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Cerabino: The KKK in Palm Beach taught us to let the haters speak


White supremacists are their own worst enemies.

The more they speak, the more they reveal themselves to be anything but “supreme.”

So muzzling them, or trying to muzzle them, elevates their low-brow racism, sexism and anti-Semitism to the level of importance it doesn’t deserve.

Denounce them. Absolutely. Call them out for being the creeps they are. Every time.

But if you prevent them from staging their little circuses, or in an attempt to show your displeasure, convert their vacuous ideology into a public brawl or a call for censorship, you’re doing them the favor they don’t deserve by changing the subject from their intolerance to yours.

Last weekend’s pageant of neo-Nazi theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, that escalated into in an act of domestic terrorism probably isn’t a one-off. And it may be coming to Florida.

Its ringleader, Richard Spencer, the head of a white-nationalist group that calls itself the National Policy Institute, has reserved space for a speaking event on Sept. 12 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

University President W. Kent Fuchs explained during the weekend why the group may be allowed to speak.

“Per university regulation 2.004, non-university groups, organizations and persons may rent space on campus, provided they cover rental expenses and security costs like all other third-party renters,” the university president’s email said. “UF administration, staff and campus police are developing a security plan for the potential event and are working with colleagues across the country who have had similar events on their campus.”

Already, a Facebook group called “No Nazis at UF” has started, and people are debating ways to oppose, protest or prevent the white supremacists from holding the Sept. 12 event.

The best thing to do is to let them speak.

We have some experience in these parts with these folks. And letting them have their say has always revealed many things, but never that they are somehow part of an enviable superior race.

When a local Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard named Richard Ford — who in the real world was a TV repairman in Lantana — showed up in the Town of Palm Beach seeking a permit to conduct a “freedom” march down Worth Avenue during the summer of 1990, the town flipped out.

It took legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union and an order from a federal judge to remind local officials that people have a Constitutional right to express their views in America, no matter how repugnant those views may be.

“It may well be the ideas of the Klan sound like discordant notes to the ears of many of the listeners who might be in Palm Beach,” U.S. District Judge Norman Roettger wrote. “But unpopular ideas have the right of expression in America. Just because you don’t agree with what someone says is no reason to grab the microphone from their hand.”

So the Klan marched on Worth Avenue. And it was pathetic. The Imperial Wizard said to expect 400 Klansmen for the march. About 30 showed up — while about a thousand peaceful protesters watched them and held a march of their own to protest.

A year later, the KKK tried again in Mizner Park in Boca Raton, and that march drew just 14 white supremacists, who were greeted by hundreds of protesters chanting “KKK go away.”

The following year, two other white supremacists, one of whom wore a swastika-logoed shirt with the words “Genetic Heritage” on it, petitioned the Palm Beach County Library Board to include two neo-Nazi tracts in the library catalogue. They got to speak before their request was unanimously denied.

It was quite a show, as the two young men gave Nazi salutes and taunted the library board by telling them, “Hitler’s alive. He lives in Kings Point.”

Their little show was intentionally offensive. But also illuminating.

Their one-page letter to the board contained eight spelling mistakes and was sent with a Dorothy Parker stamp, a stamp that further displayed their ignorance.

After all, it was the Jewish writer Parker who founded the Hollywood Anti-Defamation League in the 1930s to protest the rise of Adolf Hitler. And not only that, but when Parker died, she willed her estate to the black civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I can imagine that Parker would have gotten a kick out of the ignorant neo-Nazis licking the backside of her stamp.

See how revelatory free speech can be?

No need for punching anybody or turning off microphones. Just give the “master race” and their enablers — both in and out of the White House — a chance to sound off and they turn into their own worst enemies.

Instead of trying to determine where the line is between “hate speech” and “free speech”, err on the side of letting the ass bray, and trust reasonable people to react accordingly by marginalizing racists, bigots and sexists to the fringes of society where they belong.

More free speech makes it more clear just how repugnant and hard to defend these neo-Nazis are.

Take Andrew Anglin, an associate of Spencer, and founder of the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. Anglin’s already writing that the death of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old white woman killed while protesting the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, is good news.

“Most people are glad she is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness,” Anglin wrote on his site. “A 32-year-old woman without children is a burden on society and has no value.

“Due to female privilege, and the fact that they do virtually nothing their entire lives, women live an average of 5 years longer than men,” Anglin continued. “The average female lifespan is 81 years. That means for 49 more years, this fat slob would have been leeching off of men’s work.”

See how repulsive that is? It’s hard to make a “both-sides-are-equally-bad” argument when that kind of twisted worldview is exposed to the light of day.

So I’m all for a course of action that might best be describes this way: Speak, Cretins. Speak.

After all, you can learn a lot from free speech. Muzzling people just makes them seem like they have an important secret, when in fact, what they have is something ancient, repulsive and worthless.



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