The civil-rights leaders of that time recognised how important free speech was to their cause. Glasser tells me about a time he was on TV, defending the ACLU’s defence of Ku Klux Klan members’ First Amendment rights. He was sat alongside Hosea Williams, a black civil-rights leader and lieutenant of Martin Luther King.
The moderator turned to Williams, expecting a counterpoint. ‘And Williams says, on national television, that actually he agrees with me’, recounts Glasser, ‘because if we allow the state of Georgia to interfere with the free-speech rights of the Klan in Atlanta on Monday, they will use that power to interfere with my organising blacks to vote in Fulton County, north of Atlanta, everyday thereafter’.
The only important question in free-speech cases is: who gets to decide? And the answer for oppressed people is: not you. Never you. Never me. Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, they’re the ones who most often have political power. Why would you want to give them the power to decide who should speak?’