THERE EXISTS NO PARADOX IN DENYING
FREEDOMS TO FASCISTS
BY JAMES HOLT
WITH RESPONSE BELOW, THAT ARGUES WHY WE
MUST MAINTAIN FREEDOM OF SPEECH FOR ALL
MUST MAINTAIN FREEDOM OF SPEECH FOR ALL
"We must remember that many of those that play this game do not care for freedom at all, but simply wish to play the martyr to lofty ideas of political freedoms that float well above the stinking reality of fascism and neo-Nazism."
"One must always ponder the minds of those who at the first sign of racism, fascism and intolerance, jump immediately to defending the right to free speech as oppose to challenging the intolerance and hatred of fascists."
Amidst the rise of the far-right across Europe and North America the debate over whether society should “tolerate the intolerant” dominated a large part of 2017. Not only did far-right groups claim their right to free-speech but they attempted to place themselves as the righteous defenders of such liberty. There is however no paradox in refusing to tolerate the intolerant.
The false narrative of freedom
A just and workable society can only be based on one principle. All citizens should be equal before the law regardless of the things they have no control over, race, disability, sexual orientation etc. Fascists and Nazis disagree with this.
Nazis and fascists openly believe that certain individuals, regardless of their individual actions within society, should be discriminated against. The fascist uses a narrowly defined idea of democracy as simple majority rule and that if a certain amount of people agree with them then they should be able to infringe the rights of others without recourse.
The question is not whether we believe a paradox exits between giving freedom to those who would deny it to others given the chance, or whether we should tolerate the intolerant, the question is whether you believe in a just society where people are not prosecuted for things out with their individual personal actions.
The limits of liberty
All societies place limits on individual liberty. We do not have the liberty to commit crimes against our fellow citizens without expecting consequences. If we commit robbery, assault a fellow citizen or even commit murder then we can expect our future rights to be infringed in some way. Our actions taken as individuals result in consequences for us as individuals. These consequences though are the result of our individual personal actions, not because of the things we have no choice over, race, sexuality etc.
Now if you simply plan to commit a crime, and take distinct steps towards planning to commit such a crime then you can also expect negative consequences, even within the most free society imaginable. If we plan to commit a murder, go and buy a gun, a getaway car and drive to the home of the person we intend to murder then we can fully expect consequences for planning to commit murder, even if we are caught before the final act of murder is carried out.
Like the individual who conspires commit an illegal act but fails to actually carry out the crime the fascist uses “freedom of speech” and political organisation as the precursor to committing crimes in the future (and fuels the hate crimes already committed by such groups). They desire to remove the fundamental element of a just society, equality before the law.
They plan the future crime of punishing people not for their individual actions but for those things they cannot control. Just because the fascist may not be successful in taking over the state and setting up the concentration camps doesn't mean they are not planning or willing to.
People have the choice to be fascists, they do not have the choice to be from an ethnic minority. You may disagree, and believe that majoritarian rule means that a majority of people can do whatever they wish to others as long as they are in the majority but we must question if any sensible being could ever call such a thing a ‘just’ society.
The fascist stands opposed to the one principal of a free and just society, equality before the law regardless of the things over which you do not control.
The misguided claim a paradox between restricting freedom of speech or political organisation for some and not for others, yet they would not likely disagree with restricting the rights of those who planned to commit other forms of crime. We must remember that many of those that play this game do not care for freedom at all, but simply wish to play the martyr to lofty ideas of political freedoms that float well above the stinking reality of fascism and neo-Nazism.
One must always ponder the minds of those who at the first sign of racism, fascism and intolerance, jump immediately to defending the right to free speech as oppose to challenging the intolerance and hatred of fascists.
In short, there is no paradox in being intolerant to intolerant ideas, either in day to day discourse or via the legalities of a decent society. There exists only paradox in the statements of those who desire a free and just society but allow the political organisation of those who wish to eliminate the rights, and even the lives, of minority citizens.
WE MUST MAINTAIN FREEDOM OF SPEECH FOR ALL
A RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE
BY BENJAMIN MERCER
A RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE
BY BENJAMIN MERCER
Should we ever find ourselves living in a totalitarian nightmare state, perhaps asking - if we still have the wit to do so - how it came about, we will have no choice but to conclude that it is entirely our fault.
The government of such a state might well be comprised of evil men, but the state itself will have been made by those who fancy themselves decent, tolerant, liberal, progressive sorts.
For it is in the name of all these things that we now gladly argue for the abolition of our liberties. Our future despotism will be drawn, not from the hideous brutality that animates George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, but from that most insidious vice of all: the want of easy living.
It is our almost ubiquitous desire for convenience which is so dangerous. It is why Huxley's Brave New World, whilst an inferior book, is much more useful than Nineteen Eighty-Four: it shows us the consequences of our bland and lazy hedonism. No fuss, no politics, no disagreement of any sort; no sadness, no suffering or misery. To put it otherwise, no humanity at all. There is no conscience, no soul, neither love nor hate. There is only pleasure, and so there is no such thing.
We ought to be more wary of this than we are, more alive to its dangers and more aware of ourselves. But it manifests itself everywhere, from attacks on 'partisan' politics and 'intolerant' personal views, from the acceptance and even wholehearted championing of 'hate speech' laws to support for the EU. It is found in such slogans as 'hate has no religion', and the absurd 'no tolerance for intolerance'.
