Free speech is more important than a feel good story

I recently saw a post somewhere on Reddit about a 1958 incident in North Carolina:

On the night of January 13, 1958, crosses were burned on the front lawns of two Lumbee Indian families in Robeson County, N.C. Nobody had to ask who was responsible. The Ku Klux Klan had risen again in North Carolina, its ranks swelling after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education calling for the desegregation of public schools. While the Court instructed schools to proceed with “all deliberate speed,” the Klan fought — often in the form of anonymous nighttime attacks — to slow the process of integration…

Not content to leave it at this, the Klan planned a rally in Robeson County to be held just a few days later….

The rally was scheduled for the night of January 18, 1958, in a field near Maxton, N.C. The stated purpose of the gathering was, in the words of Catfish Cole, “to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.” The time and location of the rally was not kept secret, and word spread quickly among the local Lumbee population.

Reports vary about the number of people gathered on that cold night, but there were thought to have been around a hundred Klan members. They brought a large banner emblazoned with “KKK” and a portable generator, which powered a public address system and a single bare light bulb. When the meeting began, the arc of the dim light didn’t spread far enough for the Klansmen to see that they were surrounded by as many as a thousand Lumbees. Several young tribe members, some of whom were armed, closed on the Klan meeting and tried to take down the light bulb. The groups fought, and a shotgun blast shattered the light. In the sudden darkness, the Lumbees descended upon the field, yelling and firing guns into the air, scattering the overmatched Klansmen. Some left under police protection while others, including [Klan leader] Catfish Cole, simply took to the woods.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Reddit ate this up. Why, those racists deserved what they got. After decades and decades of intimidation, not to mention recent illegal acts like cross burnings, no rational person can sympathize with their meeting being broken up. But this isn’t about sympathy. This is about Constitutional rights. The KKK had a right to gather and talk about their racist stupidity all they wanted. It was never the place of the Lumbee Indians to stop the meeting, attacking people and destroying property. They were cowards.

This is where I have to pause to make a note: this isn’t about defending the KKK or showing any support for its positions. This is about free speech: if you aren’t willing to stand up for the free speech rights of every group – even and especially the ones you dislike – then you simply do not support free speech. I hope you enjoy your association with fascism.

Fast forward to today and we have another instance of racists and, largely, Native Americans coming face-to-face:

Having apparently learned its lesson from its predecessors, the modern [neo-Nazi movement] decided to avoid large cities (where anybody might show up with a full tank of gas and half a pack of cigarettes) and take over the small town of Leith, North Dakota…

Leith lay on the outskirts of Bismarck, North Dakota, evidently chosen for the name’s unsinkable record in Nazi history. Until recently, the town of Leith had a population of 24; and it probably would have forever had [the neo-Nazis] not started buying up property there, intending to install it as a foothold for America’s new Nazi movement…

[But one Nazi leader] and all of his Nazi followers may not get the peaceful Aryan paradise they’re looking for — because about 300 protesters showed up to make life a little less peaceful.

Those protesters included about 200 Native Americans from nearby reservations, who played a pivotal role in organizing the protest. The crowd chanted things like:

“Creepy Nazis, Ku Kluzers, get the Hell out of here!”

All these protestors are to be admired and praised. Instead of acting like the cowards of the Lumbee tribe, they stood up, face-to-face with Nazi scum, and fought the protected speech of the neo-Nazis with their own protected speech. That’s how it’s done.

What I find so frustrating about all this, though, is the political correctness pervading the whole discussion. The entire reason I’m writing about isn’t because of the people who side with the Lumbee tribe. I’m writing because of the people who automatically think it’s racist or otherwise wrong to defend the free speech rights of the KKK. It should be obvious to any thinking person that that is not the case, and here is a perfect knock-down of some real bullshit: If anyone thinks it’s racist motivations that lead one to condemn the Lumbee tribe, then they are left with an incoherent hole in their argument when we see a lack of condemnation of the Native Americans who protested the neo-Nazis in North Dakota.

Advertisements

5 Responses

  1. If you’re not defending speech that you find personally outrageous, offensive, and downright despicable, you’re not defending free speech at all. You’re just agreeing with somebody.

  2. Michael, I think you’re starting to show signs of closet libertarianism, bravo.

  3. I’ve worried about that, Hank. Fortunately, my basis is rule utilitarianism. Free speech isn’t good because liberty is good. It’s good because it contributes to an overall better society in the long run.

  4. Some libertarians are so far gone that they think they’re the only ones who ‘really’ care about individual freedoms… but liberals have been occupying that territory for a long, loooong time.

  5. If you’re referring to “classical” liberals then I would tend to agree with you. It is today’s “progressive” liberals that seem to align more closely to statism.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: