I’ve been watching the live stream of the National Socialist Movement’s town hall meeting in Leith and the counterprotest organized by UnityND.
Things have been going about as you would expect. The nazis are promoting hatred and the protesters are denouncing it, all while a large number of local and state law enforcement keep the peace.
I admire what the folks at UnityND have done in organizing a social media and in-person response to the nazis, but in a way I think they’re helping those they oppose more than they like to realize.
I can’t help but feel as though the best response to the nazi “town hall” would have been no response at all.
It has to be cathartic to show up and scream at nazis. To call them names, mock their movement and denounce their bigoted ideology. I’ll bet that feels good, particularly for the large Native American contingent on hand who know a thing or two about racism, but what does it accomplish? Very little, as the right of these nazis to organize, hold meetings and purchase property is as sacrosanct as it is for any of the rest of us. Protesting isn’t going to stop them.
In fact, protesting gives them the one thing they need desperately from outside of their movement, and that’s attention.
These creeps live on the margins. Their ideas find few adherents. They have very little political and social clout. Except when they are given attention from outside of their movement.
They accomplish this by causing a stir. By doing and saying controversial things that fire up the public, and draw media attention.
The situation in Leith has probably garnered more attention for the National Socialist Movement in the past few weeks than that group has received in the past decade (if it’s even been around that long). But maybe, now, enough is enough.
It’s time to stop playing these haters’ game. It’s time to live and let live, and let their hatred ooze back under the rock this media attention has turned over.
Ask yourself this: Which would have been a more effective message to these bigots today? The hundreds of protesters and dozens of reporters who showed up to cover the proceedings, or nothing?
I’m saying “nothing.”
Update: This tweet from a Leith local about Craig Cobb, whose property purchases set off the controversy there, speaks volumes:
Cobb walks out to hecklers #UnityND and sits in front of his house. He's loving every minute of this.
— Two Story (@245NorthMain) September 22, 2013
I’m sure he is, and that’s the problem.
(Picture via @245NorthMain)