I think there’s a bit of excess white-maleness on the FRCF, but it’s good that we get a decent degree of diversity of perspective around here.
From another thread:
I can see that I’m in danger of being guilty of some degree of this here and now. It’s likely that many of you have heard all this before, but my goal isn’t to explain things to people.
Free speech, like so many other topics in society, especially political ones, is a complex issue. Perhaps there are others who are capable of doing it, but if I simply attempted to figure everything out of my own accord by reading and without getting interactive feedback from other people I doubt I would succeed in reaching the right conclusions.
So thus I’d much rather take Naoza’s approach, i.e. to put my thinking out here in the open; that way someone can, in Naoza’s words,
Hopefully that’s a good enough approach, because I really don’t see an alternative. There’s an important discussion to be had here, and I’d rather have it than not.
Before I go any further, I’d like to say that like no_fun_girl I also don’t know shit about shit, and unlike her I do happen to be a white male so I probably know even less shit. This kind of stuff is pretty far outside the areas of my expertise.
This is a really important point, especially that last one.
The U.S. has a long history of the suppression of minorities and suppression of their free speech, and all of this is despite the fact that the First Amendment has been around since 1791. That history continues even today; you need only look at the current President of the United States to see that it’s still happening today. Perhaps it’s simply the case the use of the power of the state to silence minorities is simply inevitable, and the social norms, institutions and legal frameworks we construct around it are completely powerless to do anything about it… But I don’t think so.
The U.S. has come a long way as far as de jure freedom of speech is concerned, and a lot of that rests on the cultural norms y’all have over there. The U.S. takes the notion of free speech very seriously; seriously enough that it really can be applied to minorities and not just those in power. Other countries around the world do this as well, and while they (and the U.S.) have their issues, I think it represents a huge amount of progress in the last few centuries.
I think that nagging voice is worth taking seriously, and I really don’t think it’s a good idea to try to rehearse this concept in your head until that nagging voice goes away.
The Patriot Act was a seriously problematic law when Bush signed it in 2001, and that’s still the case today. Now, the law is the law and since it’s in there one could definitely make a case for using it against the likes of the KKK, but… even if you can somehow make the case that it would be legal for the U.S. government to step in and arrest everyone at the Nazi march, that doesn’t make it a good idea. Wearing away at the norms around free speech is a dangerous thing.
Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions have led a concerted effort to push back the civil rights of minorities, but without the norms of free speech and the likes of the ACLU to defend those norms things could be much worse. If we lived in a world where those norms were eroded, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the likes of Donald Trump were to declare anyone who supports the Black Lives Matter movement to be giving material support to terrorists, and subsequently put those people in jail. That kind of society is really only a few steps away from our current one, and the biggest things that stand in the way of that society are the social constructs we’ve built around the idea of free speech, and the institutions (like the ACLU) that stand for those things.
So yeah, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to use the law to restrict free speech in cases like this one. Even when we’re talking about literal Nazis like in Charlottesville, I think the ACLU gets it right when they choose to defend their free speech rights.
All in all, a completely absolutist position on de jure free speech might be a little simplistic, but the kinds of situations where that position really does go wrong are so few and far between that it pretty much doesn’t matter.