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Lai, Ten-Herng. Political vandalism as counter-speech: A defense of defacing and destroying tainted monuments
2020, European Journal of Philosophy 28 (3):602-616
Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Anonymous
Tainted political symbols ought to be confronted, removed, or at least recontextualized. Despite the best efforts to achieve this, however, official actions on tainted symbols often fail to take place. In such cases, I argue that political vandalism—the unauthorized defacement, destruction, or removal of political symbols—may be morally permissible or even obligatory. This is when, and insofar as, political vandalism serves as fitting counter-speech that undermines the authority of tainted symbols in ways that match their publicity, refuses to let them speak in our name, and challenges the derogatory messages expressed through a mechanism I call derogatory pedestalling: the glorification or honoring of certain individuals or ideologies that can only make sense when members of a targeted group are taken to be inferior.

Comment: This paper provides two main contributions: first, it talks about not just that but also how tainted commemorations harm; and second, it not only discusses what the state ought to do about tainted commemorations, but attempts to justify existing activism that defaces them. There are many papers on this topic, but this one is among the few that directly engages with the justifiability of vandalism as a form of activism. May also fit courses on activism, racism, and speech act theory.

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