Writer Andrew Sharp argues anti-fascists demonstrators need to adhere to higher standards and should not be dragged down to the level of fascists.
We must confront neo-Nazis and other racists and their wrong ideas – but you don’t defeat Nazis by becoming like them. Fascists want to upend our laws and order. You don’t counter that by taking the law into your own hands by punching a Nazi. It might feel good, but it’s called assault and battery, and we used to condemn that.
Others say that's bullshit, especially after the tragic death of an innocent protestor in Charlottesville. There's no talking to genocidal maniacs who advocate the mass murder of American minorities. Plus, punching Nazis is arguably an 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."
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?