Recent events at Berkeley and Middlebury College in which angry students successfully silenced scheduled speakers known for inflammatory views on race have compelled many of us on the left to reconsider our intolerance for the intolerant.
In a sharply worded column in today’s New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni reminds us that schools of higher education that try to protect or insulate students from hearing points of view that many might regard as repugnant are not doing students any favors. If anything, college’s owe students turbulence, because it’s from a contest of perspectives and an assault on presumptions that truth emerges — and, with it, true confidence. Only hearing ideas that concur with your own makes you arrogant and ill prepared for navigating a pluralistic world where there most definitely are ideas that challenge our own beliefs and values.
That said, I’m reminded of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes now canonized observation in the unanimous Schenck v. United States ruling, shouting fired in a crowded theater is not protected speech. Words that can endanger the safety and well-being of others are not protected by the First Amendment. Is hate speech dangerous?
Hate speech can most definitely incite and inspire violence. But so can talk about any number of topics these days. Trump effectively employed the demagogic verbiage of nativism and xenophobia into a successful Presidential campaign. Shutting up the haters won’t put an end to hate, it will only make the haters angrier and more determined.
Today’s lead editorial in the New York Times call attention to the intolerant, bigoted drivel of one of our county’s most renown right-wing firebrands known for promoting white Christian nationalism, Rep. Steve King (R. Iowa). King recently joined #45 in utilizing the social medium of Twitter to flatulate his frustrations with multi-cultural America:
FYI, Geert Wilder is a Dutch politician currently campaigning to save the Netherlands for the “real” Dutch.
Should we silence the David Dukes, Steve Kings, Ann Coulters, or President GTBT Pussy? Of course not. Trump’s electoral success is a reminder to all of us who believe in tolerance, equality and social justice of just how much more work there is to do in this country.
You can’t silence hate with laws or riots on a campus of higher learning; you destroy it by confronting it head on and exposing it for the evil that it is.
What the NYT did with today’s editorial is one of many, responsible, effectual ways of addressing hate: Call attention to it and explain how such reason is counter to our values, our rights our common interests. People who promote intolerance are promoting defeat and failure. People who want you to believe that a particular group are evil are their “tribe” is somehow better are acknowledging their that they are morally and intellectually deficient. To silence them by denying them the right to speak is to express fear of our own capacity to respond to them from the moral high ground.
Steve King and his ilk should be viewed as opportunities to sharpen our skills as ethical human beings who don’t see diversity as a danger but an immeasurable resource to be celebrated.
(Reprinted from the 3/15/2017 New Y
Many Americans have been marveling at the bald racism of Steve King, Republican member of Congress from Iowa’s Fourth District, who said this over the weekend on Twitter:
“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
He was praising Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician who wants to close his country to Muslims, whom he calls “scum.” What Mr. King said about civilization and babies was a little cryptic. On Monday, on CNN, he elaborated:
“There’s an American culture, American civilization. It’s raised within these children in these American homes. That’s one of the reasons why we require that the president of the United States be raised with an American experience. We’ve also aborted nearly 60 million babies in this country since 1973.
“There’s been this effort we’re going to have to replace that void with somebody else’s babies. That’s the push to bring in much illegal immigration into America, living in enclaves, refusing to assimilate into the American culture and civilization.”
Earth to Mr. King: Illegal immigration is not an abortion-linked repopulation scheme. Immigrants in America do assimilate. They have for centuries, and the latest newcomers will do the same, given the chance, as will their children and grandchildren. And if by “American culture and civilization” you mean a Christian, English-only whitopia, then a lot of Americans will object to your framing. Some might even wonder whether your hostility to American values reflects your own failure to assimilate. But that’s America for you.
Mr. King has been at this for years. He has proposed an electrified border fence, to shock migrants like cattle. He said young immigrants have calves like cantaloupes, from hauling marijuana over the border. His foreign babies tweet is more of the same: doomsaying with a side of hate.
It’s also a dot.
The dots have been piling up. There are so many, they are starting to connect themselves. The picture is of a president waging a toxic campaign of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, creating fear that foreign hordes threaten our existence. That campaign emboldens extremists like Mr. King and taints the entire G.O.P.
Mr. King has long been a leader of the “hell no” caucus, a handful of far-right House Republicans who trolled Congress over immigration reform. They couldn’t remake the system on their own, but during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama years, with the collusion of congressional leaders, they shut down everyone else’s attempts to fix it.
Now Donald Trump is in power, and Mr. King is enjoying a moment of ideological solidarity. A few in his party have condemned his latest rant, but the White House has been silent. Mr. King’s worldview harmonizes nicely with that of Mr. Trump and the architects of his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was among the hardest of Senate immigration hard-liners.
Together they are pushing an old nativists’ dream: a “self-deportation” strategy, also called “attrition through enforcement,” which envisions making America whiter by making life intolerable for unauthorized immigrants. Their crackdown is hurting not only those here illegally but also refugees, asylum seekers, even students and guest workers.
Mr. Trump has worked himself into a frenzy over immigration and crime, and insists on depicting Europe as an immigrant hellhole. “You look at what’s happening,” he said last month. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”
Nobody, actually. But that’s what he said. Mr. Trump has made his ignorance, or cynicism, quite clear. He doesn’t know or care how immigration works. He doesn’t understand the damage his wall and deportation surge will do to the economy and the American character, or maybe he just cares more about harnessing bigotry.
Meanwhile, the damage is piling up. Bomb threats terrorize mosques and synagogues; vandals attack Jewish cemeteries; confused racists attack South Asians. In these conditions, hate effloresces. In the United States, intolerance is in breakout.
That is why Mr. King — and his journey from the fringe — matters.