Regular readers know that I hate Ted Nugent. It is mostly just that he has an easy partisanship that is pure tribal identity. But there are so many facets to what is vile about him. And one thing that really bugs me is that he can make death threats regarding the president and nothing happens to him. Back in 2007 he said, “Obama, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” And then in 2012 he said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” That is a clear threat. But nothing happens to him because he’s white and rich.
Let me be clear: I think he should be allowed to say such things. I don’t think they mean anything. I do think they coarsen political debate. And they do have bad effects on people who are even more unstable than Nugent. But I’m pretty much a free speech absolutist. Regardless, I don’t see that the state’s interest in protecting individuals comes anywhere near its interest in allowing for the free exchange of ideas. I certainly think that Nugent and others should be socially ostracized. The fact that Mike Huckabee is a friend of his should make Huckabee unqualified for the presidency. But we all know that the right wing of this country is crazy, so clearly, I am asking for too much.
The problem is that if Ted Nugent were a Muslim with the same statements, he would have spent years in jail — twice. And all that says is that America has free speech as long as the speech is popular enough. And that means that we don’t actually have free speech. I am in the situation where the things I want to say are clearly inside the range of acceptable speech. But that’s hardly surprising. I’m a white male who grew up in the middle class. I don’t stray too far from that. I am the kind of liberal that such a background creates. So the fact that I feel unconstrained, means absolutely nothing.
The issue isn’t confined to the United States, of course. It is a problem in the west generally. Everywhere that countries congratulate themselves on their embrace of free speech, you will actually find incredible hypocrisy. This was well on display early this year with all the “Je Suis Charlie” protests. At the same time people were marching in the streets for “free speech,” the French government was going after a comedian. It certainly wasn’t because he was offensive. After all, wasn’t that what everyone was marching for?! It was rather because he was offending the wrong people. You see, Charlie Hebdo was offending Muslims, and the comedian was a Muslim offending non-Muslims.
Now we have another example, in the UK this time, A Quiz for the West’s Great Free Speech Advocates and Supporters of Anjem Choudary’s Arrest. It does indeed seem that Anjem Choudary is a vile guy. But then so are Nazis and Klansmen. But I support their rights too. In the article, Glenn Greenwald points out the ridiculous double standard that we commonly use in the west. Choudary gives speeches saying that he supports the Islamic State. Thus, the UK government claims that this is inciting violence. Okay. But so is the following that never got anyone arrested:
Greenwald provides many other examples. But it’s clear. This is just a double standard. It’s like all the FBI “sting” operations where the FBI takes mentally unstable Muslims and gets them to pretend to start a jihad. I wonder what would happen if the FBI had similar “sting” operations with unstable Ted Nugent fans. But we’ll never know, because the FBI would never do that. Because Muslims are the enemy. Not Ted Nugent or Sarah Palin fans. And not Alex Jones, whose listeners have been incited to think that Jade Helm 15 is an existential threat to America. Because we are hypocrites. Because we do not have free speech.