Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Free speech??

I've written on this before, and I just updated several posts with the tag Free speech to make them easier to find.  And after Charlottesville, and the mess in Berkeley on Sunday August 27, maybe it's time to restate my views.

If Nazis don't have freedom of speech, I don't have freedom of speech.

Full disclosure:  I don't like Nazis.  I'm a history buff; I've read numerous books on World War II, including twice through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  I have a very clear view of who the Nazis were and what they did to people they considered "inferior" - which included everyone except white men of "Aryan" (which meant German) descent.  They considered women inferior beings suited only to produce more Aryan male babies.  I shouldn't even have to mention what they did to Jews - and yes, the holocaust actually happened.  There may even be a few American World War II vets still alive who remember liberating those concentration camps.

I've seen no evidence that the people who call themselves Nazis today, in 2017, are any better than the ones in Germany in the '30s and '40s.  They claim to want a "whites only" nation.  They show up armed at public rallies and beat up people who disagree with them.  One of them used a car to kill an unarmed woman in Charlottesville, and injured 19 more unarmed people.

So why do I defend their ability to stand out in a square and say that white men are superior to all other human beings?  Why do I feel (and I do feel this) that it was a mistake for GoDaddy, Google, Cloudflare, and Network Solutions to shut down the Daily Stormer web site?  Network Solutions hosted the site; the others merely turned off indexing.  When your site host shuts you down, you are down.

I defend them because if the Nazis can't publish and distribute their views, how can we consider those views and dispute their validity?  If we don't know what the Nazis think, how can we counter their arguments?  History tells us that if a group is not allowed to speak publicly, they will find ways to spread their views privately to their supporters (look up samizdat if you don't know what it is).

Further and more important, who gets to decide what speech is allowable?  At the moment, freedom of speech for Nazi viewpoints has been shut down, not by the U.S. government, but by Cloudflare (whose president at least expressed some concerns about his actions), GoDaddy, Google, and Network Solutions.  What is my recourse if Google (who supports Hedera's Corner through Blogger.com) decides that my blog is inflammatory and should be shut down?  What is your recourse if you publish a position that some tech titan decides is offensive?

Let me be clear here. I'm talking about speech, which may be published in a book or newspaper, written on the Internet, or shouted in a public square.  I am not talking about the freedom of Nazis to turn up in a public square, carrying weapons and shields and wearing body armor, and try to beat the stuffing out of anybody who shows up to dispute their views peacefully.  What they did in Charlottesville was illegal and inexcusable, and not an exercise of free speech (although it was extremely Nazi).  Nazis cannot be allowed to beat people up and destroy property (and even kill people).  But they must be allowed freely to distribute their disgusting opinions, so we can all see and judge them for what they stand for.  I hope that when Americans can be fully aware of what Nazis stand for, only a minority of them will agree, and the majority will reject them.

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