Opinion: We Can Protect Free Speech & Prosecute Right-Wing Terrorists At The Same Time

by Andy Hart // August 25, 2017

If we have already agreed that there is no place for violent Islamic extremism in this country then maybe it’s time we stand up and label the number one threat we face here at home: terrorism at the hands of white right-wing extremists.

We wouldn’t let ISIS buy advertising space on mainstream networks just as much as we wouldn’t let ISIS hold rallies in the streets nor allow them to publish content in this country that promotes genocide against other Americans – and that’s got nothing to do with free speech.

The way we’ve allowed the NRA to promote a violent civil war, the way we’ve named schools after Grand Dragons of the Klu Klux Klan, the way in which we’ve allowed the police to be infiltrated by the KKK, the way the acting president in the White House is promoting the good old days where protesters would be left in stretchers – all of these instances are symptoms of an issue that we often refuse to address which is the adoption and normalization of extremist far-right groups in American culture.

Charlottesville Wasn’t About Free Speech, It Was About Uniting Terrorists

A popular conversation among progressive communities regarded recently free speech after the ACLU seemingly sided with white supremacists in upholding their right to rally at a park they had gotten a permit for. On the first night the combined alt-right groups held a torch rally and violently attacked several students who were gathered nearby to protest them. There was no police presence during this time even though the city had been aware of the planned demonstrations. The following day the city revoked the white nationalist’s permit to organize in their city after seeing footage of their streets overran by torch-bearing white nationalists chanting threats like ‘Jews will not replace us’.

One thing to remember before we continue- marching with torches, beating students and threats of violence against Jews, people of color and LGBT are not instances of ‘free’ speech – if I held a torch up to you, began beating you and threw lighter fluid on you or if I drove over you and killed you then I would no longer be speaking, I would be acting out and I would be terrorizing a community.

The lawyers in the ACLU argued that the city had already given them the permit and they legally had the right to organize and speak. Hundreds were already at the park by the time the city tried to revoke the permit (they had sound equipment set up at the park where they had the permit and many had traveled out of state to attend and weren’t easily willing to walk away). In this situation my frustration isn’t with the lawyers at the ACLU but rather the leaders of Charlottesville who were unusually timid, refrained from employing National Guard after saying they were prepared and delayed police presence even though they had been well-aware of the 48 hours of planned ‘Unite The Right’ activity. The move to cancel the permit led to more angst among alt-right groups and later one white supremacist became so enraged that they drove through a group of peace activists and left Heather Heyer dead and many others injured.

The city failed to respond properly to the hate groups in this instance and by the time they realized who showed up to rally it was too late to deny their permit. When the safety of community members becomes a concern then the conversation isn’t about speech, it’s about preventing hate groups from causing violence and it should be about arresting those committing that violence and making those threats. This country just witnessed peaceful activists who were defending their water get maced and blown to pieces in North Dakota so many of us already know that this issue is deeply systemic and no amount of liberal ‘free speech’ guidelines will solve the hate embedded into our entire system.

After this incident the president of the United States went on to condemn ‘both sides’ for their violence even though Heather Heyer was not involved in any violent acts. Several days later that same president specifically condemned a terrorist driver in Spain who plowed through citizens there and didn’t seem to put blame on the victims of that attack. Years of providing safe spaces for KKK and Nazis, of not holding accountable those who spread racist rhetoric as well as providing legal buffers, of providing physical barriers and financial assistance to hate speakers has created the environment we’re in today.

Consider another point being that people like Milo, Trump and Bannon wouldn’t be where they are today had they not been promoted and heavily funded by the Mercer family (wealthier than the Soros family) to spread their propaganda in an effort to accumulate dedicated voters after creating division. These acts combined with our racist historical trauma has transformed American culture into a breeding ground for racist & extremist ideology.

Right-Wing Extremism Is The Number One Threat To National Security According To Government Terrorism Studies

According to the official Government Accountability Office (GAO) violent terrorism in the United States is caused by white far-right individuals at almost three times the rate of radical Islamic extremists. 73 percent of all domestic attacks in the United States are carried out by far-right extremist groups including white nationalists, white supremacists and Nazi-affiliated hate groups while only 27 percent are caused by violent Islamic terrorists.

Even under Obama the United States refused to take action to denounce Nazis; that complacency provided the groundwork for where we are today. On multiple occasions, such as in 2014 the United States voted against anti-Nazi measures proposed at the United Nations citing Russia was going to use it to carry out political attacks against its neighbors and 2 years later claimed that denouncing Nazis infringes free speech.

One Georgia State University study found that on average the media gives Islamic terror attacks 449% more coverage than other attacks so not only are viewers misled but the real crisis is continuously ignored.

“We examined news coverage from LexisNexis Academic and CNN.com for all terrorist attacks in the United States between 2011 and 2015. Controlling for target type, fatalities, and being arrested, attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 449% more coverage than other attacks. Given the disproportionate quantity of news coverage for these attacks, it is no wonder that people are afraid of the Muslim terrorist. More representative media coverage could help to bring public perception of terrorism in line with reality.”

Deeply Seeded Roots: The FBI Admits Many Police Groups Are Now Infiltrated By The KKK

Why would police have so much empathy for a white man who had just murdered a group of black church members that were praying? Could it be they respected what he had done and wanted to reward him before he was incarcerated or are we to believe it’s normal and acceptable for police officers to buy hot meals for people that had just engaged in mass murder?

Over the last few decades the FBI oversaw entire police precincts become infiltrated with clan members of the KKK. With all the evidence accumulated by the FBI, one has to wonder why it was never acted upon and why this issue is heavily ignored by the media.

White supremacy has been adopted into law enforcement which has allowed hate groups to go unpunished for blatantly racist and senseless crimes committed against citizens of color. We see story after story about people of color being shot in the back and other instances including a black child playing in the park being shot and killed by police within seconds, a black woman who had her vagina cavity searched with a flashlight on the side of a freeway, even black caretakers being shot because they’re helping their disabled patients.

Beyond the fact that police in the United States are not trained to deescalate situations properly and are constantly living in a state of fear, citizens also have to deal with the fact that their local officers might go out of their way to make their lives miserable because of a difference in skin tone.

Take the case of Sgt. James Brown, a veteran who served 2 tours overseas to defend this country, only to be tortured to death by police officers in Texas. The officers filmed the event like it was a frat party, dragging his body around from room to room while they filmed his suffering. The video these officers released shows a veteran begging for his life and choking on his own blood – killed unlawfully by ‘brave enforcers of the law’. The police in this situation used torture tactics identical to the ones used by extremist terror groups like Al-Qaeda. It’s instances like this along with Sandra Bland’s case and the countless other victims of police brutality that has communities questioning who the people are that are hiding behind their badges and guns.

Don’t Attack Free Speech, Label & Prosecute The Terrorists Abusing It

There’s a reason lawyers need our free speech laws in place – it allows us to creatively express our thoughts without worrying about government oversight. Changing free speech laws instead of dealing with the areas where we are truly vulnerable as a society is the wrong place to put our focus.

Once we give power to the government that limits what we say (remember, this is a governing system already dominated with white supremacist ideology), we are opening up Pandora’s box and creating an environment where those who are the most wealthy in this country can legally go after anyone they claim is invoking hate speech. Our current first protection freedoms allow us to be artists, activists and religious leaders – we do not need to tolerate those who abuse that privilege and we do not need to alter that privilege to exclude terrorists, we should prosecute them just as we are meant to.

Let’s say we altered the first amendment in an effort to curve white supremacist hate – we cannot then assume our elected officials or government would go after Nazi groups and KKK clans considering how many freedoms, tax exemptions and protections they are currently provided by that same system. There are plenty of other steps to take as a society to confront hateful rhetoric but first we have to talk about the infection, then we have to rid ourselves of that infection and prevent it from coming back so that we can heal – right now we’re constantly scratching on a racist Nazi/KKK/Alt-Right/Confederate scab and our wound will not stop bleeding and it’s making a mess everywhere.

We should be setting a standard for all speech and that doesn’t mean tweaking speech laws and first amendment freedoms, it means prosecuting and imprisoning anyone who abuses that right to free speech by directly threatening the lives of others or by distributing propaganda that calls for genocide.

As long as these violent white supremacists feel either empowered like they can get away with murder or like victims of oppression then they will continue to get special treatment. They need to be aware that they’re criminal offenders when they participate in terrorist ideology and that means following through with charges after arresting them for disturbing the peace, for inciting a riot, for threats of violence, for attacking citizens and for being engaged in terrorism. A clear example of this is the Nazi leader in California who filmed himself crying after realizing he was filmed pepper spraying a demonstrator which got him a warrant for his arrest; once he’s been arrested and charged this would be the opportunity to rehabilitate someone like him who once called themselves the leader of Nazi hate groups. The judge in this instance refused to grant him bail as well.

We can’t censor or punch out white supremacist terrorist ideology much like we can’t bomb or censor the hate out of Middle Eastern countries that are sending us their Islamic terrorists.

Post Author: Andy Hart

─ Formerly Libertarian & now a Progressive Leftist; supports ending wars, rebuilding American lives and investing in public services. Activist. Lone Wolf. Not Great At Writing. Artist from California. Follow Me On Facebook
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