the above speech might be better off banned as well. Which leads to a dangerous precedent.
The minute you infringe upon someone else’s speech, you allow them or someone else to threaten your right. Your infringements do not exist in a vacuum either. Look at the news right now, see what people get offended by. We live in a world where an entire political spectrum has embraced the term “microagressions”, a word for which there is no real criteria, it’s just an amorphous construct of the perpetually offended. If the microagression people ever get in power, which is not hard to imagine at this stage, what speech would they prefer to restrict? Look at the speech Antifa has already tried to restrict through violence at Berkeley and Portland. Look even at the near riot at Cal State LA when Ben Shapiro came by. Matter of fact, go back and listen to the testimony Shapiro and Adam Corolla gave to Congress last month to hear more instances of speech restriction. The instant someone gets to decide that “offensive speech” can be banned, all that matters is what the majority at the time finds offensive. If you take one look at the free speech infringements across the country, you cannot say, with a straight face, that the only kind of speech in this country that would ever be at risk is the Nazi kind.
So here’s what needs to be done: Give these people a bigger platform. Yep, hear me out. Half of the reason people are upset about this is because they have never seen it so open and obvious. This is not new. Neo-nazis, white supremacy, antifa, none of these guys are new. But they’re here. They’re on your TV screens, in your news feed, on the radio. They are now everywhere. They’re repulsive, they’re uncomfortable, but they are there and it is good. Because they are repulsive, because they are uncomfortable, that means you are not attracted to the mindset.
What if more people were exposed to this more often? Hatred isn’t a constant conversation anymore (and frankly, neither is love). The only reason it’s a conversation now is because it’s in the news. Why can’t it be in the news more often? Seriously, the last time hatred was in the news was the Charleston shooting in 2015. As Cowherd notes in the video. Show hate, get a studio audience around a Klansman or Antifa lunatic. Just demonstrate, constantly, how ridiculous and vitriolic they are.
Here’s the catch though, the vitriol and hatred they spew, is similar in aggression to the vitriol and hatred we “better people” spewed at each other during the election cycle. Wouldn’t it be strange to see a part of oneself in something else we hate? Imagine, 2020 rolls around, you’ve spent the last 3 months saying “those people are racist, they are selfish, they are not what this country should be” and to hear a Klansman , on air, October 2020, say the Exact. Same. Thing. about their critics. How strange it would be for the country to see its reflection in one who belongs to an organization steeped in hate, that we relegated to the shadows because we “thought” we were different.
And that is why having objectionable views in the public square is not only better for the country because it is an embrace of free speech despite obvious, strong objections, but it’d be damn near sobering because there is a very strong possibility that the rhetoric of the Klan and Antifa may line up with us “better people”, especially come election time.
The safer alternative of course, is we could let them hate and continue to do so, just away from us. We can’t restrict their speech, so perhaps it is best to let them slink back into the shadows that we may arrogantly continue to declare “Thank you God, that I’m not like them.”
One catch: Evil. Is. Universal.