As you may know, I am an absolutist when it comes of free expression.
I have been having a troubling time with what should be the simple answer to the question, ‘Should avowed fascists be allowed to speak publically about their beliefs and the actions they feel should be taken in support of these beliefs?’
My reflexive answer is, ‘Yes.’
This conundrum started for me (as it did for the rest of you, I’m thinking) when this video hit social media on 19 January of this year:
Like you, I googled Richard Spencer to find out what he was about.
Like you (I hope) I was sickened by what I found.
I was troubled by my reaction to the above video. I derived a positive pleasure from watching Mr. Spencer being punched.
I spent several days trying to reconcile my desire to see this kind of mindset erased from humanity and my conviction that no viewpoint, however repulsive, be excluded from the marketplace of ideas.
Finally, I realized what the solution to the issue was.
The great Ayaan Hirsi Ali famously said, “The tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” To be a tolerant person is to oppose those who preach or practice intolerance. I find this assertion to be self-evident. Like violence in the name of ending violence, however, it seems contradictory, even oxymoronic. Though it is counter intuitive, Ms. Ali’s statement is logical and the only proper course to take in the defense of tolerance.
Like pacifism, absolute tolerance defeats itself. Being unwilling to commit violence under any circumstances makes one a de facto willing victim of the violent. Pacifism is also incompatible with compassion, which is the motive for both pacifism and tolerance. Sometimes, the most merciful thing one can do for a fellow conscious creature is end their pain by ending their lives. Sometimes, when all non-violent means have been exhausted, violence is the only way to curb the violent—even if this means killing them.
Fascism is at its core, intolerant of opposition, even the non-violent expression of opposing views. Fascists like Mr. Spencer desire that the free expression of those who oppose them, verbally or otherwise, be curtailed. They wish to be the only voice allowed to speak.
The question is, ‘Should we give public access to people to express the view that the expression of certain viewpoints should be prevented, even when they advocate that such expression be illegal?’
The tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.
I fail to see how Richard Spencer’s views are anything but intolerant.
Therefore, his right to a public forum to express them must be opposed in the name of tolerance.