Free Speech, Political Violence and American Supremacy

by William Skink

Protecting free speech is supposed to include speech we find repugnant. If it doesn’t, then shutting down all manner of expression will become easier.

Some efforts to shut down speech are not going to be effective. Take getting individuals who showed up at the Unite The Right rally fired from their jobs. What is that going to accomplish?

Dan Brooks took this up with a post that asks the questions Should we get white nationalists fired from their jobs? I commend Dan for eschewing the emotional reactions I am seeing everywhere on social media by actually using his brain to think through this ethical quagmire. And it is a an ethical quagmire.

Before getting to Brooks and his parsing of what constitutes being a Nazi who deservedly should get punched in the face and what is merely asshole white nationalism, this attempt by a GOP Congressman to punish a bank employee for her activism is worth noting:

The most powerful congressman in New Jersey, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, wrote a fundraising letter in March to a board member of a local bank, warning him that a member of an activist group opposing the Republican worked at his bank.

The employee was questioned and criticized for her involvement in NJ 11th for Change, a group that formed after the election of Donald Trump and has been pressuring Frelinghuysen to meet with constituents in his district and oppose the Trump agenda.

“Needless to say, that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome,” said Saily Avelenda of West Caldwell, New Jersey, who was a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at the bank before she resigned. She says the pressure she received over her political involvement was one of several reasons she decided to leave.

Is this ok? I doubt anyone celebrating white supremacists getting fired would think this scenario is acceptable. It’s too bad they don’t seem to understand how their righteous efforts to shut down speech they don’t agree with will make it easier for anyone to shutdown speech they don’t agree with.

When I received a threatening letter at work, it was clear the anonymous author of the letter intended to negatively impact my employment. Did my opinions change? No. Was I more resolved than ever to continue expressing my opinions? Hell yes.

Getting back to Brooks’ piece, his conclusion is a little problematic because it still includes calls to violence for those real Nazis. I suggest reading the whole article because his conclusion probably deserves the full context of his argument, which ends with this:

I am trying to ask what we are willing to do to the people for whom we have almost no sympathy at all. We should punch Nazis, but maybe we should refrain from punching people who merely resemble Nazis. Otherwise, the mechanisms of our disagreements might overpower their content. If you had a button on your desk that electrocuted anyone you disagreed with, you could solve the Nazi problem real quick. Maybe, though, you would generate a new problem entirely.

Brooks is trying to remind us that slopes can be slippery. He’s hedging his argument with a casual reference to violence–we should punch Nazis. How about shooting them in the streets?

Former Missoula Councilman, Jason Wiener, recently posed a simple question (with a link to what happened in Virginia). The question he asked is What is the solution to this? Of the first three comments, two referenced violence:

Pete Youngstrom: When did shooting nazis in the street become a bad thing?

Heath Carey: Perhaps it’s time to give the “tree of liberty” its due manure.

It’s not surprising that some people are going to think more violence is the solution. It used to seem like the right had that market cornered, and while the death count still heavily leans toward the lethality of right-wing extremists, I’m worried there is increasing acceptance across the political spectrum that violence is an inevitable means of enacting political change.

The main reason I have a hard time taking all the moral righteousness over this violent rally in Virginia seriously is because there was 8 years of violent neoliberal foreign policy that American Supremacists who supported the Obama regime seemed to find more than acceptable.

The American-backed coup in Ukraine is a perfect example. One violent consequence of enacting a coup in Ukraine was empowering very real Nazis. This reality was brutally exposed in May of 2014 when this happened:

As much as the coup regime in Ukraine and its supporters want to project an image of Western moderation, there is a “Dr. Strangelove” element that can’t stop the Nazism from popping up from time to time, like when the Peter Sellers character in the classic movie can’t keep his right arm from making a “Heil Hitler” salute.

This brutal Nazism surfaced again on Friday when right-wing toughs in Odessa attacked an encampment of ethnic Russian protesters driving them into a trade union building which was then set on fire with Molotov cocktails. As the building was engulfed in flames, some people who tried to flee were chased and beaten, while those trapped inside heard the Ukrainian nationalists liken them to black-and-red-striped potato beetles called Colorados, because those colors are used in pro-Russian ribbons.

As the fire worsened, those dying inside were serenaded with the taunting singing of the Ukrainian national anthem. The building also was spray-painted with Swastika-like symbols and graffiti reading “Galician SS,” a reference to the Ukrainian nationalist army that fought alongside the German Nazi SS in World War II, killing Russians on the eastern front.

The death by fire of dozens of people in Odessa recalled a World War II incident in 1944 when elements of a Galician SS police regiment took part in the massacre of the Polish village of Huta Pieniacka, which had been a refuge for Jews and was protected by Russian and Polish partisans. Attacked by a mixed force of Ukrainian police and German soldiers on Feb. 28, hundreds of townspeople were massacred, including many locked in barns that were set ablaze.

