Non-violence in the defence of free speech

I have always been a fan of nonviolent tactics in social movements. Being old enough to have seen the apartheid arrangements that existed in the US during the 5os and 60s and follow the movement to break this I have often wondered why the nonviolent methods used by Martin Luther King and his allies have not been adopted more widely.

In particular, it seems to me that the political situation in the US could do with some nonviolent political tactics at the moment.

So I was fascinated to see the video by Joey Gibson from the Patriot Prayer group. Fascinated to see the tactic being advocated now. But also fascinated to see the tactic being advocated by the founder of the Patriot Prayer group which is often described as “right-wing.” Even described by the US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California, as attempting to hold a “white supremacist rally.” Incidentally, Gibson is not even white – nor are many of his colleagues in Patriot Prayer.

It may be hubris on Gibson’s part, but he is claiming success for these tactics used in the recent Berkeley confrontation. He and his colleagues were beaten by extremists and had to be retrieved by police, but did not retaliate. They adopted a passive stance. He now claims this was instrumental and the apparent shift by the media, and some politicians, to recognise the danger presented by extremist violent groups like Antifa and their misleading charges that advocates of free speech are white supremacists.

If these tactics are having the success Gibson claims then I hope the success continues. It’s about time some sense came into the current political situation in the US and we should not denigrate these tactics just because we may not like some of Gibson’s political or religious views.

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11 responses to “Non-violence in the defence of free speech

  1. As if prayer (calls for heavenly intervention) works (roll eyes).

    As a means of preventing violence it at best only keeps its practitioners sitting on their hands.


  2. MLK Jnr was a Christian. It seemed to work for him


  3. Of course there are other angles on this. The largely libertarian Non Aggression Principle, for example


  4. How do you know prayer does nothing? It is just a form of self-reflection and meditation at some level. It puts someone else in your mind other than yourself.

    Maybe all meditative practices are useless?


  5. Granted the positive effects of prayer/meditation, Andy. But it doesn’t change anything on the ground, does it? That is why we should not attribute MLK’s success to prayer but to political action.


  6. On the contrary. If you have a strong conviction that violence is inherently wrong, whether it be from a religious conviction, or the NAP or just a general feeling, and you keep reinforcing that to yourself through prayer, affirmations or whatever, then at some point your principles will play out in your daily actions.


  7. As I said, subjective. And they can play out in a negative way too. Hence the common arrogance of the religious.


  8. I’m not going to get drawn into an argument about religion, except to say that I fully agree with your non-violence principles , Ken


  9. Andy, you confuse the effects of the act of praying, such as meditative reflection, with the non existent effect of the prayer itself, i.e. divine intervention.

    I’ll understand if the distinction is too subtle for you.


  10. As I said upthread, I don’t want to get into an argument about religion, but I don’t think most religious people think that praying to God is literally going to get a hand-up from a deity who will provide them with some kind of divine social security. They do it because it provides an inner strength, although mileage may differ

    If you claim that prayer is useless, this is arguably true, but the same could be said for mountain climbing, skiing and watching CNN, for example


  11. David Fierstien

    Andy, aside from the fact that you said, “I’m not going to get drawn into an argument about religion, . .” You did raise the issue.

    “MLK Jnr was a Christian. It seemed to work for him.”

    Gandhi’s Ahimsa, the source of MLK’s non-violent tactics, was a Hindu. It really worked for him.


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