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The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all. – Robert L. Heinlein
Once upon a time, Jewish lawyers in the ACLU were willing to defend the rights of Nazis to march through the predominantly Jewish community of Skokie, IL. The Nazis claimed they wanted a peaceful march through the town — their Constitutional right as US citizens.
At the time I thought that was nuts. (At the time the only thing I knew about Skokie was it was the home of Lindberg Models.) The Nazis were disgusting people. This was a lot closer to World War II than the fight over the march is to today. Why should anyone put up with them?
Over time I realized the ACLU and Heinlein were right. Denying scoundrels rights they were entitled to because they were scoundrels was to invite your own rights to be denied. At some point, someone would declare you the scoundrel who should be denied the rights everyone is entitled to. Especially if you previously accepted that principle in the past.
If you think about it, outlawing individuals by declaring them scoundrels is the heart of cancel culture. Anyone can be the scoundrel: Ilya Somin, Joe Rogan, vaccine mandate opponents, Christians, Canadian truckers, January 6 protestors, really anyone – including you and me.
Because what begins as a tool to punish scoundrels, quickly turns into a tool to oppress you. It becomes Aeschylus’s fable brought to the present:
So in the Libyan fable it is told
That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
“With our own feathers, not by others’ hands,
Are we now smitten.”