The Strange (and Tortured) Legacy of 'Free Speech'

Boggs, Carl
http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/04/the-strange-and-tortured-legacy-of-free-speech/

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Date Written:  04/09/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21324

Despite a well-cultivated radical image, Antifa rarely focuses on the growing ultra-nationalism, militarism, and imperialism that lies at the very core of American politics – tendencies in fact more dangerous than the rhetoric of Yiannopoulos, Coulter, and Shapiro. Beneath its ultra-leftism is a modus operandi riddled with the worst of identity politics. And since its violent tactics are not aligned with any popular movement, its opposition to fascism (such as it is) turns hollow, empty. The irony is that while the FSM and its heirs did everything possible to expand the realm of free speech, new social forces – extreme identity groups, Antifa – want to restrict or deny freedoms.

Abstract: 
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Excerpt:

At Berkeley, as at other institutions of higher learning in the U.S., campus life is governed by a byzantine system of laws, rules, and codes restricting or banning discussion on a wide variety of topics. Transgressions, real or perceived, can bring censorship, protests, discipline, even violent assault. In contrast to the older McCarthyism, however, the new censors are not so much the government and police but students, faculty, and administrators ready to investigate, detect, and punish. As we have recently seen, moreover, speech enforcers can also be militant off-campus groups armed with Molotov cocktails, baseball bats, tire chains, and mace.

If state power is not the main oppressor here, questions arise – the first being who decides what is hateful or offensive? During the FSM era the answer veered toward the idea of collective struggle to extend the bounds of free speech, which resisted external limits. That struggle now seems rather arcane in a universe where restrictive social norms and fierce political combat frequently overwhelm institutional and legal protections.

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Antifa screams about racism and fascism on the right, which of course exists, while ignoring those same tendencies – not to mention warmongering – among liberal Democrats. The group seems blind to far more consequential fascist interests at work within the power structure itself. Despite a well-cultivated radical image, Antifa rarely focuses on the growing ultra-nationalism, militarism, and imperialism that lies at the very core of American politics – tendencies in fact more dangerous than the rhetoric of Yiannopoulos, Coulter, and Shapiro. Beneath its ultra-leftism is a modus operandi riddled with the worst of identity politics. And since its violent tactics are not aligned with any popular movement, its opposition to fascism (such as it is) turns hollow, empty.

The irony is that while the FSM and its heirs did everything possible to expand the realm of free speech, new social forces – extreme identity groups, Antifa – want to restrict or deny freedoms.

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