For a lot of us, the events in Charlottesville were a terrifying glimpse into an emboldened white nationalist movement. For others, it was apparently an opportunity to lecture Facebook friends about free speech. This divide got super weird in Boston on August 19th, when a group of free speech advocates were met with thousands of folks who'd rather talk about Nazi problems.
So, uh, why is free speech suddenly a point of contention? Doesn't everyone love the First Amendment? That's why it's first, right? Well, the answer is as stupid as the sudden need for the question ...
The Internet Tricked People Into Thinking Free Speech Is In Jeopardy
The internet has spoiled us into believing that everyone is entitled to a platform, and we've confused that entitlement with "free speech." But ask any expert, and you'll quickly learn that being kicked off of social media, denied by a web server, or booted from a forum is not a free speech violation. Those are private companies that can do whatever the hell they want.
In the case of the Nazi blog Daily Stormer being booted off GoDaddy, that was the result of the site breaking its terms of service by deliberately inciting violence. But the web hosting company never had an obligation to allow the site in the first place. If you think that violates their freedom of speech, then you're probably also confused as to why there's no cable network called "We Don't Like Nazis But Here's A Channel Devoted To Them." Nazis may have the right to say Nazi things, but they aren't guaranteed the right to a service that amplifies their gross word farts.
Freedom of speech also doesn't protect you from getting fired for saying dumb shit. You might have heard of the guy who got tossed from Google for sending out an idiot memo claiming that women were genetically bad at tech jobs. Well, the legal action he's now taking has nothing to do with free speech -- because in California (and a lot of places), companies have the right to terminate you for just about whatever reason. And to be super clear, despite the terminated employee's current "Fired4Truth" speaking tour, every science "truth" he used in the memo was egregiously misinterpreted.
Meanwhile, a bunch of chucklefucks organized a "free speech" rally in the bandstand on Boston Common, which was met with thousands of anti-racism/anti-fascist protesters.
And so while these people were practicing free speech ...
via 7 News Boston
... so were these people:
via 7 News Boston
In the ultimate irony, a protest "protecting" free speech was drowned out by an overwhelming amount of people practicing free speech. Because yes, we're all legally allowed to say anything we want, but that doesn't protect us from getting called dickhead supreme by thousands of angry Sox fans. Especially since ...
Yelling About "Free Speech" Is A Deflection From The Real Issues
Let's be clear here: The majority of Confederate statue supporters who showed up at Charlottesville were white supremacists and Nazis. Even the "we have a black friend" crowd claiming to be there for the heritage sure seemed racist about it. Picking through the nuance of this bigotry is like obsessing over the square-foot acreage of a forest fire. It is weird and missing the point. As is logging onto Facebook to "well, actually" the legality of a bunch of literal armed racists invading a town.
Nazis showed up at this event. They were armed, and one of them killed a person. That's a very specific problem keeping Americans awake at night, as opposed to protecting the broad, vague concept of "free speech." And that's kind of the weirdest part: These protesters aren't talking about freedom of press or internet speech, just "free speech" in general. That's like if people held a "save the concept of flight" event immediately after 9/11. What makes it especially dangerous is that -- like airplanes and 9/11 -- free speech wasn't to blame for what happened in Charlottesville. But by putting "free speech" in opposition to anti-racism, we're officially stomping down an especially shitty road ...
This Could Turn Into Anti-Fascism Vs. "Free Speech" ... And That's Super Bad
It's worth noting that the "free speech rally" in Boston was planned before Charlottesville. And leading up to the event, a lot of people wrongfully equated it to a racist movement. Press didn't seem allowed near them, but by all accounts, the internal video taken shows a diverse group of people who just wanted to hold a rally about free speech ...
... and, like ... stopping GMOs? Fucking sure. The point is that whatever it was planned to be, it didn't end up with a bunch of Nazis nestled in a festive park hutch. Upon learning this, my biggest question was: If they weren't racists, then why didn't the "free speech" rally just join the thousands of other protesters? Both protests were essentially "free speech" protests (because all protests are technically free speech protests). So why stand separate? Why the hell does "anti-racism" and "pro free speech" need to be considered opposing sides of a spectrum? That is a horrifyingly false dichotomy.
Seriously, guys, I don't care whose fault it is. We simply can't afford that. We super can't have "free speech advocacy" become a dog whistle for racists, nor can we have anti-fascists chanting "fuck free speech" in the streets. Cut that shit right the hell out, if only because the irony is too goddamn great for this already batshit country.
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