How to fight hate speech: with clown power!

November 13, 2012 • 7:36 am

Not by banning it, as do many countries (e.g., Germany, Canada) and U.S. college campuses, but simply by countering it with anti-hate speech.  Or, in the latest case, sarcasm.

Three days ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, a neo-Nazi group joined with the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (it’s amazing that these organizations still have any members!) to hold a hate rally at Old City Hall in Charlotte, North Carolina. 250 counter-protesters decided to “prank them” by dressing up like clowns and shouting ludicrous counter-slogans.  Result: Klan and Nazis looked stupid.

Here’s a video of the event:

The report at The Daily Kos has some cool photos, and there are a bunch more pictures here:

Advocates for white power:

And the answers:

And isn’t this a sight for sore eyes? Here’s City Council Member John Autry, who said “We’re just a great big happy melting pot”—while wearing a clown nose:

Mockery is a great disinfectant. The sad thing is that such a counter-demonstration at a religious rally would be met with universal disgust, at least in the U.S.

h/t: Rixaeton

90 thoughts on “How to fight hate speech: with clown power!

  1. “The sad thing is that such a counter-demonstration at a religious rally would be met with universal disgust, at least in the U.S.”

    Not universal. Some of us would love it.

  2. “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

    Ridicule, mockery, and humor play important roles in controversy.

    1. (Tune: ‘Villikens and Dinah’)

      “I’m the queerest young fellow that ever you heard,
      My mother’s a Jew and my father’s a bird;
      With Joseph the joiner I could not agree,
      So here’s to disciples and Calvery….

      The two of Me thought of a wonderful plan:
      To make Me a Third in the likeness of Man.
      I slept with young Mary, a virgin was she,
      And when the Baby was born, why, the baby was Me.”

      1. So the first stanza is from Gogarty’s “Song of the Cheerful (but slightly Sarcastic) Jesus” as adapted in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. But the second?

    2. H.L. Mencken was even more succinct:

      “One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.”

  3. There’s an impressive list of films which make Nazis look ridiculous through sheer mockery: Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be”, Mel Brook’s “The Producers”, Kubrick’s “Doctor Strangelove” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” mainly come to mind. Glad to see this form of satire in the streets of North Carolina.

    1. Don’t forget Leni Riefenstahl’s contributions to satire film. Or at least, I’ve always read them as satire films, even when they were banned from public performance in the UK (they may still be, I’m not sure).

    2. “O Brother, Where Art Thou” has an outrageously funny, over-the-top Klan scene. The rest of the movie is hilarious because it’s so eerily accurate in many aspects.

      1. That movie also has some of the best performances of American music from the turn of the (last) century that you’ll hear.

        On the subject of movies making fun of racist assholes…I can think of none that does better than Blazing Saddles.

        “No, dagnabbit! The sheriff is a nigger!”

        “And innit a lovely morning, ma’am?” “Up yours, nigger!”

        “Where the white women at?”


  4. At about the 2 min mark, a group of black women are shown chanting, “Obama! Obama!” Not the name of a fringe progressive or a civil rights activist; the name of the actual President.

    This is a proud moment for America.

  5. You hippies just wait until the New World Odor takes over!

    Anti-wheatist is a code word for anti-rye.

    Also, they have a hotline? In case of what? A white emergency? Calling for a late night repairman because the pilot cross went out? I notice it’s not a toll-free number; I can’t possibly imagine why!

    Excellent response. That community has a nose for this kind of thing. Whoever’s in charge of next year’s shindig has some mighty big shoes to fill.

    1. Great TV trailer for a recent British incident.

      A group of gypsies, in a stand-off with police, after they had been told by the court to vacate the land they were on. They had barricaded themselves in for several weeks and were coming to the end-game.

      Little 8 year-old gypsy girl, in an Irish accent, says, “Daddy, there’s no more hippies left to defend us!”

