August 23rd, 2017

Free speech for Nazis: policies in the US and Europe compared

A NY Times op-ed by K-Sue Park that I critiqued recently called for the ACLU to “rethink” its free-speech defense of Nazi rallies, and to loosen its traditional even-handed defense of freedom of speech as a principle of liberty and adopt a leftist power/class/racial/hierarchical approach, defending only those groups the left thinks are entitled to free speech.

This not only violates our American tradition of defense of free speech even when offensive (which neo-Nazis most certainly are), but it also tends to be more in line with the European point of view regarding free speech. For example, not all countries in Europe ban Nazi symbols such as flags, but many either ban or restrict them in various ways, although they are allowed as free speech here. The restrictions on such symbols are particularly strict in Germany and Austria, for reasons that are obvious.

However, even Germany allows neo-Nazi parties to exist, despite many attempts to get them banned. A recent court ruling (January of 2017) went this way:

Yes, Germany’s National Democratic Party (NPD) is “related to National Socialism”, the country’s supreme court in Karlsruhe said on January 17th. And yes, its aims are to undermine Germany’s constitution and ultimately to establish an ethnically pure German Volk. And yet, the red-robed judges opined, there is no sign that the NPD could come close to fulfilling its goals. The party, it ruled, will therefore not be banned.

This landmark verdict ends a decades-long saga of failed efforts to declare Germany’s neo-Nazi party illeg…

…the standard of proof for banning political parties, mandated by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, is high. In societies that value free speech and association, it is not enough to prove even the worst motivation; a party must also have a “real potential” to make good on evil designs.

And in Germany, neo-Nazis are even allowed to demonstrate, as long as they meet certain very stringent rules:

Germany has long enforced a strict ban on Nazi symbols or anything to do with glorification of the Third Reich.

For the neo-Nazi march, one flag per 50 people was allowed, images of Rudolf Hess [the man whose death was being commemorated] were forbidden, as were drums and military music. Police individually searched each marcher in a specially set-up tent before allowing them into the penned-off march area. The neo-Nazis had to cover up tattoos and they weren’t even allowed to chant slogans. In a country where guns are banned, nothing more dangerous than a mobile phone was allowed on them.

The German authorities are trying to walk a fine line here; they probably don’t want to make free-speech martyrs out of the relatively powerless neo-Nazis. The Germans may even be aware of the history of what happened in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s regarding the restriction of Nazi speech:

…[In the 1920s and 30s, Nazis did go to jail for anti-Semitic expression, and when they were released, they were celebrated as martyrs. When Bavarian authorities banned speeches by Hitler in 1925, for example, the Nazis exploited it. As former ACLU Executive Director Aryeh Neier explains in his book Defending My Enemy, the Nazi party protested the ban by distributing a picture of Hitler gagged with the caption, “One alone of 2,000 million people of the world is forbidden to speak in Germany.” The ban backfired and became a publicity coup. It was soon lifted.

There is nothing easy or pleasant about deciding how to deal with groups such as neo-Nazis. But free speech in this country demands that they be allowed their say and even their marches and their symbols, or we compromise the liberty we hold so dear.

Or do we hold it so dear? According to this poll (taken in 2015), Millenials are considerably more likely than previous generations to advocate bans “to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups.” The figure for Millenials supporting such a ban is 40%, which is not a majority. But it’s a troublingly large minority, particularly compared to the range for other generations: 27% among Gen Xers, 24% for Boomers, and 12% among Silents.

The trend over time is clear, and it’s against free speech.

21 Responses to “Free speech for Nazis: policies in the US and Europe compared”

  1. Ann Says:

    About the Millenials and that 2015 poll, there’s this article: “That Was a False Alarm on Millennials and Free Speech”:

    A bit of digging into past poll results shows that this just wasn’t an unusual result. Yes, broad attitudes over free speech change over time — more on this in a bit — but there’s a general pattern to how Americans answer these questions: They’ve shown over and over again that they favor free speech in theory, when asked about it in the broadest terms, but they also tend to be fairly enthusiastic about government bans on forms of speech they find particularly offensive (what’s considered offensive, of course, changes with the times). On this subject, millennials are right in line with reams of past polling, and it would be wrong to hold up last week’s results as an example of anything other than an extremely broad tendency that’s existed for a long time. …

    Washington Post polling director Richard Morin writing in 1998:

    In 1938, the American Institute of Public Opinion surveyed a national sample of American adults. The institute asked respondents whether they believed in free speech or not, and of course 96 percent said they did.

