Letter: How do antifa square tactics with First Amendment?

Write to Mountain Xpress
Graphic by Lori Deaton

[Regarding “Everyday People: Local Activists Strive for Social Change” Nov. 8, Xpress]: What does it mean when … “a core strategy of antifa protesters is denying those who promote fascist ideology a soapbox”? How is that different from forcibly denying First Amendment rights of free assembly and free speech?

How can the antifa call themselves “nonviolent” if they announce their intention to forcibly prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights? If not by force, then by what means? “Crowding out” implies force.

Quoting Frida, if, in her judgment, it’s “hate speech,” then “I don’t think there’s room for it.”

Does she mean there’s no room in the public square for free expression of opinions that we find wrong and disgusting? Who is to be the judge of that?

Apparently, Frida and other antifas have not heard, or do not agree with, that fundamental principle of a free society: “I wholly disapprove of what you say — and will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I keep asking myself: Are these young people simply naive or deeply narcissistic? Do they sincerely believe that some higher power (their own strong feelings) gives them the right to decide which opinions can be allowed or denied public expression here in the “land of the free”?

Do they really believe their tactics are furthering the cause of tolerance, mutual respect, love and understanding?

— John Sterling
Asheville

SHARE
About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

56 thoughts on “Letter: How do antifa square tactics with First Amendment?

  1. youphoric

    Free speech doesn’t give you the right to be heard, or listened to, or talked over. There’s no defending the message of hate speech. I don’t condone actual violence but anyone who stands up against hate speech is doing our society a service.

    See also: https://xkcd.com/1357/

  2. Peter Robbins

    The First Amendment protects against government suppression of speech. It does not guarantee the speaker a respectful hearing from his peers. “Getoutahere, ya bum” is free speech, too, and is protected, in part, because the Framers foresaw the invention of baseball. Indeed, could we even enjoy our coffee without it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp8Afm2XolE.

  3. luther blissett

    The no-platform philosophy believes “good speech drives out bad speech” doesn’t work with fascists, in part because fascists don’t use speech in good faith, only as a means to an end, and in part because once given a platform exterminationist rhetoric becomes just another opinion. Defending to the death the right of people to say you should be dead (or at least “gone away”) is more likely to leave you dead at the hands of those people. It is naive to think that history teaches otherwise.

    Jean-Paul Sartre, 1944: “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

    Karl Popper, 1945: “Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

    Take note of the years in which those arguments were made.

    • Peter Robbins

      Phooey. The reason we protect free speech isn’t because we can’t identify any speech so obnoxious that society would be better off not hearing it. It’s because the effort to separate the sheep from the goats causes more harm than good. Indeed, giving the government power along those lines is the first step down the road to authoritarianism. The best response to fascists is to point out why they can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be legitimated ,or, as Phil Williams advises below, sit through The Blues Brothers again.

      • Phillip Williams

        Definitely agree with Mr. Robbins here. Weimar Germany, in which Hitler succeeded, had just experienced history’s most devastating War to date, had been torn by revolution, famine, inflation, etc – and was ripe for a “strong man” to take charge and make the trains run on time. A lot of folks don’t realize that, had Adolf Hitler died or been assassinated before 1938, when his hostility toward the Jews and his land grabbing ambitions actually began to happen, he likely would have gone down in WORLD history as the greatest German who ever lived!

        He certainly had his share of people in the US, England, France, etc., who admired him – high profile people like Charles Lindbergh, Joe Kennedy, Neville Chamberlain, etc. thought that he actually made pretty good sense and figured so what if he offended a few Jews with his rhetoric and writings.

        In a free – or relatively free – society with plenty of independent thinkers on both sides of the political spectrum, it is best for fascists to be seen and heard for what they are – a “weakened virus” that usually serves as a vaccine for the rest of the population. We also have an advantage over folks of the 1930’s of being potentially better informed, having access to current news almost immediately (just have to be wary of the sources).

        • luther blissett

          Well, that’s a version of history you can have all to yourself.

          Where do you place yourself on the target list? Citing a bunch of white dudes who didn’t expect the fascists to come after them doesn’t help you out much.

          • Phillip Williams

            I am afraid you’ve lost me, Mr. Blissett. I wasn’t on the “target list” for the Nazis in the 1930’s-40’s because I wasn’t alive and living in Western Europe during that time. What exactly is the correct “version” of the history of rise of the Nazis? Am I mistaken in thinking that Hitler was able to sell himself to Germany because of a number of factors, which are not present in the United States at this time? That he had an effective propaganda machine, and control of the media, and thus, was admired by leaders of other Western nations because he was able to show progress and recovery without showing his true intentions? That the Western leaders I mentioned were willing to look the other way on some of Hitler’s more evident and less savory aspects, because they were hoping that a strong Germany might serve as a bulwark against Russian Communism and desperately wishing to avoid a repeat of the Great War?

            You appear to be accusing me of excusing the Germans and others for swallowing the Nazi line. I am not excusing anything – just pointing out some reasons why things happened the way they did.

          • Phillip Williams

            I do agree with your earlier notes – there is a danger in becoming too tolerant or allowing tolerance to become too all-encompassing – or in allowing yourself to empathize with fascists to the point that their arguments start to make sense, and then you find yourself sympathizing with some “agreeable” parts of their platform and being willing to ignore the disagreeable parts…which I think is, to a degree, what happened with most of the world in the 1930’s.

          • luther blissett

            I think you’ve grasped my point. Modern-day fascists have a list of groups that they want first to silence and ultimately to drive out of society through force. That “white ethnostate” stuff? It’s what they believe. If you’re a white dude, you’re low-priority as long as you keep your head down and your mouth shut.

            There were Americans who understood this a lot earlier than 1938.

          • Phillip Williams

            Mr.Blissett – I think we perhaps overlooked elements of each other’s points. I didn’t just now grasp anything. The difference between 2017 United States and 1930’s Germany is pretty much everything. The situation, the attitudes and priorities of the majority of people, media, communications, medicine, military technology, religion’s role in society.

            We have not just survived a devastating war that cost tens of millions of lives (Germany alone lost over 2 million troops in the Great War) nor have we just undergone the greatest economic depression in history. Information was much easier to control and many things were easier to conceal from the public in the 1930’s – whereas now we are overloaded with so much information that you have to sort thru it to find the truth.

            Again – I am not defending or excusing fascists past or present. My point is that most of them do a pretty good job of making themselves look ridiculous because our freedom of speech gives them an opportunity fairly unique in the world. I am a Southerner born and bred – and and most of my peers – are continually embarrassed by the fat, red-faced people who drape themselves in Confederate flags and holler about “Southern Pride”. They are far better targets for satire than for masked people with ball bats trying to shut them up.

            Physically attacking them potentially accomplishes 2 things – 1) It completely validates what they think of their opposition and 2) if you mess around and kill one, you’ve given them an instant martyr, a’la Horst Wessel (the weak-chinned Nazi thug who was killed in a brawl with Communist thugs in 1930 and was made a Nazi hero).

          • luther blissett

            “The difference between 2017 United States and 1930’s Germany”

            How about the difference between 2017 United States and 1930s Spain? Or 2017 United States and 1960s United States? Or 2017 United States and 1878 United States. Fascism takes advantage of local conditions: it’s a mistake to be looking for parallels with Germany when you can find parallels to the end of Reconstruction or the quasi-fascist resistance to Civil Rights.

            (“Masked people with ball bats” refers to black bloc, which is a dubious tactic, not a movement. Most antifascist activism simply involves showing up in sufficient numbers.)

          • Phillip Williams

            I would pretty much hold the same thoughts on your other examples. There are few parallels other than the fact that fascists or entities that represented elements of fascism were present. In all cases, most things about the world situation, about society and about life in general were different than today – even in 1960’s America.

            As for the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 1960’s, which method of countering injustice do you think made the ultimate point most effectively and achieved the most in the end? Dr. King’s or the Black Panther’s?

          • luther blissett

            “which method of countering injustice do you think made the ultimate point most effectively and achieved the most in the end? Dr. King’s or the Black Panther’s?”

            I’m not a fan of the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” revisionist view of Dr King. It’s too often a salve to white people who are glad that segregation ended, but aren’t so sure they’d have taken a billy-club to the head back in the 60s to make that happen.

