A few days ago, I received an email from the Anti-Defamation League of New York City saying that it had received “several complaints regarding references and analogies to Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust that appear in the comments section of your blog.”
It went on:
“In researching the complaint, we see that you defended the postings on free speech grounds. As a staunch supporter of free speech and the First Amendment, ADL has historically fought hate and offensive comments not by censoring, but by fighting bad speech with good speech. While you certainly have the right to leave the material up, we believe you have an opportunity here to address the insensitivity of the comments with your respected voice, rather than allowing them to go unaddressed.”
“We urge you to use your speech–as an educator and blog moderator–to address the hurtful analogies, and encourage readers to think about the impact of their words.”
I was surprised when I read this as I am very sensitive to hate speech. In addition, I am Jewish. Members of my mother’s family were annihilated in the death camps in Hitler’s time. None survived.
I couldn’t think of what he was referring to. Last Sunday, when I first saw the email, I responded and asked if he might point me to specific examples, but I have heard nothing more.
Using the search function, I scanned the comments, and the only exchange that I could find was in the discussion following a post called “For the Children?”
When someone complained in that exchange about a reference to Nazis, I replied:
“Commenters exercise freedom of speech.
So do I.
So do you.”
I will not tolerate hate speech on the blog. I have the power to delete comments. I have deleted comments that I thought were beyond the bounds of civility. And I am not going to spell out the rules beyond that, because this is my blog and I will delete whatever offends me.
But having said that, I think that historical analogies are acceptable, even if they are overstated.
The supreme irony here is that in 2003, I published a book called The Language Police, which was a plea against censorship in schools, textbooks, and tests.
The book ended with these words:
“Let us, at last, fire the language police. We don’t need them. Let them return to the precincts where speech is rationed, thought is imprisoned, and humor is punished.”
“As John Adams memorably wrote in 1765, ‘Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write…Let every sluice of knowledge be opened and set a-flowing.’”
I believe that.
So, dear readers, consider yourself informed of my views about the importance of free speech and the free exchange of ideas.