The right to speak freely used to be a liberal cause
Monday’s self-congratulatory editorial lamented, almost in passing, that no media were allowed to record what was said in the “far-right” rally on Boston Common, and noted that it “would have been better had the public known exactly what the rallygoers were doing and saying” (“Boston’s mettle is tested, but questions linger”). You clearly come to that conclusion from the popular presumption that what they were “doing and saying” was malicious and hateful — “far right” — and that hearing it would have affirmed the moral superiority of “the public” that gathered to protest it.
But the reason reporters should have reported on what was said is that the presumption the rally was either “far right” or “hateful” now remains just that: an unconfirmed assumption. Its organizers said it was not. They said it was about the right to speak freely. That used to be a liberal cause.
Because their speech fell into an officially imposed zone of silence, we now don’t know which account — free speech or far-right hate — is closer to the truth. Was the monumental counterprotest really virtuous resistance to hate? Or was it merely another ugly and self-righteous chapter in the long history of “banned in Boston”?
ACLU needs to help ensure that everyone is heard
In the Aug. 20 Metro article “Rally speakers, surrounded by police, end their event quickly,” members of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union were reported to have participated in the counterprotest, but the group’s executive director also expressed concern that “if the Boston Police Department created buffer zones to intentionally limit journalists’ and [others’] access to speakers . . . it would raise serious constitutional concerns.”
Unfortunately, the ACLU becomes less effective at protecting all people’s rights when individuals from the group participate as they did on Saturday. While it is the job of all good people to find their voice and march against the normalization of hate by our president, it is the ACLU’s job to ensure that everyone has a stake in the political process, to lend credibility to the belief that the rights to assembly, free speech, and protest work for them. This is an essential foundation for peaceful dialogue.
I worry that, by participating in the march, the ACLU hurt that credibility. It makes my job of fighting white supremacy and anti-Semitism all the more difficult.