          • Phillip Williams

            Mr. Blissett, the fact was that Dr. King’s philosophy and practice was non-violent resistance – his model was more Mahondas Gandhi than “Gentle Jesus”. He did not encourage people to try and shut up the opposition.

            He did, however, tend to target places where the movement would encounter the most violent response. In towns where the white leadership ensured that nobody attacked protesters and arrests were made quietly, those towns stayed segregated as ever – in places like Birmingham, where dogs and fire hoses were used, and the police cracked noggins, everything was brought to the Nation’s attention – and the violence of the establishment was actually an element in bringing about change.

            King did not use Antifa’s methods – if he had, there might have been much more violence in response, and the public’s view of the movement might have changed to alarm and even sympathy with the segregationists.

            The big difference in the whole thing here is that now the establishment plays a relatively minor role unless the city/county/State hesitance to tear down a statue is really oppression. In the case of Charlottesville, the establishment’s failure was to lose control of the situation and keep order – but the fight was between anti and pro fascist factions determined to suppress each other’s free speech.

          • luther blissett

            “and the public’s view of the movement might have changed to alarm and even sympathy with the segregationists.”

            More diluting of history. Take a look at who got elected (and still gets elected) to statewide office in the Deep South long after the federal government ended segregation. The North Carolina public continued to send Jesse Helms to the Senate, where he filibustered the MLK holiday by accusing Dr King of being a dirty commie traitor. Strom Thurmond stank up the place till he died.

            To you and Mr Robbins: think honestly about which side would you have supported during the 1950s and 60s. That of the “lawful authorities”, or that accused of being treasonous leftist agitators?

          • Phillip Williams

            Mr. Blissett – “Dilution of history? How? What I might or might not have done is a matter of conjecture – I was a boy during the 60’s and our small community didn’t experience many of the things that happened in larger cities and in places with higher minority populations – I never had a black kid in my class until I entered high school – what I might have done or thought as an adult is only theory – and is utterly beside the point.

            As it happened, the reactions of folks like Bull Connor – towards peaceful demonstrators – were recorded and put out to the world via a free press – and the attention of the Nation at large was captured, and the Federal government couldn’t ignore it any longer. Regardless of what Mr. Robbins, or you , or I “might” have done in the 1960’s, what happened, happened.

            It didn’t happen overnight – but it also didn’t happen because the Civil Rights marchers and demonstrators were violent – they said their piece and didn’t try to keep anyone else from saying theirs – and they endured indignity, insult and physical abuse – and some lost their lives. I can neither add to nor subtract from history – and neither can you.

            I can only theorize – hence, my use of the word “might have” in reference to possible reactions from parts of the US other than the South.

            For a number of reasons, there is not much about the Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s that can be reasonably compared to Antifa’s actions in the present day.

          • Peter Robbins

            I’m not sure why my back pages are relevant here, Luther, but in the spirit of honest disclosure: I took few political positions in the 1950s, as my father refused to buy a television and my newspaper reading was limited to the funny pages. I don’t think I knew what civil rights were in those days, but I recall my grandfather once opined that people who didn’t like what they had should go back to picking cotton. In 1964, I broke with most of friends and supported Barry Goldwater because my parents did. In 1968, I was chosen by the social-studies teacher to play Richard Nixon in the class’ mock debate. In 1969, I got an F on a French exam for boycotting on Moratorium Day. In 1972, I cheered when the inciting -to-riot convictions of the Chicago Seven were reversed. On high-school graduation day, I and my peers gave symbolic confirmation to our intellectual journey by moving the tassel from right to left.

            The letter to the editor on which y’all purport to be commenting raised a discrete question — how far is it permissible to go in expressing the poetic idea that there is no “room” in public discourse for neo-fascist kooks? I thought I was clear without resort to historical digression. But to recapitulate: Counter demonstration — good. Booing the speaker off the stage — good. Instigating violence — bad. Prior restraint by government (absent clear and direct threat of violence) — bad. Muddying the waters with imprecise argument and poorly chosen analogies — bad. Quotation of Sartre — always the worst.

          • Huhsure

            “Instigating violence — bad.”

            Really? No kidding. Ya don’t say.

            I’m at a loss to find anyone making the argument for instigating violence. It’s not to be found in the original article. The author could have (and should have) written something like “denying anyone an uncontested platform” which would have been in line with the quotes he provides from Frida. And also completely in line with comments by you (” Counter demonstration — good. Booing the speaker off the stage — good.”). She only talks about “showing up” and that “she doesn’t think there’s room for hate speech.” That’s a far stretch from instigating violence to prevent that speech.

            And instigating violence is a far cry from denying a platform to proven violent actors because free speech does not override public safety, which is the argument I’m making.

            What should Charlottesville do, if the same alt-right fascist organizations comes back and say they want to hold a rally? The same agitators who committed murder and maimed and terrorized many others in their town? Would you approve their request? Approve with caveats? If so, what caveats? Or would you deny their request?

          • Peter Robbins

            Did you read the letter to the editor on which you are commenting? The writer asks: “How can the antifa call themselves ‘nonviolent’ if they announce their intention to forcibly prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights? If not by force, then by what means? ‘Crowding out’ implies force.”

            I was giving my humble answer to this question. If you think part of the answer was obvious, goody for you. Aren’t you clever?

            What would I do if the Unite the Right people wanted to do another march? I would carefully research the law and fashion a response that imposes no content-based restrictions at all and applies time-and-place restrictions to the minimum extent necessary to preserve public order. And I would keep my mouth shut until I had done my homework on the matter. But you go right ahead. Foils have their place at the table, too.

          • Huhsure

            The letter author is replying ostensibly to the article, is he not?

            “If they announce their intention to forcibly prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights? If not by force, then by what means? ‘Crowding out’ implies force.”

            Why is “crowding out” in quotes? Those words aren’t in the article text, nor implied by any quote from Frida. The only words that imply any kind of denial of speech are the words of the author. And unless he can back that up with quotes, he was in error.

            The letter’s interpretation ain’t about what’s in the article. He just made it up outta whole cloth. He made up a straw man argument because it suited his needs, to try to create some sorta parity between the activities of murderous fascists and antifa.

          • Peter Robbins

            And instead of picking a fight with him and getting his back up, I explained to him how opposition to objectionable speech can be done without the forceful interference he fears. I can’t speak for the antifa movement. No one can; it’s too decentralized. But, at the very least, I left it for someone who thinks he can speak for the movement to take exception to the writer’s factual premises about its aims and methods.

            I think we’re done here.

          • Huhsure

            “The writer’s factual premises”? Unless you’re saying the statements are merely premised to be factual, then what huh?

            I have made only two points in this forum: First that people were GLAD that antifa was in Charlottesville. That they prevented more injury and death. I would stand with those defending citizens against such attacks. I’m not a member of any antifa group or organization, nor have I made any comments that would lead anyone to believe that.

            Second that I believe a city like Charlottesville would be completely within its rights to prevent further rallies from an organization that has shown in the past that they are willing to murder, maim, and terrorize citizens in furtherance of their goals.

            And you? From all I’ve seen in your responses, the gist of your argument against me has been that only an _immediate_ threat of violence is enough of a concern to curtail the free speech rights of a group that has used that free speech in the past to launch vicious, murderous attacks against the population. Even the ACLU is backing off from their own rigid stance on that.

            Yeah, we’re done.

          • Huhsure

            I see your undated article, and raise you a statement from the ACLU’s executive director from a week after the fascists killed a woman, maimed dozens, and fired on counterprotesters.

            http://thehill.com/homenews/347053-aclu-revises-policy-to-avoid-supporting-hate-groups-protesting-with-firearms

            “ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told The Wall Street Journal that the group would have stricter screenings and take legal requests from white supremacist groups on a case-by-case basis.

            ‘The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,’ Romero told the Journal. ‘If a protest group insists, “No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,” well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.'”

            And he’s not just talking about ACLU’s work, is he? Judges, police chiefs (you know, gubmint types), and any legal group. “Look at the facts of any white-supremacy protest.” And they’re talking pre-emptive determinations, not “in the heat of the moment.” The ACLU is stating that they are using this criteria to determine if they will even represent a group. This is a HUGE shift for them.

            I’m guessing that among those facts that judges, police, and any legal group should consider might be “has this group committed violence at rallies in the past? Is the probability of violence high?” Just a guess.

            Now we’re done.

