Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Anti-Liberal Attitudes on the Left

I try to avoid being a part of the echo chamber. If those likely to read what I write already agree, then I see no reason to write it. And there is no reason to write for those who will not be reading it. I prefer write about where I think those who basically agree with me might be making some mistake (acknowledging the fact that the mistake may be mine).

I assume that anybody reading this has the correct attitude towards Nazis and white supremacists (though I have posted on the thesis that romanticizing the Confederacy is equivalent to romanticizing Nazi Germany – which I, for one failed to appreciate until recently).

The point at which I disagree is with those denying a right of freedom of speech- who advocate violence as a legitimate response to repugnant beliefs.

For Us or Against Us

I can’t even get to a discussion of that right anymore without first running into the barricade, “Either you are for us, or you are against us.” I am being told that I have a choice – to be either anti-Nazi or pro-Nazi. Except, to be anti-Nazi now must mean being anti-freedom of speech and pro-violence. Which means, being pro-freedom of speech and anti-violence now means being pro-Nazi.

In the days and months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, many liberals – the best liberals - pounced all over then US President George Bush for saying, “Either you are for us, or you are against us.” They told Bush that his view was too simplistic – even simple-minded (and indicative of his general lack of intelligence). He was trying to brand those who opposed his “Patriot Act”, spying on Americans, the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo prison, torture, and other practices as being “pro-terrorist”. They correctly branded this as not only insulting but worthy of condemnation. Bush was trying to defend America by destroying that which made America worth defending.

Now, liberals – the worst of them – are using Bush’s argument. Where Bush told me that favoring a right to privacy and opposed to torture I was "pro-terrorist", I now have people on the left telling me that if I am in favor of the right to freedom of speech and opposed to "street justice" then I am pro-Nazi. I have a simple decision to make. "You are for us, or against us". You oppose freedom of speech and support street-violence, or you are pro-Nazi.

Once upon a time – about 15 years ago – the bulk of liberals recognized, "You are for us, or you are against us" for what it is. It is a battle cry of tyrants and despots. It effectively says, "You must choose. Either you are our servant, or you are our enemy. You must serve the dictator, or you are an enemy of the state. You support the church leaders, or you are a heretic. Obey or die."

Once upon a time – about 15 years ago – the bulk of liberals recognized that the world was more complicated than this. The bulk of liberals realized that a true patriot can support the ends of the administration in fighting terror while still objecting to its means.

At first, their target is the Nazi or some other target group – a group that seems to be a legitimate target of violence. However, the target list grows. Soon, their target list includes the advocate of free speech and the opponent of street violence. After all, "if you are not for us, then you are against us". That is to say, "If, in your defense of free speech and opposition to street violence you stand in the way of those who would attack the Nazis, then you are as bad as a Nazi, and deserve the same treatment."

This is not some slippery slope argument – some dire warning that, "If we start out in this direction, then we will slide down some slope to a point we would not like; therefore, we ought not to start." This is a logical implication argument. We are not "sliding down some slope to a destination we will want to avoid". We have already reached it. "You are for us or against us" does not lead to "Bend your knee too us or be counted our enemy." It literally means, "Bend your knee to us or be counted our enemy."

I am not bending my knee.

No doubt, they will respond by saying, "Therefore you are siding with the Nazi." However, their claim is no more true that former President Bush's claim that when I opposed the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, torture, and Guantanamo that I was siding with the terrorists. What I was doing – and what I am diong now – is siding with freedom and against tyranny of all forms – no matter how all-knowing and benevolent the would-be dictator thinks himself to be.

Freedom of Speech

On the issue of freedom of speech, there is a new bunch of liberals who think that it is permissible to respond to words they do not like with violence. It is not just any words, they tell us, but words calling for violence. So, what they are telling us is that words calling for violence against those who use words to call for violence is justified. I'm having a little bit of trouble making sense of that position.

Ultimately, people who want to control speech through violence are people who want to control people through violence. And they are not trying to control the speakers or the writers. They are trying to control the hearers and the readers by controlling the ideas we may hear or read about.

It is an attempt to use violence to control the ideas we encounter. With this, they seek to control what we think and, through this, they seek to control what we do. They assert that we lack the capacity to think for ourselves and, thus, we need an authoritative (and violent) overseer giving advanced approval to what we have access to – to make sure we are thinking the right thoughts. They judge themselves as the only ones capable of encountering these "bad ideas" without corruption – so that they can dictate what passes their gate and what must remain outside.

There are a lot of people out there who want to control what we say or do. Violent wars as well as political and religious purges have been fought over the fact. Eventually, a few people got the bright idea that we'll simply outlaw the use of violence to control what people may hear and read. We are going to limit people to the non-violent tools of persuasion only – the pamphlet, the treatise, the play, the public speech on a soap box, the march, the song, the billboard, the full-page ad. It means that there will be a lot of shouting – and a lot of very angry shouting.

Ironically, Nazis love the idea of using violence to control what others may hear or read. They were great fans of book burnings and sending out thugs to beat up on those who expressed opinions they disagree with. Many of those today who call themselves anti-fascists are, in fact, fascists. They are misnamed in the same way the "Patriot Act" was renamed – an attempt to get approval for something by calling it the opposite of what it actually is. They are people attempting to gain control through violence. They are seeking to control people not by persuasion and argument, but by using violence to control what people can hear and read. They are, in fact, the new fascists.

The true anti-fascist is the person who is opposed to controlling others through violence. It is the person who stands opposed to "you are for us or you are against us" - who stands opposed to "bend a knee or be branded our enemy." The true anti-fascist is the person who opposed the Bush Administration when it used this argument, and who stand opposed to those on the left when they use this argument.


Having said this, there are some significant problems that we need to work on. Racist and prejudicial attitudes are rampant. "White privilege" and "male privilege" are real phenomenon that impose injustices daily. These problems deserve not only words of acknowledgement, they deserve genuine action. We need election reform, a better way of hiring and evaluating police officers, systems of compensating for past injustices and systems for preventing future injustices. That work happens to oppose opposition to the idea, "You are either for us or you are against us" and "it is permissible to respond to words and other communicative acts with violence."

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