As usual, extremist groups are claiming that they are fighting for freedom. And in the process, freedom is being infringed for the rest of us. So the question is, who’s right? Is anybody right (besides those who are “far-right”)? It’s sort of a chicken-and-egg problem. And as the headline suggests, even the words “right” and “correct” are opposites, these days.
The Alt-Right complains that AntiFa stifles free speech, and well, they’re obviously right about that. But AntiFa says it’s important to stop rightwing extremists before they get too much power—because the Nazis took over Germany because average folks didn’t fight back. Well, that’s true, too. Note this actual footage and interviews at Charlottesville.
In fact, one of the Alt-Right groups is the “Three Percenters.” They get their name from the claim that only three percent of colonists actually fought in the Revolutionary War, while the “silent majority” stayed home, following their normal routines. If a rag-tag three percent could defeat the world’s great empire, maybe we should be concerned about any tiny group of extremists. But who’s at fault here?
As a chicken-and-egg question, this building confrontation could be blamed first on AntiFa. They are not just trying to fight marches and riots. They’re preventing speeches by civil people like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter.
Rightists would say that’s because the left know they are wrong, and don’t want anyone to hear the truth. Although, to be fair, the University responded by inviting Steve Bannon, Yiannopoulos, and Coulter to speak during their, “free speech week.”
There’s also the issue of general political correctness. Rightists say that the left stifles free speech on a daily basis, including the use of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings,” trying to protect “snowflakes” who are too weak to survive the “heat” of open idea exchange, as noted by InfoWars.
The following is one definition of “safe spaces” that comes from Wikipedia…
Advocates for Youth states on their website that a safe-space is “A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or challenged on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect, dignity and feelings and strongly encourage everyone to respect others. . .
According to dictionary.com, a “trigger warning” is “a stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma.”. . .
Now that we have defined “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, I am going to define a term that I used in the title of this article.
“Wussification” is the act of turning someone into a “wussy”. And urbandictionary.com defines “wussy” in the following manner…
A person with no guts. A person who whines all day and sits around and cries like a little baby for years over nothing. Will blow anything out of proportion and create drama to forget about their sad miserable lives.
This kind of overprotection begins with “helicopter parents,” who hover over their precious children, making sure they are safe and happy—all the time. The overly scheduled day of the typical child today is a far cry from “the old days,” when kids would go out after dinner and really nobody knew what they were doing—until they had to come home “when the street lights come on.” Likewise summers, when parents barely saw their kids, because they were out doing God-knows-what, with God-knows-whom. We survived. Well, those of us who didn’t die, that is.
Today’s kids don’t seem to have much control over their lives. When they’re not plugged into preprogrammed video killing games, they’re on a tight schedule of swimming class, judo class, dance class, soccer practice, and so on. Not much time to think. Or to develop.
But is there a limit to free speech? The old saying was that you can say anything except to falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theatre. But wait. It’s now actually ok to do that.
The idea of falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater arose from the Supreme Court’s 1919 decision in the case Schenck v. United States. The Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment, though it protects freedom of expression, does not protect dangerous speech. In the decision, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that no free speech safeguard would cover someone “falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” . . .
But since 1969, for speech to break the law, it can’t merely lead others to dangerous situations. It must directly encourage others to commit specific criminal actions of their own. . . Charles Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, had spoken to group members at a televised Ohio rally. He’d used inflammatory language and racial slurs. He’d called for “revengeance,” which Ohio prosecutors interpreted as a call to violence. This meant, said the prosecutors, that Charles Brandenburg had broken the law. . .[But] His appeal reached the Supreme Court, and the Court agreed with him, in contrast with the earlier Schenck decision. Advocacy, even when it encourages law-breaking, helps the marketplace of ideas, ruled the Court. Had Brandenburg instructed followers to commit a specific crime, he’d have committed a number of offenses himself. But the First Amendment protects speech that merely advocates general, indefinite illegal action.
However, while not illegal, there is an expectation that reasonable people will condemn murder and dangerous speech, such as by the Charlottesville marchers. And it’s really not acceptable for someone to respond by condemning hatred “on many sides,” as if there were no difference in their messages or methods. And the fact that the haters claim half the population, by calling their rally, “Unite the Right” should give all Republicans pause.
The message was heard loud and clear in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu was quoted in Israel National News that he is “shocked by the expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism”. He added that “EVERYBODY should oppose such expressions of hatred.” [emphasis added]
Yet, free speech is important. This is the argument rightwingers use to encourage protest. And even the ACLU fought for the right of the Nazis and other rightist groups to march in Charlottesville. That march was a protest of “political correctness,” but of course, such activities attract the most extreme partisans. Thus, what began as a “free speech” march, devolved into an angry verbal attack against Blacks, women, and incongruously, Jews. And they brought high-powered weapons, helmets, and shields, because they wanted a fight, not just a march.
The leftists who showed up protested, also brought some weapons, including mace. Their argument is that average folks should have stopped Hitler in his tracks.
Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. . . After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism. . .
However well they think they may be “protecting” us, like “helicopter parents,” they are also restricting us—and in that way, they may be as bad as the Alt-Right they oppose.
Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. . .
Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.
No matter the intentions, violence begets violence, and you won’t end up looking good, no matter what happens. It would be good to remember the quote, attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Abraham Lincoln, and Mark Twain: “Don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get filthy, and the pig likes it.”
Sometimes the quote continues, “and onlookers can’t tell the difference.”