James Lawrence at alternative-right.blogspot.com argues why leftists shouldn’t be allowed to have free speech (bold emphasis):
And this is the argument against granting free speech to the Left that I wish to emphasise above all others. Yes, leftists have almost nothing worth saying, and their mouths are stuffed with lies. Yes, the Left constantly stirs up hatred and division for no reason other than to profit from it, poisoning any society in which it gains a significant following. Yes, we are in the business of encouraging young European men to revolt against the paid thugs and lackeys of a powerful and sociopathic ruling class, and cannot in good conscience ask this of them if the only result of our victory will be to let the enemy regroup under state protection. But more importantly than all of this, in the present situation in which our civilisation finds itself, it’s simply a matter of us or them – “us”, in this case, encompassing everyone who does not submit to the leftist metapolitical fighting machine, which shows no mercy to those who see themselves as non-combatants in its war on the West. Set yourself to do anything less than smash the Left utterly and silence them for good, and it will be you who gets smashed and silenced by them – inevitably so.
The mistake by classical liberals and libertarians attempting to refute these beliefs is to ignore the environment which provokes this type of response – and make no mistake, it is a response to something.
Lawrence’s argument can be boiled down to this: Either they silence us, or we silence them. Pick one.
Most rebuttals do not address this or explain why it is not the case, and in doing so they undermine their own objective.
Merely two days after Lawrence’s article came out, the New York Times published an op/ed written by Ulrich Baer titled What Liberal Snowflakes Get Right About Free Speech defending those who wanted to bar Richard Spencer from speaking at Auburn University.
He writes ((bold emphasis added).
The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.
What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of President Trump, that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone.
This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.
This is hardly the first time a leftist has called for censoring people on the Right. Indeed, it has been part and parcel of their political strategy for 50 years, ever since they successfully embedded themselves within major social, cultural, and political institutions. The free speech advocates of the 1960s weren’t interested in obtaining that right for all; it was a short-term goal that, once achieved, no longer suited their overall endgame.
The Alt. Right holds no political power and exerts no influence or control over cultural and educational institutions. Therefore, for them to advocate censorship of their enemies means far less than those who do exercise power to do the same; it also matters which side drew first blood.
Under libertarianism, the only difference between force and coercion is who is in the right. Who instigated it?
And that’s the rub; the Left acts, and the Right reacts. But for some reason, too often libertarians remain relatively silent or tempered in their protestation until the Right finally reacts in full force.
This was a point raised by Henry Olson at American Renaissance. During the controversy surrounding Richard Spencer’s scheduled speech at Auburn University, Olson notes that libertarians were strangely silent about defending Spencer’s right to speak at a public higher education institution.
Libertarians like to pretend they can get along with the modern Left, mainly out of a belief that its focus on sex and drugs reflects opposition to government controls. In fact, on the road to achieving their vision of sexually and emotionally “liberated” individuals, there is no doubt today’s Left will become every bit as oppressive as their Maoist and Leninist predecessors.
Witness the cheers to which Kim Davis was put in jail for defying gay marriage. Witness the constant cries that free speech does not apply to “racists.” Or witness the Left gloating over the prospects of white dispossession—even as the South African Boers face ruthless government-backed plunder—while it cheers the importation of millions of Muslim migrants for whom apostasy is a capital offense.
Each of these should be enough to make a real friend of liberty grab a stick and join the fight against the antifa. Instead, we get mealy-mouthed false equivalencies that claim both Left and Right are equally bad. Or worse, we get silence.
I would also add that libertarians were more or less silent regarding the shameless, outright destruction of private property by antifas attempting to assault attendees of a National Policy Institute convention – but I saw plenty willing to condemn Richard Spencer for raising his glass and saying “hail Trump!”
And this is why the Alt. Right doesn’t take libertarian criticism seriously. Much of it has been a game of strain the gnat and swallow the camel. I appreciate that some in the liberty movement want to avoid labels and maintain neutrality, yet if they adhere to consistent standards they would, as Olson put it, become “a real friend of liberty grab a stick and join the fight against the antifa.”
If we are to convince those on the Alt. Right the merits of classical liberalism and libertarianism, we must first and foremost condemn those on the Left who have done much to provoke the authoritarian streak now creeping into Alt. Right discourse, ardently champion the right of self-defense against aggression of any kind, and – most vital of all – ceaselessly remind people that the Left is responsible for creating the toxic environment that makes proposals such as the one made by Lawrence sensible to men who would otherwise embrace what we preach.