Hate Speech is Fascism, not Freedom

I am losing my tolerance for the disingenuous protection of hate speech as “free speech.” I used to say, “Let the assholes out themselves,” when it came to bigotry. But what does that accomplish? What do you do with white supremacists after they “out themselves?” If there are no laws in place that can touch them, only laws against punching them like they deserve, then outing them only gives them more visibility. They’re like a bunch of toddlers pushing the boundaries, realizing they can do as they please and not get in trouble, so they keep pushing the walls of acceptability. As more people realize, “I can say horrible shit now? I can do whatever the fuck I want?” more people follow their example until decent society is destroyed.

Every civilized country, from which America is excluded until it gets it shit together, have laws against hate speech. Germany was only able to squash Nazi ideology through persistent prosecution. They decided that free speech doesn’t cover the evil specifically designed to oppress (or fuel genocide against) others. Have they eliminated it? Of course not, but they don’t give fascists a political pulpit to proselytize from. Neo Nazis are not allowed to march in the streets carrying guns. Germany learned this lesson in WWII. The Canadian Forces, after the Somalia Affair, cracked down on hate speech within their ranks because they understood that a white supremacist, given the chance, will more likely commit war crimes, especially against anyone who’s not white. They can’t entirely wipe out sexism and racism within their ranks (as I saw when I was one of them), but every soldier knew it wasn’t acceptable—that they would be in deep shit if they let bigotry off the leash. When your military is dedicated to peacekeeping abroad, every soldier is a diplomatic representative of your country. A nation is reflected in what behavior it allows.

On the internet, if you let a bunch if trolls into your parlor, if you let them bring down the house around you, you deserve all the shit you get. If you are an organization, or even just the host of a blog, you are your worst members. It doesn’t matter if you, personally, are not as toxic if other people have poisoned the air around you. It’s your job to cultivate the culture around you. This job belongs to everyone. What you tolerate becomes a part of the cloud of influence around you, around your group, around your country. People in silicon valley need to realize, if their platform turns into a toxic trash fire, it’s a design flaw. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. And if they, like the twits who run Twitter, can’t solve it, their platform deserves to die in a fire—because it’s a fire they were too negligent to put out.

The advocates who argue for total free speech, no matter the cost, argue that not giving every view, no matter how vile, a platform will simply drive them underground. This is true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take, for example, the most non-tolerated form of “expression” around the world—child pornography. Driving them underground doesn’t mean the cops don’t know where they are, and doing so makes sure they’re not out in the open grooming children. Only the pedophiles themselves argue that outlawing child porn denies them their rights, because they’re deluded into thinking it’s their right to wank off to a five-year-old being raped. The alt-right are equally deluded in thinking making death threats to others is an inalienable right. It never has been. Even the southern states have laws against libel and “fighting words.” It’s just the tide of foul speech has been such a catastrophic deluge, it’s been impossible to enforce. The other question is one of having the will to enforce it, when most of the members of the force are a bunch of good ol’ boys. Do black people in the US get the same right to free speech, the same right to bear arms? Fuck no. The police gun them down without hesitation. When free speech isn’t equal, it isn’t freedom. It’s just a farce.

The racist pieces of shit marching in Charlottesville whine that they did so legally. They had a permit. This doesn’t justify them being there. White supremacists shouldn’t have been given a permit to march though the streets, carrying guns, intimidating citizens along the way, particularly the entire congregation of a black church—which they menaced along the way because of course they did. They shouldn’t have been permitted to march through a Jewish neighborhood in 1977. Because the only reason they’re doing it is to intimidate, to oppress, to say to their non-white neighbors, “These are OUR RIGHTS, NOT YOURS.” It turns the very notion of freedom into a joke. White supremacists are terrorists. Their websites and marches are designed to recruit troops for the race war they’re trying to incite. Let’s not fool ourselves, the only reason they continually get the benefit of the doubt is by virtue of being white. They’re no different from ISIS (whose speech is rightfully policed to try to prevent them from recruiting) and ought to be treated just the same.

Removing monuments to white supremacism, removing their vile presence from social media, is not a slippery slope. It’s drawing a line. So where do we draw the line? No one’s going to drag away your grandpa for using racial slurs. We’re talking about websites that call for violence, marches through the street with guns. Issuing death threats to people who offend you ought to be illegal no matter what ideology you espouse. But I’m not making a false equivalency here. Hate speech, in particular, has been identified as a spark that leads to violence. It is a vile and violent ideology—the idea that some people are inferior to others and don’t deserve the same rights—and it has no place in civilized discourse. It is evil, pure and simple, and those who enable evil by giving it a platform on which to stand are not neutral, as they claim. They are culpable in driving unhinged idiots to shoot up a black church, or a sorority, or murder people with their car. But let’s not assume these people started out mentally ill—extremists drive normal people, people unsatisfied with their lot, to become extremists. White supremacist ideology unhinges ordinary people. It is a viral infection, and it needs to be treated as seriously as any plague.

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Sarah Dimento

The only thing interesting about me is my interest in interesting things – and sometimes I make cool shit.