I may be a little late to this game, but I still wanted to get my viewpoint out there. As I’m sure many of you have already heard, sometime in January, an alt-right speaker named Richard Spencer was punched in the face by an angry protester. This incident sparked many discussions and hot debates over whether the protester’s action was or wasn’t ethical. Quite a few people, particularly on the left, have argued that punching Nazis is not only okay, it is the moral thing to do. I think this issue is much more complex than people realize. First, let me break it down.
Richard Spencer claims that the neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups hate him, but this is clearly not true. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he is a neo-Nazi/white supremacist himself. I also want to make clear that I do not agree with his views or political statements. I believe America is a great nation in part because of its diversity and the free exchange of ideas. One of the fundamental freedoms Americans are privileged to enjoy is free speech: the right to express an opinion peacefully, without fear of violence – for instance, being punched in the face.
Nazism as a dominant force in culture is thankfully dead, for the most part. Yes, there will always be a few racists with fragile egos, but the culture of white supremacy has gone the way of the dinosaur. The Nazis we went to fight in World War II were evil, unethical killers who mercilessly slaughtered millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and orphans. The Nazis of today, I would argue, are mainly petulant children who live in their parents’ basements. However, even ignoring the distinctions between the two groups, I believe Nazi-punching is wrong.
My first reason for thinking this is as I stated above: free speech. In America, no one has the right to silence another person’s beliefs or ideas, so long as the one putting forth his ideas is doing so in a peaceful, civil way. This free exchange of ideas is a huge part of what makes America so special. If one group or ideology had the power to silence or eliminate another, we would be living under virtual fascist rule. No group or government has the right to dictate what people can believe. In order to have true free speech, no one should have to worry that his beliefs could bring a violent backlash from those who disagree. People like Richard Spencer and Bernie Sanders, who represent extreme ends of the political spectrum, have the right to not be punched.
My second reason for believing Nazi-punching is wrong is that once all restraint has been abandoned, no one is safe. Today, it’s okay to punch people you label as Nazis, but tomorrow, those “Nazis” will be punching you. When violence against outliers is permitted, culture descends into the pits of anarchy and chaos. No one will be safe. Everyone will label anyone they disagree with a Nazi and it will be socially acceptable to punch them. Violence breeds more violence – it’s almost a law of nature.
So what is the solution to this problem? How should we deal with Nazis and people we disagree with? The solution is pretty simple actually. If you disagree with a person’s thoughts, put your own thoughts out there. The world is becoming more and more egalitarian these days. On the internet, you have the opportunity to share your beliefs and ideas with thousands, even millions, of people. No longer is this privilege reserved only for the rich and famous. On the internet, everyone is equal and if you put out good ideas, people will listen. I promise. So don’t punch Nazis; write a blog post instead.