III. “The Only Remedy to be Applied is More Speech”

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

–   Justice Louis Brandeis, Whitney v. California

Before getting into the meat of this section, I have a simple question for you to consider: since the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, has the United States or any American state ever been governed by a party or individual that has openly espoused fascist or Nazi ideology?

My personal answer to that question is a simple and resounding no. Since the end of the second World War, Nazis, fascists, and their ideological brethren have been shunned not only in the United States, but across the Western world, including within the former Soviet Union and Communist bloc. Those fascist dictators who remained after 1945, like Francisco Franco of Spain, were increasingly pressured by the international community and eventually toppled in favor of democracies, but even these holdouts were few and far-between. When it comes to the United States, fascism as an ideology and Nazism especially have been publicly rebuked as a matter of course since the end of the fighting in 1945, and American neo-Nazis have been among the most despised members of society (if you could even call them that). This isn’t to say that white supremacy, a related ideology, has not had its strong adherents in the US, especially during the Jim Crow era, and that those proponents have not been ‘dictatorial’ in their methods and rhetoric (hello, George Wallace!), but even the Dixiecrats and Segregationists of the 1950s and 60s were not fascists or Nazis in the literal sense. We have also seen our fair share of American ‘authoritarian’ leaders, from President Richard Nixon, to Pat Buchanan, to our current President Donald Trump, but none of those political figures were or are Nazis either. So how have we so effectively defended our nation from the scourge of Nazi and fascist ideologies, and how have we successfully changed the minds of so many from considering white supremacy to be the norm to seeing it as wrongheaded and something to be fought against?

The answer to that question has two parts, and I am mainly concerned with only one of them in this essay, but neither works without the other. First, and less importantly in my eyes, is the role of the police and other government authorities in monitoring and enforcing the law when it comes to violent and nonviolent criminal activities carried out by these fascist and Nazi-affiliated groups. As the members of neo-Nazi and fascist groups are often ostracized and removed from society, either by their own actions or those of the community at-large, many take to criminal activity to earn income. Other members of these groups seem to delight in the criminality itself and are involved in more violent crimes than the more typical drug trafficking and firearms violations. Regardless of the rationales offered, criminal activity is criminal activity and should be prosecuted by the authorities; oftentimes the criminal actions by these white supremacists persist into the prison system, where groups like the Aryan Brotherhood build even stronger movements. Fortunately, the justice system is working to take down those prison gangs as well. These strong actions taken by state, local, and federal prosecutors and agencies are paramount for ensuring those white supremacists who do violate the law are shown the firm hand of justice, and are given little lenience when they attempt to continue their criminal activity within the penitentiaries. However, not all white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis are criminals; having an ideology that is (rightly) seen as backward, racist, horrifying, and even genocidal by most of the population isn’t a crime in the United States, and the vast majority of their public actions, including the rallies that have been held, are legal. Those who conduct themselves illegally or violently at these rallies should be treated appropriately by police as criminals (police who fail to do their duty is another story entirely), but again, simply advocating unpopular and heinous positions is not illegal.

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Police arresting a white supremacist in Charlottesville, VA   Image Credit: Dallas Morning News

This brings me to the second, and by far more important, answer to the question I posed above: the use of the very same freedoms of speech, assembly, and association guaranteed us by the First Amendment to our Constitution to counteract and defeat those ideologies we so abhor. Thanks to the framers of our Constitution who first wrote out our rights, the Supreme Court Justices who delineated the bounds of those rights, and the ACLU and other organizations who fought to preserve those rights, we have just as much ability to go forth and counter the speech and ideas of the white nationalists as they do to spew their hatred and bigotry. Yet it seems to me that many in our media landscape and a large segment of those who are deeply opposed to the white supremacist groups do not want to use this Constitutionally built-in method of rectifying the problem and would rather either shut the ‘hate speech’ down completely or oppose it not through speech, but instead through violence. I find both of these ideological solutions to be reactionary in nature and fundamentally anti-American. For a nation which has defined itself over time not by fixed borders, ethnic/racial identity, religious fervor, or communal wealth, but instead by a common set of ideals laid out in our founding documents, these attitudes of closing down the expression of certain ideologies or directly opposing them with violent action are against all we believe in as American citizens.