          • Peter Robbins

            Not until you stop making mistakes. First, the ACLU’s willingness to accept a client says precisely nothing about the rights the turned-down client may have. Second, a restriction on the firearms that may be brought to a mass event would most likely be interpreted by a court as a time, place and manner restriction, not a restriction based on speech content. I despair of your ever understanding the distinction, and so I’m done, whether you are or not.

          • Huhsure

            “Not until you stop making mistakes. First, the ACLU’s willingness to accept a client says precisely nothing about the rights the turned-down client may have.”

            It doesn’t speak to the fascist’s absolute rights, you’re correct. They’re not the final arbiter of that. But it does speak to the ACLU’s desire to not legally protect violent actors, and it speaks directly to their interpretation of the rights they believe they’re afforded. But don’t take my word for it.

            Romero’s statement came out after this statement from executive directors from three ACLU California branches: “If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution,” the statement said. “The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

            The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence. Sounds an awful lot like those fellas are saying precisely what you say that their statement is _not_ saying.

            Sounds like they’re saying something an awful lot like what I’ve been saying. The alt-right has been using their First Amendment rights as a cover for terrorist violence, and they don’t believe that’s protected. Good for them.

            But could they perhaps be hedging? How could they gauge intent? Is it perhaps just what you say, that they’re not commenting on the rights they feel the client’s request is afforded, but making a statement simply about what the ACLU will/will not take on? After all, they’re not obligated to take on these clients.

            Here’s a bit more context:

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/08/16/odd-statement-from-the-aclu-of-california-white-supremacist-violence-is-not-free-speech/

            The author of the article seems to take your position, saying “The question facing California government officials, as I understand it, is not whether to allow violence or constitutionally unprotected incitement. Rather, it’s whether the government can ban events — of whatever political stripe — based on a fear that the speakers or some of the attendees may engage in violence (or in unprotected incitement). The answer, under modern First Amendment doctrine that the ACLU has generally helped develop, is ‘no.’ I would have thought that people want to know about the ACLU of California’s position on that question, and not on whether “violence” (white supremacist or otherwise) is free speech.”

            So, he goes about trying to get an answer from the ACLU, asking for clarification. Here’s what he finally gets:

            “We agree with every word in the statement from our colleagues in California. The First Amendment absolutely does not protect white supremacists seeking to incite or engage in violence. We condemn the views of white supremacists, and fight against them every day. At the same time, we believe that even odious hate speech, with which we vehemently disagree, garners the protection of the First Amendment when expressed non-violently. We make decisions on whom we’ll represent and in what context on a case-by-case basis. The horrible events in Charlottesville last weekend will certainly inform those decisions going forward.”

            “The First Amendment absolutely does not protect white supremacists _seeking_ to incite.” Curious wording there. It speaks directly to the question the author asked, regarding intent.

            “The horrible events in Charlottesville last weekend will certainly inform those decisions going forward.”

            Sounds an awful lot like they believe intent can inform free speech protections, and will be using that in their determinations of who to represent.

            That doesn’t mean that another lawyer can’t step in and try to make the case for the fascists. Of course not. But the ACLU will not be trying to protect the First Amendment rights of those who they believe will engage in violence. Now the main way they will make that decision is based upon the use of weapons in the event. But they didn’t stop there, saying that “the horrible events in Charlottesville… will inform those decisions.”

            As the ACLU has been instrumental, as the author said, in determining the direction of First Amendment doctrine, this could portend a major shift, over time, in interpretation. Again, good for them.

            Good for us. “The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

          • Peter Robbins

            Guess I’m just old fashioned. If someone says “Let’s form a posse and tear down the Lee memorial in Pack Square,” he is inciting unlawful conduct. If he says “Let’s reduce all the Confederate monuments to rubble,” he is engaged in free speech. Or at least that’s the way things used to be.

    • Peter Robbins

      Put it this way: If the marketplace of ideas has become so anemic that idiotic fascist speech cannot be defeated without resort to government suppression or vigilante fisticuffs, then the American Revolution is a failure and rights-based democracy is a joke. We have become like the ending in Animal Farm, where the antagonists cannot tell each other apart.

