Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom

Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom

Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom

Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom

Synopsis

Are Nazis entitled to freedom of expression? In 1977, Frank Collin, leader of the National Socialist Party of America, sought to hold a Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois. Skokie had one of the largest Holocaust survivor populations outside New York City. Writing from his perspective as national executive director of the ACLU, the author details what happened next.

Excerpt

Long after publishing Defending My Enemy, I was forced to consider whether I would take the same approach to the hate speech that played an important part in fomenting the genocidal crimes committed in the 1990s in Bosnia and Rwanda. In both cases, but especially in Rwanda, a direct link seemed to exist between broadcasts urging violence and the extreme violence that actually took place.

In thinking about this, I decided that I could not defend the right of Rwanda’s Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) to broadcast messages calling on government forces and allied militias to murder all Tutsis. Yet this did not seem to me to require revision of my position that the Nazis should be free to march in Skokie, Illinois. How did I reconcile these positions?

The Nazi march in Skokie took place in the United States, which provided a context where freedom of speech was not only protected legally but also operated in practice. Whatever the Nazis might say was challenged and rebutted by a great many others. My defense of freedom of speech in Skokie was intended to maintain the widest possible latitude for expression. In contrast, in Rwanda, RTLM operated in circumstances in which the proponents of hate had exclusive access to most of those who heard its broadcasts. Licenses to operate radio stations had been denied to those who might offer contrary views. In effect, RTLM’s broadcasts had an . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.