Apparently, the first piece I read was incorrect. Per NPR, the initial venue was not deemed safe and Coulter rejected the alternate venues that UC Berkeley suggested and/or she backed out because conservative groups backed out of sponsoring her speech.
I must say that free speech does not equal an entitlement to any given venue for any given speech nor does it equate to consequence-free speech. I do not advocate for any threats against Coulter’s safety, but I simply cannot see how her choosing not to use one of the alternative venues and/or not having sponsors constitutes a curtailing of her right to free speech.
If she backed out of her own accord, for whatever reason, then yes, free speech hasn’t been violated.
Of course, if the reason she had to back out was because of the possibility of violence from those opposed to her speech, then it is still wrong, even if it the university cannot be blamed for trying to make every reasonable effort possible to give her a safe venue for her speech.
I may lean left, but I don’t care if you’re left-wing or right-wing: using violence to suppress speech you don’t like is just plain wrong.
Based on your linked article I have to change my position on this from I fully support the ACLU to my support of the ACLU is contingent on what actually occurred re: who backed out when.
If safety couldn’t be guaranteed then I’d say the school and police are well within their rights to withdraw their invitation despite being public. If she declined alternative venues then she has no rights to complain her rights were violated.
In fact I’d say the ACLU’s claim to being right hinges on some pretty narrow circumstances. Namely that they refused to let her speak and didn’t propose alternative dates or venues.
In Constitutional law, there are a number of First Amendment cases about something that’s now called the "Heckler’s Veto. The Heckler’s veto comprises either of two situations in which a person who disagrees with a speaker’s message is able to unilaterally trigger events that
result in the speaker being silenced.
In the strict legal sense, a heckler’s veto occurs when the speaker’s right is curtailed or restricted by the government in order to prevent a reacting party’s behavior. The common example is the termination of a speech or demonstration in the interest of maintaining the public peace based on the anticipated negative reaction of someone opposed to that speech or demonstration.
In the United States, case law regarding the heckler’s veto is mixed. Most findings say that the
acting party’s actions cannot be preemptively stopped due to fear of heckling by the reacting party, but in the immediate face of violence, authorities can force the acting party to cease their action in order to satisfy the hecklers.
The best known case involving the heckler’s veto is probably Feiner v. New York, handed down by the Supreme Court in 1951. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, writing for the majority, held that police officers acted within their power in arresting a speaker if the arrest was “motivated solely by a proper concern for the preservation of order and protection of the general welfare”.
In Gregory v. Chicago, Justice Hugo Black, in a concurring opinion, argued that arresting demonstrators as a consequence of unruly behavior of by-standers would amount to a heckler’s veto.
It was rejected in Hill v. Colorado, where the Supreme Court rejected the “Heckler’s Veto,” finding “governmental grants of power to private actors” to be “constitutionally problematic” in cases where “the regulations allowed a single, private actor to unilaterally silence a speaker”.
They have to. The Trump troll army of white nationalists keep trying to provoke people at Berkeley into street fights by:
Being as provocative as possible by invading a Liberal liberal area and ‘marching’ to promote neo-Nazi and white nationalist ideas.
Being as provocative as possible verbally by threatening and mocking anyone in the area they percieved as liberal.
Being as provocative as possible with Nazi symbology on display, and performing Nazi salutes.
Knowing that there is a strong antifascist presence in the area, who will happily meet force with force.
Inciting violence with known internet celebrities like shit-pile-masquerading-as-a-human “Based Stickman”.
Make no mistake, the white nationalists know exactly what they’re doing. They’ll cry about free speech when their goal is to use it to harm others. They’ll whine about their opposition bringing sticks or brass knuckles while bringing motorcycle helmets and staves and shields to beat people with, even encouraging people to bring more weapons and improvised armor to better beat and attack people with. They’ll complain about their opponents being the real enemy who attacks innocent people and vandalizes buildings, while doing the same.
The trumpets are the antagonists and instigators, and Berkeley PD has no real options by to shut down everyone for the public safety.
I’m having trouble with the whole situation. Free speech is something I inalienably support. It’s of profound importance to me. I don’t feel the need to explain why, it’s self evident.
Yet in these times I see free speech being used as a weapon to harm others, like a fist or a club. I’m not for free clubs.
I don’t like half measures where the solution is something along the lines of “your speech is free except when I say it isn’t”. Exceptions to free speech in my view thus far require a pretty demonstrable show of harm. Such as yelling fire in a crowded building where there’s bodies to account for, or something with a long court battle like a liable or slander case.
The antifa movement is, at it’s core, advocating for “your speech is free except when I say it isn’t”. For me, that’s a hard pill to swallow and yet I’m sitting here racking my brain and cannot come up with something better. We have a huge fascist problem and I’m not seeing any way to deal with it besides making some amount of free speech illegal.
FWIW it’s a bit easier when it’s something easy to define like a confederate flag or a nazi flag or a certain solute. So it wouldn’t be like attempting to look into a person on the street’s brain and determine if they’re a nazi at heart. But even when it is clearly defined like displaying an abhorrent flag… I just don’t like the idea of those in power having the ability to pick and choose what is ok to say.
Yet there’s clear and present danger that that would address. I’m hemming and hawing now but I’m really torn here. On what side do I compromise my beliefs? Do we all get a bit less free and hope the power to do it again is never used against us or do we let fascists run wild?
My biggest issue with blanket ideologies is the tendency to judge them theoretically more than by consequence or practice. A simple model imposed on a complicated world is bound to fail on some level. Not to say free speech is bad, but it does not exist in isolation of the power dynamics and cultural hierarchies. It does not have merit simply by existing, but through use. Free speech is a burden to confront abhorrent ideas and be confronted, not to accept them.
I have to apologize but I actually do not understand this sentence:
I understand the rest. I would argue you have to judge blanket ideologies theoretically. If you judge them by consequence you’ve fundamentally changed the ideology. Instead of being a rule applied equally to all, it’s a rule that attempts to establish a subjective favorable outcome. This works when the right thing to do is obvious but fails when there’s no clear right answer.
If there’s no clear right answer you have nothing to fall back on and it’s left to the… subjective taste of the judge in that particular instance. If you make every decision based on a theoretical interpretation of the ideology then sometimes you may end up with some unfavorable outcomes but the result should always be clearer.
There is no reason to judge far right ideas by anything but the history of those ideas in practice and the literal stated goals of these movements today. It is the duty of anyone who isn’t a shitlord to confront them at all opportunities.
Agreed, but said non-shitlord shouldn’t escalate things more than necessary. I’m all for trying to embarrass far-right wackos by asking them pointed, intelligent questions that they either cannot answer, look like a fool for answering, or chicken out instead of even attempting an answer. Loud heckling and drowning out the wacko will probably just feed the base without helping the more clueless see just how insane the wacko is. Now, if the wacko starts yelling and shouting, then go ahead and reciprocate. Same if the wacko escalates to violence. Or, in short, never start a fight, but always finish it.
In my view by doing what you’re doing, you ARE judging far right ideas theoretically. I have no issue confronting far right ideas and it has cost me friends and family. This isn’t about far right ideas, this is about 2 conflicting principals I hold. They are:
Free speech is important.
Fascists are a huge problem and must be dealt with.
The fact that they are conflicting brings about a third principal.
Blanket solutions are often the best ones, there’s not much room for nuance when it comes to large amounts of people, say with things like law.
You can see an example of what I’m talking about with this third principal in 2001:
Today, thick heeled shoes are the type of nazi speech the antifa want made illegal. So what’s the everyone must take their shoes off version of making nazi speech illegal? Because if we’re gonna do anything, I wanna do that.
I haven’t put too much thought into what that looks like but every version I come up with is kinda draconian. Say, making talking about fascism in any form illegal, full stop. This would have the side effect of criminalizing support groups for victims of fascism.
The more I think about it the more annoying it becomes.
Do you think there’s a problem with free speech when threats are considered free speech on the Internet and barely persecuted? Or that donating money is construed as a form of free speech? Or that someone like Alex Jones is defended by free speech despite his endorsements for public endangerment?
I believe the Internet has created a new grey zone of what’s free speech versus hate speech that never gets approached because the courts are old and don’t understand the internet or are afraid of encroaching of that “All speech is free speech” libertarian slippery slope.
