When is a difference of opinion merely a difference of opinion, and when is it a matter for exclusion of the person who holds that opinion from polite society?
I came across a couple of things the other day that explained really well why no-platforming of actual Nazis is a good idea.
One is that it actually works: starving them of the oxygen of publicity makes it impossible for them to attract adherents. The example given was that of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s in the UK. When newspapers stopped reporting on them, their support faded away.
Another persuasive argument is that Nazis don’t care about tolerance and free speech, and will, if given power, certainly prevent you from exercising your right to free speech (Popper’s paradox of tolerance). This means that, in order to maintain a tolerant society, we cannot tolerate intolerance.
The most persuasive explanation is this. If you invite your friends round for dinner, an acceptable difference of opinion is that one drinks wine and another drinks beer, and someone else doesn’t drink at all; or one eats meat and another is a vegetarian. What is absolutely unacceptable and deserving of exclusion from the dinner table is a preference for eating human flesh.
So the analogy is that the difference between (say) Christians and Pagans is like the difference between wine-drinkers and beer-drinkers, or between vegetarians and meat-eaters, but Nazis are like eaters of human flesh, beyond the pale, so they do not get invited to the table.
(The original version of this analogy was that they are proposing to eat excrement, which is not even edible, and would pollute all the other food on the table, and is universally agreed to be inedible.)
And I’d suggest that thinking it’s OK to separate children from their parents with no possible means of reuniting them puts Trump’s regime firmly in the Nazi camp. Obviously not everyone who voted for him is a Nazi, but I do think that he is.
There are some views that I do not share that I do not consider to be grounds for exclusion from polite society. I’m not going to list them, but there are some things that are generally regarded as subjects for legitimate debate. I think it’s regrettable if you take the view that abortion should be illegal, because it’s been demonstrated with abundant evidence that the best way to prevent abortion is widespread consent education and availability of contraception. But I understand why someone might take the view that it should be illegal, strongly though I disagree. We share the goal of there being less abortions; we disagree about the method of achieving it.
My criterion for exclusion from polite society is any group of people who want to eradicate an entire group of people, severely limit their opportunities, or drastically reduce their quality of life. They are de facto Nazis.
Anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to deny healthcare, bathroom access, gender services, etc to transgender people, is not welcome at my table, nor would I share a platform with them.
Anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to discriminate against disabled people, LGBTQ2SIA people, Black people, Jewish people, Indigenous people, Muslim people, Latinx people, or People of Colour, is not welcome at my table, nor would I share a platform with them.
Anyone who thinks it’s acceptable that Indigenous people have been treated as third-class citizens by both Canada and the USA, or that residential schools were a good idea, or that sterilization of Indigenous women was a good idea, is not welcome at my table, nor would I share a platform with them.
Why? Because they are seeking to erase the very existence of a whole group of people. That’s completely unacceptable, whether it is wearing the label Nazism, TERFism, fascism, alt-right, or any other -ism.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like my new book, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft.