We Need The First Amendment For Assholes, Not For Nice Little Old Ladies Who Crochet
Some new members of the @aclu are upset that the ACLU is defending... the First Amendment!
I see this happening more and more -- especially amongst millennials.
And about this, on NPR, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro talks to Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU. The preamble:
This week, the ACLU expressed support for a free speech case. This one involves Milo Yiannopoulos. He's the divisive editor of the far-right website Breitbart News, and he's said things like feminism is a cancer.
He was recently supposed to speak at UC Berkeley, but intense protests led the school to cancel the event last minute. The ACLU says no matter how much you might dislike what he has to say, it's protected free speech, and that makes some of its newest supporters upset.
A bit from the interview:
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what's the case for defending Mr. Yiannopoulos in your view?
ROWLAND: Well, the case for Mr. Yiannopoulos is the same as it would be for any speaker, no matter how despicable or offensive we might find them, which is the First Amendment protects our right to speak out on matters of public concern, to talk about things that are as offensive as the things that Mr. Yiannopoulos says without censorship by the government. And ideally, as in his case, without people physically preventing him from speaking at a place where he had every right to speak.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the ACLU and you specifically, actually, have received criticism on social media about this. Does the ACLU need to do a better job explaining why it's defending him and other cases like this, where someone is committing what some would consider hate speech?
ROWLAND: Well, look, I certainly understand that, especially for many of our new members, they may be surprised by the ACLU's robust First Amendment positions, but it's certainly not new. Indeed, one of our most high-profile and controversial moments in the ACLU's history was defending the rights of literal self-proclaimed Nazis to march through the streets of Skokie, a town made up largely of Holocaust survivors. What's amazing about the First Amendment is it protects us, regardless of our viewpoints, regardless of the causes we hold dear.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But isn't hate speech different?
ROWLAND: There's no question that the things that Mr. Yiannopoulos says are unbelievably hateful in nature. But the phrase hate speech is a form of free speech. Again, in defending the rights of others to speak, whether or not we agree with them, we must all reach out and protect the speech that we most disagree with or else the First Amendment is just reduced to a popularity contest and has no meaning.
Oh, and banning speech -- or trying to shut it down -- will either take it underground, where it's more dangerous, or it'll make it that much more popular.
Sam Barsanti writes at A.V. Club that it looks like Milo Yiannopoulos is working out of the Tucker Max playbook:
Holiday is now editor-at-large for the Observer, and he's written an extensive piece about how his Tucker Max strategy has been adopted by Yiannopoulos, his supporters, and other racist/sexist/alt-right assholes who are trying to spread hate and incite fear. As Holiday explains, they promoted Max's movie (and his book of the same name) by buying cheap ads that they would call people to complain about, by submitting fake tips about Tucker Max-related controversies to Gawker, and by vandalizing their own billboards to make Tucker Max seem dangerous, subversive, and--most of all--super cool. Holiday is now seeing these same strategies being used to promote Yiannopoulos, and he wants people to recognize how easily they can play right into the hands of these jerks.
Holiday says the trick isn't to try to take away Yiannopoulos' platform by protesting his campus talks or whatever, because that will just give his supporters something to rally against. Instead, he suggests actually listening to people like Yiannopoulos and giving them a chance to speak, because then the public will have a chance to hear their awful, hateful ideas and they'll--hopefully--recognize them as being awful and hateful. Holiday says the sales of Tucker's books disappeared when the controversy and outrage surrounding him ran its course, so he believes that Yiannopoulos and Nazis like Richard Spencer will eventually get bored or tire themselves out if everyone stops feeding their marketing machines.
I doubt that.
Ultimately, there's an answer to speech you don't like, and it's more speech -- debate -- not trying to squash the speech that offends you.
And, getting back to Milo, @Popehat for the win:
Seriously though. Fighting Milo with boycotts and outrage is like fighting a dog by throwing bacon at it.— So-called Popehat (@Popehat) December 29, 2016