mneme: (Default)
[personal profile] mneme
I'm willing to sing about punching Nazis, but I'm not willing to seriously advocate that doing so (or censoring them) is ethically and morally right.

Ken White (Popehat) has an excellent post as to why not. (oddly enough, -do- read the comments here).

Date: 2017-05-25 01:22 am (UTC)
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
From: [personal profile] madfilkentist
As usual, Ken White nails it.

On the punching of Nazis

Date: 2017-05-25 06:51 am (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
First, on the issue of punching Nazis: While I have seen many people say that the punching of Nazis is a good thing, I have yet to see anyone express any expectation that a Nazi-puncher, should they be caught and brought into court, would be able to avoid prosecution with the "But Your Honor, he's a Nazi!" defense. (These aren't the days of Joe Greenstein.) The argument about Nazi-punching is an argument about whether the police, courts, and our framework of laws can be trusted to defend ordinary citizens from Nazi violence. And, just as you would expect if you knew anything at all about American society or history, the people who do put trust in the police, courts, etc tend to be middle-class white (or white-passing) cis-gendered hetero people. Black people, gays people, etc, these all know that if cops show up, there's a pretty good chance that they'll be prosecuted even if they're the victim, or merely a witness. So: Freelance Nazi-punching.

Ken White knows this on some level; that's why he points out that laws used against Nazis can be turned around and used against non-Nazis as well. But nobody's calling for legalized Nazi-punching. The folks calling for Nazi-punching are calling for it outside of the framework of the law, because they don't trust the law to protect them.

Re: On the punching of Nazis

Date: 2017-05-25 08:55 pm (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
We're already in a culture where marginalized people get punched. Remember the guy who got sucker-punched at a Trump rally? He (the victim) had to quit his job because of the publicity, and now delivers pizzas. The guy who punched him got a suspended 30-day jail sentence and a year on unsupervised probation. Wanna guess their respective skin tones?

On the no-platforming of Nazis

Date: 2017-05-25 07:12 am (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
Second, on the matter of denying Nazis access to platforms of expression over which you have some authority or control: Did you notice how much longer and more complicated that part of the sentence before the colon was than just "censoring of Nazis"? That's because there's a difference between censoring someone and denying them a platform. Nobody has a right to demand a platform that they don't own, and Nazis should not be among the people granted such access.

An argument sometimes made by free-speech absolutists is that there's a marketplace of ideas, and that good ideas can drive out bad. Nazis, by their behavior, refute this argument. Nazis are not convinced by reason. If you challenge a Nazi to a debate, and all of their arguments are crap and all of yours are strong, the Nazi will not concede defeat. The Nazi, and his fellow Nazis in the audience, will not think to themselves Oh no! My reasoning has been proven faulty! I must change my ideas! No, they will think to themselves Awesome! They let us get away with saying this stuff in public! Let's push harder; I wonder what else we can get away with!

This sequence played out recently at the University of Maryland. Last month, someone chalked racist graffiti on the campus grounds. When students erased the graffiti and replaced it with more positive, accepting messages, the university president tweeted that they were "exchange[ing] ideas and engag[ing] in debate." The racists apparently got the message that they were free to push harder, so a couple of weeks later a noose was found at a UMD frat house. Then, a few days ago, a Black student (visiting from another school) was stabbed to death by a neo-Nazi.
Edited Date: 2017-05-25 07:13 am (UTC)

Re: On the no-platforming of Nazis

Date: 2017-05-25 10:40 am (UTC)
madfilkentist: Evil Spock with words "I find your lack of logic disturbing" (Spock)
From: [personal profile] madfilkentist
I am what you refer to as a "free-speech absolutist," and you're setting up a straw man. No argument for free speech rests on the premise that convincing speech will persuade every person in the world. Rather, good speech is the only thing that can drive out bad speech. Censorship may incidentally drive out some bad speech, but what it drives out is disapproved speech. For instance, the US Secretary of Commerce applauded the absence of any protests in Saudi Arabia while skirting around the point that the reason there weren't any is that protesting carries heavy criminal charges.

Some people will see free speech as a license to commit violence. Others will see censorship as evidence that they have to resort to violence. In the history of the world, there's a lot more of the latter than the former. Turning around what you said, how many people have ever said, "My ideas were suppressed by superior force! Now I realize they're wrong!"

As white noted, going down the route of silencing people encourages escalating and exaggerating the charges against them. You refer to "racist graffiti." An example shown in the Twitter comments was "Deport dreamers." That's about immigration status, not race. You may conclude that the words were actually racially motivated, and you may be right. But now your list of unacceptable speech includes words which you believe are racially motivated. The next step might well be to assume that we "free speech absolutists" are secretly following a racial agenda and add us to the list of people who must be kept quiet.

If someone is later murdered following any speech you don't like, then say "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc! See, this is what comes of free speech!"

Re: On the no-platforming of Nazis

Date: 2017-05-25 08:57 pm (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
"No platforming" is a real thing. Talk to some British college students. It's an actual formal policy held by several UK schools.

As far as speakers libeling students, well, how about harassment instead of libel? When Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at the University of Wisoncin-Milwaukee last year, he outed a trans student, projected a photo of her onto the wall, and mocked her appearance. Fortunately for her, the photo had been taken early in her transition, and her current appearance is different enough that the people around her -- she was in the audience -- didn't recognize her. She immediately regretted having come in. "I didn't know if I was going to get attacked or not. I was just like, 'Dear god, I hope nobody recognizes me.'"

Not long after the Milo event, the student group that had invited Yiannopoulos to UW-Milwaukee received a threatening message ("Do not walk alone at night. Do not think you are safe in your dorm/home. We are coming for you! We are going to beat the shit out of yo.") via Facebook that might have made some of them feel that same fear that the trans student felt that night. Or maybe not. The trans student wound up leaving the school; the head of the right-wing student organization, on the other hand, says she's "over the drama of it all."

So, consider the contrast between those two messages. On the one hand, there's the "beat the shit out of yo" Facebook message, which would almost certainly be considered a legal threat that could land the sender in legal trouble if they were identified. (It was sent under a pseudonym, and the account was then deleted.) The recipient doesn't seem to have been affected by it. On the other, there's the threat inherent in Yiannopoulos's speech, which was protected by the law; the target of that message wound up leaving her school. Do you see what I was getting at, earlier, about how different communities have different levels of trust in the law?

Re: On the no-platforming of Nazis

Date: 2017-06-01 09:00 am (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
you can't "no platform" someone in the general case; just prevent them from using your platform

Which is another way of saying that depriving a person of access to a particular platform isn't censorship, right?

Anyway, the US government restricts speech for all kinds of reasons. Did you know that obscenity is still unprotected speech, and legally censorable? The definition of what's considered obscene has narrowed over time, though. And "fighting words" are still unprotected, which might have relevance to the issue of what sorts of things one can say that might lead to a riot.

Anyway, the line separating protected from unprotected speech has shifted over the 200-odd years that the First Amendment has existed, and it would be irrational to assume that we happen to have arrived at the perfect balance right now.

Re: On the no-platforming of Nazis

Date: 2017-05-25 07:48 pm (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
An example shown in the Twitter comments was "Deport dreamers." That's about immigration status, not race.

That's nonsense. Immigration restrictions are one of the mechanisms through which American racism has traditionally been expressed. You might as well claim that redlining wasn't racism, because it was housing policy.

Turning around what you said, how many people have ever said, "My ideas were suppressed by superior force! Now I realize they're wrong!"

I'm less interested in convincing Nazis that they're wrong than I am in keeping them from organizing, gaining power, and killing people.

Re: On the no-platforming of Nazis

Date: 2017-06-01 09:09 am (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
The notion that only "superior philosophies" inevitably gain supporters assumes that good ideas always drive out bad. That's not how real-life marketplaces always work, and it's not how the marketplace of ideas always works, either. Remember what the markets for food and medication were like before the FDA?

I'm starting to speculate that democracies become especially vulnerable to fascism during a period when a new communications technology emerges. Hitler made very good use of film/video (it's a cliché that the film techniques Leni Riefenstahl pioneered are still being used today), and Trump is capitalizing off of reality TV and the Internet. I think it takes a generation or two for a society to develop a memetic immune response to the new information vector.

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mneme: (Default)
Joshua Kronengold

May 2017

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