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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

YOU REALLY HAVE TO WATCH THIS

Those of you who followed the link in my previous post to the chilling VICE video featuring an interview with Charlottesville protest organizer Christopher Cantwell really have to watch this.  I am speechless.

51 comments:

Alexander McColl said...

What an interesting video.

I think it really shows the importance of identity and social belonging, even in such groups and such situations most of us would consider well outside 'normal' social behaviour.

This man wasn't born a neo-Nazi, but through myriad little life moments playing out on an underlying inclination for certain attitudes he became one. Maybe it was at the gym, maybe it was when he bought his first gun, maybe..... and then he found a community where he belonged, and it gave his life meaning, and he had something greater than himself to be a part of.

To us, his beliefs and actions look almost completely devoid of humanity, are socially destructive, dangerous... But to him, they are the most human, valuable, meaningful, socially successful things he's ever experienced.

And so when he is confronted with losing them, and confronted with the fact that the vast majority of the country he calls home vehemently disagree with them, he is broken. Tears flow.

Tom Cathcart said...

Speechless indeed. It's hard to get the mind around. Alexander McColl may be close. Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center's profile.

Jerry Brown said...

What has this country come to when you can't even go out in public with your guns and spread your hatred of fellow citizens in a law abiding way without people getting all up in your face with their damn counter-demonstrations? Next thing you know they will make it illegal to ram your car into them if they are in the road. He shouldn't have cried- the Donald might have pardoned him except for that.

You know Professor, this is why you are wrong when you say organizations have no moral responsibility. This loser is and was nothing without his group- the group gave him power and probably shaped him far beyond his own miniscule means, and his belonging gave the organization more power.

Ed Barreras said...

Regarding Alexander McColl's comments on social belonging... I have exactly one acquaintance on Facebook who is a T***p supporter. And more than that, he is an alt-right white nationalist. I met him only once, at a party maybe four years ago, through a mutual friend who is a woman of Chinese descent; we had a rather lengthy and pleasant conversation (politics didn't come up). None of his postings on Facebook could be described as virulent or aggressive. For example, he just recently posted something to the effect that white nationalism doesn't imply hate, because "loving something =/= hating something else." He reposts Nigel Farage. Etc.

Basically, he fits the profile of the clean-cut, college educated white nationalist racist. He's from a very wealthy and racially homogeneous section of Orange County, California (historically a famously conservative area). Why do I keep him as a "friend" on Facebook? I don't know. I suppose there's an element of train-wreck watching.

But anyway, there are two things about this person worth pointing out. One, he came out as gay in his early 30s, and from what I've heard he remains conflicted over it. To me, it seems clear that his neo-Nazi sympathies are related to his sexual identity crisis. Deep in his psyche he feels rejected, and so he clings to fantasies of racial superiority as a way of inflating his self-esteem. (Of course, I don’t at all mean to imply anything about homosexuality per se, but only to make the obvious point that hate groups tend to attract broken people, like, for example, those who tragically can’t come to terms with their sexuality.)

The second thing is that he supported Bernie Sanders during the primary. He was a Bernie Bro! In fact, it was only after the election that he slowly started revealing his white supremacist beliefs (not without a lot of ugly pushback from friends and acquaintances, all of it aired like dirty laundry for hundreds to see, thanks to the magic of social media).

What to make of that? A lot of things, probably. On the one hand, we might find it more than a little discomfiting that the Bernie movement could attract such a person. (We don’t want him!) But on the other hand, we might be heartened to think that maybe this poor soul glimpsed in the Sanders campaign something he found in a perverted, demoniacal form in white nationalism: that is, a movement of solidarity, moral uplift, and authentic hope — one that was willing to explicitly oppose itself to stale late-capitalist liberalism with all its attendant alienation, etc.

If you ask me, we need strong labor unions to give people a sense of solidarity based in actual, material well-being, so they don’t end up glomming on to symbolic nonsense like white nationalism. And we need much better education in history and the arts, since poetry replaced religion some time around the late eighteenth-century. (But I won’t beat that old hobby horse of mine).

Ed Barreras said...

Another thought. Might the shutting down of White Nationlist rallies amount to a de facto form of censorship? For example, suppose that in the near future it becomes obvious that any such gathering will devolve into a riot; public safety cannot be guaranteed. At that point, do the authorities decide just to disallow them indefinitely? Should the national guard be called in every weekend so that neo-Nazis can hold their little gatherings? Aren't those valuable public resources better spent elsewhere?