After the violence last weekend, I saw lots of claims that THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. I don’t agree. I think a country that willfully ignores its own history (who financed Hitler? who helped Nazi scientists get jobs in America?), and ignores or downplays its own imperial crimes, will inevitably be comprised of citizens who see violence as a solution to their problems.

The extreme right used to dominate in this area. Not anymore. The political consensus of pursuing a violent foreign policy across the globe is increasingly being reflected by a political consensus at home that violence against political opponents is inevitable.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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20 Responses to Free Speech, Political Violence and American Supremacy

  1. Big Swede says:

    Nuff said.

    QOTD: “Oakland 2009, Akron 2009, Pittsburgh 2009, Santa Cruz 2010, Oakland 2010, Los Angeles 2010, Oakland 2011, Chicago 2012, Anaheim 2012, Brooklyn 2013, Ferguson 2014, New York City 2014, Baltimore 2015, Anaheim 2016, Chicago 2016, St Paul 2016, Milwaukee 2016, Charlotte 2016, Standing Rock 2016, Oakland 2016, Portland 2016, Washington DC 2017, Berkeley 2017, Anaheim 2017, Berkeley (again) 2017, Berkeley (again again) 2017, Olympia 2017, and Portland 2017. This is a list of overwhelmingly leftist protests [that turned violent].” –Ben Domenech

    • how many killed in all these violent protests?

      • Big Swede says:

        My guess without research would be none even except for a death at standing rock.

        I thinking Ben’s overall point in this list is the escalation of violence. If Charlottesville would have been the first protest on this list maybe no deaths would’ve occurred. People are getting fed up with destruction of property, loss of culture and freedom. What we is a lit powder keg and it’s not going to get any better.

        T.L. Davis sums up the real reason behind all this.

        “Today, the question is not whether or not one is a racist, but whether or not one is a collectivist, because the way the issue has been framed by the collectivists in government and the media is that if you are not one of them you are by definition a racist, or an Islamophobic or homophobic, because that is the way they intend to destroy not only you as a traditional American (of whatever color) but the traditional America and seize complete control of the nation. When they achieve that, complete control, the real killing will begin, so answer that question carefully. It is the Jihadist (and why they like them so much) question: “Convert or die?” “

    • JC says:

      And many, if not all of those protests had violence originated by agents provocateurs.

  2. petetalbot says:

    Quick question: your thoughts on the Confederate Memorial Fountain in Helena.

    • Big Swede says:

      I think the new Democratic challenger to GG along with Senator Tester should grab a heavy tow chain and pull the fountain down in front off numerous MT news outlets.

    • quick answer: remove it then get to work chiseling the face of that slave rapist Jefferson off Mt Rushmore.

    • JC says:

      Indians blew up the cowboy monument on Hill 57 in Great Falls 40-50 years ago and nobody made much out of it. Destroying a monument just makes more history.

      I’m reminded of how we created the possibility, aided it, and then stood quietly aside as directed Iraqi mobs tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein. All so we could establish a puppet government.

      The symbolism conveyed by monuments is transient at best. I imagine the Statue of Liberty will be the first to go when WW III brings the next flock of chickens home to roost.

  3. Big Swede says:

    Comment by SW Richmond.

    “Charlottesville is direct evidence of collusion between communists known as antifa and leftist government. The ACLU has confirmed a statement from Virginia State Police to not intervene without orders. Charlottesville PD was nowhere to be found. Virginia State Police made no effort to separate antagonists before during or after the event. Virginia State Police are on video 15 ft from active fighting carrying on for almost an hour and doing nothing. Virginia State Police and Virginia National Guard MPs had significant reserves which could have been deployed to make this a safe event. I witnessed this. These reserves were not used until they were deployed to push rally goers out of the park into the streets.

    It is clear the city council of Charlottesville and the racketeer Terry McAuliffe, governor of Virginia, turned the streets over to violent Antifa. By pushing rally-goers out of the park into the streets where antifa was waiting the police instigated the violence which followed the closing of the event. This is a documented fact it is not speculation. Blood spilled at the event is on the hands of Terry McAuliffe.

    It seems clear McAuliffe wanted a shooting event as a political wedge for the upcoming Virginia State wide elections. In his first press conference after the tragic vehicle event McAuliffe mentioned how many people were at the event with firearms even though there were no shootings. Clearly he was aware there were many armed people at the event and I am wondering if he is disappointed that no shootings took place in the staged war which he set up in Charlottesville.”

    • JC says:

      McAuliffe is just another Clintonite neoliberal. What do you expect? His time running Clinton presidential campaigns and the DNC pretty much set his trajectory as just another in a long line of water boys for TPTB.

  4. steve kelly says:

    Chop at the top, that’s where the real power and money is.
    “Webb says that John Podesta is currently in a buying frenzy, buying up art, gold and diamonds, in an attempt to unload $40 billion from the Clinton Foundation and to spread it out all over the world, before those assets can be seized, following the appointment of a new FBI director.”

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