Toleration of the Intolerant

In his masterpiece 1971 treatise A Theory of Justice, American political philosopher John Rawls dedicates an entire section (#35) to what he calls the issue of ‘Toleration of the Intolerant’ in a just society. This section as a whole does an excellent job of laying out an argument for why any society considering itself to be just should tolerate those who are intolerant, so if you have the chance to read it in its entirety, you absolutely should. Rawls’s argument uses the lens of religion, but still applies to the situation here, as political ideology is a personal choice, much as religious belief is. In the opening of his argument, Rawls states:

“The question, then, is whether being intolerant of another is grounds enough for limiting someone’s liberty. To simplify things, assume that the tolerant sects have the right not to tolerate the intolerant in at least one circumstance, namely, when they sincerely and with reason believe that intolerance is necessary for their own security…Justice does not require that men sit idly by while others destroy the basis of their existence.”

Within this quote, Rawls lays out the one instance in which not tolerating the intolerant would be allowable within a just society, and that is when the intolerant pose a significant danger to “the basis of their existence,” with ‘their’ in this case being the tolerant. This, however, does not give the tolerant a free license to be intolerant to the intolerant whenever they happen to feel threatened. Rawls wants the tolerant to think before acting, especially when they live within what would be considered a ‘just’ society, which has a legal constitution, equal liberty, and rule of law. He continues by saying:

“If an intolerant sect appears in a well-ordered society, the others should keep in mind the inherent stability of their institutions. The liberties of the intolerant may persuade them to a belief in freedom. This persuasion works on the psychological principle that those whose liberties are protected by and who benefit from a just constitution will, other things equal, acquire an allegiance to it over time.”

Rawls is arguing that the “inherent stability” of the constitutional institutions of a just society will counteract the intolerance that is brought on by those who are intolerant, and the tolerant, along with the societal institutions, should ultimately win out. His belief in liberty is fundamentally in concert with the American Constitution, and fits in well with the model of free speech and assembly our nation’s framers laid out in our founding documents. He believes that living over time within a just society with a focus on liberty and equality will ultimately engender a respect and “allegiance” to the constitution and society, even from those who were initially intolerant. Rawls, however, is not naïve, and understands that there are circumstances in which this view will not hold. He writes (emphasis added):

“The conclusion, then, is that while an intolerant sect does not itself have title to complain of intolerance, its freedom should be restricted only when the tolerant sincerely and with reason believe that their own security and that of the institutions of liberty are in danger. The tolerant should curb the intolerant only in this case.”

John Rawls
John Rawls   Image Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

This passage is very important, as it states Rawls’s view that the intolerant should only be limited or curbed when the tolerant “sincerely and with reason” think that there is a danger to their own security, as well as “that of the institutions of liberty.” The latter half of that statement is critical. Not only does one have to fear for her personal safety, but the safety of the “institutions of liberty”, which are the governmental institutions, as well as the civil society organizations, that allow us as a whole to live in a just, well-ordered society. Far too often, we hear that there is a ‘threat of violence’ against individuals or groups gathered to hear a speech or protest it, which is then used as grounds for limiting the rights of the intolerant, yet Rawls argues here that threats of interpersonal violence are not sufficient for limitation of rights. I personally agree with him, as the authorities in a just and well-ordered society can police actual violence if and when it occurs. Mere threats of violence should not be grounds for limitation of rights. Rawls continues with a warning on limiting the intolerant:

“Finally, it should be noted that even when the freedom of the intolerant is limited to safeguard a just constitution, this is not done in the name of maximizing liberty. The liberties of some are not suppressed simply to make possible a greater liberty for others.”

Here, he touches on an issue that I find is quite relevant to today’s discussions around limiting the First Amendment freedoms of white supremacists. Many times, I’ve seen the case for restricting so-called ‘hate speech’ laid out as a way to benefit various minority groups; this is basically exactly what Rawls is arguing against in this passage. When the liberty of one group is cast aside in favor of the liberty of another group, we all lose, as it means that liberty is no longer protected for any of us.

