Real Cowardice From the Far Right: Threats vs Free Speech

I was reading another thought provoking post by David of Orcinus about hate.  Specifically, about a neo-nazi who made a clear threat against an African-American journalist:

A white-supremacist Web site angered by a Leonard Pitts Jr. column alluding to the murder of a white couple posted The Miami Herald writer’s home address and phone number — leading to threats against the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner.

When Herald Managing Editor/News Dave Wilson asked to delete the address and phone number, site editor Bill White replied: “We have no intention of removing Mr. Pitts’ personal information. Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed him, I wouldn’t shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom.” 

As David notes, this isn’t about speech, it is about violence:

This is not a free-speech issue. Threats and intimidation are crimes in every state, and a crime by its nature is not a form of protected speech. I’m not certain why authorities haven’t taken White’s threats seriously, but their inaction, unfortunately, speaks volumes.

It is common to hear right wing pundits rhapsodize about various bits of violence being perpetuated against reporters, editors, entire news organizations.  What I don’t think they realize is precisely what they are saying about their own positions and character.  When faced with an argument you disagree with, there are a number of ways you can tackle it.  Like head on, for instance.  Or in the case of a far right idealogue, you do your damndest to engage in personal attacks and borderline threatening behavior.  Then when someone criticizes you on the issues, you shrilly claim any such commentary is attacking you, while avoiding the issues.

The only people who fall for that are already on the ground in a stupor.

Upon reflection, these tactics are horribly ill suited towards actually moving people to vote.  What you have instead are Republican voters who eat around the gristle of these antics, and vote based on issues that are important to them.  Eventually some get fed up with more hard fat at the expense of real meat, and vote opposition.  Worse, this line of attack opens you up to a royal whooping should your opponent have a shred of rhetorical savvy.

What would happen if the tables turned, and Mr Pitts published Mr White’s personal information in the paper?  Would Mr Pitts be fine with that, or would he immediately start whining and sue?

The position of a neo-nazi is one built out of a deep seeded sense of inferiority that desperately clings to a group identity to provide the recognition life has not afforded.  This fear and angst can fuel very hateful speech and action.  But it also makes one extremely vulnerable to a well orchestrated counter attack.  Mr White is a coward, and the need to appeal to violence against an individual, rather than directly address the offending commentary on its own merits, broadcasts just how full of shit he really is.

If the only thing you have left is “I hope someone shoots reporter/justice X”, you’ve got nothing, and you are letting the whole world know it.  Don’t expect the world to sit on its haunches and let that pass.


6 Responses

  1. Very funny article. Either you live with your head in the sand or you’re a kid. Newspaper have been publishing the personal information of activists they disagree with for a long time — the reason its never occurred to you that they do it is that your mind has been so numbed by their propaganda they do it without it even standing out to you.

    I certainly don’t hide my views, nor do I have an inferiority complex. Such rationalizations may be helpful to maintaining your sense of self esteem and equilibrium in the world, but are futile in trying to come to a realistic explanation of it.

    The bottom line — what you don’t and can’t see — is that people like you are evil, what you believe in hurts others, and for that reason, and the good of society, you must be destroyed — and why should anyone fear saying that? What are you going to do? Reason me to death?


  2. And, I am not right wing, conservative or Republican. ;-D

  3. But Mr. White of course will not do the destroying, he merely encourages others to do it for him. I call that the height of courage. Or maybe not….

  4. 1. Bill,

    I said nothing about whether or not newspapers had done this previously. I asked specifically how you would handle it if you found yourself on the receiving end of your antics.

    I’d argue understanding the psychology that leads one to believe some groups of people are inherently superior to other groups is at the very least an interesting enterprise.

    What I see is that advocating violence is evil. Standing up to it is, and always has been, an act of compassion.

    I hardly need to reason you to death. Hatred, unfortunately, brings its own consequences without my needing to get in the way. You might not die from it, but you will never really live with it. I would say that I would like to invite you a little closer to the edge of understanding and equality.

    2. I’d be very interested to know where on the political spectrum you’d place yourself, if at all.

    3. Rafael,
    Heh, yes, the height of courage. Courage is confronting one’s fear and overcoming it. Not labeling it for destruction.

  5. It is criminal to incite others to violence.

    From a libertarian point of view, I have to respect people’s opinions and wishes to segregate themselves based on hair color, high school, college football team, whatever. I don’t care. But it must not be government enforced, and it must be swiftly and severely punished if violence is employed.

    And I think that should go just as well for those inciting people to violence and hatred (but only when they go out and so act).

    Typically White Supremacists are fascists/socialists. NAZI being national socialists, of course.

  6. Right on Bret!
    nazi’s aren’t actual socialists. They ued aspects of socialism to sell their brand of fascism to the German public.

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