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How is this Even a Thing?

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A neo-Nazi gives an interview. Someone leaps in, punches him, and runs away. And there’s an actual debate about whether this is appropriate behavior. What?

As far as I can tell, there are two major category errors here. These ‘it’s American to punch a Nazi’ tweets and posts might have begun as a joke, but it seems people are actually taking them seriously.

NaziPunch

Okay, can anyone tell me which one of these pictures doesn’t belong?

Is it the one where Captain America is punching Hitler during a war? Or the one where Indiana Jones is fighting Nazi soldiers in a race to recover a priceless artifact that could tip the balance in favor of Nazi Germany?

No, it’s the one where some dude sucker-punched an asshole racist neo-Nazi (or post-Nazi or whatever) who was giving an interview.

If you can’t see the contextual differences here, let me suggest you think a bit about the relationship between context and the morality of violence.

But, you say, this guy is evil. His rhetoric is just a way of rebranding and dog-whistling good old fashioned Nazism. Yes, you are right. But you know what else is evil? Marxist-Leninism. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin were all mass murderers. You know who beat up communists? Captain America.

CapCom

So I guess it’s okay to sucker punch American Trotskyites too? And don’t let’s get started on all those people who sincerely believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is terroristic.

The second is to confuse a debate about the limits of liberal tolerance with violence.

After a pretty good discussion of how violent extremism can turn the norms of liberal democracy against liberal democracy itself, he notes:

Punching a Nazi is a supreme act of democracy if you’re in an actual existential struggle with Nazis. Under some understanding of democracy—and the invocation of Schmitt here might have a whiff of irony—it can be a supreme act of illiberal democracy.

But let’s not get confused here. There’s a real debate about whether liberal democracy can survive—or even do better—with restriction of speech and expression that target political ideologies that are, on face, incompatible with liberal democracy. Many advanced industrialized democracies seem to get along just fine with bans on holocaust denial and the like. In the United States, we don’t do this. But it’s a pretty big leap from here to there, with “there” being advocating violence. If it’s okay to punch Spencer, is it okay to bomb his “institute”?

There are also, of course, many pragmatic reasons to reject this kind of tactic. For example, it seems… counterproductive in the context of someone trying to forward neo-Nazi ideas by representing himself as a legitimate voice within the conservative right. Spencer got a nice ‘young-ish Republican’ photo in the New York Times out of this. Doesn’t strike me as much of a win.

PS: there’s a longer post to be written about this incident and Moore’s critique—illustrated in Watchmen—of the fascist tint of superheroes. Perhaps another time.

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  • Meh. There are laws against assault which Spencer can invoke should he wish to press charges. Those laws protect everyone, including neo-Nazis, and that is as it should be. You really wouldn’t want the government deciding that certain people will not be protected by the laws. But I enjoyed seeing the video. My enjoyment doesn’t mean I think “Punching Nazis” is much of a strategy.

    • anonymouse

      The government literally does that now and always has. What the hell do you think BLM is about? But fuck that; Nazis need to be resisted, violently if needed. You can’t act unethically towards unethical actors.

      • Brian Schmidt

        You can’t act unethically towards unethical actors.

        Kind of summarizes the kind of “thinking” we’re seeing here. Thanks dnexon for the contrast to bspencer and especially to loomis.

  • Dilan Esper

    I hate violence and I can’t stand people who think it solves problems. American culture is awash in this idea that if you just beat someone up, or shoot someone, things will get better. We love violent movies, a violent foreign policy, etc.

    What’s really depressing about this thread is all the people saying “concern troll” or “shorter ___”. every time someone takes a position against violence.

    So Gandhi was a concern troll then? And shorter MLK, it’s OK if the white man sics those dogs on us, because liberal norms are more important than black lives?

    I’m sorry, but people who make fun and snark out of nonviolence advocacy are being jerks. If you want to truly sketch out the argument about how beating people up is good for liberalism, fine, make it. But stop strawmanning. You all know quite well the arguments against violence, and you know that the people making them were not collaborating with their oppressors. Don’t pretend you don’t understand arguments made by great liberal heroes just because you got some jollies out of this particular assault.

    • kvs

      Gandhi and MLK operated in different contexts. They were non-violent towards opponents who were not in control of the ultimate state power. They were trying to provoke a disproportionately coercive response from those opponents so that the ultimate authority would take just action.

      • Charlie S

        Ghandi was

        non-violent towards opponents who were not in control of the ultimate state power.

        What?! I guess I missed that part of Indian history were the British Empire did not control the sub continent.

        • kvs

          The analogy you’re looking for is the relationship between the Crown and Crown rule in India compared to the the United States government and Jim Crow South.

    • Sentient AI from the Future

      “I hate violence and I can’t stand people who think it solves problems.”

      Where “violence” is defined broadly enough to include “blocking traffic” amirite?

    • veleda_k

      Funny you should mention Gandhi when the subject is Nazis.

      If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the godfearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.

      — Mahatma Gandhi ‘The Jews’(November 26, 1938)

      Maybe some people can be really admirable in some contexts, but not have the first clue as to how to deal with Nazis.

      • so-in-so

        Also, didn’t Gandhi basically fail miserably when he tried his tactics in South Africa, because the Afrikaners and their British masters there didn’t care how it looked that they beat up an un-resisting brown guy?

      • mikeSchilling

        There’s a Harry Turtledove story in which the Nazis win WWII and Gandhi tries his usual tactics after they take over India. They do not work.

        • Colin Day

          I once red that Ho Chi Minh said that if Gandhi had tried satyagraha against the French in Vietnam, he would have been killed.

        • fearandloathing

          I think the Gandhi approach tends to work best when the ideology of the oppressors maintains that they have a right to rule and exclude others because they are the civilized people. This was the basic ideology of colonialism and the South that the whites had a right to rule and exclude non-whites because the whites were civilized, restrained, and rational and non-whites weren’t. Unleashing dogs and fire hoses on unarmed peaceful protesters puts the lie to the myth of “western civilization”. As Gandhi supposedly joked, it might be a good idea.

          This wouldn’t have worked with the Nazis because fascist ideology never made any pretense that it was about “civilization” at least in the sort of Enlightenment liberal democratic meaning of that word. It was based on a crude social Darwinism that redefined civilization as nothing more than the exercise of power of the strong over the weak and viewed traditional views of “civilized” behavior as merely the ideology of the weak and decadent.

          • ΧΤΠΔ

            Orwell actually said as much in his quasi-obituary of Gandhi (although he framed it explicitly in terms of shame and morality). He pointed out that nonviolence tended to founder in totalitarian regimes; his way of putting it was that any Gandhi-figures in the Stalinist USSR were totally irrelevant.

      • Nonviolence seems to be most effective against (and I use the term advisedly in the context of the British Empire) democracies or countries with democratic patrons.

        The other problem with nonviolence appearing to be super effective is that people often turn to violence when non-violence fails. This biases our analysis.

        It’s like all the people who say that X should just try non-violence when, in fact, X usually has.

        • kvs

          Sub “liberal norms and institutions” for “democracies.”

    • Gator90

      I know MLK preached and practiced nonviolence. But I wonder how sternly he would have scolded a person who punched out a KKK grand wizard in mid-interview.

      • CP

        The guy who refused to denounce riots because they were “the language of the oppressed?”

        I don’t wonder.

    • anonymouse

      1) White men, who will never be the victims of these people, need to shy up and listen to the people actually threatened by them. Check your privilege; your opinion isn’t needed nor wanted.

      2) Gandhi said Jews should have offered themselves up for the slaughter to the Nazis. Literally, that was his opinion. So fuck that.

      3) MLK was never as poplar as he’s been made out to be after the fact. His nonviolence stance just makes him easier to quite wash into a form white people are comfortable with. But it’s not for nothing you can find tons of pics of Martin with guns. Because nonviolence is sometimes a useful strategy and never a practical philosophy.

      Tl;dr shut up, white boy.

      • mikeSchilling

        I’m a white man, and I would definitely be a target of Nazis.

  • LifeOntheFallLine

    How is this a thing?

    Dylann Roof is how this is a thing. Maybe if someone in his life had punched him in the face while he was preaching RaHoWa instead of meekly trying to win the war of ideas there would be nine fewer grieving families in South Carolina.

    I abhor violence and the idea that might makes right, but people who adhere to a violent philosophy will recognize only violence as a legitimate counterpoint. I think punk music and its general subculture overvalued, but they knew how to deal with Nazi punks.

    Spencer and his followers are obsessed with being alpha and not cucks, with displays of their own power as a proxy for actual success or prowess at anything. In an interview after being punched he lamented being turned into a meme most of all. It lays bare the fact that men like him have no power and it shows those who would follow him they don’t even have the alpha physical power they yap so frequently about. For all I know, punching Spencer in the face prevented the birth of another Elliot Rodger because the latter now sees how impotent the former is.

    They knew they couldn’t win the war of ideas so they started a fight. Now they’re learning they won’t win the fight either.

    • wengler

      Neo-Nazis literally fired guns into a Black Lives Matter Protest wounding many people and a) it barely got any press coverage and b) there was no distress from the right about it. So when dnexon says:

      Punching a Nazi is a supreme act of democracy if you’re in an actual existential struggle with Nazis.

      It depends on who the hell you are. I’m not, because I’m not black or Jewish. Other people are. Once again I ask ‘Why didn’t the Nazis march through Skokie after they got their permit?’

      • pillsy

        There have been dozens of bomb threats called into Jewish Community Centers in the last few weeks. Spencer, whatever else he is, is the most visible face of a criminal, terrorist gang.

        I’m gonna get upset that that face got smacked?

    • Captain Tau

      Dylann Roof is how this is a thing. Maybe if someone in his life had punched him in the face while he was preaching RaHoWa instead of meekly trying to win the war of ideas there would be nine fewer grieving families in South Carolina.

      Maybe if a white nationalist had punched Micah Xavier Johnson or Omar Mateen in the face while they were preaching RaHoWa instead of meekly trying to win the war of ideas there would be [x] fewer grieving families.

      Do you see how this whole “use violence against your political opponents because you think that their beliefs lead to negative outcomes” thing can be used by anyone and lead to a bad equilibrium?

      people who adhere to a violent philosophy will recognize only violence as a legitimate counterpoint.

      Assuming this refers to Spencer et al, this is just a flat out incorrect characterization. Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald, et cetera, promote their beliefs through strictly non-violent means (writing books, giving speeches, making media appearances, and so on).

      • zackthedog

        Nice trolls ya got here. Be a shame if anything happened to them. ;-)

      • ColBatGuano

        Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald, et cetera, promote their beliefs through strictly non-violent means

        You mean their beliefs in racial genocide? Those beliefs?

  • MikeJake

    Honestly, if every shithead on the internet could get jacked in his jaw whenever he attempted to bring his bullshit into the real world, the rest of us maybe wouldn’t have to endure so much obnoxiousness.

  • Rich Uncle Bloodmoney

    Nazis don’t give a shit about civil debate, facts, or the opinions of others. If they did they wouldn’t be fucking Nazis. Arguing in good faith with these assholes plays into their hands: “Look how they struggle to justify themselves in the face of our truth!”

    The ideal would be to ignore them, but a media desperately trying to find an explanation for why bald-faced lying is now acceptable politics (one that exonerates them) keep giving Nazis a platform and normalizing them, so that’s out. Punching’s not ideal (I’d pay a couple sawbucks to see Spencer get Nickelodeon slimed, say), but “not ideal” is where we live now/always. Someone looks you in the face and tells you the sky is green and genocide is cool, fuck it, deck em.

