Defend free speech for all

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I’m someone who thinks that neo-Nazis — and anyone else — should be allowed to express their views freely and publicly.

Drowning them out, or preventing them from speaking altogether, does not make their ideas go away — it simply drives them underground, where they can fester among a subculture that thrives on feelings of persecution. If anything, it tends to strengthen them, as they can legitimately complain that they are being silenced.

Allowing them free expression brings them out into the light of day, where everyone can see who they are and hear what they are saying. It also allows others to challenge and debate them, thereby exposing the weakness of their claims. In my opinion, that’s the best way for the real truth to be revealed and spread.

Declaring some subjects off limits for public discussion is a slippery slope that I don’t want to start down. Let’s not forget that rejection of a monarchy in favor of a democratic system, full citizenship for people of African descent, and women’s suffrage were once considered things that no one in their right mind would consider.

I don’t equate any of those with neo-Nazism — a vile and repugnant creed — but if we always let everyone speak then we don’t run the risk of muzzling someone who genuinely deserves to be heard.

Violence, though, is something else. Threats and physical attacks should be handled by the police, with quick arrests and vigorous prosecution. Everyone has a right to speak; the rest of us have the right to agree, disagree, or ignore them without fear, and we all have the right to feel safe both in our homes and when we’re out in public places. Exceptions should not be tolerated.

Michael Naughton

Millers Falls