DAVE ROSS

‘That’s not OK’ is Seattle’s new passive-aggressive activism threat

Apr 27, 2017, 10:56 AM | Updated: 1:10 pm

Let’s talk about activism.

Seattle is legendary for the civic activism of its politicians, and that’s still true today. We have one activist city council member who said it’s a good idea for demonstrators to not just protest downtown but also block freeways and the airport if necessary.

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So I asked Cary Moon, an activist mayoral candidate, where she is on that spectrum. For example, as mayor would she ever urge people to resist President Trump by blocking access to a freeway?

“I don’t know about that specifically, but I think Seattle is playing a really strong role as a leader in the resistance,” she answered. “If we want to stand up for progressive values for a city where everyone feels welcome, where a city that protects its communities and all our neighbors, I think it’s good to make a good strong stance and show that we can be the alternative to his nightmarish vision of America.”

She went on to say that people have differing hopes for America but that we should be welcoming and that, “anybody who is preaching bigotry or hatred or exclusion, that’s not OK in our city, and I want to come together around protecting human values and human rights while we’re also solving some of these big problems that Trump voters were angry about.”

I’m hearing that phrase “Not OK” more and more. I’m coming to understand what it means. When someone says “that’s not OK,” it’s a passive-aggressive way of saying: If you try to say anything in our city, we will hound you, we will demonstrate against you, we may even try to block you from speaking. This happened against Milo Milo Yiannopoulos at UW, and it’s happened to Ann Coulter in Berkeley.

I asked Moon: Is that what she means?

“I think hate speech is not protected,” she said. “Dialogue is good.”

But who defines hate speech? If somebody objects or wants to call Donald Trump a Nazi, they are free to do that. If someone wants to call the mayor a Nazi, that is also his or her right. That’s what America is.

I’m reading “Hamilton” right now. Do you know what things were like back then? There wasn’t one objective paper in the entire United States of America. This idea that there’s some commission to finding hate speech and that it won’t be allowed — how do we do that?

“Well, the ACLU and the courts figure it out pretty well,” Moon responded. “I think we have to raise those issues, debate them, discuss them and figure it out. But speaking against oppressed people; demeaning other people and saying you belong below me, I am better than you – that is not constructive. That’s not helpful. I think we need to build a society that welcomes everyone, that honors everyone but doesn’t allow people to create this hierarchy of power where some people are oppressed.”

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How do you not allow people to say things? In this country, the only time you get in trouble for a statement that can be construed as speech is when you, for example, burn a cross on someone’s lawn to terrorize them. That will get you locked up. But in a non-violent way, you can say anything you want unless what you say is considered fighting words or are urging someone to riot, hectoring them into laws, or personal threats.

Canada has hate speech rules. Germany has passed laws that have criminalized certain statements. We could do that. Would Moon do that?

“I don’t think that’s a job for the mayor,” she responded.

So when we say, “these kinds of words and speakers are not welcome,” how is that then expressed if she were the mayor?

“I think we can move past that and aim towards a constructive future vision and how do we all thrive here, but demeaning specific groups of people by their race, by their country of origin, is just not OK,” she said. “That’s not who we are as a society.”

Is that her personal view or her stance as a public official, which would, therefore, be enforced somehow?

“It’s a personal view,” she said. “We have a Constitution that defines what is legal and not legal in that realm and that’s not my place as mayor to define new laws for our city.”

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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‘That’s not OK’ is Seattle’s new passive-aggressive activism threat