    And as for the court of public opinion, Nazis are thankfully still not sympathetic. Taking a biased sample, the less-political FB response has been less “Oh that poor man” and more “Who’s this blowjob? Nazi? Awesome.”

  • mtraven

    Does anyone remember the Neonazi attempt to march through Skokie, IL, in 1977? The ACLU defended their right to do so, in some cost to their membership and support. I was pretty impressed with their devotion to principle at the time. Now I’m not so sure.

    Punching a Nazi is a supreme act of democracy if you’re in an actual existential struggle with Nazis.

    The counter to this is that we are always in an existential struggle with Nazism, since it never goes away completely. But OTOH I’m suspicious of the people who think that way and are eager to get into more violent confrontations with their ideological enemies — its usually self-righteous testosterone-fueled BS.

    More handwringing here.

    • pillsy

      The ACLU defended their legal rights to march through Skokie–which was the right thing to do.

      Then they decided to march through Chicago, because they knew that they’d get the shit kicked out of them for marching through Skokie.

      This behavior isn’t and shouldn’t be legally sanctioned, but that only carries you so far. A lot of illegal violence is socially tolerated, most of it distinctly worse than sucker-punching a dude for advocating genocide.

  • ApothecaryOfLight

    I’ve got to speak out here. Hello, long-time avid reader/lurker.

    What I’ve got to say is this: I was amused when I watched the video of Richard Spencer getting punched. But, upon reading this article and many of these comments, I have become overwhelmingly convinced that this violence must be condemned.

    A friend of mine, a few months before the election, asked me two questions: first, was there a moral obligation to stand, even violently, against Nazism? And second, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and tries to genocide its fellow ducks…

    It was good for a laugh, but falls short of the truth of what’s happening (at least for the moment). A sleazy upper class con-man who flirts with neo-Nazis is not, today at least, Hitler. And keyboard-warriors who wield rape threats are not the equivalent of violent, actually raping gangs of Nazi thugs scattered across Europe during the rise of the Nazis.

    Don’t misunderstand: this is the most dangerous time politically of my life. Which is exactly why strategic conduct is necessary. Clear eyes to see and clear language to describe are necessary. Currently, Trump is installing a mostly incompetent, overwhelmingly corrupt kleptocratic government, painted broadly with the brushes of the religious right (perhaps a telling sign of Pence’s greater-than-ordinary influence). However, with his unprecedented number of generals and unprecedented number of the richest of the rich, he poses a fascistic threat more dire than perhaps any our country has seen.

    This is a legitimate danger. Richard Spencer is a clown. Hitting him degrades our norms even further, playing their game, playing Trump’s game. Play the game by their rules, and we all loose. We must stand together, be vocal and constant. The Woman’s March was an encouraging sign, but so much work remains to be done over the next four years. Our vigilance must be unyielding, and we must keep our credibility unimpeachable. We are the defenders of the republic, of the future, of decency and of progress. We don’t hit unarmed blowhards. We crush their ideas in the contest of culture and vote in our policies and leave the regressives in the dustbin of history.

    Thanks for reading and with solidarity in the struggle,
    -AoL

    • Gator90

      You know who else people said was a clown?

      Not snarking. Deadly serious.

      • Gee Suss

        This +11,000,000 or so.

        Remember the Martians in “Mars Attacks” saying they wanted peace? Spencer and his ilk aren’t playing by the norms, they’re exploiting it. Physically exclude them from the public sphere.

    • Jordan

      welcome to the conversation!

      I think the idea is that everything always falls short of (the worst thing in the world) until it doesn’t. So there are very good reasons to fight back, and now.

      So there are lots of things to ask:

      Is it morally wrong to punch nazis (I say no)

      Is it tactically wrong to punch nazis (as a one-off, I say no: its gotten pretty good memage)

      Is it strategically wrong to punch nazis? I guess this is what non-stupid people are arguing about. Does it degrade our norms (against punching people you disagree with) or does it reinforce our norms (opposing people who are in favor of ethnic cleansing)

      I suppose that last one is an open question, although I come on the “resist” side, given our current context. I wouldn’t recommend punching a random Trump supporter, obviously. But that isn’t the same thing as this guy. There are also good reason to enact “you shall not pass” firewalls. And being a nazi supporter of ethnic cleansing is on the other side of that firewall.

      This is particularly true when we have attacks, both real and threatened for the future, against our more vulnerable communities. At that point, relying on liberal democratic nostrums may not be enough.

      However, good comment, I hope you keep around! :)

    • delazeur

      A sleazy upper class con-man who flirts with neo-Nazis is not, today at least, Hitler. And keyboard-warriors who wield rape threats are not the equivalent of violent, actually raping gangs of Nazi thugs scattered across Europe during the rise of the Nazis.

      Perhaps you were unaware of the rash of bomb threats being made against Jewish community centers? It is only a matter of time before one of them is actually carried out unless wee can completely discredit Nazism in the eyes of their sympathizers and fellow-travelers.

    • Origami Isopod

      Hitting him degrades our norms even further, playing their game, playing Trump’s game.

      Your precious and self-satisfied concern trolling is noted.

      Also, your solidarity is shit.

  • j_doc

    Regarding which of the pics in the tweet don’t belong, I humbly submit that one shows a real-life Nazi who advocates real-life harm to real-life people, while the other two are cartoons.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      Win.

  • Rusty SpikeFist

    If you can’t see the contextual differences here, let me suggest you think a bit about the relationship between context and the morality of violence.

    Counterpoint: Who gives a fuck what you think?

  • Warren Terra

    I’m torn about this. I agree with all that was said about the dangers of normalizing violence in the public sphere, and about this same tactic being used against people who, well, aren’t Nazis. I also agree that it can be cheap to say “But: Nazi!”, because Fox News works very hard to paint Black Lives Matter, Greenpeace, and if necessary the local PTA as being Nazi-equivalent.

