F.H. Buckley of the New York Post is right about one thing–the “Hate Has No Home Here” signs that have cropped up across America are about vice signaling. People put the sign in their yard because there is something wrong going on in their country. The signs began appearing shortly after Donald Trump was inaugurated and immediately moved to limit immigration by Muslims, including war refugees. Whenever I pick my son up from school, I pass by several of these signs, and I take them to register strong disapproval with the president, his immigration policies and his political movement. While I agree with Mr. Buckley that they are not about “virtue signaling,” I do not think they are normally aimed at Trump-supporting neighbors or intended to sow division within my community.
That’s how Mr. Buckley experiences the signs though when he encounters them in his non-diverse middle class Washington DC neighborhood while he is walking his dog. He sees them less as exhortations for tolerance than expressions of hate.
Without getting into the argument about whether you can advocate tolerance while showing intolerance for intolerance, it should be obvious that any political speech of any kind will have the effect of making someone feel defensive. Someone could put up signs that are much more explicit: “I oppose President Trump’s immigration policies” or “I support offering asylum to political refugees, those fleeing violence, and victims of ethnic cleansing.” Those signs would also make Trump’s supporters uncomfortable. Even a generic sign for a political candidate will divide a community. For that reason, many people decline to put political signs in their yards or on their cars, but it’s certainly everyone’s right to publicly signal their political opinions.
The rest of Buckley’s column is even more of a mess. He manages to compare the supposed hatefulness of putting a “No hate here” sign in your yard to reflexively accusing war veterans of being potential rapists and advocating for transgender rights. For Mr. Buckley, what all of these things have in common is that they are supposedly “strategic and partisan” ploys to define conservative values as “depraved.”
In the case of war veterans, liberals allegedly consider them suspect because of their “toxic masculinity,” and in the case of transgender rights, the idea is to keep pushing the envelope on sexual mores until conservatives cry foul. Then the liberals can accuse conservatives of having unenlightened beliefs.
I don’t really know if Mr. Buckley believes any of this or if he just enjoys making money writing books like “The Republican Workers Party: How the Trump Victory Drove Everyone Crazy, and Why It Was Just What We Needed.”
I do know that “Nazi” stands for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and that they built their support around right-wing pseudo-scientific ideas about race and national identity, while fetishizing masculine virtues and criminalizing sexual heterodoxy. Once they came to power, it was not a good idea to put a multilingual sign up in your yard expressing your disapproval of their policies.
Fortunately, in America, we can still get away with that.
Is it hateful of me to point this out?