        1. Seriously. Dale Farm, near Basildon.
          That said, many of the “hippies” involved in the protests were members of what you could call the “New Age Traveller” community ; if they don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with the traditional “diddicoy”, they do have interests in common, often sharing the habit of travelling in summer and setting up in winter on more permanent sites. Further than that, it’s very hard to generalise. (At least, when I socialised with such, I wouldn’t go further than that in characterising them as a group. Pretty much everything else about them was variable in high degree. Oh, a strong streak of anti-authoritarianism is pretty universal, including amongst the ex-soldiers on the road.)

  6. Also, according to their website, theirs is a religious movement. So, it would seem that you’ve had your wish! For instance, from their L.O.T.I.E. (acronym left unexplained; ladies auxiliary near as I can tell) section: “We are also Christian organization and believe a good Christian home is the best way to teach our children; to have good morals and to respect the laws of nature. We can say to the world without apology that our forefathers founded this as a Christian nation.

    That is the purpose of the K.K.K to re-establish and maintain it as such. A white Christan country for God, Race and Nation.”

    Remember, the KKK are doing the Lord’s work.

    1. Remember, the KKK are doing the Lord’s work.

      I believe that any concessions to Christianity by the neo-Nazis are purely politically motivated, as the core of their ideology is quite anti-Christian. Hitler himself paid lip service to Christianity, but his personal attitude towards it was ambivalent as best. He was obviously uncomfortable with its Jewish origins, and thought that the whole “turning the other cheek” attitude was an expression of weakness, unworthy of the Aryan nation.

      In the contemporary KKK language, “Christian” is simply a code word for “(non-Jewish) white”.

      1. Of course. But their literature says they worship Jesus (has no one told them he was a Jew?). Of course what they write and say is batshit crazy. But no more batshit crazy than any other religious group I see. Truth-wise, it all seems equivalent to me, though not all of them are equally harmful.

  7. Since clowns often wear ill fitting clothes
    and exaggerated fashions, I wonder if the silly
    looking people wearing bed sheets are
    Kook Klutz Klowns?

    (Speaking as a clown though, I’d NEVER share an alley with those Bozos; they’d be what we call “Yama Yamas”, which is slang for amateurish and unfunny clowns!)

  8. The lesson here is that, in the free market place of ideas, the way to deal with bad speech that is insufficiently coherent to be countered by rational argument, is to use ridicule and farce to debase its currency.

  9. This is genius…

    Need to get some money/motivation behind this idea.

    A slogan, a logo… brand it up and start clowning the clowns.

    Creationists, any religion at all for that matter…, fag hating WBC fark-faces… climate change deniers, anti-vaxers, truthers…

    Go, go, go…

    Let’s get this show on the road!

    1. Anti-vaxers”? Shome mishtake, shurely? This is some secret cult of PDP-worshippers, perhaps? Worshippers of the Elder Gods of, ummm, somewhere near Boston, whose name escapes me.
      OIC, “anti-vaccination” people. [Shakes head] We have them too, trying to undo a couple of centuries of progress.

      1. Hah! Cheers for that link. Those counter protests are exactly what this reminded me of too. Definitely one of the best ways to react to this kind of thing. I remember reading a while back about a protest against the WBC in San Francisco. One sign that really made me chuckle simply read ‘I only came because they said they’d be donuts.’

      2. #3, Westboro-Baptist-Hate-Mission versus the KKK ; now there’s a real case of not knowing which way to turn your back on.
        #7 : “scared bent” instead of “scared straight” ; probably not a good tactic in the longer run, but good on the day.
        #8 : “Toot toot!” said Fat Freddy. Even after nearly 30 years travelling to Britain, my American friend Jim still winces slightly when I say that “I’m just going out to have a fag!” I’ll have to think of a way to phrase it to turn the wince into a full shudder. [SNIGGERS] I just worked out what her shirt says.
        #12 : should be a beagle.
        To mis-quote Apocalypse Now, I love the smell of sarcasm in the morning

  10. Every Westboro baptist protest could use a big dose of this. Clowns for clowns.

    Though I should point out that a bunch of bikers DID do a fairly effective counter-protest of them. But it needs to be locals, because such counter-speech is just too hard for a small group to sustain.

