Dealing with hate through free speech and mainstream media: The case of Arthur Jones

Sercan Oktay, Contributing Writer

Arthur Jones, a self-described “white-racialist” and Holocaust denier, is set to be the Republican candidate for Illinois’ third congressional district. Jones has held leadership positions in the National Socialist White People’s Party, formerly known as the American Nazi Party, and numerous racist groups since the 1970s, a fact which he used to openly acknowledge. However, since announcing his candidacy, Jones has taken care to deny all ties to these groups and strictly identifies as “an American patriot and statesman.”

This has rightfully fallen on deaf ears, as his rhetoric, which focuses on a Jewish-Communist conspiracy against the United States, makes it impossible to hide his extreme views. Jones is running unopposed in his bid for the Republican candidacy even though he has been disavowed by the party at both the state and national levels. Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, stated that “The Illinois Republican Party and our country have no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones. We strongly oppose his racist views and his candidacy for any public office, including the Third Congressional District.”

Illinois’s third district is a deep blue area of Chicago which means the chances of victory for Jones are extremely slim. Despite this, his candidacy is alarming as it has led many to question how such an extremist candidate is left to run unopposed for the ballot. More importantly, CNN’s recent on-air interview with Jones raised concerns regarding whether the mainstream media is providing a means for such views to be voiced.

I speak for the overwhelming majority when I say I wouldn’t want to hear such hate-filled views voiced in mainstream media or anywhere else, yet there is a major difference between this and not allowing people to voice their opinions. I firmly believe in upholding the notion of free speech, which is unfortunately not easy to accomplish. It means that this right must be protected even in cases like that of Jones where it would be more than reasonable to restrict the spread of his hateful and baseless beliefs.

This, of course, does not mean that the freedom to express ideas should be unquestionable in cases in which it is used to incite violence or the infringement of rights. There is a fine line between allowing freedom of speech and letting it be used as a guise to promote dangerous ideas. I don’t believe restricting mainstream media airtime to only expressing accepted points of view is the right way to achieve this balance, since it runs into the subjective difficulty of defining what is an acceptable view and what isn’t. Much more importantly, I hold that not allowing those like Jones to express their views helps their cause.

Not allowing unconventional ideas to be voiced in mainstream media does not mean that they will cease to exist. Rather, it fuels beliefs, like those of Jones, that the “media can’t stand the truth.” Some may argue that giving these ideas airtime legitimizes them, yet I don’t believe allowing people to voice their views necessarily means that their ideas have any substance or should be taken seriously.

Instead of trying to ignore the existence of such extreme ideas, we should engage with them in a mainstream way and show just how easy it is to prove they are completely ill-founded.

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