Nazis don’t deserve free speech.

Reality check: Nazism is not an intellectual hypothetical that bears good faith discussion. It's not a controversial thought experiment. It is a historical movement designed to demonise and exterminate the Other. Born in the tumultuous aftermath of World War I, Nazi ideology, with its roots deeply embedded in racial purity and nationalistic fervour, was not created to voice an opinion but to systematically dismantle the principles of equality and liberty. The Nazi regime's use of propaganda was a weapon aimed at the heart of democratic discourse, as much as a tool for spreading ideas - a strategy meticulously designed to erode the foundational values of a free society.

Few threads on today's internet are as loudly defended as the right to free speech. This principle is championed as the bedrock of a free society - and rightly so. But when free speech "absolutism" extends to advocating for the speech rights of Nazis, a profound contradiction emerges, threatening to unravel the freedom it seeks to protect.

In his paradox of tolerance, Karl Popper aptly noted that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. The Nazi regime's exploitation of free speech was a masterclass in this paradox, using the liberties of democracy to ultimately destroy it from within.

Legal and ethical frameworks have long recognised that certain forms of speech - notably hate speech and incitement to violence - are so detrimental to the health of a society that they must be curtailed. The balance between freedom and restriction is delicate, evidenced by case studies (and tragedies) across democracies.

Advocating for unrestricted free speech for Nazis is a dangerous gamble. The ideology, inherently based on hatred and the dehumanisation of others, when left unchecked, will inevitably spread, incite violence, and disrupt societal peace. The harm is not theoretical; history is littered with examples where hate speech, unbridled and unopposed, has escalated into physical violence and genocide. Any spread of Nazi speech can fracture communities, creating environments of fear and mistrust and undermining societal cohesion.

Free speech is not just a right; it's a responsibility that demands discernment and a commitment to preserving democratic values. There is no responsibility in allowing, or in some cases fighting for, Nazis to have access to Twitter, Substack or any other platform. The devil's advocacy on display will turn out to be just that – advocacy for the very devil himself in the form of white supremacy and vile ideology.

Discord servers, blogs, mailing lists, AI-generated imagery, and social platforms now amplify voices that were once relegated to the fringes, allowing them to echo across online communities. And this newfound power can be used to either uphold the values of democracy or to erode them.

It's not enough to talk about fostering a culture where hateful narratives are actively countered with positive discourse and where education and understanding are promoted to combat ignorance and prejudice. These strategies might work to combat other ideas and other movements. But they will fail in the face of the moral and intellectual wasteland of Nazism.

There is only one path forward. The utter rejection, alienation, and elimination of Nazi rhetoric and discourse from every space, both online and offline. If this presents a troubling challenge to free speech – so be it. This hardline stance is not a comfortable one, nor should it be. It confronts the most challenging aspects of free speech: where to draw the line, who draws it, and on what basis. But the historical and moral imperative is clear. The cost of allowing Nazi ideas to persist under the banner of free speech is far too high. It's a cost measured not in abstract principles but in human lives.

The outright rejection of Nazism demands a collective effort. It calls for a consensus that some ideologies, by their very nature, are so fundamentally opposed to the values of democratic society that they forfeit their right to participate in the marketplace of ideas. This is not silencing dissent or stifling debate; it's recognising that the promotion of hatred and the incitement of violence have no place in a society committed to equality and justice.

Online platforms bear a significant responsibility in this effort. They must be more than neutral conduits for the free flow of information; they must be active participants in maintaining a healthy public discourse. This includes implementing and enforcing policies that bar hate speech and the spread of dangerous ideologies. It's a tough ask, given the vastness and complexity of social media but it's an essential one.

I will always support continuous and open dialogue about the limits of free speech and the responsibilities that come with it. I will never advocate for abandoning free speech. But we must commit to its true purpose: to facilitate a diversity of ideas, mutual understanding, and the common good.

In this light, an absolutist intolerance of Nazism is not an offense against free speech. It's the only way to protect and preserve it.

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