  11. A minor nit to pick, as Germany is given as an example of a state that bans hate speech… and please correct me if I’m wrong (calling all folks from Germany).

    To be fair, wasn’t the banning of hate speech (as well as the Nazi Party itself) a consequence of the conditions of surrender at the end of WWII ? Am I mistaken that this was originally formulated at the point of a gun? (though now many young Germans may be unaware of this history and just accept it as “normal”?)

    It may be that we are seeing a time in Greece where unfettered free speech is also not such a hot idea:

    As Hitchens and others ( have pointed out, the “fire in a crowded theater” limitation was brought up to suppress American Socialist (i.e. largely Jewish) anti-war sentiment. However there are very clear (and I would argue morally just) reasons to clamp down on free speech in extreme circumstances: destroying media (radio/tv) outlets in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia come to mind. I recommend “Forging Peace” (and “Forging War”) as some good reading on the topics of limiting free speech to mitigate catastrophe.

    1. Those are covered in US speech law: you cannot incite people to imminent illegal action. Tell someone to go out and firebomb a local radio station right now, and they do, you’re probably going to face charges.

      The issue is when a speaker says “someone ought to do something about the gays/jews/whatevers” – or even further removed “[action x] is horrible and the people who do it are horrible” and someone else hears that and goes out and firebombs a radio station. Because maybe the speaker didn’t mean that – maybe they meant legal political action or nonviolent protest. And maybe tomorrow a different speaker is prosecuted because they said “someone ought to do something about poverty” or “taxes are too high” and a crazy person took that to mean “go shoot your local politician.”

      IMO its a good thing that the US requires a very strong connection between speech and lawless action before they will prosecute the speech. The weaker the connection, the more prosecutions you’re going to have of political opinion and artistic expression. Even now, people want to blame music, books, and art for “making” them do illegal things. Do you really want to give such arguments a legal backing? I don’t like people like Akin’s stance on abortion, but I think it is destructive to speech and politics to blame speech like his for the murder of George Tiller. Roeder killed Tiller. Anti-abortion political speech – even the highly emotional, inflammatory type – did not.

      Besides which, I would think that a solid prosecution and stiff sentence for the illustrative firebomber is going to be a lot more effective in terms of regulating behavior than a prosecution and sentence of the speaker. That sends exactly the right message – that the state mostly doesn’t care what you say, they just care what you do.

      1. Certainly not advocating giving legal backing to shut down or sabotage media under normal (i.e. peacetime) circumstances… or based on specious reasoning. I’m talking about extremes e.g. situations where rule of law has completely broken down… institutions gone (think Rwanda pre-genocide, or Sarajevo surrounded by snipers)… The message coming out of the radio station need not be “do X to Y… kill, kill, KILL” (not direct incitement) – but can merely be 24-hour hate drivel designed to achieve the same. Even in the case of 1940’s Germany (not to Godwin, but hey, we’re talking about neo-Nazis here) typed communications of orders merely suggesting some kind of “final solution” was enough to let subordinates and captains of industry use their imaginations.

        I think unfettered free speech is a great thing to be defended under normal circumstances — but would you want to grant those same rights to a bunch of neo-Nazis when we’re not talking about a few marginalized clowns, but a movement that is picking up steam in a rapidly decaying environment? Seriously… look at what is happening in Greece and consider these neo-morons are trumpeting anti-Semitic (and anti-anything else) rhetoric designed to scapegoat entire groups as the cause of economic woes and/or a loss of your nationalistic unity. Things can (and do) go downhill fast. The first thing an outside force does (while dealing with the direct violence and trying to restore some kind of rule of law) is to track down and blast their way into the 24-hour drivel shops and either drag the perps to justice (which is now an externally-imposed justice) or blow their heads off their shoulders trying. I’m not talking strictly hypotheticals here; this kind of thing has happened many times.

