Here’s the thing about bastards like the Westboro Baptist Church, or Richard Spencer – they LOVE freedom of speech right now. But I’m willing to bet that if they ever came into power (true power – control of govt, much of the populace behind them, etc) they would quickly forget all about their love of free speech and quickly get to the business of silencing their opponents.
I used to think that’s what made my side different. When we came into the majority, we would continue to uphold and protect the principles of civility that we were so enraptured with when we were the oppressed. More and more, it seems that this isn’t the case.
There’s probably people that really do believe in certain principles. Principles like freedom of speech, and that violence should not be used as a tool. They will continue to extend freedom of speech and protection from violence to their opponents, even when they come into power and no longer have to. Even opponents they really hate, even when it would be easy not to. As far as I can tell those people are in the minority. It’s easy to say your are pro-free-speech when free speech shields you. It is hard to be for it when you are in power, and you must expend effort and lose allies (and friends!) in an effort to shield people who are disgusting. All because of something as stupid as a principle.
But the weak! The weak will always hide under those principles, because they don’t have much strength of their own. The allies they can recruit from the Establishment, who believe in the principles, will lend them a fair bit of strength. The strong, on the other hand, don’t need the principles. They are already in control of the establishment. And so the principles are always the refuge of the weak.
Look to who is invoking principles, such as freedom of speech, to defend themselves. These are usually the weaker in a conflict.
I am tired to sheltering reprehensible people. I almost wish for a time when my beliefs were the oppressed minority, because then the people I agree with – the GOOD people – would be the ones I’m supporting when I stand for freedom of expression. I have a number of people who I can’t call friends anymore, because they see me giving aid and shelter to reprehensible people.
But dammit, I’d rather have people who believe in principles as allies than those who simply agree with me on things like who’s the “better” person. Principles are impartial and firm. They protect everyone equally. People can turn on you in an instant if you don’t sufficiently agree with their current political crusade.
Y’all can stop reading now unless you want personal info, this is the diary part of the blog post.
Early today Republican House Whip Steve Scalise was among five people shot at a congressional baseball game, where a bunch of Republican law makers were playing. He was shot by someone described as a passionate Progressive. I was surprised not to see anything about it in my Facebook feed, as generally its full of politics, and even moreso when a shooting is involved. The only thing I saw all day was one person posting that violence is never acceptable without referencing exactly what happened.
Several months ago, when Richard Spencer was assaulted in the street, I got into a bit of a dust-up with a few friends as to what the problem with this was. With the silence in the wake of this shooting, I asked “Can any of my friends who posted approval for violence when it’s punching people explain why they are against violence when it’s shooting people in the hip? I was told more than once that the purpose of political violence was to make reprehensible people scared to say reprehensible things in public. Since hip-shots are probably more effective at that, is violence only acceptable as a tactic when it’s not very effective?”
All the answers I got essentially boiled down to “Its OK to silence people with the threat of a small amount of violence. It’s not OK to silence them with the threat of a large amount of violence.” Someone drew the comparison between a mugging and a serial killer, saying they weren’t remotely on the same scale.
I found this incredibly depressing. No, they’re not on the same scale. The serial killing is far worse. But I’m still of the opinion that mugging is ALSO bad. How is this an argument for the people who are for small-amounts-of-violence? Comparing your position to that of a mugger doesn’t seem like it should be a winning move.
Another person claimed that frightening people into not doing bad stuff is one of the most beloved, rousing forms of extralegal law. Again, I was dejected to discover that there are people on the “good” side – liberal, progressive, pro-equality, etc – who are in favor of and speak highly about “extralegal law”! What in god’s name is my side coming to?
I was told (again) that violence against Nazis doesn’t count as bad, because Nazis are people who’s sole motivation and explicit purpose is violence. I responded that the same was said of Communists once, and this was used to destroy the lives of many people who weren’t actually Communists because their opponents found it useful to label them as such. I was told that this was a false equivalency because Not All Communists are violent, and Yes All Nazis are. I declined to say Not All Nazis, because I know a stupid rhetorical trap when I see one (though why it doesn’t count when someone says Not All Communists I don’t know) and merely pointed out that this didn’t address my concern about creating a sub-human category of person that it’s OK to subject to violence, which I believe is wrong on principle, and the fact that some people will be labeled as that category by their enemies simply as a convenient tool. The conversation ended abruptly. (Tho to be fair, the person I was speaking to said I was misrepresenting their opinion, and didn’t believe it was worth taking the time/effort to correct me)
So yeah. I feel like I was very naive in thinking that certain useful principles matter for most people past the point where they are useful to them. This is distressing to me. :(