Bricks and Baseball Bats Win the Day in Toledo

In the Media Law class I’m in this semester, we’ve tossed around lots of fine examples of the First Amendment in action, including your classic cases of the Klan being allowed to march, speak, and get harangued by onlookers.

As I’ve said before somewhere, everyone has the freedom to be an asshole.

The theoretical response to letting Nazis parade through town is to allow them to march because it will make them appear to be foolish in the marketplace of ideas.

Then again, there’s always the Woody Allen response in Manhattan:

“Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y’know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y’know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.”

An intellectual responds something to the effect of “Oh, actually, I read this biting satire piece in the New Yorker about it this week, it was just fabulous.”

Allen assures the thinker something like “No, really, with Nazis, I think bricks and baseball bats are the way to go.”

Some Toledo citizens appear to agree, although the whole thing seems to have broken down into a police riot, rather than a confrontation with Nazis who planned to march through the predominantly black neighborhood.

Does the marketplace of ideas serve well enough to make the speech of assholes irrelevant? Are there occassions where the proverbial bricks and baseball bats serve any sort of positive purpose? What audience can be reached by violence that can’t be reached by biting satire?

[tags]Toledo, Marketplace of Ideas[/tags]

2 Replies to “Bricks and Baseball Bats Win the Day in Toledo”

  1. You know, it was Stetson Kennedy who in the ’40s, infiltrated the Klan and then leaked all of their secret passwords, codes, handshakes, etc. to the Superman radio show, which every kid used to listen to back in the day. The producers worked that info into the show’s script, and the next thing you know, every kid in the neighborhood was playing cops and robbers against the clan, talking about klan rituals, agendas, gossip, etc. Nationwide, members were so embarrassed that membership plummeted, lynchings nearly ceased, and the klan never regained the level of power they once enjoyed. I guess the point is that biting satire or other means intended to embarrass said “assholes” is indeed effective.

  2. Stetson Kennedy rocked. But what would he do if the Klan was marching in his town?

    The “marketplace of ideas” approach is that More Speech solves the problem: let the assholes talk, too, and they will embarrass themselves.

    At some point while we were in NYC, the Klan exercised their constitutional right to speak on the steps of City Hall. The NYC media covered all the bluster leading up to it, and when the day came, a few measly Klanners showed up and made some speeches, drowned out by the throngs of protesters/citizens/passers-by who essentially laughed them off the stage.

    But what if they had a permit to march through Short Hills, NJ or Marblehead, MA or Davie, FL?

    Are we limited to writing letters to the editor?

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