        Anyway, what prompted my original line of thought was that it’s a bit unfair to point at Germany’s hate speech laws as some kind of internally-imposed solution. If I’m remotely correct in my historical knowledge, WE (USA/Britain, but mostly I think USA) IMPOSED their laws on them at the point of a gun. We essentially told them we were big boys and girls and could handle free speech, but they could not. And then after the dust settles, the birds come out, and the William Tell Overture starts playing again, this ends up being the status quo.

        1. Curtailing civil rights in a situation as explosive as you describe is not going to be helpful, and indeed may be the spark needed to light the fuse.

          There might not be anything at all that can be done to prevent catastrophe at that point, and it’s very likely that the authoritarian impulses that would lead a government to consider such a crackdown were the ones that fueled the opposition in the first place.

          All in all, I’d look to simultaneously doing the best to address the root causes of unrest (usually socioeconomic instability) whilst figuring out how best to survive the coming maelstrom.


          1. I hear you, but I don’t know… putting the brakes on the media worked in Sarajevo. (my girlfriend and a very good friend of hers were there at the height of the atrocities – they were helping coordinate Fred Cuny’s relief efforts).

   for those unfamiliar with him and his work – I also recommend the Frontline episode on him at the bottom of that link.

            Anyway, I’m hesitant to add to your reading pile – but I do recommend adding “Forging Peace” to the mountain. At least check out the description here:


            This is where the rubber hits the road, dealing with these very uncomfortable issues. Sometimes ripping out that transmitter is justified. (actually, my girlfriend introduced me to that book when I was talking in free-speech absolutist terms, and now I’ll probably never see the issue in quite the same black and white terms ever again).

          2. Even if there are cases where limiting civil liberties actually does result in seemingly positive results, that’s still not valid justification in my book.

            In the overwhelming majority of such cases, the “temporary” “limited” restrictions turn into a permanent state of emergency, and freedom is only ever restored through some sort of popular uprising, generally violent.

            U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. and FISA and the TSA and Guantanamo are prime examples, still going stronger than ever more than a decade after the emergency began. America today is at least as bad as the jokes we made about the Soviets when I was growing up, what with our internal passports and omnipresent surveillance and “free speech zones” and strip searches at airports and train stations and even prohibitions on photographing bridges. All supposedly temporary and supposedly somehow supposed to protect our freedoms.


          3. I’m certainly with you there. Still conflicted over the cases where huge crimes against humanity are clearly mitigated by such actions – when they are carried out only against clearly identified perps. There seem to be no easy answers in my book when hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.

        2. If I’m remotely correct in my historical knowledge, WE (USA/Britain, but mostly I think USA) IMPOSED their laws on them at the point of a gun.

          According to Wikipedia, the provisions in the German penal code outlawing Holocaust denial were added in the 1990s, and the provisions outlawing speech that justifies or glorifies the Nazi government were added “recently.”

          The description of German law in the Wikipedia article is disturbing, to say the least. Speech that attacks “the human dignity of others by reviling, maliciously making contemptible or slandering parts of the populace” is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. A lot of the political speech I see in comments on this blog involves broad attacks on political groups (typically Republicans) or religious groups (typically conservative or fundamentalist Christians) and could be construed as malicious or slanderous, or even “hateful.”

          1. I see. I did a bit of extra digging, and what I’m thinking of must be the declaration of the Nazi Party as a criminal organization in 1946 (which I think must have happened under article 13 of the conditions of surrender; article 9 suspended all communications by the existing regime).

            Further restrictions imposed in 1946 under article 13 involved censorship of West German media (including criticism of the Allied occupational forces themselves), drawing up a list of over 30,000 titles of books to be tracked down and destroyed (millions of books were burned). The new Bundesrepublik Deutschland got rid of those media limits (but perhaps not all of them – “Mein Kampf” may have still been illegal then, I don’t know).

            An interesting article fleshing out some history across national boundaries, with pros and cons is here:

            So according to the above, the official criminalization of trivializing gross international crimes began in 1985, with more provisions re: the Holocaust hammered out by ’94. Ironically enough, people have been prosecuted under that penal code for making swastikas, circled and with slashes through them. (i.e. anti-Nazi protest signs were judged criminal as well) Durp-de-durp. The law is an ass.

