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Dealing With Extremists

September 3, 2017

It’s those extremists again!  What can we do about them?  Well, you can vote for one thing.  We don’t have an election now.  It’s only every four or five years.  What can we do right now?  You can demonstrate against them.  You can even fight them.  You can urge the government to make them illegal.  What’s the best thing to do?  What’s the right thing to do?

Making membership in certain groups illegal is actually the wrong thing to do.  There are lots of examples why this is so.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was suppressed for years, by many different governments.  Members were put in jail.  Some leaders were executed.  These actions only made them more militant and more extreme.  The Communist Party in the US was made illegal, resulting in widespread accusations.  People were condemned, based only on these accusations.  One journalist was accused of attending a meeting with a known communist.  It was only later that he discovered that the meeting was the UN general assembly, and the known communist was Nikita Krushev.  Consider also the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.  Laws were made that identified them by race, for increasingly harsh punishment.  Many were driven out of the country.  Many were exterminated.  The lesson is clear:  laws must apply to everybody in a society.

We already have criminal laws that apply to everyone.  They are sufficient.  We should not advocate laws that make certain groups illegal, even if most people don’t like what these groups are saying or doing.  Making these laws seems easy.  We only have to prove membership in an illegal group to obtain a conviction.  It’s easy, but it’s also dangerous.  It could be done for any group.  A goverment could use such a law to suppress the opposition, for example.  We need groups that are critical of the government.  We need opposition.  Such a law leads public opinion by presenting people with an enemy.  Just imagine what happens after that.  It’s divisive.  It’s polarizing.  Members become more militant.  We don’t need any of those things.

Fortunately, we have a representative democracy in this country.  The representatives speak for people in their areas, and make decisions on their behalf.  We also have free speech.  The opposition must be heard.  Even extremist groups must be heard.  It’s only when people express hatred of other groups that the law can be used against them.  People have civil rights in this country.  Any attempt to deprive them of those rights becomes a serious issue.  Again, these laws apply to everybody.  That’s how it should be.


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