Maybe now people will understand why protecting speech matters, but I doubt it.
I never got into the ‘free speech wars’ to defend Nazis, goddammit! I never fell on this broken sword to defend the likes of those who disgust me. For fuck’s sake, I was literally punching neo-nazis before many of today’s hysterical activists were even born. Yes, I’m old and telling you to get off my lawn, but I speak from experience and what went down in AZ with the book ban changed my perspective.
It’s funny – this is a victory and yet it doesn’t feel like one because there’s hardly anyone around to celebrate it with now. Most of the people with whom I began this battle have moved on. Nearly everyone who was on the ¡Ban This! panel in Tucson has gone their own separate direction and the unity we had then is all but disintegrated.
I try to remain principled in what I do. The politics of the past few years have been like a minefield for Chicanos and like any other war, there were casualties. Yet I am still here, in the same position I was years ago when this battle started. You might not talk to me any more, or think I’m an asshole or a “Nazi,” or whatever, but that’s of little consequence. We won.
I would like to believe that this kind of victory will open people’s eyes to the dangers of censorship but I know that it will not. These are unreasonable times for unreasonable people. I also know that this victory will barely register a blip on the national radar because ‘anything but Mexican’ is not just a saying, it’s a way of life.
These kinds of issues are not easily discussed with mainstream people – white, black or otherwise. Each year that “banned books” week comes around I try and explain the importance of including MAS books but it always falls on deaf ears. Most folks don’t see these books the same way they do ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and that bugs the shit out of me. Hell, it caused me to publish.
Neither do people see how the context of what is being banned is irrelevant – it is the principle that matters. Ah, those be fightin’ words these days. And I know, deep down, that despite living in a so-called civilized nation, the mob still rules.
The next time this issue rears its ugly head again, and it will, I will be there, continuing to fight for freedom – the freedom for kids to read about their own history and heritage without angry mobs telling them can’t and without the state boxing up their books.
I never got into this battle to defend racists. I got into this to fight racists who told me I can’t read my own history.
I defend hate speech. You read that right – hate speech. Go ahead and feign disgust, I don’t care. I am both an author and publisher – my sword and shield are the pen and page; naturally I oppose any and all forms of censorship. It’s gotten me into trouble these past couple of years, as well as cost me a few friends and colleagues in the process, so be it. Some ideals are that important. When I declared myself a free speech absolutist, as I did some time ago, the accusations started to fly. Nazi! Nazi sympathizer! Fascist! It was as if people lost their minds and forgot why we defend these things. None of it stuck, of course, and yet I find myself coming full circle because this war never ends, but boy have things been turned upside down.
What is “hate speech” you ask? Take a moment and think about it. I’ll wait.
Ah ha! That’s the rub my friend. You cannot define it – that’s the whole point. You tell me what you think and I bet we’ll have different opinions on it. It’s subjective! It all depends who you ask and one of the great things about being a publisher in the USA is that the government does not get to dictate what constitutes hate speech. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
There are numerous examples that I want to talk about regarding free speech – too many. This has been a busy year and the more I think about these things the more I consider revamping the podcast, but I digress. Today I want to be specific.
Now I know what you’re thinking – and before you get out the pitchforks, torches, the tar and feathers, consider this: I am not talking about defending Nazis.
As of this writing, court is in session in blistering Tucson, Arizona. The US District Court is currently hearing about the banning of Mexican-American Studies by the state of Arizona. Remember that? I do.
In 2011, Arizona enacted a law that banned ethnic-studies programs which “promote the overthrow of the federal government, resentment toward a race or class of people, advocate for ethnic solidarity and are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.” The target? Mexican-American Studies, or MAS. The evidence? Books…books which none of the accusers ever bothered to read.
All of these accusations were baseless and ridiculous but that didn’t stop the state from banning the program because logic doesn’t apply in AZ. These books – books penned by American authors – some of whom were colleagues of mine, were physically removed from classrooms in January 2011 and nothing has been the same since. We let them get away with banning our history and mainstream America didn’t blink an eyelash.
The state hilariously claimed that they didn’t ban the books, but merely “boxed” them up. HA!
You kids wanna see a real fascist??
Former Arizona Department of Education superintendent John Huppenthal, testified yesterday. He hasn’t changed. Huppenthal who previously referred to the MAS program as the “Ku Klux Klan,” a “white supremacist group, in a different color,” and its teachers as “skinheads,” was unapologetic on the stand.
Unfortunately, the hate state of Arizona agreed with him and the program was destroyed. Those books were never “un-boxed” and years have passed now with Chicano history being illegal in Arizona.