    Still, on the other hand, I keep coming back to: “But: Nazi“.

    We forget that even in the days immediately after WWII Nazism was alive and well in the Allied countries – witness The 43 Group. They saw the horrors of the holocaust, and they came home and punched a lot of Nazis. Were they wrong?

    It would be easy to say that Spencer should be abused as much as possible, but that violence is wrong. That instead of an elbow it should have been a cream pie, or a water balloon filled with whatever takes your fancy. But that would normalize a form of violence, too. And, still: But, Nazi.

    Richard Spencer and his ilk are, deliberately and eagerly, a direct continuation and celebration of the monsters who turned 6 million of my people into air pollution. Given the chance he would make the Trail Of Tears look like a holiday jaunt. He’s forfeited the right to normal consideration. I hope that forfeiture is extraordinary, that no-one can get away with making the same claim about Black Lives Matter activists or other controversial figures. I agree it’s a risk. But: Nazi.

    • so-in-so

      I’m torn about this. I agree with all that was said about the dangers of normalizing violence in the public sphere, and about this same tactic being used against people who, well, aren’t Nazis. I also agree that it can be cheap to say “But: Nazi!”, because Fox News works very hard to paint Black Lives Matter, Greenpeace, and if necessary the local PTA as being Nazi-equivalent.

      Those who think Fox and Breibart will somehow NOT normalize violence against #BLM, Greenpeace and Democrats on the local PTA if only the left adheres to the norms, please raise your hands?

      • They’re already doing it. That’s why I think concern-trolling isn’t the right frame for this discussion.

        • What you’ve repeatedly failed to demonstrate is how treating Nazis with all the decorum that Fox et al will not give to BLM will somehow change the latter situation.

          The fact that black, gay, Native, female and other activist groups who are not straight white supremacists are treated like terrorists and assumed to be legitimate targets for violence is not up for grabs here. It’ll be true whether or not Richard Spencer gets his clock cleaned. There is no slippery slope because we’ve already slipped down it. As I’ve said already, I don’t think punching Nazis is the answer (though it is very cathartic), but it’s not the problem either.

      • Warren Terra

        Those who think Fox and Breibart will somehow NOT normalize violence against #BLM, Greenpeace and Democrats on the local PTA if only the left adheres to the norms, please raise your hands?

        And “raise your hands” in a non-threatening manner. You wouldn’t want to startle a patriotic, armed American.

    • muddy

      I have been wondering at what point before the total Nazi takeover in Germany was it not okay to punch them? There is apparently some line that gets crossed between the place where civility and non-violent principles end and the complete takeover begins. Where is that line?

      You can’t just ignore or talk bullies out of their bullshit. It never works.

      At least this fancy-haired specimen now has a wee inkling of the fear that many people live with on a daily basis. Do him good to know that he’s not only on the dishing out side of things.

      • Yeah. I agree. This is hard. If you miss the window, you’re screwed. But that doesn’t mean a constant state of exception.

        It isn’t just that I don’t think that we’re there yet, but also that Spencer’s not even the real threat.

        • muddy

          We’re well over the line, man. Look at the makeup of the government. Look at what got elected president.

    • But isn’t it possible to have zero sympathy for guy, or even to think that, in a cosmic way, he deserved it, while also thinking that it the actual act of sucker punching him was wrong? Someone said something about this upthread viz. the death penalty. I too oppose the death penalty, but there are some people I just don’t lose much sleep over when they’re executed. I don’t want to work backwards from my sense of “yeah, asshole!” to the normative judgment.

      • Warren Terra

        I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. I’m not saying it’s unforgivable, or even that I don’t have my own version of it. And none of this is about whether anyone has sympathy for a Nazi.

        But I’m not sure this is about working backwards from the extraordinary case to a wider principle. Spencer is an extraordinary case. Isn’t that entirely the point? Don’t we want him to remain extraordinary? Isn’t sucker-punching him making the point that he’s extraordinary?

        • drahthaar

          Speaking of cop-outs, Why not just shoot Spencer in the head?

          If his views are so extraordinarily abhorrent, why is shutting him up for just a few minutes the appropriate remedy?

          By the way there are millions of people in this country who share his idiotic, hateful views and many of them clearly call for violence unlike Spencer who generally dances around the issue. Should they all be hit, too?

          • Why not just shoot Spencer in the head?

            Because murder is wrong, and there is literally no one in this thread who believes or has argued otherwise?

            I mean, FFS, do you get how childish it is to immediately leap from “guy gets a punch in the face” to “the rule of law is suspended, murder and rape are now the order of the day”? That’s not some killer point in this argument – it’s a demonstration that you lack the capacity to participate in it.

            • tsam

              and there is literally no one in this thread who believes or has argued otherwise?

              There’s one who argued otherwise, but I’m perfectly comfortable with being the crazy outlier.

            • Murc

              Because murder is wrong, and there is literally no one in this thread who believes or has argued otherwise?

              Not in this thread. The last thread had a whole lot of people speculating in what as far as I could tell was dead seriousness about the best ways to beat Nazis to death with baseball bats.

            • drahthaar

              Loomis’ thread below that started all of this included his dismay that Spencer had not been kicked while on the ground and there was quite a few posts luxuriating in the thought of using metal baseball bats to bash in people’s heads. So, yes, people are talking about killing people for saying abhorrent things. I appreciate that you are so convinced of the clarity and certitude of your position that you think sarcasm and condescension are the most appropriate tools. But, you are just misinformed.

