Justifying Violence

Have you heard about this?

At the August 20 “America First” rally in Laguna Beach, California, Richard Losey punched out R.C. Maxwell. Losey is a large white man and Maxwell is a well-dressed, slightly-built black man.

Image result for image of suppression of free speechYou might assume, like I did and some others have, that Losey is a Trump supporter and Maxwell was with Black Lives Matters, but you’d be wrong. Maxwell was not protesting against the anti-illegal immigration rally. He was there supporting President Trump’s immigration agenda. Losey, who was arrested for battery, was protesting the rally alongside masked Antifa members who decried President Trump’s supposedly racist policies.

According to Laguna Beach police Maxwell was “peacefully speaking with” counter protesters. Maxwell himself claims that he went over to the counter protester’s side “to see if I could engage them with dialogue.” On Twitter, Losey boasted of his attack, writing, “I did it because he would [not] stop talking about Trump when all of us told him a thousand times we didn’t want to hear it.” In another tweet, Losey wrote, “I did what I had to do… his input wasn’t wanted… He had it coming.”

Losey doesn’t appear very bright. He apparently doesn’t realize he shouldn’t admit to attacking someone, but his lack of imagination is stunning. His tweets argue that another person’s dissenting opinion – offered on public property – merit a violent response by virtue of an audience’s dislike of the speaker’s viewpoint. He claims no moral responsibility for his actions and insists he had no other choice by to come against Maxwell with violence.

Wow! Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Some suggested options would be:

  • He could have walked away.
  • He could have engaged in the dialogue Maxwell says he pursued. (Video footage suggests that Maxwell’s interlocutors were not so much discussing with him as they were insulting him.)
  • Losey could have offered a thoughtful statement of his own position.
  • He could have taken the opportunity to refine his own position in light of whatever he might have learned from Maxwell.
  • He could have acknowledged, his disagreements notwithstanding, whatever merit Maxwell’s position or concerns might have had.
  • Even if Maxwell’s words were truly offensive, Losey could have simply let him speak and allowed any genuinely hateful rhetoric to make itself manifest.
  • Losey could have recognized that Maxwell’s freedom of speech was more important than Losey’s and his associates’ dislike of anything Maxwell said.

Calling Losey an unhinged aberration would be easier if there hadn’t been multiple episodes of violence against those supporting Trump or conservative views and judging by the failed attempts at free speech rallies and the like, violence is actually succeeding in driving free expression from the public square.

Related imageWe should also recognize that as violence against people who hold more mainstream conservative views becomes more common and even acceptable in some circles, the increasingly popular idea of denying First Amendment protections to those expressing openly racist viewpoints will be seen as a moderate position instead of as an insidious threat against liberty. The scope of speech that is deemed unworthy of First Amendment protection will, in turn, grow wider, and our liberties as a whole will increasingly be seen as negotiable. Ironically, we’ll be able to have sex with whomever we want and dance around nude in the town square, but we won’t be able to express a heretical opinion. Government coercion that would limit First Amendment liberties holds common ground with the tactics of violent thugs. Both use the threat of force to silence those opinions deemed “unfit” for public expression.

Posted September 29, 2017 by aurorawatcherak

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