Have you ever taken a close look at my banner? Do you see the colorized image of a man with his arms crossed? His name is August Landmesser, an anti-Nazi hero whose image I highlight on my website and social media accounts.
I use this photo as a backdrop for my company logo because as the lone German in the picture refusing to give the Nazi salute to Adolf Hitler, August Landmesser stands as a picture of what it means to be a Strident Conservative.
BusinessInsider.com provides some background as to why I hold this view:
Adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Hitler’s infamous “sieg heil” (meaning “hail victory”) salute was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the Führer, his party, and his nation.
August Landmesser, the lone German refusing to raise a stiff right arm amid Hitler’s presence at a 1936 rally, had been a loyal Nazi.
Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and began to work his way up the ranks of what would become the only legal political affiliation in the country.
Two years later, Landmesser fell madly in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and proposed marriage to her in 1935.
After his engagement to a Jewish woman was discovered, Landmesser was expelled from the Nazi Party.
Landmesser and Eckler decided to file a marriage application in Hamburg, but the union was denied under the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws.
And then on June 13, 1936, Landmesser gave a crossed-arm stance during Hitler’s christening of a new German navy vessel.
The act of defiance stands out amid the throng of Nazi salutes.
About a year after this picture was taken, August Landmesser attempted to flee Nazi Germany to Denmark to be with his family. Unfortunately, he was captured at the border and charged with “dishonoring the race,” or “racial infamy,” under the Nuremberg Laws.
In 1938, he was acquitted of these charges for a lack of evidence and was instructed to not have a relationship with his wife. He refused to comply, and after Nazi authorities discovered that he had ignored their instructions, Landmesser was arrested again and sentenced to nearly three years in a concentration camp.
He would never see the woman he loved again. Irma Eckler was arrested by the SS and transferred to a Nazi “euthanasia center” in 1942, where she was eventually murdered with 14,000 others.
After his prison sentence, Landmesser worked at a few miscellaneous jobs before being drafted into war in 1944. A few months later, he was declared missing in action in Croatia.
August Landmesser is an unsung hero for his bold stand against the Nazi political machine, which is why I have adopted the image of his defiant refusal to salute the leader of that machine as the message of the Strident Conservative.
I’m not equating America to Nazi Germany, but like Landmesser, I refuse to “salute” binary politics and the Hitleresque approach taken by Republicans and Democrats concerning the First Amendment.
For example, as part of his reelection strategy in 2020, Trump made open threats to crush social media and other private companies for questioning his awesomeness, calling for platforms like Facebook and Twitter to be shut down for displeasing him — a threat he followed through on with an Orwellian-sounding executive order entitled, “Preventing Online Censorship.”
Trump’s executive order called for an “update” to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, shredding the First Amendment in the process. Using the full weight of the federal government to enforce his wishes, Trump’s order labeled government regulation of our speech as “free speech,” and called any resistance government messaging (i.e., propaganda) “censorship.”
It's not about free speech. It's not about ideological balance. It's not about supposed platform/publisher distinctions. It's not about 230. For Trump, it's about shutting up and punishing those who challenge/criticize him. https://t.co/8ReDGPLaZ2
— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) May 28, 2020
Trump’s executive order and so-called reform of Section 230 was actually another way for him to punish his political enemies while simultaneously giving the state more control of the internet. Section 5 of Preventing Online Censorship reads:
Another example of the assault on the First Amendment comes to us courtesy of the Nationalist Republicans in charge of the Trump 2.0 crowd to go after so-called Big Tech.
Before the ink was dry on Trump’s Preventing Online Censorship executive order, Sen. Josh Hawley led a group of Senate Republicans to introduce Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, a bill that delivered on Trump’s demand to limit Section 230 immunity for social media platforms. The anti-free speech bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, and Tom Cotton.
There are those in media who believe more should be done to silence content they consider too conservative (i.e., politically incorrect).
Alex Stamos, former chief security officer for Facebook, once called on television service providers and social media platforms to do what’s necessary to suppress conservative content, citing outlets like OANN and Newsmax. Stamos made the unbelievable suggestion during a January 2021 appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with then-host Brian Stelter.
Former Facebook insider Alex Stamos tells @brianstelter: "We have to turn down the capability of these Conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences… There are people on YouTube for example that have a larger audience than daytime CNN." pic.twitter.com/gP0XtnjhCQ
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 17, 2021
“I think that gets to a really core issue with our freedoms as Americans in the way we have treated press freedom in the past. [It] is being abused by these actors in that we have given a lot of leeway — both in the traditional media and on social media — to people to have a very broad range of political views, and it is now in the great economic interest of individuals to become more and more radical.”
“We have to figure out the OANN and Newsmax problem that these companies have freedom of speech.
I’m not sure we need Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and such to be bringing them into tens of millions of homes. This is allowing people to seek out information if they really want to, but not pushing it into their faces, I think, is really where we’re going to have to go here.” (Emphasis mine)
Of course, Congress would be abridging the First Amendment if it made a law imposing government-approved speech rules on television news and social media companies. Constitutionally speaking, their claim that they have an unrestricted right to access social media platforms is no different than LGBT groups demanding that a Christian baker make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Yet, under the presidency of Joe Biden, we have witnessed numerous attempts to regulate speech in the name of silencing “misinformation” on a variety of issues near and dear to his heart.
Concerning free speech, George Orwell once said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” That’s a message Republicans and Democrats should pay heed to before the people decide they’ve had enough.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.
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