Free speech absolutists would hate this, of course. But I'm not exactly one of them. After all, Nazi speech has been prohibited in Germany for over 70 years, and we all know how that created the slippery slope whereby Germany today is an authoritarian police state where criticism of Angela Merkel is punishable by death. (No.)

I encourage everyone to read Stanley Fish's review of Jeremy Waldron's "The Harm in Free Speech." I’m embarrassed to admit I haven't actually read the book, but here's an excerpt from Fish's review that has stuck with me:

[H]arms to dignity, [Waldron] contends, involve more than the giving of offense. They involve undermining a public good, which he identifies as the “implicit assurance” extended to every citizen that while his beliefs and allegiance may be criticized and rejected by some of his fellow citizens, he will nevertheless be viewed, even by his polemical opponents, as someone who has an equal right to membership in the society. It is the assurance — not given explicitly at the beginning of each day but built into the community’s mode of self-presentation — that he belongs, that he is the undoubted bearer of a dignity he doesn’t have to struggle for.

Waldron’s thesis is that hate speech assaults that dignity by taking away that assurance. The very point of hate speech, he says, “is to negate the implicit assurance that a society offers to the members of vulnerable groups — that they are accepted … as a matter of course, along with everyone else.” Purveyors of hate “aim to undermine this assurance, call it in question, and taint it with visible expressions of hatred, exclusion and contempt.”


https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/04/the-harm-in-free-speech/

Jerry Brown said...

Ed Barreras, using the national guard to protect these idiots so they can exercise free speech is probably a useful thing the national guard could be used for. I would have enjoyed the visual of having a few thousand national guard escorting these hate mongers around to protect them from normal people. (I would allow them to wear ear plugs though).

Free speech is very important, as is the right to demonstrate (and counter-demonstrate). I believe we have to tolerate speech we don't like in certain public settings, but we are free to ridicule it and to point out what is wrong with it.

Ed Barreras said...

Jerry Brown, Perhaps you are right. But if enough counter-demonstrators reliably showed up, then maybe the white nationalists would be restricted to one rally per year (or some such), not for the sake of censorship, but for the sake public safety and prudent use of resources. That might be a good thing.

F Lengyel said...

I'm not a free speech absolutist myself. The state enforces limitations on freedom of speech in the courts. See Leiter, Brian, The Case Against Free Speech (December 18, 2016). 38 Sydney Law Review 407 (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2450866 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2450866 The white nationalists believe there is an axiomatic, inalienable first-amendment right to threaten the well-being and sense of self of people they don't like, which confuses threatening extinction with debate. Here I am in agreement with St Augustine, who, if I read him correctly, did not regard constitutions as axiomatic systems. "Pauline Christianity looked to an afterlife in which there was neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free. Quibbling about this-worldly constitutional arrangements was beside the point. Treating constitutional arrangements as neither here nor there marked a radical break with a long tradition, and one that reasserted itself almost a millennium after Augustine. Ryan, Alan. On Augustine: The Two Cities (Liveright Classics) (pp. 25-26). [I'm not religious -- I'm using Augustine for my own purposes.]

Ed Barreras said...

What good was served when, in 1925, 25,000 members of the KKK were allowed to walk down Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington DC in full regalia, and without counterprotests, as far as I can tell? Is free speech just an intrinsic good? How so?

F Lengyel said...

Ed, I don't know if you're replying to my comment, but I agree with Prof Leiter that free speech is not an intrinsic good. I'll just quote from the abstract to the paper I cited--we could get further into this. "...I also argue for viewing "freedom of speech" like "freedom of action": speech, like everything else human beings do, can be for good or ill, benign or harmful, constructive or pernicious, and thus the central question in free speech jurisprudence should really be how to regulate speech effectively — to minimize its very real harms, without undue cost to its positive values — rather than rationalizing (often fancifully) the supposed special value of speech. In particular, I argue against autonomy-based defenses of a robust free speech principle. I conclude that the central issue in free speech jurisprudence is not about speech but about institutional competence;... ."

Jerry Brown said...

