My Point of View: Silence is assent on the upcoming Nugent concert

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2022

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

“So I love you people madly but I’d love you more if you went forward and just went berserk on the skulls of the Democrats and the Marxists and the communists.”

Ted Nugent spoke these sinister words at a Trump rally on May 14. He is scheduled to perform at the Freeborn County Fair on Thursday, Aug. 4.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Calling for violence against Democrats as a group is an escalation of Nugent’s rhetoric, and he has crossed a clear red line. He is openly rooting for civil war. Believe him when he says he wants mass murder, and believe that he has followers who want to carry out these killings.

Whether we like it or not, we’re now associated with an entertainer who is calling for a breakdown of civil order. The Freeborn County website, supported by taxpayer money, is promoting Nugent’s upcoming show.

Nugent’s rhetoric at the Trump rally is dangerous, divisive and community-destroying hate speech. He is proud to openly threaten and dehumanize Democrats. We must not broadcast to the nation that Freeborn County endorses hate and hostility against Democrats and wishes them to be victims of lethal violence.

This is about upholding community standards, not about free speech. Nugent’s incitement to violence pushes the boundaries of protected free speech, and it’s definitely outside the boundaries of socially acceptable speech. There’s no “both sides” here. We should not give a platform on our publicly-owned fairgrounds to anyone who has called for mass murder of any group of people.

It doesn’t matter if the fair board promises Nugent will “behave” himself here. He said what he said, and his fans know his wishes. It’s how he sells tickets.

We know from the Capitol Insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and the targeted mass murder of Black citizens (the most loyal bloc of Democratic voters) in Buffalo, New York, that violent rhetoric is not just abstract — it promotes actual domestic terrorist attacks. The ones that individual gunmen carry out can happen at any time, in any place. The mass killings in Charleston, El Paso and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were all preceded by inflammatory rhetoric against the targeted groups.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, three-quarters of the over 400 murders committed by domestic extremists in the past 10 years were committed by people motivated by white supremacist ideology or other right-wing extremism.

These attacks put law enforcement at risk, too. When the violent mob of Trump supporters attacked police defending the Capitol, over 100 officers were wounded and several died of either medical or mental health emergencies in the immediate aftermath. The gunman in Buffalo murdered a retired police officer working as a security guard. 

It is counter to public safety values to allow Nugent to come to the Freeborn County Fair after he has put targets on Democrats’ heads. Ticket sales and beer garden receipts do not justify turning a deaf ear to Nugent agitating for violence and destruction. Money is not our highest value nor the god we worship.

Maybe you still don’t see the huge red flag with Nugent’s rhetoric. Imagine if Nugent had called for mob violence against another target, such as Catholics, police or Republicans. Would it be obvious, then, that Nugent should not be welcomed back to our fair, even if he could fill the grandstand and empty all the kegs?

Hate speech is never OK, and silence in this situation is assent. Many of our community leaders in Freeborn County probably don’t want to touch a perceived third rail, but silence is assent.

In light of recent escalation of Nugent’s violent rhetoric, and in the interest of doing our part to maintain civil society and protect our neighbors and police from domestic terrorism, please ask the county board to act. They are our gatekeepers.

If the board refuses to act, then it comes down to citizens to tell the outside world a different story about Freeborn County. Anybody who buys a ticket to the county fair on Aug. 4 or purchases a season pass would be subsidizing Nugent’s appearance at the fair. Spread awareness of this fact to people who wish to reject hate speech and the violence it is capable of unleashing.

Whether you’re a Democrat or not, if you detest political violence and the breakdown of civil society, it’s time to show it with your actions.

Democrats, don’t meekly play along with plans to fill the county fair’s coffers via a performer who has called for your violent demise. Never bless hate speech against anybody — in this case you — with your money and your presence. Say no, and say it clearly.

Silence is assent. It’s up to us to show the world that Freeborn County protects civil society and stands against hate speech.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.