Poll: Plurality of Americans think neo-Nazi speakers and books should be bannable from their communities

Poll: Plurality of Americans think neo-Nazi speakers and books should be bannable from their communities

This is an incorrect opinion, America. I want you to sit in the corner for awhile and think about what you’ve done.

Usually when YouGov conducts “hate speech” polls, Democrats are somewhat — only somewhat — more willing to censor “hate” than Republicans are. That’s not as true this time. YouGov provides no partisan data (at least as I write this at around 4 p.m. ET) but notes that pluralities of D’s and R’s agree that neo-Nazis and Klansmen should be subject to bans from speaking in their community, from having their literature carried by the local public library, and from teaching at the local college. Americans are also roughly evenly split on whether people should be barred by law from joining the Klan (35/39) or the American Nazi Party (38/37).

There is one demographic that’s an outlier in the case of the KKK: “Narrow pluralities of Trump voters would allow the speech (49%-39%), and keep the book on the shelves (46% would not remove the book, 39% would).” This is, of course, the correct position if you support the First Amendment. Does the ACLU agree? The answer may surprise you!

Faced with an angry backlash for defending white supremacists’ right to march in Charlottesville, the American Civil Liberties Union is confronting a feeling among some of its members that was once considered heresy: Maybe some speech isn’t worth defending.

Cracks in the ACLU’s strict defense of the First Amendment no matter how offensive the speech opened from the moment a counter-protester was killed during the rally in Virginia. Some critics said the ACLU has blood on its hands for persuading a judge to let the Aug. 12 march go forward. An ACLU leader in Virginia resigned, tweeting, “What’s legal and what’s right are sometimes different.”

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, K-Sue Park, a race studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, argued that the ACLU’s defend-in-all-cases approach to the First Amendment “perpetuates a misguided theory that all radical views are equal,” adding that group is “standing on the wrong side of history.”

If you don’t believe all speech is worth defending, why the hell would you work for the ACLU?

We’ll see if the group’s left-leaning donor base starts to put their wallets away if the ACLU fails to adopt a properly woke “free speech for all except the alt-right” posture. In the meantime, YouGov took its poll a step further. Free speech for the KKK and Nazis is one thing, but what about for … ISIS?

General sentiment was the same here as it was for white supremacists — people want to be able to ban them from speaking, from teaching, and from having their literature carried in the library. But the numbers are more lopsided, thanks to Republicans. According to YouGov, GOPers lead Dems in wanting to remove ISIS books from the library by 14 points. How you interpret that depends on what you think motivates Republicans. To the left, no doubt, it’s a sign that conservatives see this issue more starkly when Muslim radicals rather than white radicals are the problem group. But ISIS is also more of a lethal threat than the KKK or the Nazis are, at least in their modern incarnations, notwithstanding last week’s murder in Charlottesville. When you think “KKK” nowadays, you think of husky white guys prancing around a Confederate statue carrying a rebel flag. When you think “ISIS,” you think of heads being sawed off. Carving out First Amendment exceptions to silence ISIS sympathizers is also a bad idea that’ll inevitably be exploited to silence less threatening groups but you can understand why people might be more nervous about letting ISIS propagandize than some alt-right blowhard.

Anyway. The glass-half-full spin on these numbers is that people don’t really think seriously about free speech or the First Amendment when answering poll questions. They just fart out lazy knee-jerk responses according to how evil they perceive a particular group to be. KKK? Evil, ban ’em. Nazis? Evil, ban ’em. ISIS? Evil and dangerous, ban ’em. The glass-half-empty spin: No, really, Americans don’t care about the First Amendment nearly as much as the commentariat does. Give them a chance to ban sinister radicals and they’ll seize it every time. What percentage of Republicans would support banning Antifa if Trump really threw his weight behind the idea? Maybe we’ll find out!

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