Trading in the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’

John Rawls is not the only one who thought about speech and assembly in the way he did; some of the Supreme Court Justices I discussed in Part I felt the same way and wrote about it in their opinions. In his famous Whitney v. California concurrence, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote about the same concept Rawls did, in terms of the ‘threat of violence’ not being enough to justify limitation of rights. He just happened to write about this nearly 50 years prior to Rawls, so it is clear that this strain of ideation has a long history within 20th Century American thought and jurisprudence. Brandeis ‘agreed’ with Rawls that personal violence is only part of the equation, and wrote (emphasis added):

“The fact that speech is likely to result in some violence or in destruction of property is not enough to justify its suppression. There must be the probability of serious injury to the State. Among free men, the deterrents ordinarily to be applied to prevent crime are education and punishment for violations of the law, not abridgment of the rights of free speech and assembly.”

As with Rawls, the key part here is “to the State”, as Justice Brandeis is arguing that speech and assembly cannot be denied simply for the probability of interpersonal violence or property destruction, but only for damage occurring to the State apparatus itself. This essentially limits forbidden speech or assembly to that which can topple or significantly damage the institutions of the State, and I think we all know that the vast majority of speech acts would not qualify under this strict and rigorous standard. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writes similarly in his widely cited dissent in the Abrams v. United States (1919) case:

“But, as against dangers peculiar to war, as against others, the principle of the right to free speech is always the same. It is only the present danger of immediate evil or an intent to bring it about that warrants Congress in setting a limit to the expression of opinion where private rights are not concerned. Congress certainly cannot forbid all effort to change the mind of the country.”

Here, Justice Holmes revisits his ‘clear and present danger’ standard from Schenck, yet follows it up by stating that Congress cannot try to stop all those who wish to “change the mind of the country,” even though those who do may end up harming Congress or its aims with their speech or assembly. In conflicts like this, where there is a difference of opinion and multiple sides are clashing, Holmes believed that the sides should argue it out and the best ideas would win in the competition of what came to be known as ‘the marketplace of ideas’. That celebrated concept was first espoused in writing by Justice Holmes in his Abrams dissent, as he wrote (emphasis added):

“To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

In this excerpt, Justice Holmes delineates his concept of the ‘marketplace of ideas’, where “free trade in ideas” can best allow the public to decide which ideas are closest to the truth and which are going to be best for society and government. In his line, “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” he lays out the basic premise of what many conservatives believe should be the model of free speech in the modern day: an open discourse of all ideas, with the listener being able to select which ideas she believes are best. Holmes, in the above passage, notes that this model is what is implicitly described in our Constitution and is, as “all life is,” an experiment. He goes on to say that in this model, citizens have an obligation to be “eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death,” as the silencing of those opinions can forebode the culling of more societally acceptable opinions as well. Holmes does, however, realize that some of these abhorrent opinions can be harmful to the nation, and countenances checking expression in these cases only if the expression “so imminently threaten[s] immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.” The key in that statement is the ending phrase, “save the country,” as it raises the stakes for censorship to take place to expressions that threaten the very survival of our nation as a whole. This opinion and the high stakes for stopping free expression jibes very well with the later writings of both Justice Brandeis and John Rawls that I discussed above.

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The ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ in action.    Image Credit: US News & World Report

By trading within the ‘marketplace of ideas’, citizens can not only freely espouse their own ideas and opinions, they are able to listen to and understand the opinions, ideas, and arguments of those with whom they disagree on a multitude of important civic issues. With the increasing push from the political left to completely shut down speech, assembly, or expression that they find to be hateful, denigrating, or just not acceptable to their values, those shutting down speech are losing an important opportunity to better understand the arguments and ideas of their political ‘enemies’ or those whom they view as political non-entities. This silencing of ‘offensive’ speech is only going to hurt those who are doing the silencing, as it will severely hamper their ability to effectively argue their ideas when it comes to that point. These difficult ideas are not being eliminated, they are merely being pushed underground. As Justice Brandeis said in his Whitney concurrence, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” I heartily agree with Justice Brandeis on this, as only through education, argumentation, and reason can one convince another to change her mind; silencing one’s opinions through force of action will only entrench that person’s ideas and make them both angrier and further embedded within the culture of the ideas that are silenced. This is not a productive way to move forward, as our Constitution guarantees the freedoms of speech and assembly; at some point those on the left will be forced to confront those ideas with which they are so uncomfortable. If the left ends up encountering those ideas after having avoided interacting with them for years, if not decades, they will be in a poor position to counter the arguments presented with real facts and solid reasoning. The arguments espoused by white nationalists and neo-Nazis are not well-reasoned, grounded in facts, or scientifically accurate, so it should not be difficult to roundly defeat them in a serious ideological challenge, yet without previously interacting with those arguments, one will be caught flat-footed and ill-prepared for what may seem like an onslaught. We serve ourselves better by listening to those with whom we disagree and challenging ourselves to understand the arguments they are making from their perspective, no matter how difficult that may be. We need not agree, nor even say that one’s opinion is legitimate in a modern society, yet hearing someone out and debating their ideas in a public forum is the best way to counteract toxic ideologies. Avoiding problematic or painful ideas and opinions entirely is simply not a useful way to deal with the impact and effects of those concepts.

We have seen many efforts at this type of mass avoidance of ‘touchy’ subjects on a public scale before, and they generally don’t work; not only that, people on the left side of the political spectrum have fought tooth and nail against these avoidant strategies for dealing with public issues. One example of avoidance in public health is the infamous “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign from the 1980s and 1990s. This advocacy effort was focused on getting youth to stop using illegal drugs through the power of personal will, and just saying “no” to drug use. Obviously, this didn’t work for many reasons, least of which is that the program did a poor job of addressing real challenges like peer pressure and social expectations, and instead focused on ridiculous depictions of drug use and its consequences. “Just Say No” is accordingly seen as a failure by most regular citizens and politicians on both sides of the aisle today. Another public health issue that was dealt with through mass avoidance strategies is teen pregnancy and teenage sexual activity in general. During the George W. Bush administration, and at the state level even through today, abstinence-only sex education became the norm across the country. This strategy teaches that people should avoid all sexual contact until being in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage, which is not only biased against same-sex couples, but is also incredibly out-of-touch with how teens and people in general actually live their lives. It has since been shown that abstinence-only programs do an extremely poor job of preparing teens for the actual sexual experiences that they will encounter and participate in, and has not reduced the levels of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases whatsoever. The political left has been against these types of programs, both “Just Say No” and abstinence-only sex education, from the start, showing that they obviously understand that mass avoidance strategies don’t work, yet they are today choosing to follow that exact same path when it comes to our fundamental Constitutionally-protected freedoms of speech and assembly. Why is that, and why do they wish to avoid the topic which seems to make them so uncomfortable instead of challenging it head-on and defeating it through rhetoric, speech, and factual information? As with abstinence-only sex education and the “Just Say No” program, attempting to silence all ‘controversial’ or ‘hateful’ speech will completely backfire and end up attracting more people to the opposite side of the spectrum, just as happened with the aforementioned conservative programs.

Why Violence Always Fails

As sad and painful as the attempts to ‘shut down’ or silence ‘offensive’ speech are to me, a newer and more disturbing trend has reared its ugly head over the past 2 years or so: the countenancing of violence to halt the nonviolent expression of views which one finds ‘offensive’. To me, these actions are by far the most structurally threatening to our republic, institutions, and fundamental freedoms. The rise and increased popularity of groups like Antifa are honestly something I cannot fathom as someone who values the free expression and open sharing of ideas, no matter how vile the expression may be. As I have laid out (in quite a lengthy manner) throughout this essay, the history of our nation and our jurisprudence shows that the mere ‘threat of violence’ against persons or the threatening content of one’s speech not only does not violate the law, it is fully protected by the Constitution and nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent. That a masked, armed group can join a fully legitimate, peaceful protest (without pushback from protestors) and then proceed to physically, violently attack those who the protest is designed to peacefully counter through speech and expression is execrable. Those who defend the actions of Antifa and related groups by saying that the group is simply acting in ‘community self-defense’, also seem to denigrate the role of police in society and the widely accepted societal theory coined by Max Weber that the State should have a “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force” to ensure a stable society. I do not condone any violent actions by any protestors, and I believe anyone committing a violent act against persons or property should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, so the fact that the direct, specific purpose of Antifa’s existence at protest events is to “confront [Nazis] in the streets,” ensure that “all far-right events will be bombarded and besieged,” and to get into the “fightin’-Nazis business,” bothers me a great deal. None of these quotes belie a higher purpose of ensuring that those with a right to speak are heard, or those who are allowed legally to assemble are able to do so, or even a fundamental orientation towards peaceful protest or civil disobedience; in fact, they show the exact opposite: a direct plan to harass those who have a right to speak and assemble, using “any means necessary,” including violence.