              Allow me to do the most damaging thing possible regarding your views: let’s take them seriously for a moment. You think it’s okay to cold-cock people being interviewed on the street when they say something bad, but you think shooting them is too much. Help me draw the line here – please match up the appropriate physical response with the statement below

              a. Jews should be gassed
              b. Israel should not be a country
              c. Here’s a picture of Mohammed sucking a donkey dick
              d. Abortion is murder

              1. A sharp rap on the knuckles
              2. 50 lashes
              3. One blow to the head with a fist
              4. Two blows to the head with a baseball bat
              5. Being forced to watch Three’s Company reruns.

          • Warren Terra

            Your first sentence is a shame, because it basically makes rational discussion impossible.

            I think there might be a conversation to be had about what might distinguish a public, filmed, limited assault on a Nazi spokesman from widespread terrorist violence against isolated Nazi dipsh!ts. But not, I think, with you.

  • drahthaar

    Thank you for posting this.

    It’s disgusting to see violent cowards applauded just because we, apparently, also dislike the same people.

    • Philip

      If your feelings toward literal honest-to-god gas-the-Jews Nazis are “dislike,” I don’t know what to say to you.

  • Shygetz

    This is an excellent argument against calling people “Nazi” as a rhetorical flourish. This is a bad argument against punching actual Nazis.

    Real Nazis are not merely people that we dislike, or even people that spew hate–they are people that actively work towards the violent genocide or cleansing of entire other people at the hands of an all-powerful state. Nazis don’t need an invitation to violence; violence is their literal creed. What Nazis need is the security to engage in violence relatively unmolested. Once they have that security, either through numbers or through subversion of social norms, they will enact violence. Never confuse the fact that we are winning the existential struggle against Nazis with the notion that there is no existential struggle.

    I can and will entertain arguments about if punching Nazis at this particular juncture makes them more or less secure in our society. I will entertain arguments that punching Nazis should remain illegal for the broader security of a liberal society.

    But morally, punching Nazis is right.

  • Frankly, people need to fuck off right now with this argument that it is possible to have a preemptive attack against an actual gas-the-Jews Nazi. There is no such thing. Eleven million people are dead because Nazis carried out a systematic genocide of various races and subcultures. There is no such thing as a preemptive attack against a person espousing these positions; every attack against them, particularly by a black, Jewish, or queer person, is an attack of self-defence. If I were on a jury for the person who carried out the assault on Spencer, I would vote to acquit. And honestly, like Origami Isopod and others here, I have to worry whether anyone who loses sleep over a Nazi being punched in the face will genuinely have my back when things get truly ugly.

    • Origami Isopod

      And frankly, I have to worry whether anyone who loses sleep over a Nazi being punched in the face will have my back when things get truly terrible here.

      Quoted for emphasis.

      Goddamn, there are a lot of tone-deaf people on this thread.

  • Owlbear1

    I’ve asked this several times over the years, “how do you get a Pathological Liar to admit they are lying?”

    Every time the answer has been nothing short of violence will prompt such an admission.

  • tsam

    How is fascism even a thing?

  • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

    There’s a real debate about whether liberal democracy can survive—or even do better—with restriction of speech and expression that target political ideologies that are, on face, incompatible with liberal democracy.

    Sounds an awful lot like the right’s arguments re: Islam/Muslim people. And we are in a “War on Terror” so… This whole argument for punching Nazis doesn’t seem like it leads to a good place.

    • Most Muslims don’t want to kill me and my family. Nazis do. The difference is clear and this is a slippery slope fallacy.

      • Captain Tau

        Most Muslims don’t want to kill me and my family. Nazis do. The difference is clear and this is a slippery slope fallacy.

        >Nazis want to kill me and my family

        Would you kindly direct me to any statement Richard Spencer has ever made in his entire career indicating a desire to commit genocide?

        >Muslims are less anti-Semitic than Nazis

        Actually, the median point of view in the Middle East about Jews is pretty close to what we would describe as “Nazism” in America.

    • pillsy

      Nazis are not Muslims in this analogy.

      They’re ISIS or al Qaeda.

    • NoMoreAltCenter

      I also advocate punching members of ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra, the Taliban, or Al Qaeda for the record.

  • NoMoreAltCenter

    Never, ever, ever expect liberals to tactically oppose fascists in any way that will help you or your family.

  • Captain Tau

    Richard Spencer is a Nazi. Not because he himself describes his political philosophy as Nazism, or because he advocates invading other countries and/or committing genocide, but because he believes in an ethno-state for his people. Therefore, he should be randomly physically attacked for his political views.

    Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, two of the all time greatest American heroes, believed for at least substantial portions of their respective lives in the creation of an ethno-state for their people, therefore they are also Nazis who should have been subjected to random physical attacks.

    Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin believed in the creation and existence of an ethno-state for their people, so therefore they are also Nazis.

    The mainstream political position in Japan is that Japan should be a Japanese ethno-state, so therefore the vast majority of Japanese citizens and politicians are Nazis. If you see a Japanese tourist or diplomat walking down the street, feel free to randomly attack them.

    Franklin Roosevelt presided over a US with an immigration policy (as per the Johnson-Reed act of 1924) based on preserving racial homogeneity (which is Richard Spencer’s main policy proposal.) Therefore, Franklin Roosevelt was a Nazi.

    Abraham Lincoln supported the transformation of the US into a white ethno-state, like Richard Spencer, through the voluntary mass emigration of blacks for the vast majority of his political career. Therefore, Abraham Lincoln was a Nazi.

    George Washington presided over an immigration policy codified in the 1790 Naturalization Act that limited naturalization to “free white persons of good character”. Therefore, George Washington was a Nazi.

    • NoMoreAltCenter

      I would support punching you. You are garbage.

      • Punching Tau may be the issue that gets this blog’s entire commentariat to unite.

      • Captain Tau

        I would support punching you. You are garbage.

        Not an argument.

        • NoMoreAltCenter

          Holy fucking shit. Did you just link to a Stefan Molyneux video as though it was relevant to this discussion?

          • celticdragonchick

            Stoned or just stupid? You be the judge!

