It has been hard to see some of the hateful, disgusting things that people have directed at me since I criticized President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville — but I’m so glad that these people have the right to say them.
Now, that’s not to say that these comments aren’t wrong, or that I deserved this kind of vitriol. I thought, after all, that my statement was pretty reasonable: Nazis are bad; there are no “good people” at a white-supremacist rally — a “white supremacist” rally, and not a “save our history” rally, by the way, was exactly what it was; its billing openly touted white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer as a headliner and called on demonstrators to “end Jewish influence in America” — and that President Trump’s 48-hour hesitance to “name the enemy” was a much different approach from the one he’s taken to calling out radical Islamic terror. I pointed out that President Trump’s excuse for the delay, that he had just wanted to wait and “get all the facts” first, stood in stark contrast to the way he’s handled other incidents (remember when he rushed to call that attack in Manila “terrorism,” and then had to retract because he was wrong?). Later, I pointed out that, although Antifa is guilty of having committed violence, the focus of his remarks on the Charlottesville attack should have been on the group that actually murdered someone.
It was not an outrageous or even uncommon view, and yet I was hit with a combination of lunacy, hatred, and abuse. People wrongly accused me of having called all Trump supporters Nazis, of loving Antifa (see this column I wrote about the Berkeley violence, in which I called them fascists), and, of course, of being a socialist, libturd Commie. I received an e-mail that detailed an act of sexual violence that its author believed should be committed against me, and I even had one person defend the historical actions of the Nazis by saying that they had just been trying to better the culture by cleansing it of disgusting Polish Catholics like me.
It’s been tough to see, but here’s the thing: I would never in a million years suggest that any of this speech should be anything but completely protected under the First Amendment. Yes, even the straight-up modern-day Nazi who suggested that the world would be a better place had my ancestors been wiped out. And anyone who values the freedom that we enjoy in this country should feel the same way.
In the wake of Charlottesville, I have been seeing a lot of calls to limit the speech of bigots — both on Twitter and in columns like this one — and I just have to ask: If you want to limit speech, who do you think should get to decide what should be limited? The government? And are you sure?
Many people on the left want the government to have the power to restrict more speech, and believe that the current leader of our government is an awful, evil, racist man — how in the hell do those two views make sense together? The irony there is glaring, and yet I see people seeming to miss it every day.
You might want laws to silence bigots, but the truth is, those are the exact kinds of laws that could someday be used to silence you. Everyone, after all, has a different view of what does and does not constitute “hate speech.” It can be terrifying to encounter hateful speech — believe me, I know — but having a government that can “protect” you from it means that your own rights are subject to the whims of whoever happens to be in power at the time. And that, to me, is far more terrifying.