Hive mind

In the recent uproar over which citizens should have the right to use meeting space in a public library, some inflammatory comments have been bandied about.  Let’s examine a few. (all quotes are from the video accompanying this article)

“We’re going to make sure that the nazis don’t come back.  … Or the Tea Party.  Or the libertarians.  And all of their fascist friends.”

For a variety of reasons, I haven’t discussed how I’m registered to vote (or even my voting philosophy) on this blog.  The above statement has prompted me to reconsider that stance.

I’m a registered libertarian.  I have been a registered libertarian for fourteen years.  There have been times when I’ve been very ambivalent about continuing to be registered as a libertarian (not least when Bob Barr was the Libertarian nominee for President in 2008), but I continue to have an “L” next to my name because I feel that they are one of the few political groups who are truly devoted to civil liberties, and because I believe in doing my part to have third parties like the Libertarian Party and the Green-Rainbow Party as “major parties” (and not designations) in Massachusetts.

I think it’s a dangerous thing to make any sweeping generalities about any large group of people.

At the risk of making myself sound incredibly naive, the Tea Party movement isn’t about racism, although like any area of society, there may be a few (or more) racists lurking there.  To equate the Tea Party with nazis, or with the NEWP, is simplistic and belittles the very real concerns many Tea Partiers have.  It’s not unwarranted to be concerned about where the TP is headed, about many (indeed, any) of their viewpoints, or whether they’re intellectually consistent, but it over-generalizes the motivations of the TP folks to a point where there can be no meaningful dialogue.

As to whether libertarians are fascist, I think one would have to stretch the definitions of  “libertarian” and “fascism” in some rather incredible directions to try to make that point.  I have a tough time understanding how any thinking person can put the label “fascist” on a group that believes in freedom of assembly/speech, less government, no overseas entanglements, etc.  Libertarians want to protect your liberties, not violate them.  I would also posit that many libertarians, myself included, would not agree with Tea Party members on many issues.

“The library is a place for families and children to spend time and educate themselves and not for people to advocate for genocide and slavery…”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the library is not just a nice place for nice people to learn nice things. Nor, for that matter, is any public place.  If you’re out and about, there are any number of things by which a person might be offended on any given day.  Our form of government offers many freedoms, but freedom from annoyance isn’t one of them.

Are you afraid of your children being exposed to a potentially offensive point of view?  You can choose to ignore the offensive stuff, or you can approach it as a teaching moment.  But I don’t know how you can talk about your values and help your child develop his own values if you don’t have conversations about the things that make you uncomfortable.

“Jobs – Yes!  Racism – No!  Nazis & Tea Party have to go!!”

This was one of the typical problematic slogans offered at the anti-NEWP protest last week.

Conflating the Tea Party movement with “Nazis” is like saying apples are a citrus fruit.  Let’s not forget, Nazism=Nationalsozialismus=“National Socialism”.  What part of the Tea Party movement could have seemed socialist to that protester?

And while I’m at it, I mean, really folks — who among us thinks to him/herself “Jobs – NO!”, even if s/he didn’t particularly feel like going in to work that day?

There’s an element of our society that simply wants to demonize/ban anything with which they disagree.  And they feel that if they can assemble the bigger mob, they get to decide who or what to ban.

That’s not (usually) the way this country works.  And that’s not how you effectively combat unattractive ideas/speech.  You counter them with positive ideas/speech.  To try to squash those you disagree with would make you a fascist.

Instead, consider the pledge that Libertarian Party members take when they join:

“I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

It bothers me very deeply that there was at least one person at that protest who wants to make sure that I “don’t come back” because of my political beliefs (the majority of which are about non-violence and protecting people’s rights).  I sincerely hope that folks better acquaint themselves with political groups they aren’t familiar with before the next protest.

4 thoughts on “Hive mind

  1. Shane says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I’m the Clark blogger you link to in your final paragraph on the NEWP/ Library protest.

    I’m a little confused as to why I’m linked in context to not wanting you to come back because of your political beliefs….
    My post was about how punk culture was a large factor in why the early organizing around the NEWP meeting was so inept, violent, and naive…and how eventually enough people pointed out critical flaws in the plan that the protest became more centered around non-violence and engaging the NEWPers in debate.
    Granted had the protest/ meeting actually gone on things probably would have still been messy and confrontational…but still better than just street fighting.

    So I’m sorry if I offended you, but I have no idea how my post could be construed as an attack on anyone (unless you are a punk? I have no clue).
    I’ve read some of your blog in an effort to gain context here, but it seems we have more overlap than opposition…especially obsessions with Worcester, libraries, and not enjoying the state …
    although I will point out that The National Socialists (Nazis) were not actually socialists (politically or economically). They have nothing to do with socialism. Both have their history of mass murder…but still just having socialism in the name doesn’t mean they were socialist.
    Anyway, I don’t want to have an inane internet fight with someone I don’t know. But I would like to know why my post set you off.

    – Shane

    • Nicole says:

      Shane —

      Sorry that the link made you think I wasn’t agreeing with you; I wanted to link to you but should have done it in a different context. I always enjoy your writing. Your post didn’t set me off in the least; rather, it was actual words from actual protesters that set me off.

      I guess I don’t see the difference between physical violence and shouting (as I heard on the video) that certain folks should “go to hell.” I could never support people who hold signs that say “Hate Speech [not equal to] Free Speech” because I think those people would eventually be opposed to my speech as well. When I hear folks saying that they want to protect children and families from hate speech, I think of the folks who would similarly like to protect children from the wizardry of Harry Potter or the sexuality of Judy Blume.

      We could get into a longer debate about whether the Nazi party was truly socialist or not; again, I would argue that a party as anti-capitalist and (ultimately) anti-individual as they were deserves to be classified (at least partially) as socialist. You’re welcome to argue that the populism of the Tea Party resembles the Nazis, but I think that there are enough differences in their brand of populism that one can’t make sweeping associations between the two.


  2. Worcester Gadfly says:

    Good to know that Worcester’s “thinkpol” won’t cost us any tax dollars — we have plenty of volunteers who’ll show up to punish incorrect thought whenever the need should arise. For those who never got around to reading “1984” by George Orwell (or weren’t born by the time that year came & went), here’s a description of the “thinkpol” from Wikipedia:

    “The Thought Police (thinkpol in Newspeak) are the secret police of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four whose job it is to uncover and punish thoughtcrime. . . . The Thought Police of Orwell and their pursuit of thoughtcrime were based on the methods used by the totalitarian states and competing ideologies of the 20th century. It also had much to do with, as Orwell called it, the “power of facing unpleasant facts”, and his willingness to criticize prevailing ideas which brought him into conflict with others and their “smelly little orthodoxies”. The term “Thought Police”, by extension, has come to refer to real or perceived enforcement of ideological correctness in any modern or historical contexts.”


  3. The Characteristics of Groupthink:
    (from Irving Janus “Victims of Groupthink”

    1. Belief in the inherent morality of the group
    2. Collective rationalization
    3. Out-group stereotypes
    4. Self-appointed mindguards
    5. Direct pressure on dissenters
    6. The illusion of invulnerability
    7. The illusion of unanimity
    8. Self-censorship

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