I think the same thing about threats on the internet as I would about threats broadcast via numbers station. You’re as liable for them as you would be speaking them face to face but it’s often a challenge to pin down where they came from.
I don’t think donating money should be considered a form of free speech. I think the law is fucked up there, big time. This is a topic I will talk your ear off about, Lawrence Lessig said it better than I could in his book Republic Lost.
Alex Jones is a tricky one and I personally think it comes down to the distinction between language that persuades vs language that incites. I’m not willing to actually read anything he’s ever written or said, nor am I a judge qualified to make such a distinction.
I agree that there’s a grey zone presented by the internet. Which is why I usually think about my internal struggle outlined above in meatspace terms. Things like flags and parades. The internet is largely private and as such good places like here self moderate and tell fascists to gtfo. Other places are shit.
I’m sorry I probably sound like I’m defending them. I’m not, I’ll keep this to myself if ya’ll think don’t believe me. And if the overwhelming response is gtfo I’d completely understand.
The reason why some things are easier to oppose is because there is a majority social narrative that those things are bad. It is absolutely a power dynamic. Concepts of good & bad have evolved with power structures; they do not just arise from nature. Ideology allows social constructs like rights, justice, equality, objectivity to exist and be accepted, but also hides the subjectivity of their implementation behind a veneer of the divine.
Concretely, “free speech” is mostly limited to those with privilege in the form of literacy, communication platforms, access to respectability, safety, legitimacy, and authority. Geography and geographically-linked factors additionally restricted the scope, spread, and diversity of ideas. This has been complicated by globalization and the internet. It was always weaponized, just maybe that part was never pointed at you.
By saying free speech is a burden, I mean that when the government abstains from arbitrating morality, it’s up to a decentralized society. You theoretically get the same tools to justify and defend your subjectivity (or humanity) as those who disagree with you. There’s no guarantee that your opinions will be defended unless you do the defending. However, speaking freely takes time and fucks. It’s risky and exhausting. The stakes can be higher for you than your opponents. It’s complicated by the self-contradictory idea that there is an ideologically right way to be subjective, while others are just playing to win.
If you want to watch something really uncomfortable watch W Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America interview with Richard Spencer. Despite Kamau’s jovial attitude and mostly keeping it lighthearted Spencer managed to be disturbingly racist.
So having read this a few times over now and taken a day or two to mull it over, (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) a simplified version of what you said is this:
1)Some things are easier to oppose because society has largely agreed on these things over time.
2)Free speech is a privilege and there’s nothing new about it being weaponized, I’m just a bit inexperienced in it. (no argument from me, just summarizing)
3)The government abstaining from regulating speech comes with costs, mostly to the disenfranchised. Here are a few that are very hard to argue with.
Point by point:
I don’t think the flags are easier to oppose because of what they symbolize (their symbolism is exceedingly easy to oppose) I think they’re easier to oppose because they are flags. They’re objects in meatspace that I can tell at a glance if they are or aren’t nazi flags. I could write a document with picture of a swastika, put it in a law book and have it handed down and boom now they’re illegal to display publicly.
It wouldn’t be a perfect fix because what about all the minor modifications you could make to one before it stops being a hate symbol? Is it enough to change the colors or the angles? what about a plus sign with little accent marks? etc.
It’s certainly easier to outlaw than the nebulous concept of “being a nazi” because that’s a crime that exists in your head. If I could I would but it’s not possible.
The idea idea that free speech isn’t universal (within places where it is law) has never occurred to me until you put it forth here. I still need to consider the implications but for the moment I’m going with my gut reaction which is that doesn’t mean that it’s not a right, even if some are unable to make use of it due to lack of privilege.
So this is a value judgement. I don’t think it’s objective, only subjective. We as a society have to decide if we want to live in the world we live in now or the world where the government attempts to fix these problems. Given the volatility of our democracy even if I did trust the people in charge, I wouldn’t want them to make these changes because the next people may not be so trustworthy.
It’s a bit of a lose lose in my view. Do we lose more now with the issues you outlined above or would we lose more if we tried to fix them and had to live with what that ended up looking like? I put my money on the latter.