      As I write this, by the way, I am reminded of our President on his recent Asia trip, sitting next to that Philippine thug and chortling as the members of the press were led out of the room. Recall that after the Night of the Long Knives, Stalin praised Hitler as a “splendid fellow.” The danger of American fascism is quite real. It is not to be scoffed at. But the path of resistance must be carefully chosen.

      • Phillip Williams

        Very disturbing comparison – unfortunately it sounds kind of familiar too…Yes, Hitler and Stalin were supposed to be “partners” or at least neither was supposed to interfere with the operations or ally themselves with the enemies of the other (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939).

      • Huhsure

        Peter, what? What “idiotic fascist speech” are you referring to?

        This? http://wapo.st/2vz6Hyy

        This? http://lat.ms/2AVICEd

        This? http://cnn.it/2vkBqm2

        The white supremacists left whatever argument you are making behind when they killed and maimed people in Charlottesville.

        Antifa saved lives at Charlottesville. Full Stop. This, according to those whose lives they saved. http://slate.me/2vIOQFy

        “I am a pastor in Charlottesville, and antifa saved my life twice on Saturday. ”

        “The antifa were like angels to me in that moment.”

        “Cornel West said that he felt that the antifa saved his life. I didn’t roll my eyes at that statement or see it as an exaggeration.”

        • Peter Robbins

          Free speech, violence and direct threat of terroristic violence obviously are not the same things. Absent extremely limited circumstances, prior restraint of speech by the government is unconstitutional. Prior restraint of speech by vigilante threat is illegal. Case closed. Violence and threat of violence are police problems. That the Charlottesville police did a terrible job of protecting the public last summer goes without saying. One expects improvement. But Charlottesville’s failure can’t justify banning nasty speech on grounds as flimsy as “marginalization” of disfavored groups or refusal to recognize the norms of civil society. I shouldn’t even have to say these things. This is high-school civics.

          • Huhsure

            “Free speech, violence and direct threat of terroristic violence obviously are not the same things.”

            Except when free speech is used as a launching pad for violence.

            For the alt-right, I believe it’s absolutely fair to now state that their “speech” goes hand-in-hand with violence and direct threat of terrorist violence. Incitement is not protected by the First Amendment, when it can be shown that the intent to immediate violence is present. There was more than enough of that speech present in Charlottesville.

            Do we have any obligation to give the benefit of the doubt to any alt-right fascist (white supremacist/neo-Confederate/Nazi) group after what happened in Charlottesville? Does any community have to accept the implicit (or explicit) threat of violence that an alt-right rally brings with it? Cannot a case be made that an alt-right rally brings a direct threat of violence to the community, therefore it is entirely proper to ban that rally on public safety grounds?

            The alt-right have shown they’re interested in using their free speech platform only as a springboard to violent conflict. They themselves, by their actions, have lost the automatic right to that platform.

          • Peter Robbins

            Will Roper: So now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law!
            Thomas More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to go after the Devil?
            Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
            More: Oh! And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you think you could stand upright in the winds that blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

            – A Man for All Seasons

          • Huhsure

            There are clear limits on incitement to violence and terror regarding free speech. This is, in fact, law.

          • Peter Robbins

            The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
            — Louis Brandeis

          • Huhsure

            In a showdown with murderous fascists idiots, I’ll take antifa over aphorism any day of the week.

          • Peter Robbins

            That quote has stood the test of time. You didn’t have to prove it, but thanks just the same.

          • Huhsure

            Be sure to write that on your sign at the next counter-protest.

          • Peter Robbins

            It’s rude to keep heckling after the mic drop.

          • Huhsure

            I think that mic must have gotten stuck in the sharp crease of your trouser cuff as it fell.