Ed Barreras and F Lengyel, were the evil that is the KKK or the white nationalists to gain power, I have no doubt the first thing they would do is try to limit the free speech of their opponents. The shoe would be on the other foot- what would your position be in that case? And yes Professor Wolff, the KKK is evil- it is not beyond moral reproach or ethical considerations just because it isn't a person.

Ed Barreras said...

F Lengyel, I wasn't replying to you. More to Jerry Brown, although it was also a general musing-out-loud. In fact, I once referred to Leiter's paper on this blog. My argument was that it would have been morally permissible for a person to withhold the leaked DNC/Podesta emails from the public during the last campaign, if that person happened be in a position to do so -- based on 1) how they would be misunderstood by, and misrepresented to, the public, and 2) the urgency of keeping the Republican candidate out of office. In Leiter's terms, that situation was ripe for epistemic arbitration. The argument turned ugly with one particular commentor. Best not to revisit it.

F Lengyel said...

The shoe would not be on the other foot--but to make that case I would have to rehearse the argument of Prof Leiter's paper. He points out that "... the central question in free speech jurisprudence should really be how to regulate speech effectively." The same principle would apply in either case. I assume they would assert the right to threaten my well being. My position would be to deny the institutional competence of the white nationalist state.

Ed Barreras said...

Jerry Brown, If I understand you, you're saying that we should protect the free speech of fascists so that if they come to power, they will return the favor and protect our free speech. Um... No, we can be sure that they won't. That's what makes them fascists. Also, you seem to be falsely equating fascist (KKK, etc.) speech with (what?) non-fascist speech, as if there were no principled reason to prefer one over the other. That, of course, is ludicrous.

Jerry Brown said...

Well you might not be able to deny the "institutional competence of the white nationalist state" in public if your speech was 'regulated effectively' by the government.

Ed Barreras said...

Leiter's position, if I understand it, is that limits on free speech are not only morally acceptable, but in fact are taken for granted within all sorts of institutions. His primary example is the judicial system, where the federal rules of evidence allow judges to place myriad limits on what juries can hear, often on the assumption (not to put too fine a point on it) that lay juries are too dumb to properly weigh some bit of evidence. Leiter thinks there is no reason in principle why epistemic arbitration shouldn't take place in the political realm. After all, in any court case, at most the freedom of a limited number of defendants is at stake; whereas in every presidential election, literally the fate of civilization is at stake (Leiter doesn't exactly put it that way, but ...nuclear weapons, etc.). However, Leiter acknowledges that there is a practical barrier to instituting an epistemic arbiter in the realm of politics. Who is competent to act as judge for our elections? By what process would his or her decisions be reviewable? His conclusion is that we shouldn't see free speech as intrinsically good, but that we must be very cautious. He seems to endorse a return of the Fairness Doctrine, given the palpable harm done by Fox News, etc. I have also heard him say that he is sympathetic to Germany's prohibitions on hate speech, which were enacted on the grounds that the world has already seen what harm can come from those forms of speech, and there is no need to allow them to recirculate.

Jerry Brown said...

No Ed, I am saying we should protect the right of public demonstration and speech for all groups. So that idiots like them do not come to power.

And of course I prefer most any speech to racist, fascist KKK, neo-Nazi speech. My preferences are not the point though. Once the government starts restricting criticism in one area, it is not very far to restricting it in other areas, areas that you or I might not like at all to have speech 'regulated effectively' in.

F Lengyel said...

But we could say more about what 'regulated effectively' means, at least in the present context of threatening someone's well-being. I'm going to quote from Leiter again:

Harm to someone’s psyche does not warrant legal regulation, we can say, when either (1) the harm derives entirely from violating the harmed person’s beliefs about how others should behave; or (2) the harm derives entirely from attacks on the beliefs the harmed person holds about the world. The first category deprives moralistic busy-bodies of a claim to protection; the second deprives dogmatists of all stripes from having a claim. But the characteristic harm associated with hate speech, for example, raises a colorable concern, since the harm results not from violating the target’s sense of how others should behave or the target’s beliefs about the world, but from the threat to the target’s sense of his or her own well-being and worth.

This is not the last word, but it's far from admitting the kind of regulation you seem to have in mind.

Ed Barreras said...

Jerry, I am not unsympathetic to your argument. This is a difficult issue. I will only say that your slippery slope argument seems to be disproved by the example of Germany and other European nations, which have continued to be thriving liberal democracies even with some restrictions on speech.

Also, with regard to forefending against "idiots like them" coming to power. Well, it seems to me that this would have been a poor argument in 1925. The fact that the KKK was able to muster a 25,000-man-strong army to march on the capital proved that they already *were* in power. Pick up any history book on the period and read about the horrors they visited on black people during those decades. Might not the world have been better off if, after the Civil War, the victors had instituted laws that would have strangle the KKK in its crib, preventing them from organizing, re-grouping?

Jerry Brown said...

Gosh guys- you keep arguing with me. You are threatening my sense of self-worth and definitely my well-being (since I have to get up and go to work tomorrow). Maybe you shouldn't be able to argue with me...

Ed, I know a lot about the KKK, enough to despise them. The Union did impose and institute laws and a Constitution that was supposed to protect people's rights. That these were not enforced was a tragedy and another stain on the country's history. None of that had anything to do with the right of KKK members to exercise free speech. Don't forget- they were a 'secret society' of sorts. That's one reason they wore their asinine costumes. I am not sure I would defend free speech for anonymous individuals who hide their own identities in order to break the law. But when they take their hoods off to speak, then I reluctantly do.

Ed Barreras said...

The show-your-face criterion is not uninteresting. It may put you to the left of the ACLU, however.

I'll just conclude by saying that the slippery slope argument seems to me totally uncompelling, as a matter of both history and logic.

Hey Man said...

It is unclear whether there really is a warrant for his arrest, but is there any indication what he could be arrested for?

Near the end of this video, he references being involved in "that God damn melee." Does anyone know what he is talking about? The implication is that he was engaged in some specific act of physical violence in Charlottesville. I don't think the "melee" can refer to the rally as a whole, because he mentions that he would have stayed away from it (the "melee") if the university was not a gun free zone (so I guess we are talking about the Friday night torch rally, which took place on campus). Supposedly he did not have a gun on him at the time, and this made him feel the need "to stop threats before they get out of hand." All this suggests some specific occurrence. In the Vice video, I do not think we see him committing physical violence, but we do see the aftermath of an apparent altercation, in which he claims to have been maced by a communist. Shortly before that, the video shows some people apparently attacking the counter-protestors, but I don't think we can see him specifically doing so.

Of course, the warrant rumor might just be completely unfounded.

David Palmeter said...

The problem I have with regulating speech is, who regulates? Either elected politicians or people appointed by elected politicians, such as Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department. The choice, it seems to me, is between putting up with the speech we hate or risk handing the policing power over to the Jeff Sessions of this world. I opt for tolerating the speech I hate, without giving up the right to despise and oppose the person whose speech it is.

F Lengyel said...

Sure, it comes down to institutional competence. Leiter refers to "problem of the epistemic arbiter"--this is more publishable than "who decides?" (to be fair, it's more precise). I imagine the New Infantilist routinely confuses (1) and (2) above with threats to their well being, but those cases would not present a problem for competent arbiters -- I'm assuming that such arbiters exist. The more interesting cases occur, to use Gert's language, when equally informed impartial rational persons disagree and there is no general agreement one way or the other. When there are genuine controversies I tend to favor the libertarian attitude. But even there, determining which issues are controversies in Gert's sense is a substantive empirical finding...

David Palmeter said...

But institutional competence is everything when decisions are made--and who are the members of the institution who make their decisions? How do they get their jobs? Who decides who they are? Who would they appoint? Neil Gorsuch? Samuel Alito? Clarence Thomas? John Roberts?

The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral implementer of the National Labor Relations Act, but decades of anti-labor appointments, beginning in the Reagan era, have gutted the rights or organized labor, and are a major reason why unions are so weak today.

How could we be sure that an institution given the task of implementing the First Amendment would not do the same?

I don't see how we can be sure. To the contrary, we can be sure that the referee or referees will reflect the views of those who name them. That's great when those are my views, but not so great otherwise. Hence, I opt for maximum free speech. To be sure, it has its downsides, but the alternative seems worse to me.

F Lengyel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
F Lengyel said...

Before I'm rightly accused of missing the point, Prof Leiter states that private sector propaganda is largely responsible for the "...inability of millions of people in the United States to assess epistemic authority sensibly." Private sector propaganda would be the primary target for speech regulation, but Leiter doubts that "capitalist democracies have the requisite competence" to regulate it.

