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Stopping fascists from speaking makes you just as bad as them.

Free Speech FAQ

Stopping fascists from speaking makes you just as bad as them.

You could just as easily say that not stopping fascists from speaking—giving them the opportunity to organize to impose their agenda on the rest of us—makes you as bad as them. If you care about freedom, don’t stand idly by while people mobilize to take it away.

Shouldn’t we just ignore them? They want attention, and if we give it to them we’re letting them win.

Actually, fascists usually don’t want to draw attention to their organizing; they do most of it in secret for fear that an outraged public will shut them down. They only organize public events to show potential recruits that they have power, and to try to legitimize their views as part of the political spectrum. By publicly opposing fascists, we make it clear to them—and more importantly, to anyone else interested in joining them—that they will not be able to consolidate power over us without a fight. Ignoring fascists only allows them to organize unhindered, and history shows that this can be very dangerous. Better we shut them down once and for all.

The best way to defeat fascism is to let them express their views so that everyone can see how ignorant they are. We can refute them more effectively with ideas than force.

People don’t become fascists because they find their ideas persuasive; they become fascists for the same reason others become police officers or politicians: to wield power over other people. It’s up to us to show that fascist organizing will not enable them to obtain this power, but will only result in public humiliation. That is the only way to cut off their source of potential recruits. History has shown over and over that fascism is not defeated by ideas alone, but by popular self-defense. We’re told that if all ideas are debated openly, the best one will win out, but this fails to account for the reality of unequal power. Fascists can be very useful to those with power and privilege, who often supply them with copious resources; if they can secure more airtime and visibility for their ideas than we can, we would be fools to limit ourselves to that playing field. We can debate their ideas all day long, but if we don’t prevent them from building the capacity to make them reality, it won’t matter.

Neo-Nazis are irrelevant; institutionalized racism poses the real threat today, not the extremists at the fringe.

The bulk of racism takes place in subtle, everyday forms. But fascist visibility enables other right-wing groups to frame themselves as moderates, helping to legitimize the racist and xenophobic assumptions underlying their positions and the systems of power and privilege they defend. Taking a stand against fascists is an essential step toward discrediting the structures and values at the root of institutionalized racism. Here and worldwide, fascists still terrorize and murder people because of racial, religious, and sexual difference. It’s both naïve and disrespectful to their victims to gloss over the past and present realities of fascist violence. Because fascists believe in acting directly to carry out their agenda rather than limiting themselves to the apparatus of representative democracy, they can be more dangerous proportionate to their numbers than other bigots. This makes it an especially high priority to deal with them swiftly.

Free speech means protecting everyone’s right to speak, including people you don’t agree with. How would you like it if you had an unpopular opinion and other people were trying to silence you?

We oppose fascists because of what they do, not what they say. We’re not opposed to free speech; we’re opposed to the fact that they advance an agenda of hate and terror. We have no power to censor them; thanks to the “neutrality” of the capitalist market, they continue to publish hate literature in print and the internet. But we will not let them come into our communities to build the power they need to enact their hatred. The government and the police have never protected everyone’s free speech equally, and never will. It is in their self-interest to repress views and actions that challenge existing power inequalities. They will spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on riot police, helicopters, and sharpshooters to defend a KKK rally, but if there’s an anarchist rally the same police will be there to stop it, not to protect it. Anarchists don’t like being silenced by the state—but we don’t want the state to define and manage our freedom, either. Unlike the ACLU, whose supposed defense of “freedom” leads them to support the KKK and others like them, we support self-defense and selfdetermination above all. What’s the purpose of free speech, if not to foster a world free from oppression? Fascists oppose this vision;thus we oppose fascism by any means necessary.

If fascists don’t have a platform to express their views peacefully, it will drive them to increasingly violent means of expression.

Fascists are only attempting to express their views “peacefully” in order to lay the groundwork for violent activity. Because fascists require a veneer of social legitimacy to be able to carry out their program, giving them a platform to speak opens the door to their being able to do physical harm to people. Public speech promoting ideologies of hate, whether or not you consider it violent on its own, always complements and correlates with violent actions. By affiliating themselves with movements and ideologies based on oppression and genocide, fascists show their intention to carry on these legacies of violence—but only if they can develop a base of support.

Trying to suppress their voices will backfire by generating interest in them.

Resistance to fascism doesn’t increase interest in fascist views. If anything, liberals mobilizing to defend fascists on free speech grounds increases interest in their views by conferring legitimacy on them. This plays directly into their organizing goals, allowing them to drive a wedge between their opponents using free speech as a smokescreen. By tolerating racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, so-called free speech advocates are complicit in the acts of terror fascist organizing makes possible.

They have rights like everybody else.

No one has the right to threaten our community with violence. Likewise, we reject the “right” of the government and police—who have more in common with fascists than they do with us—to decide for us when fascists have crossed the line from merely expressing themselves into posing an immediate threat. We will not abdicate our freedom to judge when and how to defend ourselves.

Originally from http://thecloud.crimethinc.com/images/rt9/rt9_free_speech_faq.pdf and can be found in Rolling Thunder #9.

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Free Speech FAQ | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Response to claims I take exception to
Authored by: Nanashi on Monday, April 19 2010 @ 11:33 PM CDT

You could just as easily say that not stopping fascists from speaking

Refraining from doing something is not quantifiable at all as there are so many possibilities. Just a quick example here: Just about everyone reading this is spending some time on Infoshop.org when they could be feeding starving people. Maybe they've even paid for a computer with money that could have been used to buy food for said starving people.

By publicly opposing fascists, we make it clear to them—and more importantly, to anyone else interested in joining them—that they will not be able to consolidate power over us without a fight . . . Better we shut them down once and for all.

Is it that hard to oppose someone without resorting to violence against them?

People don’t become fascists because they find their ideas persuasive; they become fascists for the same reason others become police officers or politicians: to wield power over other people.

Correct, but speaking about fascist ideas is not the same as acting on fascist ideas.

It’s up to us to show that fascist organizing will not enable them to obtain this power, but will only result in public humiliation. That is the only way to cut off their source of potential recruits. History has shown over and over that fascism is not defeated by ideas alone, but by popular self-defense.

Physically attacking someone over what they've said is not self-defense.

Fascists can be very useful to those with power and privilege, who often supply them with copious resources; if they can secure more airtime and visibility for their ideas than we can, we would be fools to limit ourselves to that playing field.

1. It may be "limiting" to confine ourselves to the playing field of nonviolence, but that doesn't mean it is bad. It may be "limiting" to refrain from setting fire to Republicans, but that doesn't mean doing so is acceptable.

2. This subtly draws a dichotomy between: a) Exposure via traditional methods (TV, newspaper, etc.) and b) Beating people up. It is the height of uncreativity to resort to violence when access to the traditional methods is unavailable.

Taking a stand against fascists is an essential step toward discrediting the structures and values at the root of institutionalized racism.

And by resorting to violence, the values at the root of freedom are discredited.

Because fascists believe in acting directly to carry out their agenda rather than limiting themselves to the apparatus of representative democracy . . .

It's probably worth noting here that Hitler was legally elected.

We oppose fascists because of what they do, not what they say.

Respond to fascist actions with violence, respond to fascist words with words.

We’re not opposed to free speech; we’re opposed to the fact that they advance an agenda of hate and terror.

Doublethink at its best. "I'm not against free speech, just bad speech!"

thanks to the “neutrality” of the capitalist market, they continue to publish hate literature in print and the internet.

As do you! Classifying particularly literature as hateful doesn't make it literature any less. It is relevant to note that many people would find anarchism hateful and offensive.

The government and the police have never protected everyone’s free speech equally, and never will.

This is true, but it does not give you license to censor free speech inequally. The police also brutalize people for taking pictures or being the wrong race––is that acceptable now too?

Unlike the ACLU, whose supposed defense of “freedom” leads them to support the KKK and others like them, we support self-defense and selfdetermination above all.

How silly of them to think that self-defense and self-determination apply to racists.

What’s the purpose of free speech, if not to foster a world free from oppression?

Free speech is the means and the end.

Fascists oppose this vision;thus we oppose fascism by any means necessary.

Again there is no distinction drawn between opposing a person for saying something and opposing a person's actions.

Fascists are only attempting to express their views “peacefully” in order to lay the groundwork for violent activity.

And you are only expressing your views violently in the first place; who is in the worse, here?

