First off, I’d like to explain to you and the readers why I am defending your freedom of expression: A little while ago, the Nelson Mandela Foundation launched an application in the Equality Court to have the Apartheid flag banned based on the allegation that it constitutes hate speech. The NMF said that it “became apparent that some South Africans do not fully appreciate that apartheid was a crime against humanity (as the United Nations declared in 1973), and that gratuitous displays of apartheid symbols, such as the old flag, are a celebration of that crime and a humiliation of its victims.”
Now, one thing I can only attempt to fully understand is the emotional anguish the victims of Apartheid must experience. Lest we forget that the old National Party regime was an authoritarian state who took it upon themselves to dictate to people who may associate with who based on race, and which race was the supreme one.
The Apartheid state waged a war on people’s liberty that forever changed the lives of millions of people of colour on the southern tip of Africa. That is exactly why it was an injustice and, in terms of natural law, unlawful; it impaired innocent people’s liberty. They were deemed guilty of victimless “crimes”, and were handed down life sentences under state-sponsored oppression. But is the commemoration of such a disgusting regime also an impairment of liberty?
It is a natural instinct to resort to an argument based on morals and virtues. We are, after all, dealing with a very emotional matter for the majority of citizens in South Africa. But such an argument is flawed from the start. It assumes that it is just to enforce one’s moral convictions on others. If I believed it to be just to do so, I’d argue for the flag to be banned in a heartbeat. But it is not. Mere expression of commemoration of a crime does not constitute an impairment of liberty itself.
Deontological side of the argument out of the way, if we’re going to argue to ban forms of expression based on who’s in charge and whether or not they are offended by them, we will have a consistent cycle of banning things that do nothing to actually impair freedom, since no single entity will forever be in power. The moment those in power aren’t your cup of tea, odds are the tables will be flipped and you won’t be allowed to offend them. If symbols of oppression are to banned, Congress might as well ban the hammer and sickle and throw the communist liberal arts student waving the thing in jail. Putin might decide to throw an American tourist with the Stars and Stripes emblazoned on their backpack in some mythical gulag, because how dare that tourist commemorate a government who’s brought despair to millions through its endless warmongering?
All this being said, I’d like to finally give my message to Apartheid apologists: Even though we as the guardians of individual liberty might defend your freedom of expression tooth and nail, we do not agree with your views. We fight for your freedom on principle, but we also reject your ideology on principle. Stop seeing us as comrades in the fight against the Eastern imperial forces. We fight against authoritarian statists, and that includes you. Actually, you are first in line. Neither association nor segregation should be enforced by the state. Period. Freedom matters. Always.