Here's an example. The FCC under the Trump administration proposed to repeal the 2015 network neutrality rules and their legal grounding under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. FCC under Trump is not proposing that Internet Service Providers will become reliable epistemic arbiters of the Internet content they select and prioritize for consumer access. With the abolition of net neutrality, Internet Service Providers will likely amplify the effect of private sector propaganda. [I'm typing on the run and making assertions rather than arguments, but I'm confident these are defensible positions.]

As for deciding between (1) and (2) and overt threats against individuals, this is already being done. I disagree there is value is permitting unambiguous cases, even if the rhetorical flourishes of the free speech absolutists cause their chests to swell to astronomical proportions.

Ed Barreras said...

It seems like there are two issues being discussed here. One is the limiting of what Leiter calls "private sector propoganda" -- basically, Breitbart and Fox News. As Leiter acknowledges, that is an colossal undertaking that capitalist democracies lack the competence to implement. The most we can strive for is changes around the edges, as it were, such as a return to the Fairness Doctrine or (as F Lengyel mentions in the above comment) preserving net neutrality.

The other issue is limiting hate speech. This is a more feasible undertaking, as the example of Germany shows. To be sure, the German laws create all kinds of awkward situations, such as the recent case where a woman was charged under the statute for producing images of swastikas that were X-ed out. This was an anti-Nazi gesture, of course. However she was still charged on the grounds that any swastikas (not associated with pre-Nazi religious imagery) are outlawed. Sensibly, the courts eventually dropped the charges and affirmed that swastikas are OK for use in explicit anti-Nazi imagery.

I can't see that there's any matter of principle by which one should prefer American libertarianism over German restrictivism when it comes to hate speech. It seems to me like it just boils down to tradition. However, I'll again note that within 60 years of the end of the Civil War, an army of KKK were marching through Washington DC. I don't recall seeing 25,000 Nazis marching through Berlin in 2005. Yes, alright, historical circumstances are different. But still.

s. wallerstein said...

Ed Barreras,

While there's aren't 25,000 Nazis marching through Berlin, there may be lots who aren't marching. You can control public hate speech, but it's almost impossible to control the internet, and it may be wiser to let the Nazis and their like come out of the closet rather than have them lurking underground, forming clandestine networks, etc. When they're out of the closet, you (and the police, who hopefully are anti-Nazi) know who the Nazis are and we can watch out for them. I've noticed in Chile (where I live) that Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are among the most common books sold by street book vendors, although they are not sold, as far I know, in mainstream bookstores: it seems that Nazism is going to attract a certain portion of the population in most societies and we are going to have to deal with that.

Jerry Brown said...

Professor Wolff is old enough to remember the 1950's and the suppression of speech of communists and such, I wasn't born until the late 60's so I have no personal recollection of that period. It seems to me that what was punished through government pressure did not fall under any sort of 'hate speech' at all. What I have learned about that period is that it was a suppression of political speech, and that they were not very concerned about making sure their targets were 'reasonably guilty' of even that.

If Professor Wolff would be willing to share his experience and take on that, I know I sure would be interested. Does that experience color his views on free speech, even hate speech, and government suppression of it? Where is it reasonable to draw the line on what is said in a public or even personal forum? What manner of punishment is reasonable for people who don't toe that line? And who is to deliver that punishment- is it just the state through the criminal justice system? Or are private firms and institutions to be pressured to sanction offenders as well?

David Palmeter said...

The 1950s certainly were a period repression and intimidation for purely political speech and ideas. I’m not as old as Prof. Wolff, but I’m old enough to have lived through it--I won’t be 80 for a few more months. My high school years were 1952-56 and college 56-60.

Joe McCarthy is well known, but the real damage to many people was done by HUAC--the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Its Senate counterpart, the Internal Security Subcommittee (I think of the Judiciary Committee) was no slouch either.

They would call people before the committee and ask them under oath not only about their own past activities (mainly leftist, including Communist, affiliations in the 1930s) but to name the names of those who they met while engaging in those activities. Knowledge that someone had been a Communist in the ‘30s, or even a democratic (Norman Thomas) socialist was enough to get someone fired. “Taking the 5th” as a way to avoid perjury was tantamount to professional self-destruction--whether you were a teacher, a screen writer, a movie star or anything else.

