Politics & Policy

The People Protesting Speeches in the Name of Stopping Fascism Kind of Sound Like Fascists 

Anti-Trump protesters (right) use pepper spray during clashes at Berkeley, April 15, 2017. (Reuters photo: Stephen Lam)
A collapse of the free-speech principle.

Ann Coulter has canceled her speech at UC – Berkeley because of violent threats from protesters  – and yet somehow, her invitation is what’s been discussed as an example of fascism. 

Yesterday, in a piece for the the Daily Californian, a Berkeley student and member of its International Socialist Organization named Mukund Rathi claimed that speaking invitations being extended to Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos were evidence of “the disturbing growth of a far right that is a threat to us all,” and announced that his organization and others would be hosting an “Alt Right Delete conference” in August “to defend UC Berkeley as an anti-fascist campus.”

What he didn’t mention as an example of fascism in his anti-fascist rant? Protesters shutting down Yiannopoulos’s speech. In fact, he described what happened to Yiannopoulos as the community’s coming out  “in defense of the campus against Milo,” as if Milo’s having the freedom to speak were something that needed to be stopped. What’s more, in discussing the need for wider support in stopping the alt-right, Rathi even claimed that “the fights on the streets of Berkeley” in response to a pro-Trump rally on April 15 “showed that we also can’t depend on a small group of anti-fascists to rebuff the far right alone,” because “without an organized mass movement, those who want to confront the far right will conclude that the only available choice to fight back is property destruction and street fighting, while others will conclude that this is no choice at all.”

Obviously, he’s correct in saying that a movement that depends on violence isn’t going to be a success, but I have just one question: How on earth can he consider the people who were fighting on the streets to be “anti-fascists” in the first place? A mark of fascist thought is limiting speech through any means, including violence  – and what makes this whole thing even crazier is that Rathi does seem to understand this. After all, in his piece, he brags that the Alt Right Delete conference will be “understanding the growth of the far right, the left’s long history of anti-fascist organizing, free speech as a principle of the left.”

Rathi actually had the nerve to tout his support for free speech in the exact same piece where he seems to suggest that it’s a good thing to limit speech when it comes to people like Yiannopoulos and Coulter — and he somehow thought that this kind of logically inconsistent drivel was actually cohesive enough to publish. 

Do I agree with Ann Coulter? Nope! Does that matter? Nope! Because I support free speech, and I understand that “free speech” includes speech that I don’t like. You know who does support blocking certain speech, though? Fascists — and a good start to fighting fascism is probably to stop thinking the same way that fascists do. 

– Katherine Timpf is a National Review Online reporter.

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