Freedom of Speech Is a Two Way Street
Since the general election victory of Donald Trump, there's been this sentiment on the Left that tries to argue that we, as a society, should allow the destructive rhetoric of white supremacists to be echoed without resistance. Some may not come out and state that bluntly, but what's being said beneath the surface is essentially that.
I'm embarrassed to say that one of the most shocking things since the election has been folks' willingness to "agree to disagree" with Nazis— Dwayne David Paul (@DwayneDavidPaul) February 13, 2017
Understand that white supremacy, and all of the troll-like elements of it, was debunked a long time ago. Also understand that white supremacist rhetoric has a very well documented history of leading to violence against all sorts of non-White groups. So we have to first stop pretending that their speech is harmless - it's far from harmless.
There are those on the Left who would have you believe their speech is harmless, because that makes it easier for them to legitimize the acceptance of its proliferation. If you acknowledge that white supremacist rhetoric is dangerous speech and can lead to violence, then that should change your view of what to do about it when it's being spread.
Everyone should read a blog article I posted on this site nearly a year ago. It's one of my early postings. I wrote about dangerous speech in that article and much of what I said has proven to be true. The title of the article is the Top 5 Reasons You Should Not Try to Rationalize and Apologize for Trump's Neo-Fascism.
Which brings me to the punching of neo-Nazi Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer...
Spencer, who has said openly that he does not believe Constitutional rights should apply to Black people and has allowed genocidal points of view to be put up on his website, was punched in the face during one of many anti-Trump rallies soon after his election. Now many people don't have a problem with punching Nazis, and I want to make it known right now that I'm completely indifferent. If it happens, then great! However I'm not going to advocate for it. My problem though is the Left-shaming of the aggressive approach some have taken with people like Spencer. Hitting someone isn't free speech, but people like Spencer should know that there are those in society who will not just allow him to spew dangerous speech without pushback.
I titled this article, 'Free Speech is a Two-Way Street' because it is. There have been other examples of major protests against the speaking of right-wing white supremacists at certain college campuses. The most notorious recent example was at UC Berkeley where white supremacist provocateur and professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak before anti-fascists showed up and caused enough mayhem to cause him to cancel. He then went on to have an interview on Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News to talk about how crazy the Left has become and to push his usual schtick about the Left being anti-free speech.
Let's establish that protesting is protected in the first amendment as well, you can go read it yourself. I think we should definitely protest people who spread hate, doing nothing is tantamount to approval. Not understanding the dangers of certain types of speech is historically problematic and blind to how words can influence people and policy. So to call protesting people like Milo "anti-free speech" is incorrect and people who say that are misinterpreting the 1st amendment. This is no different than guns rights advocates who misinterpret the 2nd amendment to fit their agenda.
I've seen some on the Left literally tell people not to protest Milo! So let me get this straight, you're ok with the proliferation of far-right rhetoric regardless of how damaging it can be to society, but you don't agree with the free speech to protest against said rhetoric?? That makes no sense at all and actually exposes that some on the Left are picking sides in this debate. You can't support the free speech of white supremacists, then get agitated and annoyed by the free speech protests of people who will fight against that.
Free speech is a two-way street. If the free speech protests against Milo and Spencer cause them to get drowned out...then so be it. That's fair game. The 1st Amendment protects the right to use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages (according to Cohen v California in 1971), but does not protect against counter-protest and the 1st amendment also does not apply to ordinary citizens. It is a law against state repression of speech, which of course protests are not. So as badly as some want to silence the protests against the proliferation of far-right rhetoric, there really isn't a damn thing they can do about it but expose how badly they want white supremacists to have a voice.