When people live in low-trust societies—that is, when citizens broadly believe that corruption is rampant and the powerful are cannot be relied upon to follow the rules—they paradoxically tend to call for more regulation and other types of government action. That impulse was on full display in the anti-speech reaction to the cold-blooded murder of Heather Heyer. Many observers looked at what happened in Charlottesville and decided that not only were the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and alt-righters who gathered in Virginia culpable for egging on those who physically lashed out, the legal and political institutions that defended their speech rights were as well. These are not just angry or grieving laymen; Waldo Jaquith, a member of the board of the ACLU of Virginia, resigned after the protest turned violent, characterizing the group’s support for the right to gather as “a fig leaf for the Nazis.”
But if fascists are to lose their free speech rights, someone must take them. And if you believe, as many of the counter-protesters do, that the white nationalists and their brethren were emboldened by the presence of a man in the White House who sees them as part of his coalition, then why on God’s good green earth would you want to turn around and hand that very man the right to censor anyone whom he labels fascists? Because I can tell you right now, the list of folks that Trump and the restive-but-still-Republican Congress would like to silence sure won’t look like the list those sign-wavers have in mind.