Charlottesville, Virgina may yet go down in history as the birthplace of political censorship and the graveyard of First Amendment rights. The inevitable consequence of the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend is a concerted effort by the left to silence the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements, such as they are. The first indication of this agenda was the cancellation of The Daily Stormer’s web hosting account by domain registration giant, GoDaddy. The Daily Stormer is a neo-Nazi website that promotes white supremacy, antisemitism, and Nazism. One needs a strong stomach to wade through its pages of vile insults, conspiracy theories and just plain hatred of anyone who is not a white Christian. It is important to note, however, that Stormer’s ideas of Christianity are a very far field from standard Christian doctrine.
Is this the road that America, as a nation, should tread? At what point is it decided that certain views should be banned? What is the litmus test for which views are allowed and which are not and, most importantly, who gets to administer that test?
GoDaddy’s motive for banishing the site is open to speculation. The site posted a disgusting smear of Heather Hayer, the young woman who was killed in Charlotteville Saturday when a car plowed into a large group of counter-protesters. After receiving a complaint via Twitter, the company acted against The Daily Stormer, as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. GoDaddy was well within its rights to do so. Whatever Hayer believed or whatever her personal reasons for attending the counter-protest in Charlottesville, she deserved neither to die nor be so viciously slandered. Still, her tragic death may have served merely as a pretext for GoDaddy to shut the site down. Such an idea is purely speculative, of course. There are, perhaps, other reasons to leave such sites in place. The repulsive ideas published on sites like Stormer should, perhaps, be exposed rather than swept into obscurity. Any extremist ideology can be more easily defended when it is hidden away from the public eye. The editors of such sites are less able to defend, or mask, their ideas and intentions when they are published on a site accessible to all. Once the Daily Storm is taken offline, it is easier to forget the hideous agenda of those who maintained and contributed to it.
Perhaps more importantly, the First Amendment should be neither forgotten nor used selectively. A long-accepted tradition in America is that everyone’s freedom of speech should be vigorously defended, even when the speech itself is heinous and deemed unacceptable by the majority.
Conservatives were quick to pile on with condemnation of the Unite the Right protest in Charlottesville, given that the event appeared to be organized and attended, for the most part, by white supremacists. When such groups – as appalling as most people find their beliefs – are silenced and, perhaps, outlawed, these same conservatives will find themselves in the position of not being able to credibly defend First Amendment rights. They will have, in effect, accepted the idea that freedom of speech is a right that should not be extended to those whose speech is viewed as unacceptable. The problem, here, is that all conservative, republican and libertarian speech is unacceptable to the left. Everyone on the right is constantly labeled as bigots, homophobes, racists and any number of other derogatory terms. It follows, then, that the extreme left – if successful in their fight to silence white supremacists – will cast their censorship net further; encroaching ever more persistently upon the rights of anyone who they deem guilty of ‘hate speech.’ Currently, the left lacks the political clout to impose such censorship but what happens if, and when, they acquire such power? Expressing one’s contempt for certain beliefs is one thing but to stand silently by while that speech is forbidden is to play fast and loose with the Bill of Rights and, potentially, permits one section of the nation to control who does – and who does not – have the right to speak.
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