  4. Phillip Williams

    Trying to sort it all out makes me a little bit squiggle-eyed. Some folks think it is perfectly OK to stand on, pee on, or burn the United States Flag, and they will loudly criticize those who try to confront them or even those who write critical letters to the editor about them – yet in the same breath, they applaud those who physically attack the knuckleheads who wave Nazi and/or Confederate flags. I personally like the Blues Brothers’ solution for when protestors of any stripe think they can block a public road – they don’t HAVE to stand there and be run over – they CAN get out of the way! Wish someone had done this when a bunch of grungy protesters blocked up Pack Square awhile back – “I hate Illinois Nazis” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulCw7RJ5eE8

  5. John Penley

    I was in Charlottesville Va. photographing the Unite The Right Nazi rally and was told they wanted to put me in an oven with Jewish and non-white people. I was also physically removed from their permitted protest area for attempting to take photos. This is standard practice at their rallies. I might also add that starting yesterday trials began for 200 people who were charged with serious felonies for protesting at the Trump inauguration and most of the press coverage and my own observations [I was there as well] confirm that the majority of those facing charges [including journalists] did not break the law. They were just caught up in a mass arrest. Neither the Nazis nor the government really respects people’s , especially the media’s , first amendment rights so I say more power to Antifa shut those Hitler loving Nazis down. Perhaps WW2 could have been avoided if citizens did that in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power.

    • Huhsure

      Hear hear. Fascism is anathema to democracy. Not only do fascists not respect first amendment rights, they do not believe in their adversaries’ right to exist (not hyperbole; ask them!). They want nothing more than for democrats (small-d, all of us who still believe in democracy) to cling to their propriety while they themselves ignore the rule of law and civic obligation on their way to power.

      We have no obligation to lay down our bodies across the rails in furtherance of a vision of rule of law that fascists are ignoring. Pacifist martyrdom is not in our temperament. Nor is it a rule encoded in any religious or legal doctrine.

      Clergy who were there in Charlottesville at the protests said they believe their lives were saved by antifa, and were grateful for their presence: http://slate.me/2vIOQFy

      What would you have done to stop the murder in Charlottesville, if you could have stopped it?

      • Deplorable Infidel

        Charlottesville Va could have first REFUSED to issue any permits for these groups to assemble based on safety and to save their historical statues.

        When are the goons going to destroy Monticello , home of Jefferson ?

  6. bsummers

    It’s worth noting that in Germany today, the birthplace of Nazism, it is illegal to wear a swastika or chant Nazi slogans.

    • Phillip Williams

      Illegal or not, the Skinhead subculture – “Aryan Guard”, “Volksfront”, “White Aryan Resistance”, etc., – is still active in Germany and several other European countries – Nazi symbols, white power slogans and all. These days they tend to target Turks and Middle Eastern refugees more than the Jews…seems that they come in several flavors – Right wing, Left wing and Anarchist….

  7. Roger Smith

    The insightful view expressed by Foltz has proven to have been quite prescient, as evidenced by the number of comments that comprise the discourse that follows her letter. And, no doubt, the subtle hints about “myopic and intransigent” perspectives she perceived from those who were quoted in Hunt’s article denotes her keen awareness of the political and cultural climates so influenced and facilitated by social media. Her comment about the opposing views she imagined her article would generate is refreshing and commendable; but the statement from her second paragraph is one I find quite meaningful: “Such [journalistic] efforts are quite rare in today’s media culture, which seems much more interested in fueling hysteria and xenophobia than in real dialogue, and in drawing hard lines through political issues than in explaining nuanced political positions that break preconceived boxes…” I have personally been alarmed by the disruptive discourse to the public square over the past political cycle, and even frightened by the input from certain elected members of the political class on both sides of the fight who have encouraged this disorder and mayhem (including those at City Council and their counterparts in Raleigh who have advocated such “political correctness”). I am reminded of the comment by George Carlin who said that “political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.” I am encouraged by Foltz’s letter and commend the comments composed by Mr. Williams and Mr. Robbins who have elevated the discourse by their “nuanced” concerns so expressed in their posts.

  8. The Real World

    At long, long last it is finally good to hear Leftists:

    A) Actually engage in some involved examination and debate about……. pretty much anything. After far too many years of hysterical, knee-jerk reaction to whatever manufactured issue put forth by Democrats or their propaganda arm known as the mainstream media and some particular billionaire citizens who fund all that manipulative nonsense.

    B) My golly, who’d have thunk only a couple of years ago that the Democrats would be eating their own — all over this nation and including on this website. But, it was well-past time to burn it all down since it was vividly obvious to any objective witness that it was corrupt to the very core. Much more evidence of this is to come.

    Now, if the Repubs will continue to route their phony players from the ranks, we may actually have some sustained hope for this country. #DitchIncumbents #TermLimitsforCongress

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.