Punching Nazis and the Constitution: It’s Complicated

So you’re thinking about punching a nazi and you’re pretty sure it’s okay because they’re inciting you to violence with their nazi ways and you’re protected under the Constitution.
Quick question: Who gets to decide what is and what is not constitutionally protected speech?
There are only nine people in the world who get to say…Image result for the constitution image public domain

Did you guess the Supreme Court?
Ding ding ding! Yep, in fact, that’s all they do all day is sit around interpreting the Constitution. And, as I understand it, they take a much more careful view of what constitutes incitement to violence.

Hate speech is constitutionally protected in a city park or public space. Do it at work and you might be in big trouble, though.

Speaking vaguely about wiping out all the Albanians because they’re evil and they took your country is constitutionally protected. Saying ‘I hate Albanians and there are some that live at 420 Mockingbird Lane who get home in about an hour–I’ve got a gun,’ could be considered incitement to violence because of its specificity. You could be charged with a crime even if the violence doesn’t happen.

Wearing the insignia or carrying the flag of hideous historical murderers is not specific enough, or direct enough. And just because what they’re saying about Jews and black people really pisses you off doesn’t count as incitement from a legal perspective.

So, instead of punching a nazi, don’t punch one and take the money you’d spend on bail to buy the book ‘Deliberate Intent’ by Rod Smolla. He’s a first amendment scholar who talks about these very issues, so much so that you’ll be full of accurate information about the realities of constitutionally protected speech.

Then take the rest of the bail money and donate it to The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League and The Color of Change. Apply the money where it might actually do some good for the people you’re purporting to defend.

Whatever you do, don’t punch a nazi with a weapon in your hands and injure them so much you commit a felony. If you’re serving time or on probation for a felony, you won’t get to vote. In some states, you’ll never get to vote again. And guess which population is the most likely to get disenfranchised by these unjust voter suppression tactics? Black Americans. Voting out nazis and nazi enablers is the best possible way to protect those vulnerable populations you’re so worried about. Definitely stay enfranchised long enough to vote out of power those GOP politicians who pass laws to keep people convicted of a felony from voting.

In short, how about you don’t punch a nazi and instead do something about hate and injustice that might have longer-lasting results.

This entry was posted in Constitution, democracy activism, First Amendment rights, Freedom of Speech, hate speech, politics, resistance, Strategy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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