Is Punching a Nazi Morally Justifiable?
Pow! Right in the kisser!
On Inauguration Day, Richard Spencer, a noted Alt-Right activist was sucker-punched by an assailant dressed in all-black who then fled the scene. This was during Spencer giving a TV interview, explaining the significance of his 'Pepe' badge, a once-innocent meme now transformed into an emblem of Alt-Right opinions, such as antisemitism and racism. Spencer was, later that day, also spat on by a member of the public.
Internet users soon set about syncing the video of the attack to multiple songs and turning Spencer in to a dank meme. However, silliness aside, the attack prompted many twitter users and media outlets to ask 'Is it ok to punch a Nazi?'.
I like the term 'morally justifiable' as 'ok' isn't very specific. No it's not 'ok' in terms of the law, for example, but is it a morally acceptable action? To analyse this we must ascertain three main points:
- Was the attack provoked?
- Was the use of force justified in the situation?
- Does anyone deserve to be struck due to their beliefs?
Was the attack provoked?
Surprisingly, watching the video, the attack doesn't seem provoked in the moment. Spencer is distracted by protesters shooting questions at him during the interview, to which his answers don't seem particularly inflammatory. It is important to make the distinction that the 'provocation' refers to comments that Spencer was making at the time.
Was the use of force justified in the situation?
Justified is the crux of this issue. Did Spencer beginning to explain about his dumb little pin warrant a sucker punch? No, of course not. Did Spencer's previous comments on Twitter calling for a "peaceful ethnic cleansing." warrant a sucker punch?
Yes, fuck that guy.
However, he wasn't using that rhetoric in the moment. But who knows if the assailant was aware of Spencer's previous comments. Also what exactly had he said before the video clip starts is a question we must bare in mind - he may have made some comments on the street we weren't aware of, before the camera started rolling?
Does anyone deserve to be struck due to their beliefs?
This is a hard pill to swallow, and a question everyone must ask themselves.
Hate, oppression, silence and violence are the core building blocks of hate groups. And when we stoop to their level, such as using violence and silencing speech, we're lowering ourselves.
It may feel good to smack a fascist in the face, or at least watch a video of that happening, but when we act like that, we're making the world more hateful, more incensed, more violent.
I'm not going to judge the assailant that was on the street listening to this noted white supremacist. I'm no saint, and we've all acted in the heat of the moment. But I'd urge people to work towards a world where we pick apart hateful arguments with logic or love. Or if we find ourselves in a situation where no one will listen, we drown out racist rhetoric with a peaceful chant.
Maybe you think that's an unrealistic ideal, but I could see it happening. We have multitudes of actions at our disposal. I don't think it's ever morally justifiable to punch or use violence against anyone. Excusable perhaps, but not truly justifiable. Let's utilise our Batman Utility Belt of peaceful protest and embody the ideals of my personal favourite FLOTUS:
"When they go low, we go high"