Is it okay to punch a Nazi? | The Tylt
White supremacist leader Richard Spencer got punched in the face over Inauguration weekend, and the Internet has been having a field day with the footage (like setting the video to anti-fascist punk songs). As a publicly loathed figure, people are enjoying ridiculing Spencer. But is it okay to laugh at someone getting sucker punched, even a white supremacist? Some argue meeting free speech (even repugnant speech) with violence sets a disturbing precedent. What do you think?
Is it okay to punch a Nazi?
Punching Nazis is arguably a American folk hero tradition. Indiana Jones did it, Captain America did it—even the Blues Brothers made the Illinois Nazis jump off a bridge. Yes, we are a society of laws—but Warren Ellis argues our laws don't apply to people who seek to destroy the ideals of peaceful democracy:
Yes, it is always correct to punch Nazis. They lost the right to not be punched in the face when they started spouting genocidal ideologies that in living memory killed millions upon millions of people….Nazis do not need a hug. Nazis do not need to be indulged. Their agenda is always, always, extermination.
As many of the pro-Nazi-punching set have observed, there are times when it is absolutely fine and consistent with being a good liberal to punch, or commit violence against, Nazis—just like it was during World War II. But writer David Schraub contends that unless safety or survival are on the line, "The most total victory I could ever possess over Nazis is to be able to ignore them entirely."
The majority of Internet denizens seem to have little empathy for Spencer.
Dear Nazi: Don't think of it as a punch. It's just an alt-hug.— Adam Zopf (@adamzopf) January 21, 2017
Many who are otherwise support nonviolent solutions to conflict just think Nazis are so out of bounds that the norms do not apply to them.
"If we punch Nazis in the face we're no better than they are."— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) January 21, 2017
Yeah, we're still better.
But the issue of free speech complicates the matter. Sure, it might feel great to punch a Nazi. They definitely deserve it. But does hitting people who express repugnant, genocidal views serve to justify future violence against any kind of free speech? Will it drive them underground, which is arguably much more dangerous? How much protection do people who advocate for genocide deserve? Where do we draw the line?
Popehat is strongly, strongly against laughing at and going along with physical violence towards avowed racist fascists, no matter how disturbing and repugnant we might find their views.
The moment you decided it's OK to sucker punch someone for holding different beliefs than you was the moment you became what you hated most.— David G. McAfee (@DavidGMcAfee) January 22, 2017