I believe that, outside of very narrowly constructed restrictions, the First Amendment protects the citizen’s right to say or express nearly any opinion; good, bad, or outright reprehensible. In a legal sense, there is no such things as hate speech. There is speech you like, speech you don’t like, and speech you find intolerable, but all of that, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in Brandenburg vs. Ohio, is still free and protected speech.
Believing this can lead to some very weird and conflicting feelings and situations. For example:
I came across this article, (here). The article is out of Houston, TX and recounts an event that happened at a local live music club, White Oak Music Hall. As the story goes, the lead singer of “Gen Why,” James McDowell II, noticed that there were, what he judged to be, three white supremacists in the club. This was of great offense to him, and wholly intolerable. McDowell is quoted in the article as saying:
Pissed off that no one had handled this shit trio, I talked to some friends and we handled the situation. Yeah. I threw a beer in one of their faces, and a fight almost ensued but the staff at White Oak broke it up before it started and they escorted the white pride kids out. We almost got 86d too because ‘they didn’t do anything. They didn’t start shit’ well motherfucker showing up to a punk show in white pride gear is automatically starting shit. Fuck that. I will never in my life allow this type of scum to walk the same halls as us.”
I was on McDowell’s side for a couple of reasons:
- White Supremacists are, in fact, garbage people with garbage beliefs
- They should be shunned, excoriated, marginalized, and every other avenue of public shaming possible
McDowell, however, loses any and all righteousness in this situation the second he assaults these folks. As stated above, if they are actual white supremacists**, they should be made to feel uncomfortable when they take their beliefs out in public. But the fact that their beliefs, and public expressions of it, are disgusting does not make unprovoked violence appropriate, ever. McDowell is the party in the wrong. In his quote he admits that he assaulted them because of their clothes; not because of their actions against him or anyone else.
Regardless of how disgusting someone’s speech is, anyone that commits an unprovoked violent act against them is the party in the wrong. Full Stop.
Unprovoked violence gets these garbage people and their garbage beliefs some undue time in the press. Finding another, non-violent, way to get them removed from the club would have served McDowell infinitely better. Instead of being praised for his resistance to racists, he could potentially face charges if someone wanted to seek them.
Be better than them (its really not hard). Do not allow the garbage people in this world to bring you down to their level. Shut them out by finding other ways to let them know that their kind is not welcome in public, but do not think that violence will win this battle, because it will not.