Late October brought a few of your friendly neighborhood white supremacists to Riverside. The National Socialist Movement and Neo-Nazis in general are apparently on the rise — with protest member numbers in California climbing to twenty!
In all fairness, their fight for “white civil rights” does seem to have gained at least a bit of traction recently as the National Socialist Movement has been able to throw together back to back rallies in California, Missouri and, just this past Saturday, Arizona.
While NSM’s 35th anniversary celebration in Missouri brought out roughly 100 members, anti-immigrant rallies in California brought out only about 20. Comparing that with around 600 counter protestors, it’s no wonder they’re generally ineffective.
Nazism is one system of beliefs that begs the question: where does free speech end and hate speech begin?
Personally, I don’t think that Nazism should really be sanctioned as a belief system, per se. Neo-Nazism isn’t a religion, and it’s certainly not a club. In the broadest definition of the word, I suppose you could call it an “interest” group based on ethnicity and a mutual hatred for anything “other.”
This “interest” group mirrors several others who base their criterion for entry on race and a willingness to fight for superiority. The Los Angeles-based Crips maintains a predominantly African American membership, identifying with the color blue and utilizing hand signals for identification. The Latin Kings uphold their Hispanic heritage and use five or three point crowns. And, finally, for Neo-Nazis, it’s white supremacy, swastikas and chanting “sieg heil” to their hearts’ content.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…it’s a gang.
Put simply, a gang is a group of people who share a common identity. They’ll have identifying marks, signs, symbols or signals that represent the gang they’re affiliated with.
The only difference between Neo Nazism and other gangs is that their behavior was once-upon-a-time considered acceptable by mainstream society and now they’re allowed to hide their violent streaks and nestle themselves among the rest of us under the guise of freedom of speech.
On that note, I will whole-heartedly defend pretty much anyone when it comes to free speech. If Neo Nazis want to run around promoting their ever-dwindling Aryan Brotherhood, fine. And they can Heil Hitler all day long for all I care. But the second they start openly lacing that speech with violence and frightening innocent people, they lose me on the free-speech argument.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. put it: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” Arguably, I’d have to allow these guys to say exactly how they feel, right up until the fist meets the nose — or until they start inflicting some serious violence on other people.
That said, it’s not just the violence itself we should be worrying about. It’s well known that one person’s highly suggestive, or even explicit speech can incite others to enact violence or go through with hate crimes.
We don’t sanction the promotion of gang violence, so why are we protecting people whose speech incites hate crimes?
Sandy Rose is fourth-year English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion