Free speech does not validate racist rhetoric

Gillian Daley/ Contributing Writer

On Friday, Aug. 25, the oldest and most influential white nationalist forum in the world was shut down. The decision was made when the tech company, Network Solutions, seized the domain belonging to Stormfront.org, which had been run and operated by Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, Don Black for the past twenty years.

Although the opinions shared on the site were shocking enough to invoke a physical repulsion, the truly frightening thing about the website is that most of the people posting on it were not monsters, criminals, or psychopaths.

The website’s homepage, decorated with a black and white celtic cross and emblazoned with the bold red words: “We Are The New Voice Of The Embattled White Minority,” served as a chatroom, Q&A board and forum for neo-nazis and skinheads alike.

They had run-of-the-mill subforums such as a “Youth” section, which often fostered discussions about how young nationalists could transform their schools into indoctrination centers or trade advice on “red-pilling” teachers and friends.

From my numerous personal visits to the site over the past three years, I have come to realize that many of the people who frequented Stormfront.org were seemingly normal salt-of-the-earth Americans who were given the freedom to speak about their most stomach-turning ideas about race.

These people came from a plethora of places internationally they were our educators, our next door neighbors, perhaps even our colleagues or classmates. And still, these seemingly normal people flocked to Stormfront indoctrinating and being indoctrinated by rhetoric about the clandestine superiority of the white race.

Those who felt safe on the site, citing their First Amendment rights, probably didn’t take the time to consider that much of their rhetoric went beyond generic racist hatred.

The guise of an everyday red-blooded American simply using their freedom of speech doesn’t hold up when you take into account the many calls to violence and discussions about indoctrinating and radicalizing people.

The simple truth is that once a person’s “free speech” invalidates another person’s personhood, it should no longer be considered just free speech.

In the twenty years that Stormfront has been up and running, Don Black has encouraged rhetoric that insists people of color aren’t human beings the same way as Europeans are.

Before its termination, Stormfront had been experiencing a spike in web traffic and membership directly after President Trump was elected.

In an interview with Politico, Black attributed the site’s success directly to the rhetoric of Mr. Trump, supporting claims that the President’s rhetoric may encourage and even embolden white nationalists.

After the racially charged 2015 Charleston Church Shooting, which left nine parishioners of a predominantly black church dead, one Stormfront User, 14Words_of_truth said, “Dylan Roof (shooter) is just going to be the first of many…He was pushed past the breaking point by the media’s demonization of whites. We can only be pushed so far.”

He continued suggesting that Roof should’ve gone after “urban gorillas” in the streets.

In August, all of the calls to violence and increased traffic came to a sharp zenith after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville ended in the slaying of Heather Heyerwho, after her death, was also slandered on Stormfront.

It was after this point that the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law served the notice to Network Solutions, resulting in the termination of the site.

It’s safe to say that giving a breeding ground for racial hatred and a place from where nationalists can give calls to arms against minorities is never the preferable option. The debate about freedom of speech rages on, but in this case, Network Solutions made a smart decision to close the site.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

 

Photo taken from Flickr.

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