Fair Treatment & Free Speech For All – Even The Klan
You may have heard that the Ku Klux Klan had a rally in California that turned violent. Apparently, the Klan members were attacked by protesters as they were exiting their vehicles. It appears the brawl was caught on tape (video at the end of this article), and now the protesters are going to be charged in this crime. That is as it should be. You cannot physically attack someone just because you do not agree with them.
I got a lot of negativity for saying exactly that when this incident first happened. I heard many saying that the police should have shut this rally down or never permitted it in the first place. Truthfully, I never thought I’d find myself defending the Ku Klux Klan of all things, and I’m happy to say I was right about that. I was not defending the Klan and have never defended the Klan. I was defending free speech.
I find the Klan morally repugnant. I think they are idiotic, ignorant, foolish and frankly, I think they are absurd. They are laughable, a human joke. That doesn’t make what happened to them OK. Hearing people call for police intervention, insisting the authorities should have shut this rally down and stopped the Klan from exercising their first amendment rights is troubling. People seem to be perfectly happy with the government violating the rights of those they do not agree with. This is a slippery slope to stand on, folks. If you advocate the violation of others’ rights, you are advocating the eventual violation of your own by setting a precedent. Holding a rally centered around their stupid, hateful belief system is their right as Americans. For “protesters” to show up to that rally and physically attack them is a violation of their rights – period. However, this was not a protest. It was a mob. It was 30 people attacking six.
How is this any better than the Klan themselves? It would seem counter-productive for a group of minorities to attack KKK members – to say the least. How does it discredit the stupid things the Klan says about minorities? They say that minorities are savages and wild animals. How, then, does a group of minorities attacking them essentially without provocation dispute that? Sadly, it doesn’t. It’s just more fodder for the hate machine, and it has only made these Klan members martyrs for their own idiotic cause. They were attacked by those “savages” and “wild animals” they’ve been warning everybody about. This was exactly the wrong thing for people to do, and legality or rights violation isn’t even the half of it.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this incident is society’s general reaction to this incident. It’s too much to expect sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan, of course, but for people to be so unabashedly gleeful over this is disheartening, and a little disquieting. Guilt by association is not guilty enough. It’s despicable to be a racist and to be a member of the Klan – but it is not illegal. Holding a rally to promote their separatist, racist views is not illegal. Nothing they did was illegal, and for people to support – even applaud – a gratuitous, senseless “punishment” for what is essentially a thoughtcrime is disturbing.
Seeing and hearing so many supposedly civilized people who would gladly rip somebody apart in the street (or happily watch others do it) over an idea, a belief or an association is ominous. To say they got what they deserved is dangerously close to the type of rhetoric the Klan themselves spouts. People are entitled to how they feel, but to me it’s like saying it’s OK to be like the Klan as long as you’re sure you have a better reason for your behavior than you think they do. Isn’t that exactly how the Klan members feel? Don’t they feel their reasons justify their behavior? I’m not seeing how the same wrong mindset just turned against them is supposed to help anything. I devoutly hope that I myself am more evolved than a bunch of racist, sheet-wearing fools spewing bile and part of being better than that is not being OK with hateful mobs bent on hurting someone – because that is what the Ku Klux Klan is and that is why they are wrong. If we regard them as Neanderthals, as troglodytes trapped in a distant, stagnant past who are refusing to evolve, how does lowering ourselves to that level elevate our own platform? It doesn’t. It demeans and discredits it. It puts us squarely beside and on equal footing with them, whether people want to see that or not.
Is this really what we want? To be on equal moral footing with the Ku Klux Klan? Or is it just another example of the nearly-universal and almost totally unself-conscious narcissism and hypocrisy we see on display in society? “It’s not OK for you to do this, but it’s OK for me because I have a good enough reason and you don’t. I’m right and you’re wrong.” How does this mindset resolve itself? “I’m so tolerant, open-minded and evolved. I love all people equally, regardless of race, color, gender, creed or orientation. I truly believe in the Brotherhood of Man and that all life has value – AND I HATE THE KLAN FOR NOT FOLLOWING THIS! I LAUGH WHEN THEY ARE ATTACKED BY A HATEFUL MOB! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! KILL THEM ALL!!!” It doesn’t even make any sense.
This whole “intolerant of intolerance” thing is just hypocrisy. It’s “bigotry with good reason,” which is just another way of saying, “I can do this but you can’t.” If your reaction to a hateful mob is to form another hateful mob, you are a hypocrite. Fighting fire with fire won’t put the fire out. It only burns everybody involved. It solves nothing, and has the added consequence of destroying the credibility of all parties.
If we claim to be enlightened, if we claim to be evolved, if we claim to be tolerant, if we claim to be champions of equality and free speech but we draw the line at defending those we find distasteful or we actually advocate violence toward others in these situations, we aren’t really any of these things – and we are certainly no better or even any different than those we are opposing. It’s easy to defend somebody that everybody agrees with. It becomes significantly more difficult when it’s someone that nobody – including ourselves – agrees with. It’s hard to look past ignorance, and it’s not easy to have the courage of our convictions in the face of a hostile majority, but what are we without it? We become just so many hypocrites.