You Don’t Have to Agree With Speech to Believe It Should Be Protected

Members of white nationalists clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

When I was an elementary school kid I got in trouble for fighting with another boy on the playground during recess.

I felt my cause was righteous. The boy had been picking on me, then shoved me to the ground, so I gave him a poke in the nose as retribution. Needless to say, we were both in trouble with the recess monitor.

I tried to plead my case with her, that I was the good guy, but she wasn’t hearing it. “It doesn’t matter if he was trying to pick a fight,” she told me. “You gave him the fight he wanted.”

I was thinking of that incident from my childhood today as I read this letter to the editor from Patrick Rosenquist taking me to task for my August 14 post about Charlottesville and identity politics.

The worst of the violence in Charlottesville was perpetrated by extreme elements of the American left and right. Sadly, that simple truth is obscured by the American public’s desire – inflamed by the ratings-chasing hysteria of our ideologically split media – to make politics a team sport.

“Port’s opinion takes President Trump’s failed condemnation of the KKK and neo-Nazis narrative, what used to be a political no-brainer, in which all sides are at fault, and runs with it,” writes Rosenquist.

You bet I ran with it. Because I mostly think Trump was right. I disagree with the President that there were some “good people” on the KKK/neo-Nazi side – no good person joins in a march where there are swastikas on display – but he was correct to condemn both sides.

Because failing to condemn both sides in Charlottesville means condoning violent reactions to free speech.

“There was but one side marching flags with swastikas down the street,” writes Rosenquist. “There was but one side ‘seig-heiling.’ There was but one side adorning Klan robes and Nazi uniforms.”

Yet, those are all protected forms of political speech. As disgusting as those symbols and statements are, the people saying them and displaying them have every right to do so under the 1st amendment.

The counter-protesters, the “antifa” as they style themselves, had no right to disrupt that speech.

Were the Nazis and white-robed KKK members looking for a fight? Absolutely. But does that absolve the left-wing militants, with their fetish for Soviet symbolism, for showing up and giving to them?

It does not. Thus, both sides deserve our condemnation.

The worst of the violence in Charlottesville was perpetrated by extreme elements of the American left and right. Sadly, that simple truth is obscured by the American public’s desire – inflamed by the ratings-chasing hysteria of our ideologically split media – to make politics a team sport.

So many on the left and the right cannot bring themselves to fully condemn what happened in Charlottesville because they’re too busy trying to portray their team as the less guilty party.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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