Skokie and Charlottesville: Compare and Contrast Nazi marches

Forty years ago, American liberals still celebrated freedom of speech, when American Nazis decided to hold a march through the heavily Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie, Ill. The American Civil Liberties Union sprang to the defense of the Nazis’ right to march, and a Supreme Court decision, no less, in the case National Socialist Party v. Skokie, established the principle that even a hateful symbol like the swastika is covered by the First Amendment protections for speech.

The march was held in Skokie with no violence whatsoever reported, and the case became an opportunity for liberals to congratulate themselves on their open-mindedness, fairness, and devotion to principle, even in defense of the most vile and despicable political movements. So important was this controversy to the deep thinkers of the entertainment industry that two movies were produced – one of them the critically acclaimed film Skokie starring Hollywood heavyweights such as Danny Kaye, Carl Reiner, Eli Wallach, Kim Hunter, and Lee Strasberg, and for good measure a 1985 stage production, The God of Isaac, too. The end result was the establishment of a Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

Those who have followed the origins of the Charlottesville riot know that this same Supreme Court decision was held to apply there, too, as the ACLU once again rode to rescue of the rights of Nazis to the same free speech protections as groups favored by public sentiment. The two marches are linked in their DNA by a common ancestor, the ACLU.

So what was different this time? Clearly, it was the fact that unlike 40 years ago, the Left is prepared to violently prevent the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Yes, the Nazis are repugnant. They were repugnant forty years ago, too, and if anything, more so because they targeted a community that was home to many Holocaust survivors. There were no “safe spaces” then, even though many people at the time wanted the Nazis’ cruelty to be prevented.

If we are going to assess blame for the ugliness of Charlottesville, a comparison to Skokie is essential.

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