I was pleased to see The Times editorial on the proper response to the white nationalist rally scheduled for Lumpkin County next weekend, but my pleasure was mixed with a sense of disappointment at the editorial’s portrayal of people who are opposed to white supremacy.
Like most people from Dahlonega, I am dismayed to see my hometown sullied by the presence of white supremacists, although they have the right to voice their hatred and fear even if most decent people disagree. I think for the most part, the people who actually live and work in Dahlonega have the right response, which is to ignore the rally and avoid giving such a group the publicity they crave so badly. That will be my response as well.
I also applaud Rep. Doug Collins, with whom I rarely agree politically, for his refusal to legitimize their vile ideology with his presence.
However, there are also many who believe, justifiably, that silently acquiescing to a display of racist hate is not morally defensible. I’m referring of course to groups such as antifa, who have become a bugaboo for the extremist right because they refuse to remain silent in the face of the vile white supremacist ideology. One aspect of free speech which too many conservatives at least pretend not to understand is that the concept of “free speech” flows both ways: you may have the right to say anything you want no matter how repugnant, but others have and will exercise their free speech right to criticize and oppose you. Freedom of speech does not imply freedom from criticism or opposition. Civil discourse is a much-needed concept in this country, but as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us more than half a century ago, silence in the face of evil amounts to acquiescence.
My issue with The Times editorial was that it struck exactly the right tone of disapproval for the white nationalists, but then strove mightily to draw a moral equivalence between that group and the people who feel morally obligated to actively oppose them. Seemingly the prejudiced rantings of hate groups whose members have been convicted of racially motivated crimes are exactly equivalent to some social media posts by people who oppose them, at least in the view of the editorial. I don’t think The Times should feel the need to draw such a moral false equivalency even in the interest of “fairness” or “free speech.” After all, the United States literally fought a war in the 1940s against Nazis who expressed the same ideas of racial supremacy and hate as present-day white nationalists. The problems with our discourse in this country today are many, but maybe a step in the right direction would be for journalists to feel free not to have to be just as “fair” to white supremacists as they are to the decent Americans who oppose them. It really is OK to be unequivocally opposed to racism and hate, and to leave it at that.
Bryan P. Sorohan