In an American history course in high school the subject of elections came up. Someone suggested that Communists should not be allowed to run for office. (I think proposals of that kind were floating about, at least among the commentariat.) I asked, why not? They were citizens too, and if a majority of the voters preferred a Communist, that should be enough. The teacher, Miss Maginnis, looked at me, then looked away, and asked another student a totally unrelated question. The question of Communists running for office never came up again.

Now Miss Maginnis was nobody’s push-over. She had written the textbook used by many school systems in NY state at the time. She did not suffer fools gladly. Word had it that she intimidated even the principal.

That incident always stuck in my mind--I can see her standing there today. But it wasn’t until several years later that it dawned on me that she herself was intimidated. If word had gotten out that such a subject was even being discussed in her classroom, she could have been crucified by the community and probably would have lost her job. She wasn’t going to risk that.

I didn’t appreciate at the time how bad it really was, but if it was enough to intimidate Miss Maginnis, it had to be very bad.

In college, I got into the question more deeply and became what I remain today--pretty much a free speech absolutist, convince by Holmes’s dissent in the Abrams case:

“Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition...But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas. . . . The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.”

Jerry Brown said...

David Palmeter,
Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your personal experience. I was not around then but what I have learned about that period also influences my opinion about free speech. And why it is better to tolerate it than ban it.

I really love this blog- it is one of the few places I feel like I'm a young man even though I'm 50 :) Thanks for learning me!

Ed Barreras said...

Interesting reflections, David Palmeter. However, this being the blog of a noted Marxist, I feel it's appropriate to point out the lurking perniciousness is the metaphor of a marketplace of ideas. Do markets always produce the most desirable outcomes? And should ideologies and worldviews be compared to morally neutral commodities?

Anonymous said...

The quote from Holmes by Palmeter is the key point when protecting freedom of speech. Free speech is an intrinsic good because it keeps the marketplace of ideas enriched and circulating. There is no way to live in a democracy without being required to subject your ideas to competition and criticism so that, theoretically anyway, the best of the ideas remain. Democracies are contestatory political systems. Argument and disagreement is the basic stuff of the political system.

The current state of the law with respect to freedom of expression protects political speech as long as that speech does not produce imminent danger. So the Nazis have a right to express themselves and march but the courts might deny them the right to march in a Jewish neighborhood because it's overly provocative and capable of producing imminent danger. These were the issues in the Skokie case.

Don Ellis said...

The quote from Holmes by Palmeter is the key point when protecting freedom of speech. Free speech is an intrinsic good because it keeps the marketplace of ideas enriched and circulating. There is no way to live in a democracy without being required to subject your ideas to competition and criticism so that, theoretically anyway, the best of the ideas remain. Democracies are contestatory political systems. Argument and disagreement is the basic stuff of the political system.

The current state of the law with respect to freedom of expression protects political speech as long as that speech does not produce imminent danger. So the Nazis have a right to express themselves and march but the courts might deny them the right to march in a Jewish neighborhood because it's overly provocative and capable of producing imminent danger. These were the issues in the Skokie case.

Don Ellis

David Palmeter said...

Ed Barreras,

Is there a better metaphor?

Jerry Brown said...

I think Don Ellis explains why we need to tolerate free speech very well. Also explains what is meant by 'the marketplace of ideas'. I am surprised to find out I agree with the current state of the law on an issue- that rarely happens.

s. wallerstein said...

As I understand it, the Marxist critique of markets is not that I exchange the apples I grow for the oranges that you grow, but that human labor power is bought and sold as a market commodity.

F Lengyel said...

I'm with s. wallerstein, if he means to suggest that the metaphor of the free marketplace of ideas is a cathexis virtually impervious to the facts and to anything behavioral science has to offer. (I can see why individuals like Marx or St Thomas would be moved to write page upon page of argument.) Taking market metaphors seriously means discarding the aspirational claims of laissez faire dialectic that assert but do not demonstrate the optimistic max min (best of the worst) outcomes that purportedly flow from the "intrinsic value" of free speech, and introducing externalities. Herbert Gintis observes, "...there never has been a prosperous market economy without a strongly interventionist state."

