Free speech again in peril

Posted on August 18, 2017
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Friday, August 18, 2017

There is a graphic going around Facebook that illustrates the thinking of Karl Popper.
The core of the graphic is Popper’s idea that unlimited tolerance leads to the victory of the intolerant and, therefore, intolerance.
That idea is being promoted this week in light of the events in Charlottesville where white supremacist fascists set out to block the removal of a statue of Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. They were heavily armed and chanting, “Jews, you will not replace us” as they marched.
When they encountered protesters who opposed their intention, a riot broke out and 32-year-old Heather Hyer was killed, and many more injured, when one of the white supremacists drove into the opposition ranks.
This has led to an outcry that white supremacist and fascist speech and marches should not be tolerated. Much as I hate white supremacist and fascist thinking, I cannot agree.
First of all, we have to separate the difference between speech and action. It is not what the white supremacists said that provides reason to imprison them. It is what they did. They marched, heavily armed, on and attacked and brutalized protesters. Ms Hyer was killed.
As a Canadian, I find it ridiculous that people should be able to march, more heavily armed than military infantry, anywhere in public space. Nevertheless, the current legal belief in the U.S. is that they can.
The fact that Ms Hyer was killed should make them all guilty of murder. In the U.S., if someone is killed during the commission of an indictable offence, anyone involved is also guilty of the offence. That used to be but is no longer true in Canada. One of the notorious Boyd bank robber gang was hanged with his partner when the partner shot a police office with a gun the other didn’t even know he had. They were both on the loose after escaping jail at the time.
In Canada, we have freedom of speech but we are not allowed to call for violence against anyone. Even here, some misguided human rights organizations are trying to prevent people from expressing various kinds of ideas they don’t agree with. They consider themselves liberals but they are fascists. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. If you counsel making expressing ideas and opinions illegal you are a fascist.
Allowing free speech does not mean you have to tolerate it personally. You can speak against it. In fact, allowing but opposing (sometimes even ignoring) disreputable ideas tends to make them fade away. It is when we try to prevent our opponents from speaking that we create a martyr syndrome that attracts other alienated members of society and helps the lunatic fringe grow.
With regard to the removal of statues of Lee and Jefferson, the Confederate president, there are again two issues.
One is that anyone who wants such a statue on their own property should be allowed to do so.
However, having such statues on publicly owned land and seats of government property implies public support for the ideas of the people represented by the statue. White supremacists have not an iota of a right to force governments to endorse such people. That is the fact that makes the Swastika waving invaders of Charlottesville perpetrators of an indictable offence.
There was a wonderful headline on the top of the front page of the August 17, Telegraph Journal newspaper. It read, “N.B. Veteran: ‘I’m too old to fight the Nazis again’ ”. The article was about Art Pottle, a 96-year-old veteran of the Canada, U.S. joint special force, The Devil’s Brigade. He said he had never expected to see the Nazi swastika on parade again.
It is our turn now to resist fascists but we can squelch their ideas and speeches without taking up arms.
We can prosecute them vigorously for their violent actions. We can damn them from church pulpits, city, provincial or state legislatures, and federal government branches. We can speak out against them in chambers of commerce, veterans groups and anywhere people gather to make clear their disgusting ideas, hate and behaviour is not acceptable, not tolerated, in our society.
As the war for the soul of the United States goes on, President Trump is encountering that kind of resistance.
That, not censorship, suppression of their speech or other fascistic measures, is the way to defeat fascists in a free society. DAC


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