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Antifa members attacking demonstrator in Berkeley, CA.    Image Credit: Washington Post

Some defenders of these violent tactics rely on history as a guide, and state that only direct confrontation and physical action will be able to halt the rise of fascism in the United States. They say that the police and the State do not do enough to protect vulnerable communities, and actually allow these ‘dangerous’ white supremacist groups the right to speak and assemble freely, something that Antifa activists do not believe they should be granted. Antifascists in general “don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering, they want to do so themselves,” effectively cancelling the ‘monopoly on legitimate violence’ that Weber found so important to the survival of a State. The interpretation of history these Antifa defenders rely on to bolster their ideology of street combat is flawed, and directly misinterprets how societies as a whole fell to fascism or fought it off in the era prior to World War II. This historical understanding, or lack thereof, is critical to the argument that Antifa is making in defense of its tactics today, and must be carefully deconstructed to effectively understand why the tactics of violence are fatally flawed when opposing fascism or related ideologies like white supremacy. In brief, here is a summary of the antifascist view of early 20th Century fascism in Europe, from an author who considers herself an ally of the Antifa movement:

“The history of anti-fascism in 20th-century Europe is largely one of fighting squads, like the international militant brigades fighting Franco in Spain, the Red Front Fighters’ League in Germany who were fighting Nazis since the party’s formation in the 1920s, the print workers who fought ultra-nationalists in Austria, and the 43 Group in England fighting Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. In every iteration these mobilizations entailed physical combat. The failure of early-20th-century fighters to keep fascist regimes at bay speaks more to the paucity of numbers than the problem of their direct confrontational tactics.”

Natasha Lennard, the author of the above quote, goes on to detail how antifascist actions after World War II were far more effective in Europe and the US, sometimes using very similar tactics as the pre-war activists used. She claims this is largely due to larger numbers, as in the prior quote she blames the failure of pre-war antifascists in places like Germany, Austria, and Spain on “paucity of numbers.” I contend that this is a fundamentally incorrect reading of the history of this time period, and shows that Ms. Lennard is trying to fit the history to a preordained conclusion she has reached.

As an historical example, I’ll look at the most infamous case of fascism in Europe, the German Nazi party of the 1920s and 1930s, which is also referenced by Ms. Lennard. The lessons from this example apply equally well to the other examples she raised in her passage, as similar effects took place in Austria, Italy, and Spain. The German Nazi party was not largely popular during the 1920s, and attempted to take power by force during what is known as the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ of 1923, a brief failed coup in Munich that ended with over a dozen Nazis dead in the streets and Hitler in prison for treason. During Hitler’s time in prison, he wrote his biography-cum-manifesto ‘Mein Kampf’ and decided on a different set of tactics for the Nazis to take power in Germany: somewhat peacefully via the political process. When Hitler left prison, he proceeded to increase his political power through politicking, as well as re-assembling his Sturmabteilung, also known as the ‘SA’ or ‘Brownshirts’, to help intimidate civilian populations and fight his Communist enemies on the streets. Hitler often used the imagery of the SA fighting the Communist ‘thugs’ in the streets of German cities to advocate for more political power for the Nazis, as he would contend that with more control over government, the Nazis could put a stop to the street violence for good. This message played very well with the populace, and both the SA and the Nazi party grew over time. The growth of the SA helped protect Nazi rallies, project power and strength, and gave positions of ‘authority’ to those in the ranks of the working class and unemployed who joined up. The Communists fighting against the Nazis had none of the decisive advantages the Nazis had, and did not have a leader like Hitler ready to use the violence he was partially responsible for to gain power for himself. By the mid-1930s, the Nazis were the largest political party in Germany and Hitler was well on his way to being Chancellor, cementing his rise to power. More Communists in the streets would not have changed this calculus; it would have only hastened the rise of Hitler, as his messaging around the street clashes is clearly what helped him win the political power he gained over time. This was not his only message, but it was one of his strongest; for example, if you look at the earliest prisoners sent to the first concentration camp established at Dachau, just outside of Munich, you will see that most of them were Communists and other political prisoners, not Jews. It was far more acceptable in German society at the time to punish Communists for their ‘treachery’ against the State, as Hitler over time successfully demonized his enemies in this regard.

