In the United States, “freedom of speech” is a civil right protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. However, if this speech begins to “exert a corrupting and debasing impact leading to antisocial behavior” (Volokh, 2014) than it can be deemed unprotected by this law. So, where does the advocacy of neo-Nazism fit in with this? Is it the legal right of US citizens to express their political beliefs, even if it is in Nazism, or can this be deemed as “corrupting” and “debasing” towards society?
Within this controversial and complex text are three internationally recognised and conflicting symbols: the Nazi swastika, the American flag and the Confederate Flag of the South. The reason that these three symbols are being displayed by this group of protestors is that these are members of the American Nazi Party, a political group formed in 1959 that advocates for the insertion of their ideals into American politics and law in order to “secure the existence of our people and a future for White children” (2012). This demonstration occurred in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2010 as a support rally for the ‘Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act’, a tough new anti-illegal immigration policy introduced in Arizona (Lakin, 2010). By investigating the meanings of these three symbols we can understand them in the context of this text and why they all contribute to this text’s controversy:
a) The Confederate Flag of the South – this symbol alludes to the race-based beliefs of the South’s forces in the American Civil War that held white Americans as superior to African-Americans. The large stone monument of the Treaty of Holston in the background of this photograph further reiterates this as this treaty established the legal dominance of white Americans over the indigenous Cherokee people in 1792, and the dawn of ‘white supremacy’ in America (Mastromarino, 2000).
b) The swastika symbol and Nazi salute, or “sieg heil” salute – these symbols are allusions to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, who are notoriously remembered for their pursuit of the “Aryan master race” (Fleming, 1984) and “systematic elimination” of 6 million Jewish people between 1933 and 1945 (USHM, 2013), known as the Holocaust.
c) The American flag – this image illustrates how this political party is advocating for the inauguration of the ideologies of the South during the American Civil War and the Nazi Party during WWII into contemporary US politics and law.
These symbols, despite being representative of enemies from two different wars, are shown to be harmonious in nature by these protestors. This is a highly controversial statement due to the fact that approximately 400,000 American soldiers were killed in World War II and another 750,000 killed in the American Civil War (Chambers, 1999), and as a result could be interpreted by many as incredibly disrespectful. But after all, that is just part of their freedom of speech, isn’t it? Does it matter if some ancient war vet gets upset or some German immigrants feel ashamed when they see these people on the 7:30 news? But then again, is it right to criminalise a person’s basic right to political expression? And if so, what does that mean for the future? These are all questions that this seemingly simple text makes one consider.
1. Volokh, E (2014), Freedom of Speech in the USA, Britannica.com
2. American Nazi Party (2012), Advancing National-Socialism into the 21st Century, ANP.com
3. Lakin, M (2010), Three arrests, no violence at National Socialist Rally, Knoxville News Sentinal, Knoxville
4. Mastromarino, M.A (2000), The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 23 September 1791 – 29 February 1792, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, pp. 178–180
5. Gerald Fleming (1984), Hitler and the Final Solution, University of California Press, Berkley
6. United States Holocaust Museum (2013)
7. Chambers J.W (1999), The Oxford Companion to American Military History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 849
8. http://www.ozpolitic.com, 2014