The hammer came down on Chicano studies in Arizona and the silence from the rest of the country has been deafening. I have been critical of that silence ever since, putting me at odds with liberals and conservatives from coast to coast. Every time people rally for free speech I ask: WHAT ABOUT ARIZONA?
What we have now is a classic case of government censorship being fought in court. Will justice prevail? We’ll see. But let me ask you a question.
Do you see where I’m going with all of this? Is any of this sinking in yet?
Dear lord, I scream from the rooftops about the importance of free speech and yet it falls on deaf ears, particularly lately because everyone is afraid of “nazis.” Well guess what? Huppenthal, and many others, accused the MAS program and its teachers of being racist and promoting hate speech with racist books. The state agreed with him and destroyed the program. They banned books!
Get it yet? I realize that people are slow (stupid) to realize what’s going on but this is a perfect example of why you never allow the government, or anyone else for that matter, to define what “hate speech” is. Pay attention kids and snowflakes! This is for you!
This case is part and parcel why I am a free speech absolutist.
This case is why, for the past 5 years, I have fought tooth and nail for the first amendment and to protect speech, especially speech which you don’t agree with.
If it hasn’t hit you upside the head yet, let me put it in layman’s terms:
If you rally for the censorship of ideas you don’t like, which we all have seen liberals/conservatives do now for the past couple of years on a daily basis, and you then then grant the government the power to enforce that censorship, it’s only a matter of time before they use that power against you! Get it?
What then? Book burning? Thought police? If you think this kind of shit sounds crazy and Orwellian, think again. A quick Google search will reveal to you that people around the world are going to jail for “hate speech” right now. Let that sink in.
This is why I defend “hate speech,” you bunch of jackasses. And I’m talking to my many accusers who would lump me in with the likes of David Duke for daring to defend free speech. This case, specifically, is what turned me into a free speech activist. This case is what caused me to publish a book to fight back against government censorship, and to lend these kids and teachers a hand in their battle, when no one else would.
All of you dumb mother fuckers who think I have a hard on for defending “Nazis” would do well to check my track record.
It’s hilarious to me that this case barely registers a blip on the national radar, when it should be national news. This is a landmark case and people should be concerned about its implications! Should the state uphold the ban, we are royally fucked. But no one gives a shit!
No one gave a fuck then and they don’t give a fuck now. Why? Mexicans! Same reason people flood airports in protest of deporting refugees but could give a fuck when it’s Mexicans.
Despite “free speech” being front and center, and the subject of almost every other headline and debate, with people literally fighting in the street over it, both progressives and conservatives couldn’t be bothered with this case.
Where are all the champions of free speech when it comes to banning an entire program of study and a multitude of books penned by American authors? Pfft. These blowhards don’t even know about this case, further, they don’t care.
This is why I say that most people are full of shit when it comes to free speech. They’re hypocrites.
This is also why I am so passionate about it, particularly in this arena, but I find myself alone in this passion – less a few friends and colleagues now and still spinning my wheels but, here I am – I persisted!
What’s the saying? Anything but Mexican? Look around. The election might have caused some of you to lose your minds but I have remained steadfast in this battle. My views haven’t changed on this.
I have hope that the law will be thrown out and if not, taken to the US Supreme Court. It would seem to be a clear-cut constitutional violation, but many of us have been saying that for years now and Arizona seems to operate by a different reality when it comes to certain things.
No one cared when they were shaking people down there for their “papers,” and no one cared when they started banning books and the teaching of Chicano US history. Oh sure, they care when it comes to gay wedding cakes though or Black lives mattering, and they care when it’s a production of Julias Cesar, or a hack comedian holding a clown’s severed head, but not so much when it’s Chicanos and the teaching of our history, which is part of US history.
Anything but Mexican. It’s not just a saying, it’s a way of life.
I’ve been calling out liberals and conservatives on this issue for years now without any results. It’s become crystal clear to me that most people do not believe in the freedom of speech and that I am in the minority when I defend it absolutely. But I’m right. The first amendment exists to protect all speech – even hate speech – which in this case is laughable, but here we are anyway.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with this case. The damage has been done already, but I do know where I stand and that is on the side of freedom. I oppose government censorship, in all its forms. I stand for the defense of speech – all speech, including the teaching of MAS. I stand for the freedom to teach Mexican-American studies in public schools across America.
Here’s hoping justice, as well as logic, prevails, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.
The next time you see some jackass in the street screaming about their right to free speech or arguing against hate speech, tell them they’re full of shit.
Thanks for reading.