          • Captain Tau

            Actually I linked to a humorous video that affectionately parodies Stefan’s catchphrase “not an argument.”

            You see, what you said was not an argument.

          • Origami Isopod

            Oh, have you not met Captain Tau yet?

    • celticdragonchick

      Huffing methyl ethyl ketone at Home Depot again, Tau? You know we warned you that shit will rot your central nervous system all to hell…

      • Captain Tau

        We’re reaching levels of not an argument that shouldn’t even be possible.

    • Richard Spencer is a Nazi. Not because he himself describes his political philosophy as Nazism,

      Although he and his followers use Nazi concepts and symbolism, “ironically”, he claims. So, shall we call him an “ironic Nazi”?

      or because he advocates invading other countries and/or committing genocide, but because he believes in an ethno-state for his people.

      Richard Spencer supports making the entire United States into an “ethno-state” for whites (“his people?” I’m not part of his “his people”!) To do this would require getting rid of millions of non-white Americans, which includes Jews by the way. Sounds pretty genocidal to me. Ali and Malcolm X proposed nothing comparable.

      Yes, the US has had racist immigration policies before. But the only thing comparable to actually displacing the non-white population to carve out a “whites only” homeland, as Spencer proposes, was the U.S.’s genocide against native Americans. Which Spencer, of course, celebrates when he speaks of “his people” as a “conquering people” to whom this land rightfully belongs.

      • Captain Tau

        Richard Spencer supports making the entire United States into an “ethno-state” for whites (“his people?” I’m not part of his “his people”!) To do this would require getting rid of millions of non-white Americans, which includes Jews by the way. Sounds pretty genocidal to me. Ali and Malcolm X proposed nothing comparable.

        I don’t think you really understand Spencer’s ideas. As he says here, he supports “peaceful ethnic redistribution”—Paris 1919, not Yugoslavia 1992. Exactly like Malcolm X, he supports ethnic self-determination, and the creation of nations based on ethnic lines.

        Ironically, Malcolm X’s slogan was, famously, “by any means necessary”, and he was somewhat critical of non-violence as a strategy, so in fact he toyed with the concept of violence to accomplish his political ends much more than Spencer has.

        Yes, the US has had racist immigration policies before. But the only thing comparable to actually displacing the non-white population to carve out a “whites only” homeland, as Spencer proposes, was the U.S.’s genocide against native Americans. Which Spencer, of course, celebrates when he speaks of “his people” as a “conquering people” to whom this land rightfully belongs.

        Again, Spencer has never suggested mass violence as a necessary or desirable means to achieve an ethno-state with. If you don’t believe me, just check out the SPLC’s page on him, which would doubtless have cited evidence that he has violent intentions even if it was extremely tenuous.

        • I don’t think you really understand Spencer’s ideas. As he says here, he supports “peaceful ethnic redistribution”—Paris 1919, not Yugoslavia 1992. Exactly like Malcolm X, he supports ethnic self-determination, and the creation of nations based on ethnic lines.

          Seriously, I am not interested in debating the finer points of the facade Spence has rather transparently put on (he even explains this to journalists!) in order to be the respectable face of white nationalism.

          Spencer has been rather vague on what he actually means by a separate ethno-state- what its formation would entail. However, he has not only indulged in “ironic” displays of affection for Nazi symbolism and concepts, but also baldly stated that “At the end of the day, America belongs to white men.”

          If he is serious about that, this implies either stripping non-whites of citizenship in this country or getting rid of them. “Peaceful ethnic cleaning” is an oxymoron. Paris 1919 was not ethnic cleaning, it was the redrawing of national borders. So either he is ignorant or lying.

          You will, therefore, hopefully be so kind as to forgive me if I do not take his peaceful facade seriously. Either he is a naive, ignorant dreamer or he is putting on a deceptive facade to make his plans seem less violent than they really are. Whoever heard of millions of people leaving a country or being stripped of citizenship voluntarily?

          So, whether the term “Nazi” is the precisely correct terminology for him can be debated, but neo-facist certainly applies, and the fact that he “playfully” uses Nazi phraseology, propaganda terms, and concepts makes his denials highly unconvincing.

  • Abbey Bartlet

    Troll cleanup on Aisle Tau.

  • zackthedog

    I honestly think some people are thinking themselves to death over this (possibly literally, though I hope things don’t get that bad). I would no more hesitate to punch a Nazi than I would hesitate to tell my daughter to kick a bully in the balls. Not because I advocate violence, but because sometimes a kick in the nuts is the only thing that works. I trust that my daughter is smart enough to understand the difference.

    It’s a good thing we can punch a Nazi in this country right now, because in 1930’s Germany your whole street would have gone to the gas chamber with you in retaliation.

    • MDrew

      I bet you any sum that you would not have punched Spencer had you walked by him on Friday.

      So I think you are wrong: not only would you have hesitated, you wouldn’t have done it at all!

  • Captain Tau

    I realize this wasn’t the argument of the OP, but many commentators seem to believe both that Richard Spencer is a Nazi and that randomly attacking “Nazis” is morally justified. Does this also apply to communists? While by no means very popular, on most college campuses you can find at least a few students who are communists. Since tens of millions of people have died at the hands of communists, is it ok to physically attack them too?

    To be clear, while I find communism and its apologists abhorrent, I would much rather use arguments based on logic and factual evidence to suppress it, so my own position is consistent.

    • zackthedog

      Trolling at its finest. ;-) The problem is that there are too many forms of “communism” to pin down exactly which ones comprise a serious threat to a stable society, which ones ally themselves with violence and which ones don’t. Tens of millions of people died at the hands of dictators who called themselves “communists.” There’s nothing inherently violent about communism itself. Punch some college student who skims Marx and calls himself a “communist”? I don’t think so.

