Categorizing some speech as “hate speech” and attempting to censor it is foolish and misguided.
Endless debate over the morality of punching a Nazi has taken place amid news events such as the protests in Charlottesville and the 2016 assault of white nationalist Richard Spencer. I hate Nazis and white supremacists — everybody I know hates these people. But that doesn’t mean we get to turn into vigilantes, enforcing morality with violence. That’s fighting fascism with fascism.
I disagree with the idea that it’s moral to use violence to stop hateful rhetoric because of its flawed logic, but also because of its potential effects. Our actions are not isolated events. Punching a Nazi sets the precedent that we can attack people we disagree with.
Now the question becomes, “Who is a Nazi?” If you ask many on the regressive left, they’ll tell you Ben Shapiro — an Orthodox Jew and conservative pundit — is a white supremacist. They’ll say most conservatives that don’t believe in affirmative action are white supremacists. The line becomes blurred and quickly closes off speech to one of a few acceptable positions.
The fear of hearing opinions you disagree with, labeling them micro-aggressions and — even worse — macro aggressions, comes from the phenomenon of conflating one’s politics and ideas with their identities. When you enter into this awful way of thinking, anything that you don’t agree with is actually offensive. That is ignorant at best.
Last week a Letter to the Editor in The Badger Herald drew the ire of many of these folks. The piece argued that life in 2017 is generally pretty good, and took a conservative viewpoint about the fragility of this generation. Much of the responses were ugly, ad hominem and racist attacks on the author for stating his opinion. Calls that The Badger Herald should not have published the letter further illuminate this familiar attempt to limit the exposure of ideas in society.
I personally didn’t quite agree with this piece, but I didn’t find it offensive in the slightest. Taking offense to opinions like these rather than raising your issue with debate and discussion makes offense to truly awful things ineffective.
If you disagree with something, talk about it. Don’t protest the person’s right to take that stance. Being offended by ideas is about as useful as punching a Nazi — sure, it may make you feel like you have the moral high ground, but in the end all it does is show that you don’t have an argument to bring to the table.
It isn’t hard to make an argument against Nazis, and it is far more effective than violence or censorship.
Will Stern ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism.