The Seductive Appeal of the "Nazi Exception"
Yes. "Heather MacDonald is a leading apologist for police violence, and I abhor her contributions to national discourse. But treating her as a genocide advocate demonstrates that these students can make anyone a genocide advocate and justify the suppression of anyone's speech. MacDonald's chief sin, in these students' view, is that she's a vigorous critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, its goals, its rhetoric, and its methods. I don't share many of her criticisms, but the notion that it is genocidal and outside acceptable discourse to criticize a protest movement is vile, un-American, imbecilic, and not to be taken seriously. These students' view that America is riddled with racism and injustice is quite arguable. But combined with their theory of permissible speech, it means that nearly anything can be identified as an instrument of genocide and therefore suppressed. I'm a Nazi. You're a Nazi. She's a Nazi. He's a Nazi. Wouldn't you like to be a Nazi too? In modern America, we are faced with genuine aspiring Nazis who believe in genocide, and despicable hucksters who encourage them for profit. But these students — and the university cultures that produce them — utterly lack the honesty, principle, or self-awareness to identify them, or to identify true threats or genuinely actionable incitement. With few exceptions, American universities are unable or afraid to make rational, intelligent judgments about what speech is "dangerous" in any meaningful sense of the word. They've proved that again and again and again and again. Asking modern American universities "is this speech dangerous?" is like asking modern American cops "was it necessary to shoot that dude?" Third, these students are pursuing useful idiocy in the guise of safety. Exceptions to free speech don't get used to help the powerless. They get used to help the powerful. We see that in the case of blasphemy laws: imagined by some on the Left as a measure of respect for a multicultural society, actually primarily used to oppress religious and ethnic minorities and the powerless. We see it in colleges, where the same rhetoric used by these students is also used to silence their allies. We see it in some reactions to campus violence, openly thirsting for an opportunity to suppress speech. If these students think that speech exceptions will ultimately promote their concept of social justice, they're goddamned fools. Fools have rights too, but we're not obligated to cooperate with their foolishness. The "Nazi exception" is unprincipled, self-indulgent, and childish. Nazis and their admirers and fellow travellers ought to be called out, ridiculed, condemned, and exposed to the full array of consequences the First Amendment offers. They ought to face criminal and civil sanctions if they break the law. But I decline the invitation to help these students destroy the village in order to save it."