Dace edace at flinthills.com
Thu Mar 23 23:19:04 PST 2000

From: Charles Brown
>>>> "Dace" <edace at flinthills.com> 03/23/00 03:15PM >>
>While I still disagree with Charles that "talk causes action," sometimes
>talk is not really just talk but a kind of action in itself and can be
>prohibited when that action is harmful, such as intimidation. Using words
>for a purpose other than expression is profanity. This is the only true
>meaning of "profanity." When the terms are defined correctly, "speech" is
>protected, "profanity" is not.
>CB: When fascistic racists make a speech at a rally or to any audience ,
their purpose is to persuade the audience to act according to what they are saying, n'est-ce pas ?
If a racist makes a speech in which the sole objective is to persuade, then this cannot be banned. Even if you're trying to persuade people to commit a violent act, all you can really do is persuade them that such an act is correct. They have to take the next step of translating that opinion into action. So, you're leaving out a crucial step. Persuasion does not lead directly to action. That intermediate step is what separates speech from action and makes the actor, not the talker, culpable.

What's interesting is when the racist is *not* trying to persuade. The function of a true fascist rally is certainly not persuasion. It's about cultivating a mass-based delusion. Delusions grow much better in group-settings than among individuals. This reflects the pressure to conform, but more importantly it stems from powerful emotions which can arise in the group context and bind us to a delusion. The group-mind effect, when it's manipulated properly, can make you feel "stoned." You open up to suggestion. At this point, speech and action are united. When Hitler spoke, he was not simply expressing himself. He was casting a spell. As Ehrenreich argues, the power of his speech was based on his extreme insecurity. Hitler was sensitive and very shy. He began his speeches quite meekly. He was awkward, fumbling for words, sweating. But after he'd built up a little momentum, he would transform "in a flash" into what can only be called pure, animal will. The reason this worked the crowd so well is that it tapped into the deep memory we all share of being preyed upon by animals, a regular feature of our life which lasted for thousands of centuries, all the way back to our origins. Only in the last 30,000 years did we start to become a predator species ourselves. We are the only species ever to make this transformation. We get a big blast from anything that brings this collective memory up to the surface, like Clark Kent becoming Superman or all those movies about the ordinary man (it's always a man) who takes on the predator beast and wins, thereby becoming a predator himself. So, if we see a movie in which an Arab is a predator, and then the good guy (white) turns the tables on him and kills him, then this would serve to induce mass hatred of Arabs. As Michael Perelman pointed out, the people who are most vulnerable to this kind of exploitation are the "losers" of society. But if America were ever to experience a humiliating setback, with the loss of its economic dominance (though not necessarily its military superiority) then the country as a whole could become vulnerable. At this point, we should definitely pursue the option of censorship. We should work overtime to convince the general public to support a ban of any incipient fascist groups, before they get too big to stop.

Should we try to ban manipulative hate-movies today? Let's say a black teenager is cast in the role of the archetypal predator. This cultivates hatred of black teenagers, and it does so, not through persuasion but through emotional manipulation. Therefore it's an action, not true speech, and is subject to censorship. Perhaps, to placate the censors, we could cast a middle-aged white suburban heterosexual in the role of predator. But this would just cultivate hatred of middle-aged white suburban heterosexuals. Basically, we couldn't have any movies that feature a villain. Movies could only have good guys, no bad guys. So, if I write a screenplay in which a capitalist acts in a predatory manner, exactly in the way that capitalists routinely do, that would be subject to censorship. The problem is, some people really do take on the role of predators, and we need to be able to portray this reality to each other. Who's to decide which movies accurately reflect reality, and which ones are just fanning the flames of irrational hate? So, even when censorship is justifiable, that doesn't mean we should actually pursue it.

But if a genuine fascist movement ever got started in America, then we should use not only ban its mass rallies but also censor movies that are tailored to advance that particular movement. The trick is to keep the censorship narrowly targetted. Could be risky, but it would be worth it.


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