Monday, January 23, 2017

Many of my heroes were killed by people who answered speech with violence

I wish I could go offline until people have forgotten about a coward sucker-punching a wimpy Nazi. Only a couple of hundred people knew or cared about Richard Spencer until the media decided to profit by making him famous. Now that this delusional and politically impotent man is famous, he's a convenient scapegoat for all the evils in the world, so many people are celebrating the masked person who hit him when he wasn't looking and ran away.

The unavoidable fact is those who cheer this are cheering the answering of speech with violence.

And so many of my heroes were killed by people who answered speech with violence.

Some I learned about from Sunday School and my love of reading history:
Jesus.

John the Baptist. 
Hypatia of Alexandria.
Joan of Arc.

Michael Servetus.
Some I admired while they lived:
John F. Kennedy.

Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King.

Robert F. Kennedy.
That isn't meant to be a complete list. How could I list the thirteen million people of different political and religious beliefs who were murdered by the Nazis? How could I list the thousands of leftists murdered after Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected leader of Chile with the help of the CIA? The history of humanity is a history of answering speech with violence.

Nor do I excuse the killings of speakers done in the name of communism and socialism. Stalin inspired George Orwell to write his most famous books. Orwell said of them, "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."

My father was a civil libertarian. He first told me Evelyn Beatrice Hall's paraphrase of Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

There is no freedom where people may not say what they believe. So long as I hate hypocrisy and want the right to speak, I must support the right to speak of people whose beliefs I abhor. Call it morality or self-interest if you wish. Both are true.


ETA: The hardest part of defending free speech: you must defend the right to speak of people you really wish would shut up.

Related: On responding to speech with violence, where I quoted two people who know more about answering vile speech than anyone I know:

"No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm." —Martin Luther King

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X