Ideological Amazon & Punk Nazis

“The words are violence crowd is right about the power of language. Words can be vile, disgusting, offensive, and dehumanizing. They can make the speaker worthy of scorn, protest, and blistering criticism. But the difference between civilization and barbarism is that civilization responds to words with words. Not knives or guns or fire. That is the bright line. There can be no excuse for blurring that line—whether out of religious fanaticism or ideological orthodoxy of any other kind.

Today our culture is dominated by those who blur that line—those who lend credence to the idea that words, art, song lyrics, children’s books, and op-eds are the same as violence. We are so used to this worldview and what it requires—apologize, grovel, erase, grovel some more—that we no longer notice.”

-Bari Weiss, “We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning.” Common Sense. August 13, 2022.

Thinking for yourself is never going to line up with any kind of ideological orthodoxy. Free speech is ultimately about listening to unorthodox voices. But, if it is used to drown them out, giving certain orthodoxies the greatest share of voice, then do you really have free speech? What often pretends to be “free speech” isn’t about free speech. It’s about something else. As Steve Bannon would have it: “This is not about persuasion: This is about disorientation.”

The disorientation is to make it more difficult to come to independent conclusions, and it is also designed to limit the kind of traction unorthodox ideas can get among the population. Both are very much designed to promote established ideas and the status quo.

To use a metaphor, who is the Amazon of ideology in a culture? Often, thee are driven by political elites, whether they be based on religious, business, or some other orthodoxy. Ideally, free speech is about expanding the Overton window, the things that we can talk about. Shouting down the opposition isn’t free speech. Giving room for dissenting voices is free speech.

Of course, if that is the view, people will claim their views are somehow dissenting. They’ll espouse the most mainstream ideas, and they’ll exclude some portion to signal that their ideas are in the minority or unique.

There’s also the other direction. You may have some unique ideas. But, it’s very possible that they aren’t interesting to many other people, even if you believe they should be. Tolerance for people that do not share your views has to flow in all directions. A minority that thinks they are on the right side of history and doesn’t have to listen to people that don’t agree with them have all the same problems of the dominant ideologies without the political clout. For people on the sidelines, it is hard to see the advantages of switching out one for the other.

So, it’s a complex business. The Dead Kennedy’s offered good advice though in Nazi Punks Fuck Off, i.e., our default mode should be to listen to new ideas and voices. But, a punk Nazi, or one that shares some of our ideas or aesthetic, isn’t necessarily an improvement over the choices of the ideological Amazon.

Punk ain't no religious cult
Punk means thinkin' for yourself
You ain't hardcore 'cause you spike your hair
When a jock still lives inside your head

Nazi punks, Nazi punks
Nazi punks fuck off!
Nazi punks, Nazi punks
Nazi punks fuck off!

If you've come to fight, get outta here
You ain't no better than the bouncers
We ain't tryin' to be police
When you ape the cops it ain't anarchy

Nazi punks, Nazi punks
Nazi punks fuck off!

Nazi punks, Nazi punks
Nazi punks fuck off!

Ten guys jump one, what a man
You fight each other, the police state wins
Stab your backs when you trash our halls
Trash a bank if you've got real balls

You still think swastikas look cool
The real Nazis run your schools
They're coaches, businessmen and cops
In a real fourth Reich you'll be the first to go

Nazi punks, Nazi punks
Nazi punks fuck off!

Nazi punks, Nazi punks
Nazi punks fuck off!

You'll be the first to go
You'll be the first to go
You'll be the first to go
Unless you think

Illiberalism, Cancel Culture, Free Speech, and The Internet

“Bad faith is the condition of the modern internet, and shitposting is its lingua franca. On—yes—both sides. Look: A professional Twitter troll is president. Trolling won. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that despite their centrality, online platforms aren’t suited to the earnest exchange of big ideas.”

—Lili Loofbourow, “Illiberalism Isn’t to Blame for the Death of Good-Faith Debate.” Slate. July 12, 2020.

Moab Truth

“But if at this stage of the game, given what we know about how social media work and about the incentives of the people who make TV, you’re still getting your dopamine rush by recycling TV-news clips and shouting at people on the Internet, you’re about as close to beyond hope as a human being gets. There is no point talking to you, trying to reason with you, giving you facts and the sources of those facts. You have made yourself invulnerable to reason and evidence. You’re a Moab truther in the making. So, though I do not in theory write anyone off, in practice I do. It’s time to give you up as a lost cause and start figuring out how to prevent the next generation from becoming like you.”

—Alan Jacobs, “on lost causes.” Snakes and Ladders. November 12, 2019

Free Speech: A Magic Shield That Lets You Be An Asshole?

“The strategy of a lot of the people on the far right is to get us to attack our own institutions and not think that they’re valuable anymore.

By waving free speech around as if it was a magic shield that lets you be an asshole, they’ve convinced a significant percentage of the rest of us that the problem is free speech, as opposed to the problem is you people. I think that there’s a real risk going on here that people fall for it.”

—John Battelle, “A Magic Shield That Let’s You Be An Assh*le?NewCo Shift. May 18, 2018.

Can we at least agree that if you are going to use the word asshole, you should do so without any cute modifications or simply choose another, non-cuss, word?