It is found, too, in opposition to 'fascism', used here in inverted commas and without a capital letter because 'fascism', despite Orwell's attempt to warn us against such practices, has become little more than a political swear word.
Nobody seems at all able to define 'fascism', though many are quick to recognise it in their opponents. Yet it undoubtedly carries a very significant weight, and will continue to do so until rendered weak by overuse.
Its easy application and terrible implications make it a weapon almost unique in political rhetoric and the field of fighting words. Contra the apparent belief of those who use it, which is that 'fascism' is everywhere and somehow still rising, there are very few real Fascists, and even they would hesitate to publically accept the label, much less defend it.
This leads, in effect, to a covert form of tyranny, in which the users of the term 'fascism' hold great power over their opponents. They can appeal to public fears of 'fascism' in order to lobby, with alarming success, for all sorts of draconian, illiberal and, frankly, dangerous things, whist the laziness which allows them recourse to the word makes them blind to the consequences of their ideas and actions.
Take, for example, a piece in this very journal by my colleague James Holt.
Mr Holt writes, of 'just and workable' societies, that they rely for their foundations upon the principle of equality before the law. Further, this equality must have it that peoples' nature - 'race, disability, sexual orientation etc.' - is protected against attack, for these are 'things they have no control over'.
Now he denies the existence of paradox in what follows. He is right to do so. Paradox entails a tight weave, an apparent dichotomy, which can be untangled to reveal the truth. What Mr Holt sets up for himself is nothing so nuanced as that. It is in fact pure contradiction.
He argues that 'all societies place limits on individual liberty.' He cites robbery, assault, murder, and other such crimes, which, because they are crimes, represent limits on liberty. These are things you are not allowed to do.
He then mentions intent to commit crime, which in some cases is a crime itself. 'Conspiracy to commit', for instance, or 'attempted' this or that.
Which, he says, is why 'fascists' and Nazis can be denied their freedoms of speech and expression, and their right to political assembly. Because they appeal to these things in their defense, and because their goal is the overthrow of a 'just and workable society', a Nazi or a 'fascist's' freedoms and liberties amount to the crime of conspiracy; to commit unjustifiable acts, to offend against human nature, etc.
And so, in order to defend equality before the law, Mr Holt makes the case for its abolition. It is rather like the American commander in Vietnam who, when questioned about the bombing campaign in Bén Tre, replied: 'it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.'
Consider what has just been accomplished. We have been told that, for certain people, citing the law in their defence is itself a conspiracy against the law.
We are told this is acceptable because Nazism and 'fascism' are ideologies, and therefore matters of choice, whilst those harmed by the successes of Nazism and 'fascism' would be victims because of their nature, which is not a choice.
Yet Hume's well-worn dictum surely applies: is does not entail ought. Mr Holt's ideal state prohibits the holding or exercise of any moral or political opinion save what is deemed acceptable by the state, which - as in history - means the opinion held either by the majority or by an elite minority.
If the former, it represents 'a narrowly defined idea of democracy as simple majority rule [in which] if a simple majority of people agree with [the ruling group] then they should be able to infringe the rights of others'... which is exactly what Mr Holt dislikes about 'fascism'!
If the latter, it represents not a fascistic approach but a close relative of it: a Falangist or Francoite conception of the state.
The right to see certain things as matters of nature, deserving of protection for that reason, for instance homosexuality, has been won in a fight against the very system Mr Holt now claims is their best defense. His reasoning operated, as regards, homosexuality, at least until the '60s, when the is of homosexuality was its immorality and the ought was punishment and condemnation. It was once thought is that blacks were primitive barbarians, less human than whites, therefore they ought to be treated as animals.
Such things were long the dominant teachings and the most commonly received opinions, preached from pulpits and reinforced by the purveyors of popular religion. Religion is not an is in the same way as black skin, and all of the significant monotheisms advocate the barbaric treatment of homosexuals, women, ethnic minorities and suchlike. The Quran condemns me to death four times within its first twenty pages.
So would Mr Holt ban the Quran? Would not that be 'islamophobic' and so 'fascism'? Would he ban religious preaching and religious opinion?
Of course he would, for he must. He has established his state as an exclusive religion, taking what is currently considered an is and setting out, with theocratic certainty, a corollary ought. He enshrines into the nature of the state the very thing he opposes: an intolerant majoritarian or aristocratic philosophy in which there can be no equality before the law, for such equality permits minority opinion.
This is the great danger represented by those who use the language of liberalism to advocate its destruction. They favour the conditions in which Nazis and Fascists can flourish, giving to the machinery of the state the power to tell you, me, all of us, what we may say and read and believe. It creates a superior jurisprudence which can say to the people 'no, you may not think that; no, that belief is criminal'. Once this is accomplished, a Nazi or a Fascist may arrive at the head of government and find all his work done for him.
Mr Holt says one 'must always ponder the minds of those who at the first sign of racism, fascism and intolerance, jump immediately to defending the right to free speech as oppose to challenging the intolerance and hatred of fascists.'
Well, sir, perhaps I can enlighten you: those of us sincerely committed in the fight against Fascism are on constant guard against that which would empower Fascists. It is easy and right and satisfying to essay our condemnations, but the serious work of opposition has as nonsense the suggestion that our gates should be bolstered by the foundation stones of the city.
It is as Thomas More says to Roper in Bolt's A Man for All Seasons when he is accused of defending the devil.
'What would you do,' he asks Roper, 'cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?'
'I'd cut down every law in England to do that,' says Roper.
And More responds: 'Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil the benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.'