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The Misguided Attacks on ACLU for Defending Neo-Nazis’ Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville


The Misguided Attacks on ACLU for Defending Neo-Nazis’ Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville

Glenn Greenwald

Each time horrific political violence is perpetrated that is deemed to be terrorism, a search is immediately conducted for culprits to blame other than those who actually perpetrated the violence or endorsed the group responsible for it. It’s usually only a matter of hours before the attack is exploited to declare one’s own political views vindicated, and to depict one’s political adversaries as responsible for, if not complicit in, the violence.


Absolutely right, Glen.

All Citizens have the Right to Free Speech.

If White Supremecists lose the right of Free Speech now, then it’s a Foot in the Door to the Rest of Us losing it next.


Thank you, Glen, for your unwavering adherence to thie Fact that to this day no Actual Evidence has been produced to support the DNC Diversion from their own Cal Primaryl Malfeasance, that Russian Hacking was involved.


After reading some of the comments on these pages yesterday, this article provides a good reminder of why defense of those most odious cases is the very meaning of the right to free speech. Once the state is allowed to draw a line with the “hard” cases all cases are vulnerable. Greenwald’s piece is a winner.


Greenwald makes a compelling case, and my problem isn’t so much the defense of the rights of the morally indefensible, but the defense of the defense.

There’s this air of moral superiority and condescension often emanating from responses to criticism of the ACLU, which minimizes the very real anger and anguish felt by those who are the targets of their clients.

Who with any sense of humanity couldn’t empathize with Holocaust survivors in Skokie enduring the spectacle of Nazis marching in their town, or students whose fees are used to facilitate the appearance of someone who advocates for their subjugation to “the master race”?

Make the case, as Greenwald does effectively here, for your actions

But don’t denigrate the reactions of those for whom these issues lie at the heart of their very existence.


As a ACLU supporter and member I agree with his remarks.


I am forced to disagree here. The ACLU has made mistakes in the past.
For many progressives and further left, it is clear that defending the ‘right’
of Nazis and Neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, a neighborhood filled with
Jewish families, many of them shattered survivors of the very Holocaust
created by Nazis and sympathizers in the first place, was what today might
be called a Neoliberal sham.

Are we truly no longer able to distinguish between actual free speech and
deliberately planned acts of violence such as the classic ‘shouting fire in a
darkened theatre’? From first hand accounts of the horrific events in
Charlottesville, it is beyond doubt that the Far Right not only planned for
violence but eagerly sought it out. Do we actually pretend that the far
right has been stockpiling AR-15s, AK-47s and worse, simply to improve
their chances at a good haul in deer hunting season? Do people any-
where to the left of the hard right really think these things are not aimed
at us and everyone who doesn’t think and look like the far right. Do these
strange activities automatically have a slot, a perfect immunity, somewhere
in the First and SecondAmendments?


Free speech rights should be protected for everyone, but they should not give carte blanche to carrying weaponry to a supposed “protest” demonstration, nor should the right to free speech allow one to incite violence, or to try to intimidate others physically. The “yelling ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theater” caveat still stands,


All Americans right to free speech is unquestionable.

When exercising that right turns to hate and violence, your rights must cease and arrests must be made.

It is up to law enforcement and government to enforce this and severely punish this behavior.

Our current Administration and DOJ are run by White Supremacists, so law enforcement is perverted by their direction.

This must not stand.

We the People of this country have a responsibility to correct this gross abuse of power.

Organization and action against White Supremacy is up to everyone. We have the numbers.


Question - would there have been violence if the anti-fascist folks hadn’t shown up on the same day …


I was living in Chicago when the ACLU defended the right of the KKK to march in Skokie, Ill, and remember being shocked like some of the respondents here. Then I came to understand that to stick, First Amendment Rights must be upheld for all, not just for those one agrees with or the State approves.
The ACLU did not defend the right of the Charlottesville neo-Nazis to attack counter-protestors, brandish guns to intimidate the opposition, injure people, or drive a car into a crowd. Those are not First Amendment speech rights. The legal question was their right to use Emancipation Park. This was an inflammatory choice, given what the Robert E. Lee statue ‘stands for’ in neo-Confederate ideology, but it was not an illegal one in this successful ACLU challenge.
Will it help the organization avoid inflammatory attacks in the future or being lumped in with the Muslim Brotherhood by right-wing conspiracy theorists? --like Rich Higgins, removed from the National Security Council last month for circulating a memo warning that a cabal of leftist “deep state” government workers “aligned with . . . the Brotherhood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter, and the United Nations," along with “globalists,” bankers,Islamic fundamentalists, and establishment Republicans," are “conspiring to remove President Trump and impose cultural Marxism in the United States”?
No more than the First Amendment guarantees rational speech, or an ACLU suit seals the gratitude of those it benefits. What the neo-Nazis did with their rights, and beyond the law, is entirely on them.
Writing my donation check right now anyway.


If I were your debate teacher, I’d assign you to develop and recite 20-minute speeches each on both affirmative and negative answers to your question.


I also was living in the Chicago area at the time of the Skokie issue. I posted the story on another thread on these pages. Not one civil libertarian I know opposed the right of those Nazi thugs to march, including many Jewish intellectuals., among them, one of my favorite Chicagoans, the late, great, Studs Terkel. It is disheartening, to say the least, reading some of the rationalizations of those who would cede to the state the authority to determine what is legitmate speech.

As an aside, the right to carry is being enshrined in this culture because the Supreme Court misunderstands the 2nd Amendment. People shouldn’t have the right to carry anywhere, including at demonstrations.


Ah, nothing like a reply that is non responsive …

Have you had any experience in formal debating?


My question was related to the wisdom of the “anti-fascists” showing up on the same day as the “fascists” …


Aqui…I THINK you and I are generally in agreement on many issues…I THINK.

But the question you posed was specious and shocked me. I wasn’t about to respond with any argument. With all due respect to my years in judging student debates, I wasn’t interested in anything formal to your crack but in something that would provoke thought, especially about social movements vis-a-vis civil liberties.

Forgive me if you’re deeper than what I interpreted.


:honeybee::honeybee:Please protect us :bug:…make sure you buy only plants & flowers :cherry_blossom::blossom: that are free from neonicotinoid pesticides…:honeybee::honeybee::honeybee:…purty pleeezzzzzz!


What was “specious” about my question? And what “shocked” you about it … Indeed, it was raised precisely to “provoke thought” …


So I guess the liberal Weimar Republic was also to be admired for allowing Hitler and his thugs to make speeches calling for the extermination of the Jews - and then allowing his rise through completely democratic parliamentary means… Isn’t unlimited and absolute freedom of speech wonderful!

Those were completely different times back in Skokie. Fascism was not a clear and present threat it is today.


Would those who advocate that we restrict or ban “hate” speech from the “right” especially when it includes calls to violence say the same for speech from anarchists or some environmentalists who advocate for violence to dismantle the system they “hate”?


The issue is the same today, free speech, as it was in Skokie in the 1970s. Then you say the times are different and in the next sentence you bring up an incident from a different culture in the 1930s–it won’t wash. There never was a German right to free speech enshrined in a German Constitution.


Interesting talk repeated on C-SPAN yesterday, Christian Picciolini on his transformation from a neo-Nazi to helping others get out. What works and what doesn’t.