    2. the topics of limiting free speech to mitigate catastrophe.

      Why do I think of the “L’Aquila Six” (Seven if you count the civil servant) when I read that.
      The wife and I are planning next year’s holiday to be in Italy. I’m going to have to be very, very careful what I say, particularly with respect the impending destruction of Naples by Vesuvius (definitely going to happen, unless Naples is abandoned beforehand) or the destruction of Rome by another eruption from the Colli Albani caldera (same prognosis ; same caveats). Now, I could be accused of doom-mongering to try to drive down prices … and OK, that is true to an extent. But much more important is that by driving people to abandon the areas, I’d be decreasing their probability of death. And making the interesting bits (stones, bones and SCUBA are planned ; let the grockels have the beaches) less crowded will improve the experience vastly.

  12. This counter-protest appears to have been effective at further marginalizing people who deserve to be far less than even marginal. But the cournter-protest should not be confused with a celebration of freedom of speech since the counter-protesters made noise to drown out an apparent minority of hateful wackos. A video posted on WEIT several weeks ago featured Christopher Hitchens who pointed out that freedom of speech is important in part because it includes defending rights of people to hear unpopular positions being offered.

    The anti-hate posters and clown garb was a terrific exercise of free speech. The noise-making violated the hater’s speech rights; they got away with it only because they had a good turnout.

    1. In French, “KKKK” is read “caca, caca” (“poo, poo”). Using white clothes is a good metaphor for the toilet paper.

      Desnes Diev

  13. Oh I see! We’ve been going the wrong way at spreading rationality – It’s not “Fight fire with fire”, but actually “Fight clowns with clowns!”

    That way people can actually realize that they are nothing but clowns trying to stretch Poe’s Law.

  14. This reminded me of the person in Australia that put on a Darth Vader costume and followed a procession of costumed Anglican bishops and whatnot through the streets to some cathedral.

    There is precedence, we just have to rededicate ourselves to ridiculing religion wherever it appears in public.

    1. He should have stood behind Archbishop George Pell at his press conference in Sydney yesterday when His Grace was saying “We didn’t molest all that many, and we weren’t the only ones, and the press has been beating this story up, and we’ve stopped now.”

  15. Hmmph. National Socialist Movement, and doubtless many of them denounce Obama out of the other side of their mouths as a socialist. And then, they’re from Detroit. I wonder how many of them are auto workers? And who exactly bailed out GM & Chrysler?

  16. At last week’s election, there were a couple Republicans set up in a chuppah (except I’m sure they didn’t call it that) just outside the 75-foot limit. I (as the inspector of the board) got a lot of complaints about them — it’s a very liberal precinct with a sizable minority population. Indeed, over 60% of this precinct voted for Obama — more than 2:1.

    But the guys in the chuppah were behaving themselves and keeping well clear of the 75-foot limit. Indeed, I found them quite personable.

    I told everybody who complained that:

    A) so long as they remained outside the 75-foot limit and remained civil, there isn’t anything I or anybody else can or should do to stop them;

    ii) they were exercising their most important and cherished American civil liberty, the right to peaceably assemble and talk politics;

    and 3) the proper answer to speech you don’t like is to counter it with speech of your own — so please go out there, join them, and tell people to vote the way you think they should.

    Sadly, nobody took my advice, but I’m pretty sure I at least got the message across.


  17. I don’t think I put my point across very well last time, so let me try to question your absolutist view on free speech this way:

    What is your response to the fact that many LGBTQ teens commit suicide because of verbal bullying (i.e. hate speech, i.e. the expression of free speech)? Are you going to make an exception for limited speech in schools where it constitutes something nebulous like nebulous? If so, I think you’ve started yourself down a more incoherent path which needs to be addressed.

    1. IANAL but…there is already good legal argument and precedent about limiting speech in schools, because the state mandates citizens’ presence there and the particular citizens of interest are mostly not age of consent. So yes, absolutely, bullying speech in schools can be limited. Such rules are only going to have a difficult time passing muster if they are arbitrarily or selectively content-based (i.e. a school permits “Romney supporters should die” t-shirts but not “Obama supporters should die” shirts. A school can ban both, or neither, but not just one).