    But in subsequent questions, it became uncomfortably clear that Americans would place many limits on free speech. Fewer than four in 10 – 38 percent – said they would allow “radicals” to meet and speak. Even fewer would grant those rights to Communists or fascists.

    Likewise, during the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, Harvard sociologist Samuel Stouffer conducted a national poll to measure support for free speech. Two-thirds said a Communist should not be allowed to speak. And nearly as many, 60 percent, said an atheist should not be allowed to speak.

  2. Frog Says:

    There is principle and there is practice.
    The Millenials have been subjected to Leftist brainwashing all of their young lives, by their “educators”, whether they attended public or private schools. It makes no difference. One must not offend the collective.

  3. huxley Says:

    Ann: The link you supply points to a neo post on vaccinations, which doesn’t contain the quoted text.

    This seems to be the real link:

    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/11/false-alarm-on-millennials-and-free-speech.html

  4. Ann Says:

    Thanks for catching that, Huxley, and providing the correct link. I need to remember to always check the links before posting.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Those who would deny the right to speech they find offensive are fashioning the chains of their own enslavement.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Ann:

    But in the poll I cited, there were clear generational differences in the percentages wanting to block speech. The oldest generations supported free speech most strongly, and in each successive generation the percentage of blockers increased.

  7. Griffin Says:

    Years and years of indoctrination by leftist teachers from the age of five until adulthood is the main reason why the younger generations less favor civil rights. It’s also why we are going to see less of the political ‘changers’ that Neo speaks of here so often in my opinion.

  8. parker Says:

    “The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” — Tommy Smothers

    Don’t like what you are hearing? Retreat to your safe space and open the play dho can and hug a teddy bear. This is how darkness begins.

  9. huxley Says:

    Ann: This is such an apples and oranges comparison, I don’t know where to begin.

    Yes, there always have been Americans who effectively want to limit speech but today’s millenials are unusual in the breadth and intensity of that impulse.

    In the past Americans said they supported free speech but if you peeled a layer down you found they weren’t keen on few a specific exceptions like communists, nazis, atheists, flag burners, or pornographers.

    But when it was pointed out in law, editorials and demonstrations that such speech ought to be allowed, those Americans shrugged and gave it up because they really were for free speech.

    They weren’t going to start doxxing, harassing, firing or physically attacking others for speech. They weren’t overturning statues they didn’t like or seeking to reform every public space according to their agenda. They weren’t talking about a thorough overhaul of the first amendment. They weren’t supported by university administrators or prominent newspapers.

    We’re in a whole new ballgame now. The pendulumn is swinging away from freedom and young people are driving that change which is also unusual in modern American history.

  10. Griffin Says:

    ‘To each his own’

    ‘Live and let live’

    ‘It’s a free country’

    These were all sayings I remember hearing as a kid from adults proudly. Whether in word or deed I would argue that the younger generation doesn’t truly believe those things anymore.

  11. Ymar Sakar Says:

    It is good you are providing people with some European background on why Nazi accusations are so important there.

    It is also a type of the same thing for why it happens here. Emulating Europe is a pretty big pattern for Leftists.

  12. Manju Says:

    I’m pretty much a first amendment absolutist. But I always thought this position was part of an elite consensus, and that many American have views more consistent with Antifa, albeit often in regards to different expressions.

    Including Donald Trump:

    Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/803567993036754944

    On this issue, I see that in 1995 62% of Americans favored “a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and state governments to make it illegal to burn the American flag”.

    By 2006, that number was down to 56%.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/23524/public-support-constitutional-amendment-flag-burning.aspx

    So this indicates we are improving. But we still have a majority outside the Elite Free Speech Consensus…including Trump.

  13. Manju Says:

    But in the poll I cited, there were clear generational differences in the percentages wanting to block speech.

    Neo,

    Not block speech full stop, but block offensive speech about minorities.

    The oldest generations supported free speech most strongly, and in each successive generation the percentage of blockers increased.

    This may be a function of the younger generation thinking racism is more offensive than older folks do. Switch to a different speech, lets say flag-burning, bible-burning, porn, etc…and we may see the correlation go in the other direction.

  14. AesopFan Says:

    Geoffrey Britain Says:
    August 23rd, 2017 at 6:08 pm
    Those who would deny the right to speech they find offensive are fashioning the chains of their own enslavement.
    * * *
    Nice twist on the original.

    “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.”–Abraham Lincoln, letter to H.L. Pierce, April 6, 1859.

  15. AesopFan Says:

    parker Says:
    August 23rd, 2017 at 7:41 pm
    “The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” — Tommy Smothers
    * *
    One can find wisdom in the strangest places sometimes.

    Release the Yo-Yo Man!

    I suppose the line “if you get an outfit you can be a cowboy too” is now cultural appropriation.

  16. AesopFan Says:

    huxley Says:
    August 23rd, 2017 at 7:48 pm
    Ann: This is such an apples and oranges comparison, I don’t know where to begin.

    Yes, there always have been Americans who effectively want to limit speech but today’s millenials are unusual in the breadth and intensity of that impulse.

    In the past Americans said they supported free speech but if you peeled a layer down you found they weren’t keen on few a specific exceptions like communists, nazis, atheists, flag burners, or pornographers.

    But when it was pointed out in law, editorials and demonstrations that such speech ought to be allowed, those Americans shrugged and gave it up because they really were for free speech.

    They weren’t going to start doxxing, harassing, firing or physically attacking others for speech. They weren’t overturning statues they didn’t like or seeking to reform every public space according to their agenda. They weren’t talking about a thorough overhaul of the first amendment. They weren’t supported by university administrators or prominent newspapers.

    * * *

    Or maybe we just didn’t have the internet then to find out what they were doing. The pre-tech equivalent of doxing the Royalists during the Revolution got pretty brutal, and I suspect we can find instances of all your examples during the Civil War (it wasn’t really very civil, after all).

    However it IS a change of the polity within living memory.

    Griffin Says:
    August 23rd, 2017 at 7:59 pm
    ‘To each his own’

    ‘Live and let live’

    ‘It’s a free country’

    These were all sayings I remember hearing as a kid from adults proudly. Whether in word or deed I would argue that the younger generation doesn’t truly believe those things anymore.

    * *
    I would add “sticks and stones can break my bones but words cwill never hurt me”.
    The younger generation doesn’t believe them because it was never taught them, or so it appears.
    They were not prevalent in many pre-American-Constitution societies either.

    PS:
    here’s a thoroughly chilling article about Facebook=surveillance (although the author is predictably anti-Trump in his casual asides).
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product

  17. AesopFan Says:

    The example from Hitler’s history was unfamiliar to me, but the principle has been hashed around on the internet for some time now. The Left profited from the PR of Suppression back in the McCarthy back-lash, but doesn’t seem to think it can happen when they are in the role of the Suppressors.

  18. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The suppression of communists against Americans was strong, even during McCarthy, Aesop. Check out Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness, available online in its entirety.

  19. Dave Says:

    i disapprove of bigotry but i will defend to the death bigots’ right to hate and express their hate peacefully peacefully

  20. Tatterdemalian Says:

    The Millenials believe they have the right to read everyone else’s mind, when in truth they don’t even have the ability to do so, let alone have any “rights” that may extend from such an ability.

    They do, however, have the ability to commit large-scale murder, even genocide, for imaginary reasons, and are gradually warming up to that as their best real-world alternative. They can’t know what you’re thinking, or make you think what they want you to think, but they can declare that you have committed a capital thoughtcrime, and have you executed without trial, as soon as they manage to panic our civilization into granting them the political power to do so.

  21. AesopFan Says:

    Tatterdemalian Says:
    August 24th, 2017 at 1:30 pm…, but they can declare that you have committed a capital thoughtcrime, and have you executed without trial, as soon as they manage to panic our civilization into granting them the political power to do so.
    * * *
    It’s not all, or just, Millennials. This strain of tyrants is an on-going virus, the under-current in all ages, resurgent from time to time when they can convince the public to believe their cover stories of “it’s all for your own good” long enough to gain control.

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