Short Take: Free Speech And The Freedom Not To Associate

The headline reads “Free Speech Advocates to Gather at Lincoln Memorial on June 25.” It’s a disingenuous headline, at something called Bigly Politics, as these fair weather advocates don’t give a damn about free speech, per se, but about their free speech and smacking the other team.

There has been a battle for free speech happening across the country in cities from Boston to Berkeley — and now it is heading straight for the nation’s capital.

On June 25, free speech activists will gather at the Lincoln Memorial to protest against the violent attempts to suppress right wing voices. An array of speakers will be taking the mic at the event, including Kyle Chapman (better known as Based Stick Man), Tim Treadstone (better known as Baked Alaska), Jack Posobiec, Augustus Invictus, Kyle Prescott, Jason Kessler, Irma Hinojosa, and James Allsup.

This is about “right wing voices” fighting for right wing free speech against left wing suppression, and particularly the Antifa. Granted, right wing voices have been targeted for silencing by the Antifa, and it’s not that they don’t have a legitimate beef. It’s just that they don’t get to pretend they’re neutral free speech advocates. See list of speakers for confirmation.

But then they took it a giant leap farther, and landed way down the rabbit hole, by adding another speaker to the list. The once-insignificant weasel, pretend-Nazi Richard Spencer, who the media has turned into an alt-right darling so they could create a name and face for progressives to hate.

Apparently, even the right-wingers weren’t prepared to take the stage with this weasel. Whether because of what he espoused or the fact that he fell far short of the level of thought a principled conservative would deem acceptable isn’t clear. But what became clear was that other speakers, upon learning this weasel would appear on the stage, begged off.

The organizer of this rally reacted:

Yes, it’s a blizzard. Snowflakes abound. Drifts to the left. Drifts to the right. Snowflakes all.

There is nothing hypocritical, no less horribly so, “bordering on Antifa principle,” by choosing not to associate with the most insignificant weasel around. If nothing else, self-respect would dictate that you don’t connect yourself with someone whose intellectual prowess makes rocks look shiny.

It’s not that Colton Merwin, whoever he is, shouldn’t be allowed to select whoever he wants to speak. It’s his party and he’ll cry if he wants to. And to the extent that making a point about free speech has anything to do with this rally, the lowest, worst, most despicable and insignificant voice around makes a lot of sense. Free speech is invariably tested by the worst speech.

But for other speakers, who are serious and thoughtful, who choose not to share the podium with the omega-boy Spencer, they are responsible for their own reputations, their own seriousness, their own depth of thought. And even though some may fall pretty low on the depth chart, they choose not to hit rock bottom. The right of association is also part of the First Amendment, and they have exercised it by saying, “no way will I be associated with that weasel.”

This is not merely disagreement, although disagreement no doubt plays a significant role. This is about whatever shred of dignity they still have, and they aren’t about to lose it because some guy named Merwin has chosen to put a weasel on the podium or is going to burst into tears because his brilliant idea backfired and he now looks like a fool.

Free speech is a not merely a wondrous thing, but a constitutional right. So, too, is free association, and the speakers who walked away get to exercise that right as much as Merwin gets to exercise his. Too bad if that makes this little snowflake have a meltdown.