Tag Archives: Nazi flag

Responding To Nazis

Jarret Liotta’s support of legislation banning public displays of the Nazi flag — spurred by an incident in Fairfield last December, and reported 2 days ago on “06880” — has drawn this passionate response from Westporter Eric Burns.

In 1978, as an NBC News correspondent based in Chicago, I was assigned to cover a march of neo-Nazis through Skokie, Illinois.  The Nazis had chosen Skokie because it had an extraordinarily high number of Holocaust survivors.  The American Civil Liberties Union supported the Nazis, and helped persuade local authorities to permit the march.

I watched the whole thing.  I wrote about it.  I reported on it that night for “NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor.”  Viewers saw the so-called Nazis:  young, tattooed, their faces twisted into sneers.  They saw the Holocaust survivors — old, wrinkled, their faces contorted in pain and bewilderment.  Viewers could hear, in edited fashion, the vile obscenities that the Nazis spewed at the Holocaust survivors; they heard the whimpers and occasional tormented shouts of their victims.

I interviewed some of the former, holding my breath, looking away.  I interviewed some of the latter.  They wondered whether their suffering would ever end.

I lost all respect for the ACLU that day, and have not changed my mind since.  Faced with a choice of supporting the civil liberties of villains or victims, it chose the latter.  The group’s definition of civil liberties, not only then but in many instances since, is an obscenity as grotesque as anything uttered by the Skokie Nazis.

Free speech?  Is that the right the ACLU supported?  Why did it not take the side of the Holocaust survivors and support their right not to be singled out for vilification by thugs?

In truth, the march in Skokie was not an issue of free speech at all.  The Nazis could have spoken freely in literally thousands of different forums.

No, the issue in Skokie was one of pain, pure pain, nothing more.

The Nazis petitioned for the right to cause it.

The ACLU supported them.

A judge supported the ACLU.

That is what happened in a suburb of Chicago more than 30 years ago, and it is the story I recall most vividly in my entire career in journalism.

No More Nazi Flags

Jarret Liotta is a writer.  His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Connecticut Magazine.  He recently completed his 1st novel.

He’s a blogger, with an incisive voice and view of the world.

He calls himself a strong advocate for free speech.

But — on the heels of an incident in Fairfield last December, when 3 masked men carrying Nazi flags and shouting obscenities tried to disrupt a public Menorah lighting — Liotta has also become a strong advocate for legislation banning the public display of the Nazi flag.

The Staples graduate has written an op-ed piece for the Minuteman.  He’s spoken with Jim Himes.

Now he’s trying to drum up broad-based support.

Liotta says:

As a writer and thinking American, I understand the value of free speech better than anyone.  At the same time, we as a society have determined that some things stretch beyond reasonable bounds of appropriateness.

We don’t allow the public display of pornography on American streets.   Why then should we tolerate the public display of a Nazi flag?  It’s a terribly potent international icon, in a class by itself for what it represents.  To me, it’s a gross aberration that an intelligent society such as our should allow it, especially in 2010.

Regarding free speech, Liotta does not understand how it deserves constitutional protection any more than a written death threat.

The events of 9/11 have prompted much less tolerance in the area of threats, regardless of the validity behind them.  Displaying a Nazi flag has an implicit threat, based on its intense history.  They don’t allow it to be displayed publicly in Germany, its country of origin.  Now, in the 21st century, in our civilized country, I see no good reason to still allow it here.

As a writer, Liotta says, he spends most of his time observing.

But when I learned about that grotesque event in Fairfield last December, I was frightened, shocked and sickened.  I think it takes some emotional passion to get one active for a cause, but I also really saw a weird illogic there — that these mutants were actually allowed to display a Nazi flag in a public park like that.  It just felt like some kind of strange mistake that somehow got overlooked — like somehow as we moved into the 21st century, someone forgot to repair this little bit of broken civil law.

Now I just feel compelled to try and help right that wrong.