Why would the marketplace of ideas be any different? Leiter suggests as much when he expresses doubts that "capitalist democracies have the requisite competence" to regulate private sector propaganda. The examples of net neutrality and "fake news" could be elaborated further--which I would do if I could arrange to sit in the NYPL for ten hours a day... Among the externalities that free speech (in the US) generates include "...inability of millions of people in the United States to assess epistemic authority sensibly" and "...a complete breakdown in the ability to assess epistemic authority: so, for example, that the National Academy of Sciences endorses a view is not thought to be relevant by some substantial portion of the population." The quotes are from "The Case Against Free Speech" by Brian Leiter, who states that the second "externality" (meaning, a negative consequence of free speech as this is realized in our capitalist economy), is "[o]ne of the main problems in the US right now."

There is some cash value in the metaphor of the marketplace of ideas--namely, the price of media access. The lack of a substitute for anything like a cash value assigned to the ideas circulating in the marketplace of ideas ought to suggest where to look. I'm tempted to erect a strawman with ankylosing spondylitis--enough of the condition to withstand contemptuous dismissal. If you take Lloyd Shapley's market games in cooperative game theory as your model for the marketplace of ideas you would quickly run aground...

David Gordon said...

He doesn't pass the sniff test.

Ed Barreras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Barreras said...

David Palmeter,

I don't see why we even need a metaphor. My point derives from a general wariness of market worship -- seeing market principles as inherently virtuous ones that can be unproblematically applied to other areas of life. Based on conversations I've had, this seems to be a habit of the liberatertarian/neoliberal right, who are constantly going on about how markets are the most efficient, natural, and thus morally perfect institutions we have. They usually see life as a gigantic arena of Darwinian competitive struggle, wherein the strong are obligated to crush the weak -- and they think this is a good thing. (This has nothing to do with Holmes, btw, whom I know very little about. However, I'd be interested to know if there's a genealogy to his metaphor.)

Don Ellis states that "there is no way to live in a democracy without being able to subject your ideas to competition and criticism so that, theoretically anyway, the best of the ideas remain." Once again, this seems to be belied by the facts of history. As far as I know, Germany has remained a democracy these past 70 years (in the West, anyway), and is obviously, in many respects, a healthier one than ours. It has remained so despite the fact that certain ideas have been forcibly removed from the marketplace of ideas. (Also, Leiter has a section in his paper explaining why even his position is not anti-democratic.)

And doesn't everything hinge on that "theoretically, anyway." In reality, we of course know that the best ideas are in no way guaranteed to remain, just as as the best (safest, most reliable) consumer products are never guaranteed to be the most commercially succesful -- and in fact, there are market forces which actively prevent consumers from having access to the best products in that sense.

I sense that people here are worried that the opponents of free hate speech -- those who would legally proscribe it -- are somehow guilty of violating their own principles. Such hypocrisy allegedly undermines the very foundations of liberal democracy, which leads to a slippery slope. However, it seems to me that the principled argument against hate speech articulated by Waldron (via Fish), which I quoted in my second comment in this thread, is a prima facie sound one. If we're worried about our ability to cite principles for our position to forefend against the slippery slope, it's as good a one as we'll get. It's interesting that no one here even acknowledged Waldron's argument.

s. wallerstein said...

Markets of ideas don't guarantee that the best ideas are successful. I think that has been clear since Plato points that out in the Republic.

Still, especially in a situation where, if public hate speech is banned, hate speech will continue in internet, there isn't much point in banning it. I think that we have to accept that there are a lot of people full of hatred and resentment, probably exacerbated by the present capitalist economic system, which doesn't look likely to change radically in the near future, and that we are just also going to have to accept that the world is a lot more fucked up than we were taught as children it was supposed to be.

Ed Barreras said...

S. Wallerstein,

Your point about the internet is a very good one. I'm almost convinced. However, there remains a distinction between the virtual world of the internet and the actual world of public streets. Even the white nationalists acknowledged as much. Their stated goal was to show that they're mroe than just an anonymous internet phenomenon.

I guess what it boils down to is that I just can't bring myself to feel despondent over the fact that this great upsurge in white nationalist visilbity is being thwarted, on the grounds that public safety can't be guaranteed. Who would've thought that large-scale demonstrations of hate and intimidation would lead to violence?

Might just be my reptilian brain taking over, however.

s. wallerstein said...

Look at Barcelona and so many similar terrorists attacks in Europe.

The days when a group of fascists got together in a room and conspired to prepare the Munich beer hall putsch are long over. Today's terrorists, whether they be white nationalists or jihadists, conspire online. They also spread their horrid doctrines online.

By the way, jihadi terrorists attacks such as the one in Barcelona are most probably going to produce an increase in rightwing neo-Nazi groups in Europe and maybe even in the U.S. too.
There's no way that this spiral of hatred can be stopped in the short term.

Jerry Brown said...

Ed, what had just happened before Germany (west) became a model democracy almost 70 years ago? Don't you think that maybe we in the US had something to do with banning any more talk about Nazis over there in Germany? I think it was rather nice of us to just ban that speech instead of rounding up all the Nazi sympathizers and disposing of them the way the Nazis would have done had they won.

At this point the Germans have their own country and their own laws which are based on their own history. It may work for them but the United States does not have exactly the same history that Germany does. Our history shows that when the government does get involved in banning speech and political association- that these instances are not our finest moments.

Anonymous said...

Returning to the topic of the original post, as I watched the video of Christopher Cantwell, it struck me as perfectly obvious that he is playing to the camera. Cantwell did not seem to me at all genuinely afraid or distressed. Rather, he pretended to cry as a way of casting himself as the honest victim of left-wing persecution. The video--the origins and intended audience of which are obscure to me--seems ready-made to air on Fox News or local news stations. In that setting, it might well convince the distracted, ignorant, and gullible viewer that the left is the side of the criminals.


Does no one else distrust this video?

Jerry Brown said...

Anonymous @4:35 - perhaps I am just seeing what I want to see in that video, but it did not strike me as being scripted. And I don't see how its airing would help his cause at all. I personally think it makes him look like a weak man who can't stand the criticism and who is not willing to stand up for whatever ridiculous principles he and his cause hold. In my mind, the white nationalists always try to portray themselves as very masculine strong figures, not pathetic crybabies. Why he agreed to the filming is a good question though.

Jerry Brown said...

Can you imagine Martin Luther King blubbering because he was afraid the police might arrest him? I can't.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Brown: Your reference to Martin King suggests that you may be misreading the aesthetic norms of many of today's young avowed white supremacists, who tend to congregate in internet chatrooms. As the blogger Caitlin Johnstone astutely notes, "Unlike conventional white supremacist groups, the alt-right are extremely comfortable with the victim role. 4Chan, where many alt-righters make their home, has a rich tradition of glorifying loserdom and being a “beta”. Getting one’s ass kicked on camera, even by a lefty vegan, is often perfectly fine with them. They win by losing. This is important to understand if you want to beat them." (https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/some-thoughts-on-charlottesville-b3695e3ec3ce)

Many of them are not seeking a person of character as their leader. I don't just mean this in the obvious ('de re') sense that Nazis are not persons of character, and so Nazis don't seek such people. Rather, they often explicitly ridicule the very concept of ethical commitment. They are nihilistic trolls who would delight in having a leader who trolls mainstream America with his crocodile tears--just as they delight in Trump's trolling America with his blatant lies.

How would acting distraught on TV help his cause? I suspect that these tears help the Nazis to gain the sympathy of the huge number of Whites who see themselves as victims of the left's anti-White racism. White racial consciousness involves seeing Whites as the primary victims of racial bias (http://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/whites-believe-they-are-victims-racism-more-o). We know that politically mainstream whites are responding well to the Nazis. An astonishing 2/3 of Republicans and 1/3 of independents, according to one poll (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-divided-over-trumps-response-to-charlottesville-cbs-news-poll/)--agree with Trump that both sides of conflict in Charlottesville are to blame. Given that his supporters (possibly including Trump himself) are trolls who embrace these machinations, I return your question to you: How could acting distraught possibly hurt his cause?

Jerry Brown said...

Anon, people trying to act the victim do not pull three different hand guns off their person and mention the two other assault rifles they brought with them on camera. Unless they are really, really stupid. Hmmn, I guess that doesn't prove anything when we are talking about this guy, does it?

I just don't know. I was flabbergasted last night at my poker game when one of my friends said he thought Trump was right in that the counter-protesters were attacking the Nazis and inciting the violence. Very intelligent man, by the way. I just don't know what other people think I guess.

I do know what I think though and that is that playing the victim and blubbering about it when you face (potentially) some of the consequences of your actions is not a characteristic of any leader I would follow.