      But there’s no mistaking Nazism for anything other than what it was, a very specific ideology based on Aryan supremacy that explicitly called for the destruction of “inferior” peoples. Anyone who associates with and encourages neo-Nazis doesn’t leave much room for misinterpretation, in my book.

      • Captain Tau

        1) I like how you want to be precise when discussing ideologies of the left but feel free carelessly describing anyone on the nationalist right as a Nazi.

        2) Richard Spencer is, as you would know if you had done even a cursory Google search worth’s of research, not a National Socialist. Please, find me some evidence for your ludicrous claim that Richard Spencer advocates the “destruction of inferior people.”

        3) You didn’t really address the strongest version of the analogy I made (though your answer makes it clear that you have a double standard.) I was referring to college students who defend Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Castro, Stalin, et cetera. A pretty small, but not non existent, group; is it ok to just randomly assault them too?

        • zackthedog

          1) Excuse me, I didn’t describe “anyone on the nationalist right” as a Nazi. I referred to people who call themselves “neo-Nazis.”

          2) Richard Spencer asscoaites with and encourages neo-Nazis. I don’t care what he calls himself.

          3) No, I don’t think it’s okay to randomly assault college students who misguidedly defend Stalin and Castro. I think it’s better to educate them on the realities of such monstrous behavior. (I notice you’re pretty imprecise yourself lumping Lenin and Trotsky in there.) Richard Spencer is no college student. He’s made a career of espousing and encouraging repugnant ideologies.

          • Captain Tau

            1) Excuse me, I didn’t describe “anyone on the nationalist right” as a Nazi. I referred to people who call themselves “neo-Nazis.”

            While my initial accusation was admittedly too sweeping, the OP, multiple other LGM writers and the vast majority of commenters on this thread are accepting as uncontroversial the premise that Richard Spencer, an identitarian/ethnic nationalist, is a Nazi, an accusation for which no evidence is provided. And more broadly, progressives tend to call anyone to the right of William F. Cuckley “Literally Hitler”, regardless of the actual substance of their views. But yes, your correction is noted.

            Spencer doesn’t call himself a neo-Nazi, so by your own logic your arguments about punching Nazis are thus totally irrelevant to this thread.

            2) Richard Spencer asscoaites [sic] with and encourages neo-Nazis. I don’t care what he calls himself.

            Much like how the people Joe McCarthy accused “associated with and encouraged” the USSR? Or, for that matter, how the people Stalin accused “associated with and encouraged” counter-revolutionaries? This is a ludicrously malleable standard to use as the standard for subjecting people to the threat of violence on the basis of their political beliefs.

            I do appreciate that you’re being honest in explaining that your description of your ideological opponents isn’t based on good-faith interpretations of their actual substantive beliefs, however.

            3) No, I don’t think it’s okay to randomly assault college students who misguidedly defend Stalin and Castro. I think it’s better to educate them on the realities of such monstrous behavior. (I notice you’re pretty imprecise yourself lumping Lenin and Trotsky in there.) Richard Spencer is no college student. He’s made a career of espousing and encouraging repugnant ideologies.

            (This is like pulling teeth) So do you think it’s okay to assault adult college professors who defend communism/do you think it’s not okay to assault “Nazis” as long as they’re college students? The central issue I was trying to raise with my analogy was whether you (and others on the thread) believe in holding adherents of/apologists for communist dictators to the same standard you use for those who you accuse of being apologists for fascist dictators.

            For the record, let me reiterate that I fully agree with your suggestion that people who advocate horrible left-wing beliefs should be educated and debated if at all practical, rather than physically attacked.

            And, while this is incidental, I don’t see how I was being imprecise in including Lenin and Trotsky. They presided over an extremely brutal Red Terror during and after the Russian Civil War, in which the forces of the nascent Soviet state slaughtered large numbers of people suspected of opposing the regime.

            As Emma Goldman said:

            In point of truth I see no marked difference between the two protagonists of the benevolent system of the dictatorship except that Leon Trotsky is no longer in power to enforce its blessings, and Josef Stalin is.

            • Linnaeus

              William F. Cuckley

              Well, that’s interesting.

              • Origami Isopod

                Yyyyyyyyeah.

            • zackthedog

              It’s only like pulling teeth because you’re grasping at molars with a pair of tweezers.

        • (((Malaclypse)))

          Please, find me some evidence for your ludicrous claim that Richard Spencer advocates the “destruction of inferior people.

          Okay.

          Still, Spencer’s intellectualism does little to hide the centrality of bigotry to his own worldview and the views of those he publishes. His previous site, Alternative Right, once ran an essay called, “Is Black Genocide Right?” “Instead of asking how we can make reparations for slavery, colonialism, and Apartheid or how we can equalize academic scores and incomes,” Colin Liddell wrote, “we should instead be asking questions like, ‘Does human civilization actually need the Black race?’ ‘Is Black genocide right?’ and, if it is, ‘What would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?’ ”

          • Captain Tau

            This is wrong on just so many different levels:

            1) Spencer didn’t write the piece in question, wasn’t editing alternativeright.com at the time of its publication, or for that matter ever subsequently endorse its content, so it’s nonsensical to attribute its argument, whatever the quality, to him. As he said on twitter, it’s really not his style.

            2) If you had actually read the article in question, you would have realized that Liddell wasn’t writing a case for black genocide, but rather attempting to raise awareness of racially motivated hate crimes against white South Africans through a (clumsy) ludicrous and satirical premise. Much as how in A Modest Proposal Jonathan Swift wasn’t actually suggesting that cannibalism was the solution to Irish poverty.

            3) Liddell followed this article with one asking “Is White Genocide Right?”, so I guess by your evidentiary standards Richard Spencer must also consider whites an inferior people worthy of destruction. I mean, the very title calls for white genocide, right?

            • zackthedog

              Defending this crap doesn’t really advance your argument much. These are white supremacists dressing up their hatred in intellectual frou-frou. I don’t think you’re that gullible. I have to assume, once again, that you’re just trolling. Or jerking off.

            • ColBatGuano

              Your apologies for Nazis is duly noted.

        • Tehanu

          Please, find me some evidence for your ludicrous claim that Richard Spencer advocates the “destruction of inferior people.”

          Well, as a half-Jewish woman who votes Democrat, I suspect I would be one of those “inferior” people “peacefully” “asked” to leave Spencer’s “white ethno-state,” and I wouldn’t want to go; I like where I live now. So how the fuck would Spencer get me out? He’d have to hold a gun to my head and if I said, “But serious, thoughtful Richard Spencer, I don’t want to leave,” he’d pretty much have to shoot me, wouldn’t he?

          Shorter me: Fuck off, asshole.

  • (((Malaclypse)))

    I say this all the time on death penalty threads: the point is not about whether murderers deserve to die (or Nazis deserve to be punched). The point is about what sort of person we want to be, and what sort of actions we want to be responsible for, rather than what they did.

    • MPAVictoria

      And We should all strive to be the kind of people who punch Nazis right in their stupid faces.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        Be the Nazi-puncher your want to see in the world.

  • pseudalicious

    When a buddy showed me that video, we laughed and laughed and I agreed with her that of course it’s okay to punch a Nazi. I’m Jewish, ffs. And I’ve entertained much worse ideas with how we should deal with toxic ideas in this country/planet, quite frankly. But there was this little voice in the back of my brain wondering if this was the right thing to do, if I really agreed. My stance on it sort of changes minute by minute. I do admire that there are people standing up for non-violence when it’s not a popular opinion on the internet/twitter left right now, even if I myself am sick enough to say out loud, often, “If I only had a Death Note.” Maybe especially because of that.

    • zackthedog

      As far as I’m concerned, it’s okay to be generally against violence whiloe still noting, with some satisfaction, that Karma can be a bitch.

  • jandreano

    While the argument for non-violence here is reasonable enough, it should be pointed out that the argument from Captain America is deeply flawed.

    See, that guy punching communists in those pictures? That’s NOT Captain America. Or at least, it’s not Steve Rogers (or Bucky or the Falcon). THAT guy is actually William Burnside, also known as the Grand Director: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_America_(William_Burnside)

    Burnside was a Red Scare nutjob who got the wrong mix of drugs while impersonating Captain Rogers, and went insane. And also? He was a Nazi. And you know what the real Captain America did when he found out about him? You guessed it: PUNCHED HIM. (Afterwards he reacted with compassion to what was clearly a mentally ill person and tried to get him help, but first? The punching.)

    So Cap’s position is perfectly consistent and clear: Nazis should be punched in all circumstances. Note that this also applies to all sub-classes of nazis including neo-nazis (ie Crossbones, The Sons of the Serpent), former Nazis inhabiting clone or robot bodes (ie Arnim Zola, sometimes the Red Skull), and undead Nazi Vampires (ie Baron Blood).*

    For non-nazis, the punching decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

    Now, I’m prepared to accept that Cap might disapprove of SUCKER-punching nazis. He generally isn’t subtle about it. So can we compromise, and agree that punching nazis is ok if and only if I first inform said nazi that I’m about to punch him, and then explain why he deserves the aforementioned punching in a patriotic speech about equal rights? That seems fair.**

    * Thus, considering his support for Trump, there’s a pretty solid argument to be made that Cap would support punching Peter Thiel.

    ** Of course, one could just discard the Captain America component of the argument and make an ethical case for non-violence on its own merits. Speaking for myself, however, I categorically reject any non Captain America-based ethical system.

    • zackthedog

      I like this.

    • I have to concur with any non-Cap-based ethical system being questionable at best. Most of the rest of your post, too, but that in particular.

      (Also, fuck HydraCap. I mean, that goes without saying, but come on.)

    • veleda_k

      I’ve had my issues with getting too bogged in the CAPTAIN AMERICA aspect of this argument, but I love this comment and have no criticism whatsoever.

  • anonymouse

    Hetero white men need top shut up about this. You’re not the ones these fuckers are LITERALLY PLOTTING GENOCIDE AGAINST. Nazis should be punched in the face, often and wroth great force. That’s literally how every TV interview with a Nazi needs to end.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      Hetero white men need to shut up about this. You’re not the ones these fuckers are LITERALLY PLOTTING GENOCIDE AGAINST. Nazis should be punched in the face, often and wroth great force. That’s literally how every TV interview with a Nazi needs to end.

      FTFY.

      • Origami Isopod

        I’d amend this to hetero white Gentile cisgender men.

        • N__B

          Not all hetero white Gentile cisgender men!

          Eh, who am I kidding. We need to shut up and punch nazis.

          • moishe mendez

            to those who believe that leftist violence against political opponents is a good thing here’s something to consider. those yahoos, rednecks, hillbillies etc (insert your classist slur here) make up the large majority of the armed forces. they constitute the vast majority of gun owners and hunters. they likely spend much of their work day doing physical labor. before you employ violence against right wingers, trump supporters, yahoos, rednecks, hillbillies etc. (insert preferred class slur again) you should recognize that they are a whole lot better at violence than you are.

            • As far as I’m aware, people aren’t advocating violence against right-wingers generally – yet. Neo-Nazis are a specific subset of right-wingers who deserve all the (nonlethal) violence they get subjected to, though.

  • David Newgreen

    So, sorry, this is Richard Spencer we’re talking about? Self-proclaimed White Nationalist, founder of the Alt-Right movement, who’s website used to include such charming essays as “Is Black Genocide Right?” (Guess what the answer was?)

    Because, you know, I kind of feel if you’re standing out there calling for someone to be murdered, that’s not political speech, that’s threats. And it doesn’t become political speech just because it’s lots of people you want murdered…

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