Killing Free Speech

EW’s Slant (1/25) closed with a paragraph on white supremacists by stating, “the media should and will expose those who hold reprehensible viewpoints.” Whoa, Nellie! We’re going to be punished for our viewpoints?

Wisely, our country was specifically founded on the proposition that our viewpoints are our own. If someone reveals an intention to blow up public buildings, in speech or print, then that’s an actionable offense. If someone attacks another person with vicious and demeaning remarks — or, tragically, with actual violence — society’s mandate is to react aggressively. But believing, and even stating publicly, that “black is beautiful” or “white is supreme” does not constitute a crime.

As long as you get to decide what is “reprehensible,” you will not notice the damage. But if the punishment of “reprehensible” viewpoints catches on, you may find some of your own treasured views subject to repression.

Already, protesting against animal cruelty is codified as “animal terrorism.” A strong aversion to sprayed or GM produce, or even strict veganism, has found a place among America’s official mental illnesses (“orthorexia”).

Strong counter-propaganda is definitely necessary to de-normalize hate speech. But returning hate for hate victimizes the opponent and (as was true of crushed Germans after World War I) encourages more determined resistance. Discussing issues with people unlike ourselves will be far more productive than vilifying them.

Freedom of speech and the press hang together as one heritage. They have to be venerated together. Kill one, and the other is next on the block.

Christopher Logan