Here we have the edifying spectacle of an anarchist equating Hollywood liberal and militant atheist Bill Maher with General Franco. My take? This insults the memory of the many anarchists (and many others) who died or suffered horribly for resisting the totalitarian regimes, left and right, of the twentieth century.
By Tariq Khan
Out of necessity as much as out of conviction, anarchists in the United States have long been champions of the right to freely express uncomfortable and controversial ideas. At the same time, while championing the right to express unconventional ideas, anarchists have not allowed a liberal notion of free speech as an excuse to sit idly by while fascists spew hate speech. The Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti – who died while serving in an anti-fascist militia in the 1930s – famously said, “Fascism is not to be debated, it is to be destroyed.” This reflects a sensibility that not all ideas are merely “points of view” that deserve respect or space. There is a difference between speech that is “offensive” and speech that is “oppressive.” For example, during the Jim Crow era in US history; newspaper articles, songs, books, plays, political cartoons, and speeches that characterized Black men as hypersexual and violent beasts were far more than merely offensive. Such expressions reinforced and perpetuated a violent white supremacist system, justifying and fueling legal oppression such as Jim Crow laws and extralegal oppression such as lynching.
In the present-day United States, a shallow idea of “free speech” is often wielded by the privileged as a way to direct attention away from critiques of existing conditions and systems; particularly critiques of capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. For example, two years ago when UC Berkeley students organized to keep comedian Bill Maher from speaking on their campus, leading media outlets framed it as a controversy about free speech rather than engaging with the much deeper critiques the students had about Maher’s perpetuation of US imperialist, Orientalist discourse which fuels militarism abroad and racist violence at home.