      That’s a pretty easy case. IMO the tougher cases are when individuals send/post poison pill letters via the internet, on their own time, and some kid commits suicide. Like the Rutgers case or the Amanda Todd case. The law is still trying to figure out where (or whether) to draw the line in those sorts of instances. I’ll admit I fall pretty strongly on the side of free speech. But I am also optimistic that smart legal minds might be able to find a good solution that threads the needle, maintaining broad freedom of speech (even hate speech) over the internet while mostly preventing it from contributing to the suicide of impressionable teens.

    2. Bullying in schools is harassment. It’s not protected speech.

      A gay teen might commit suicide in response to the general expression of anti-gay views in the media or among members of his community. Do you therefore think the general expression of anti-gay views should be illegal?

    3. There are already laws against stalking and harassment more than suited to dealing with the targeted individual cases.

      The broad public anti-gay speech is a perfect example of something best combat with more speech. There’s the “It Gets Better” campaign, and Hollywood is portraying homosexuals as regular people. NBC’s election night anchor was a lesbian.

      A broad public perception of gays as inferior doesn’t make gay kids kill themselves. Depression makes kids kill themselves, as sometimes does bullying. Censorship won’t do diddly-squat to stop kids from killing themselves. Diagnosing and treating depression will stop kids from killing themselves, and treating violence and harassment between kids with the same seriousness as we treat violence and harassment between adults will solve the rest of that problem.


      1. Yours and the other responses above are convincing, so I think my challenge is busted and I align myself more with your position. I’m just still a little conflicted on the fundamental principle of whether or not people should have the right to live a life where they don’t have to be subjected to feeling subhuman at any age. I still just don’t know how to reconcile that with appropriate free speech laws.

        1. I’m just still a little conflicted on the fundamental principle of whether or not people should have the right to live a life where they don’t have to be subjected to feeling subhuman at any age.

          If people are to have that right, it must be bestowed upon them by their parents.

          “Don’t mind those idiots, Suzy. Whatever bullshit they’re spewing has no bearing on the real world, you included. Might want to keep your distance from them, though…contrary to what they claim, their shit really does stink, and you don’t want to get any of it on you.”

          …and then queue up Blazing Saddles for that night’s entertainment. Yes, the uncensored version. If a kid’s old enough to have her feelings hurt by vague societal expressions of bigotry, she’s old enough to be hilariously shocked at people calling Cleavon Little a nigger.

          If Mel Brooks don’t put things into proper perspective, absolutely nothin’ will.


  18. The sad thing is that such a counter-demonstration at a religious rally would be met with universal disgust, at least in the U.S.

    Last year in Lodz, Poland (of all places) a dancing man dressed as a butterfly disrupted a religious procession (Corpus Christi, one of the most celebrated Catholic holidays). He was stopped by the police, but AFAIK was not arrested or charged (and subsequent charges brought by a local priest were dismissed). He repeated this performance on several similar occasions, each time dressed as a different character. His actions were surprizingly well received and many spectators cheered for him.

  19. As a German, I am always slightly annoyed by these snide remarks implying how intolerant and unreasonable we are for penalizing calls for genocide and holocaust denial. Far be it from me to say that German politics are perfect, nor do I fail to understand where the American view of free speech comes from.

    But you also have to see where ours comes from. Tolerating the mortal enemies of tolerance did not work out so well 1918-1933. Some Germans like to think that they have learned something from that, and implemented laws that may make it easier to avoid another 1933. We may be mistaken; but it should also be noted that the slippery slope feared by so many liberal Americans, that outlawing openly antisemitic propaganda is but the first step to outlawing any open political or religious discourse, has so far failed to be an issue. To the best of my knowledge, it is considerably harder to be sued for libel, for example, in my home country than in Britain.