If anything, liberals mobilizing to defend fascists on free speech grounds increases interest in their views by conferring legitimacy on them.

Clearly, then, liberals' defense of gay marriage will make more people gay.

using free speech as a smokescreen.

Shame on them for thinking "free speech" means "free speech"!

By tolerating racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, so-called free speech advocates are complicit in the acts of terror fascist organizing makes possible.

Tolerating the expression of those things is worlds away from tolerating those things themselves. I am no homophobe, but I will not kill someone for calling a gay person a "faggot".

 

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Response to claims I take exception to
Authored by: griffjam on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 02:07 AM CDT

Obviously, anarchists should not organize against free speech. But the stranglehold of the state on the discourse of free speech seems to set the terms of debate: either we condone censorship, or we condone state protection of our enemies and their right to organize against us and others. This results in paradoxes, such as radicals being accused of opposing freedom for shutting down a fascist speaker.

In contrast to state protection of KKK rallies and the like, there are models of free expression that neither depend upon the enforcement of rights from above nor sanction oppressive behavior. Anarchists might judge speech not as something fundamentally different from action, but as a form of action: when it harms others, when it reinforces hierarchies and injustices, we confront it in the same way we would confront any other kind of abuse or oppression. This is simply self-defense.

This is a political practice that does not reduce freedom to rights, but challenges the privileges of the state; that makes no false dichotomy between speech and action, but judges both by the same standards; that does not enable the state to frame itself as the defender of free speech, but asserts that we are the only ones who can defend and extend our own freedom.

The world is not a grand democratic forum where we can all sit at the table and argue it out until we agree on something - People are brutalized and attacked every day. To simply sit idly by while people drum up support for racism and fascism is the worst kind of complacency.

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Response to claims I take exception to
Authored by: Nanashi on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 04:15 AM CDT

Obviously, anarchists should not organize against free speech. But the stranglehold of the state on the discourse of free speech seems to set the terms of debate: either we condone censorship, or we condone state protection of our enemies and their right to organize against us and others. This results in paradoxes, such as radicals being accused of opposing freedom for shutting down a fascist speaker.

What do you mean by "shutting down"?

In contrast to state protection of KKK rallies and the like, there are models of free expression that neither depend upon the enforcement of rights from above nor sanction oppressive behavior. Anarchists might judge speech not as something fundamentally different from action, but as a form of action: when it harms others, when it reinforces hierarchies and injustices, we confront it in the same way we would confront any other kind of abuse or oppression. This is simply self-defense.

Who is harmed (directly) by fascist speech? Indirectly, perhaps it will change people's opinions causing them to harm others; it might have the opposite effect. Who has the position to decide what speech is allowed and what is not? If it is self-defense against no more than the ideas expressed, why not use counter-ideas?

This is a political practice that does not reduce freedom to rights, but challenges the privileges of the state; that makes no false dichotomy between speech and action, but judges both by the same standards; that does not enable the state to frame itself as the defender of free speech, but asserts that we are the only ones who can defend and extend our own freedom.

If you judge both speech and action by the same standards, it would follow that speech (which does not injure anyone) would be allowed. Either way, judging speech is like judging thoughts.

The world is not a grand democratic forum where we can all sit at the table and argue it out until we agree on something - People are brutalized and attacked every day. To simply sit idly by while people drum up support for racism and fascism is the worst kind of complacency.

Speaking of false dichotomies...

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Response to claims I take exception to
Authored by: griffjam on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 05:53 AM CDT

What do you mean by "shutting down"?

 

Bringing it to an end earlier than they wanted.


Who is harmed (directly) by fascist speech?

Not what they are saying, but where they say it. Like when fascists march through the neighborhoods of the people they are calling for the enslavement/extermination of. The British Union of Fascists marched through London's largely Jewish East End resulting in the Battle of Cable Street; the British National Fronts march through the non-white Lewisham resulting in the Battle of Lewisham. It is when they use "free speech" as an excuse to intimidate that they are met with force either by the locals, as was the case with Lewisham, or a mix of locals and anti-racist/anti-fascists, as was the case with Cable Street.) When they have their rallies they are trying to gain the legitimacy needed to carry out their program. The anti-immigration rallies gave the Minuteman movement legitimacy which allowed them to openly harrass and intimidate under the guise of being patriotic citizens protecting the border. Two leaders of a Minuteman group and  are suspected of killing a Hispanic man and his 9-year-old daughter.

 

Who has the position to decide what speech is allowed and what is not?

 

Right now the state frames itself as being the defender of free speech. When people judge for themselves if it is harming others or reinforcing hierarchies and injustices, they challenge the power of the state to decide as well as defending their own freedom.

 

If it is self-defense against no more than the ideas expressed, why not use counter-ideas?

 

"People don’t become fascists because they find their ideas persuasive; they become fascists for the same reason others become police officers or politicians: to wield power over other people. It’s up to us to show that fascist organizing will not enable them to obtain this power, but will only result in public humiliation. That is the only way to cut off their source of potential recruits. History has shown over and over that fascism is not defeated by ideas alone, but by popular self-defense. We’re told that if all ideas are debated openly, the best one will win out, but this fails to account for the reality of unequal power. Fascists can be very useful to those with power and privilege, who often supply them with copious resources; if they can secure more airtime and visibility for their ideas than we can, we would be fools to limit ourselves to that playing field. We can debate their ideas all day long, but if we don’t prevent them from building the capacity to make them reality, it won’t matter."

 

If you judge both speech and action by the same standards, it would follow that speech (which does not injure anyone) would be allowed. 

 

You said "Tolerating the expression of those things is worlds away from tolerating those things themselves. I am no homophobe, but I will not kill someone for calling a gay person a 'faggot'." Which I agree with. But one person who hates LBGTQ people is different from a movement of people openly calling for their deaths. Also, thinking a gay person is a "faggot" and calling them one are also two different things. The former is harmful. 

 

Either way, judging speech is like judging thoughts.

 

So? Judging just means you have an opinion about it. If someone tells me their thoughts about hating people of color, I'm going to right away judge that statement as wrong and judge that person as an asshat. I just judged they way a person thought, did you see a problem with that? If I tell them my thoughts about what they just said they are free to judge them.

 

Speaking of false dichotomies...

 

What false choice did I give you?

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Response to claims I take exception to
Authored by: Nanashi on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 08:18 AM CDT

Bringing it to an end earlier than they wanted.

But the means. The means are so important.

Not what they are saying, but where they say it. Like when fascists march through the neighborhoods of the people they are calling for the enslavement/extermination of. The British Union of Fascists marched through London's largely Jewish East End resulting in the Battle of Cable Street; the British National Fronts march through the non-white Lewisham resulting in the Battle of Lewisham. It is when they use "free speech" as an excuse to intimidate that they are met with force either by the locals, as was the case with Lewisham, or a mix of locals and anti-racist/anti-fascists, as was the case with Cable Street.) When they have their rallies they are trying to gain the legitimacy needed to carry out their program. The anti-immigration rallies gave the Minuteman movement legitimacy which allowed them to openly harrass and intimidate under the guise of being patriotic citizens protecting the border. Two leaders of a Minuteman group and  are suspected of killing a Hispanic man and his 9-year-old daughter.

I don't know much about these cases, but wouldn't nonviolent confrontation be preferable?

Right now the state frames itself as being the defender of free speech. When people judge for themselves if it is harming others or reinforcing hierarchies and injustices, they challenge the power of the state to decide as well as defending their own freedom.

But they are still deciding for others. State-lite.

Self-defense

Fair enough, though I feel I addressed that in the first post.

Which I agree with. But one person who hates LBGTQ people is different from a movement of people openly calling for their deaths.

The only difference is numbers.

Also, thinking a gay person is a "faggot" and calling them one are also two different things. The former is harmful.

Of course it's harmful, but it does not mean a resort to force is acceptable.

So? Judging just means you have an opinion about it. If someone tells me their thoughts about hating people of color, I'm going to right away judge that statement as wrong and judge that person as an asshat. I just judged they way a person thought, did you see a problem with that? If I tell them my thoughts about what they just said they are free to judge them.

The point is that making a personal judgement about something doesn't have the physical force backing it that a judge in a courtroom (or people beating up fascists) would have.

What false choice did I give you?

I apologize if I was in error, but I interpreted this: "To simply sit idly by while people drum up support for racism and fascism is the worst kind of complacency" as implying a dilemma between non-action and violence. I fully support all nonviolent direct action, and will stand behind anyone standing against fascism, racism, homophobia, et al who doesn't compromise his/her movement with violence.

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Response to claims I take exception to
Authored by: ARPUNK13 on Tuesday, May 18 2010 @ 12:42 AM CDT

 I feel like this little debate has more to do with pacifism than free speech. Would you ever consider violence to be okay? I'm guessing you'd probably argue that it isn't. I'm sure the people on the far-right are very happy that you are unwilling to do what they are more than willing to do. 

Personally I am more than willing to use the master's tools to dismantle his house if that's what it takes.

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Free Speech FAQ
Authored by: laney on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 12:20 AM CDT

People don’t become fascists because they find their ideas persuasive;

That is a gross and potentially costly oversimplification. Fascist movements of yesteryear enjoyed a fair amount of popular support precisely because many people found their ideas persuasive. However, it would be a mistake also to equate persuasive with well reasoned, because theory is not the strong point of movements devoted to the inadequancies of reason and rationalism and the superiority of instinct and will. Probably the most important part of anti-fascist action is identifying and addressing the reasons that draw people to fascism, but hunger for power is not one of them for most people. If it were, there would would be nothing anarchism could do, short of violence, to convince people otherwise.

Fighting them in the street is more of a last resort.

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Free Speech FAQ
Authored by: MagonistaRevolt on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 05:38 AM CDT

 

"Free speech means protecting everyone’s right to speak, including people you don’t agree with. How would you like it if you had an unpopular opinion and other people were trying to silence you"

Perhaps the offered explanation is more convincing, but I always had a different response. The "right" of free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America, says that Congress (and therefore lawmakers) should have no place in suppressing speech. But we aren't the police, lawmakers, or Congress. We're "the people." The constitition doesn't say shit about what we shouldn't do about cleaning up hate speech.

I don't want the government suppressing anyone's rights to do anything. And not only am I not the government, I don't want the government involved. I am not a stand in for the government, and neither are you. So GTFO out the way, turn around and help me beat up this fucking fascist.

 

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Free Speech FAQ
Authored by: ARPUNK13 on Tuesday, May 18 2010 @ 01:24 AM CDT

First of all, the speech coming from fascists is not just speech. It is violent by it's very nature. When fascist come out to rally, what do you think their intentions are? I would argue that their primary goal is to intimidate minorities and their opposition. How safe would you feel in your community if you were of African decent and a Klan rally was being staged on steps of a courthouse that your tax dollars built? The function of these events is to terrorize people. It has nothing to do with disseminating ideas or fostering true discussion and everything to do with convincing their opposition that they should live in fear.

Second, advocating and conspiring to murder, assault, and deprive people of their constitutional rights is a criminal action in and of itself. While they may not commit hate crimes while being guarded by the police, many of these groups (such as Hammerskins) require that you "spill blood for the white race" before you can even be a member. We don't allow the mafia or prison gangs to use public space to recruit people and intimidate their opposition. Why do violent fascist organizations deserve this ridiculous level of free speech? Let's pretend another group of criminals that is universally detested by anyone with a soul, say child-molesters, were to apply for a permit to rally on the courthouse steps. When they get there they have signs that boast of their crimes and state that they intend to commit more of them. They claim it's their right as pedophiles to molest children. Many have signs for already imprisoned leaders within their community, calling for the freedom of their brethren. What do you think would happen? Would you rally to their defense? Would you call the parents of their victims who react first with outrage, then with violence (or stink-bombs) as bad as the people they fight against? 

Third, free speech and the open exchange of ideas can only exist when everyone speaking respects everyone else's right to sit at the table. Claiming falsely that you have the right as a white Christian male to preserve your Aryan blood line by any means necessary is not a discussion, it's a threat. 

Fourth, as Oliver Wendall Holmes said in Schenk v US, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." And it's really not all that far of a stretch to see that a Klan rally, as example, is much the same thing. They make demonstrably false claims that result in innocent people getting hurt. 

Disclaimer: I don't agree with every tactic that is employed by other militant anti-racists. I have no problem with people picking up the metaphorical gun of direct action. I do have a problem with the idea that you don't need to aim first before you pull the trigger.

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