When it comes to the success of certain nations at not succumbing to fascism, such as the US and Great Britain, I believe that there is significant historical evidence that those nations addressed the underlying problems that gave rise to fascism, namely a poor economy, lack of jobs, and a tense global situation, better than their fascist-leaning neighbors did. In the US, for example, FDR’s ‘New Deal’ programs helped boost the economy, create jobs to help ameliorate the mass unemployment also found in Hitler’s Germany, and increased the country’s manufacturing base, again, as did Hitler once he gained power. These non-fascist interventions succeeded in the US in a similar way, albeit longer-term, that fascist interventions worked for a time in Germany and Italy. As for the relative ease of antifascist organizing in Europe and the US in the post-WWII world, I would contend that it was far easier to convince someone of the demerits of fascism when the scars of the war fought over that ideology which consumed the continent were still fresh in the minds of many than it was when those scars did not yet exist. It is easier to decry Hitler, Mussolini, and their ideological brethren when the heinous results of their policies are clearly visible in the form of charred bodies and ruins of bombarded factories, than when those policies are simply figments of man’s imagination.

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Alt-right Rally in Washington, DC in Summer 2017. It drew less than 100 supporters.     Image Credit: Newsweek

Taking these historical lessons to today, we find some disheartening parallels. The threat from fascist groups in the United States and in Europe is far smaller than it was in the pre-WWII days, thankfully, yet antifascist organizers are responding as if we are dealing with a full-fledged SA on the march. The rally in Charlottesville which injured so many and killed one protestor had perhaps several hundred poorly-organized white nationalist demonstrators involved; the SA at its apex had over 2 million men in its well-organized, military-style ranks. At the time of the SA’s peak power, Hitler had already become Chancellor and the Nazi party was the largest political party in Germany; even if one considers President Trump a Hitler analog (I don’t, for many reasons), in no way are white supremacists the majority party in the United States. In cases like ours, today, physically fighting nonviolent demonstrators, no matter how despicable their cause, is a losing strategy. It cannot help but make those being fought violently seem ‘good’, even if they are not. All this does is lose the potential for converts to one’s own side, and increase the likelihood of nonpartisan observers to see the opposing cause as more sympathetic. Violence in general is a poor tactical choice and an even worse strategic one, as it hurts in the immediate term and throws away valuable political capital in the long run.

Standing Up for Our Values

Altogether, shutting down ‘hate speech’, white supremacists, far-right thought, or any sort of ideology or assembly that is seen as not conforming with the ‘appropriate’ and acceptable view in society is fundamentally counter to our most basic American rights and values. We set out in our Constitution to “make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble,” but the actions taken by some in our society in response to a tiny cadre of white men with a host of easily-debunked, hackneyed ideas backed by pseudoscience and poorly-translated tomes are both an overreaction and an egregious violation of the rights of not only these sad, lonely Internet trolls, but of all of us who care about a free society. Argument and rational discussion are the foundation of logical discourse in society, and to expose the decrepit, rank ideologies of white supremacy and fascism to the light of reason will do nothing less than render them entirely toothless. Again, I ask: How did we keep America out of Nazi hands for the past 70 years? Were we constantly fighting against SA battalions on the streets of New York, Boston, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles? Or did we just see and hear the ideas of fascism and white supremacy and decide that those ideas were the rantings of fools and madmen? Were we taught how to properly violently assault Nazi demonstrators, or did we learn about the evils of Hitler and fascism, and why those ideas have no place in an open, free society that values liberty and justice?

In the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong defender of the freedoms of speech and assembly:

“We have nothing to fear from the demoralizing reasonings of some, if others are left free to demonstrate their errors and especially when the law stands ready to punish the first criminal act produced by the false reasonings; these are safer corrections than the conscience of the judge.”

We do not need or want the masked vigilantism of Antifa, or the anti-speech crusades of the far-left. We want and need the unmasking light of logic, speech, debate, and ideation. Now is not time for street brawling, it is time for reasoned argument. It isn’t time to sharpen one’s knives, but one’s wit.

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