    1. Tolerating the mortal enemies of tolerance did not work out so well 1918-1933.

      The U.S. and other countries also permitted intolerant speech (and continue to do so) but have not become Nazi states. Something else was going on with Germany.

      Is there any evidence that banning openly antisemitic propaganda is beneficial? I think it’s an understandable but unfortunate overreaction to Germany’s fascist past.

    2. Ah… there you are. Check out thread 18 above. I’m no history major, but am I correct that much of Germany’s hate speech laws (if not their entirety – but certainly the illegality of the Nazi Party and attempts to rekindle the flame) were imposed in 1945 by the USA in the first place? If so, it would make it doubly hypocritical of an American to criticize German law (not to mention historically blinkered).

      1. If so, it would make it doubly hypocritical of an American to criticize German law (not to mention historically blinkered).

        No it wouldn’t. Even if your belief about the origin of the law is true (have you tried to find out?), and even if the law were justified in 1945, and that wouldn’t mean it’s justified today. Conditions in Germany have changed enormously over the past 60 years. And in any case it doesn’t make sense to accuse Americans today of “hypocrisy” regarding an action taken by a completely different group of Americans half a century ago.

        1. I did try to check it out — see above thread. There were apparently millions of books burned back then (latter 1940s), where it was admitted the principles were no different from those used by the Nazis themselves in their book burnings… what I came across about the lifting of those rules by the newly-formed West German government was only a sketchy wiki article, though. It mentioned the new constitution providing for complete freedom of the press, media and speech – but this article had too little detail to answer what I had in mind, and seems to be contradicted by the scholarly work I gave above. So I still don’t have a good picture of precisely what restrictions were left over from the 1944-5 period up until the changes in the penal code in 1985/94. Oh well… I gotta get back to work, instead of learning interesting stuff.

  20. Saying that Germany bans free speech (and implying the US of A doesn’t) is stretching things. In neither country does one have the right to say anything at anytime (such as shouting “theatre” in a crowded firehouse). There is a difference of degree, not of kind. One can argue about where the balance is between free speech on the one hand and hate speech on the other, between the rights of the speaker and the rights of someone receiving death threats, say, but it is wrong to paint things so black and white.

    1. Saying that Germany bans free speech (and implying the US of A doesn’t) is stretching things. In neither country does one have the right to say anything at anytime (such as shouting “theatre” in a crowded firehouse). There is a difference of degree, not of kind.

      Banning speech on the basis of a dubious prediction that it will cause harm at some undetermined future time and place (anti-semitic propaganda) is different in kind from banning speech on the basis of a well-founded prediction that it will cause imminent harm (falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater).

  21. White supremists with swastika banners. Baptists to a man. Praise Jaysus.
    And Bobbies with bikes. How quaint.

    1. Where are my mod points when I need them? Oh, over on /.
      “+1” nonetheless. To the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries” and a whistling wind.

  22. The best part of this video is at the end, when the oh-so-tolerant Christian yells “all y’all gonna burn in Hell” and the Nazi responds “yeah, kill whitey, I hear ya.”

    I can guarantee you that all those demonstrating against the National Socialists were “good Christians,” the belief in human equality being an entirely Christian view.

  23. Fixing a misconception. Demonstrations of neo-nazis aren’t banned Germay. They can’t use certain symbols (swatiska and some runes) and they can’t say few specific things (holocaust denial etc) other than that they have the same rights as everyone else. Fortunately, they are routinely outnumbered by counter-protests, rendering their efforts pointless.

    1. Here is the relevant section of the German Federal Criminal Code:

      Section 130 Agitation of the People

      (1) Whoever, in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace:

      1. incites hatred against segments of the population or calls for violent or arbitrary measures against them; or

      2. assaults the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming segments of the population,

      shall be punished with imprisonment from three months to five years.

      That certainly sounds like it prohibits a much broader range of speech than merely “certain symbols” and “a few specific things.”

  24. The Southern Poverty Law Center goes after THE MONEY of such hate groups, getting judgements against leaders who incite their core-group followers to violence, then claim no responsibility for the outcome. They have been remarkably effective in many cases.

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