Freedom of speech is not about protecting the right of free speech of those we agree with. It is about protecting the right to speak for those we hate and despise. It is the job of government, and of the police in particular, to protect and defend the right of all people to speak. Those who use violence and intimidation to silence those they dislike are Fascists in the exact meaning of the word. Fascists before WWII in Italy and Germany were famous for using violence to silence those whom they disliked.
The man holding up this sign is a Fascist.
Noam Chomsky, despite my personal disagreements with many of his beliefs and positions, put it very well.
If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all. Noam Chomsky
It seems to me today the sort of people who want to ban hate speech basically define “hate speech” as pretty much anything they disagree with or don’t understand (or don’t feel prepared to refute logically).
I had an interesting discussion with my son and daughter recently. They are millennials and were telling me that the Antifa folks were justified in physically attacking and beating up people at a public rally whom they characterized as white supremacists. They justified this with this line of logic:
“White supremacists like Nazis advocate the genocide of inferior people. They want to gas blacks like the Nazis gassed the Jews in WWII.”
I am fairly certain that the vast majority of so-called “white supremacists” don’t want to gas black people and, although some may hold views I find personally despicable, are not in the same league as the Nazis who really did murder millions of people in concentration camps.
I would say to these people, as I said to my son and daughter, “You need to find out what these people truly believe and then use rational arguments to refute them based on facts, not fictions based on your own prejudices.”
Using violence first is always the naked admission that you don’t have good arguments, at least good arguments that will win the hearts and minds of rational people. Are there bad people out there that hold bad views? Of course there are. But if your first response is to use violence against people exercising their constitutional right to free speech just because you despise them, well, then you are an even worse person than they are.
It is ok to fight Nazis and evil people, but only after those people stop talking and start using violence to get their way. Then by God get your gun and have at it, just like our fathers and grandfathers did in WWII. But not before.
Historians seem to have a hard time coming up with a definition of Fascism that they can agree on. My suspicion is that a large part of the problem is that many of them come to the table with their mind already made up as to what they expect to find and are just trying to line up enough facts to superficially justify that conclusion and to hell with any inconvenient facts.
In America today we have a chorus from the Left that Conservatives and Republicans are Fascists. This is a symptom of the inability to define Fascism in an objective and historically accurate manner.
Historically the American right has supported the traditional constitutional republic established by the Founders in the 18th century, a limited democratic form of government which now empowers almost all American adults with a say in their government, and most importantly the idea of inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Republican Party was the political party of the Union in the Civil War, and without Republicans, President Lyndon B. Johnson could never have passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A really important point that distinguishes the right from the left in America today is that the right believes in a right to pursue happiness and the left believes that government ought to guarantee it. The right believes that it is important to protect the individual freedom to pursue happiness and left seems to believe that government should guarantee happiness for all.
Individual freedom doesn’t seem very important to the left in America today. They seem more concerned with guaranteeing the outcome they feel is just and they are not in the least afraid to use the brute force of government to bend society to their will. As we will see this is exactly what classical Fascists believed.
The secret of Fascism is symbolized in the ancient Roman symbol of the fasces from which the word “Fascism” comes.
“There are at least two important symbols here. First is the idea that a bundle of sticks bound together is much stronger than the individual sticks by themselves. Like sticks in the bundle, people in the political body must be bound by a common ideology. The second is the ax which represents a powerful central authority.
“Strong central authority and a conformity which tolerates little if any dissent are the foundational principles of Fascism (as they are for all radical Leftist ideologies).”
In the two classical and best known forms of Fascism of the 20th century, the German Fascism or Nazism under Adolph Hitler and the Italian Fascism under Benito Mussolini, strong central authority was wielded under a charismatic and larger-than-life dictator. Many Germans and Italians literally worshipped these men as demigods.
Another relevant fact is that both of these men, Hitler and Mussolini, were clearly men of the Left to any extent that they held any principles at all. Probably their highest principle was that of power. They wanted that more than anything else. It is a fact though that Mussolini was a Socialist before he was a Fascist and the principles of Socialism and the power of the state were at the bedrock of his belief system.
It is less clear with Hitler which was more important, the achieving of a Socialist society or ridding the world of the Jews. National Socialism, or as Nazism as most know it, in German is Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei which translated means National-Socialist German Workers‘ Party. It was many of the ideas of Socialism that was used by the Nazis to rally party members.
In the final analysis the real religion and politics of both Hitler and Mussolini was pure and unadulterated power and they would use whatever means were available to get it. They would compromise with anyone if that led to a path that gave them power. But their rhetoric, their language, the ideals they set before the German and Italian people were ideals of the left and not the right.
Now we perhaps know enough to define Fascism. First and foremost it is a political system of strong central authority where everyone is expected to toe the line of what is politically correct in the regime. Dissent is not tolerated. This correlates very well with the Left in America today which wants a big and powerful state and sanctions on those who use “hate speech” defined as anything disagreeable to the Left, anything politically incorrect.
At this point there is very little difference between Fascism and Communism.
Where Fascism in its classical manifestations differed from Communism was in nationalism and ideas of national destiny. The Communist mindset was more of “workers of the world unite!” One thing is certain about both Soviet Communists and German Nazis. They both were responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings.
