Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
-Amendment I, US Constitution
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
-Amendment IVX, Section 1, US Constitution
I may be but a humble peasant, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable, in the wake of the many injuries and one death suffered by heroic patriots at the hands of a white supremacist, to wonder whether a commitment to free speech is foolish. Many other better-functioning democracies like Canada and Germany do not allow for absolute freedom of political expression, and they undoubtedly remain free societies, and if that Nazi rally had been banned by a government official Heather Heyer would still be alive today.
The 1st amendment notwithstanding, however, we peasants have never truly enjoyed free speech. The private consequences of speaking your mind, whether related to employment or social standing, are not banned. No one enjoys a right to speak to a group of captive college students or on a television program- these are privileges. The government itself can restrain certain kinds of speech that incites violence or is a threat to public safety. The point is, there is already a limit in this country to the types of speech allowed- and any line means your speech is not absolutely free.
With all of that out of the way, it remains the case that the government can’t ban speech that it finds distasteful, inconvenient, or critical of itself, and I wholeheartedly believe this is the way things should be. I’m not going to appeal to your sense of patriotism, dear reader. I won’t wax eloquent on how this is one of our country’s best ideas, and how we can’t throw it away because we are frightened. I won’t point out that the Nazi rally-goers were armed and thus not peaceably demonstrating, at least not according to this guy and his non-lawerly reading of the Constitution. (On the other hand, the pack of lawyers at the ACLU happen to agree with me.)
No, I just have some quick questions for you, because this isn’t a 3 am bong-hit thought experiment. If we gave the government the power to ban political speech, do you think the state, controlled presently by greedy, reactionary and fascistic elements who rely on white supremacist voters, would ban white supremacy and Nazism BEFORE they banned any talk of socialism or wealth redistribution? BEFORE they banned the “hate group” Black Lives Matter? BEFORE they banned any political organizing around challenging their power and wealth even a little bit?
Shout those Nazis down. Confront them as citizens, and use self-defense against violence if necessary. Engage in civil disobedience and be ready to go to jail if you’re caught aggressively punching Nazis, but be careful about saying things like “Nazis shouldn’t be allowed to march.” Expanding the governments ability to ban rallies and political speech is not a good idea- it will end with dead peasants.