Contrary to most propaganda from the left, racism is not a central characteristic of Fascism. Italian Fascism was not strongly racist. Genocidal racism was largely unique to Germany. The Italians only cooperated at all with the Germans in rounding up Jews after the Germans invaded Italy in 1943 after Mussolini had been deposed.
Nor is racism a characteristic of the right in America.
In America the one political party with the longest history of racism is the Democratic Party, the political party of the Confederacy, the political party of Jim Crow, the political party of the KKK, and now the political party that uses blacks as a political pawn to try to achieve political power.
The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery. It was votes by Republicans that were crucial to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in America because so many Democrats voted against it.
Republicans and Conservatives do not support any of the ideas of the real Fascists. If in fact there is one political party in America today that most closely resembles Fascists then that is the Democratic Party and Leftists in general. They support silencing those that disagree with them. They support a strong and powerful central government under a charismatic leader. Again the only thing that keeps them from being out and out foaming at the mouth Fascists is their anti-nationalism.
In summary an accurate definition of the characteristics of Fascism would include:
A strong central authority headed by a charismatic leader.
No dissent that would make the “bundle” weaker.
A strong sense of nationalism and national destiny.
At least two of those are characteristics of the left in America. Arguably only nationalism is a characteristic of the right, but in no way the nationalism of the historical Fascists. To love the principles that one’s country was founded on does not make one a Fascist, especially when those principles speak to individual freedom. It may have taken America a few centuries to more fully implement those principles in regards to race and gender, but it did, and that is America’s glory, not its shame.
What really is Fascism? If you voted for President Trump, refuse to bow down to the dictates of Political Correctness, or don’t agree with a litany of positions of the Left today then you are in danger of being called a Fascist. Antifa (Anti-Fascist Action) political agitators will feel smugly moral in using violence to intimidate you with the sole purpose of making sure that only their views can be spoken safely in public.
A lot of academia and pundits want to place Fascism on the Right of the political spectrum. That is an illusion. Before WW2 a lot of Leftists showed great admiration for Italian Fascism under Mussolini and often for German Fascism too (while the rest were fawning over Stalin and Soviet Communism).
When the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed at the end of WW2 these same people quickly changed their tune but not their basic principles. The Left had to find a way to disassociate itself from Auschwitz and Dachau. The perfect ploy was to pretend the Nazis were on the Right side of the political spectrum and the Left has been singing that tune ever since.
They assert that Mussolini and Hitler made themselves enemies of the Socialists and the Communists. Therefore because Socialism and Communism are clearly on the Left, then of course Fascism must be the opposite pole on the Right. Wrong.
Perhaps they don’t know that “Nazi” in German means “National Socialist German Workers’ Party“? For those on the Left who claim the Nazis somehow were Capitalists see The Illusion of Left and Right – Part 2.
If one creates one’s definitions by focusing on non-essentials and misses the underlying principles then that is understandable. In reality German Fascism, or Nazism, was not a polar opposite to Communism. It was not Left vs. Right. It was Left vs. Left.
Hitler’s antipathy to the Communists did not come from a polar disagreement on the shape of the totalitarian state. Hitler reputedly told Hermann Rauschning:
“I have learned a great deal from Marxism, as I do not hesitate to admit. I don’t mean their tiresome social doctrine or the materialist conception of history, or their absurd ‘marginal utility’ theories and so on. But I have learnt from their methods. The difference between them and myself is that I have really put into practice what these peddlers and pen-pushers have timidly begun. The whole of National Socialism is based on it.” Quotations on Nazi socialism …
Hitler here stresses that he is more a man of action rather than useless theory. Hitler also thought Marxist Communism was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world (as he also apparently thought Capitalism was a Jewish conspiracy). In reality Communism and Nazi Fascism came down to to two brutal competing gangs of totalitarian thugs.
To really understand Fascism, and to see how Political Correctness today is just one manifestation of it, you have to look for the uniting principles that all brands of Fascism hold. Those principles come from the ancient symbol of the fasces from which we get the word “Fascism.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary dictionary defines “fasces”:
“a bundle of rods and among them an ax with projecting blade borne before ancient Roman magistrates as a badge of authority” Merriam-Webster
There are at least two important symbols here. First is the idea that a bundle of sticks bound together is much stronger than the individual sticks by themselves. Like sticks in the bundle, people in the political body must be bound by a common ideology. The second is the ax which represents a powerful central authority.
Strong central authority and a conformity which tolerates little if any dissent are the foundational principles of Fascism (as they are for all radical Leftist ideologies). The fundamental difference between Communism and Nazi Fascism was that the Nazis also had a strong component of nationalism and racism which Communism mostly did not (at least all the time). Other than that there is little real difference in principle and hardly none in outcome, that is, millions of victims.
The attempt by the Left to define what it is acceptable to think and say, that is Political Correctness, is a strong symptom of the Fascism of the Left in America today. Strong authorities on the Left dictate what is correct to think, and now we have an emerging Antifa movement bent on using force and violence to silence those who resist being bound by their ideology.
That at its core is Fascism, the real thing.
On the other hand Conservatives, Libertarians, and many other members of what is called the Right stand for individual rights, free speech, and the duty to moral dissent based on conscience. All of these are under attack, and more and more often physical attack by the Left. It is becoming more and more dangerous to stand up publicly for these freedoms that Americans have taken for granted for generations.
Any familiarity with the history of Fascism and Communism in the 20th century should be sufficient evidence that this is not the right path for those who love freedom and democracy.