Punching Nazis

Mr Cloud/Rorschach, Going Postal
Nazis, Nazis everywhere

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Richard Spencer exclaimed at the conclusion of a National Policy Institute event following Trump’s unexpected victory to Nazi salutes from a number of people in the audience. There is no doubt the sinister fascistic undertones that lie behind such a statement.

Richard Spencer, an effeminate white nationalist who advocates a white ethno-state through “peaceful ethnic cleansing” has worryingly grown in prominence in lockstep with rising popularity of the so called “alt right” movement he helped originate that a portion of the Trump support base subscribes to. A website he helped run once published an essay called “Is Black Genocide Right?”.
In short Spencer clearly holds many appalling views, yet I can’t say I took any pleasure in seeing him punched in the face while doing an interview. I didn’t feel sorry for him due to an innate squeamishness about having any sort of empathy for someone with such abhorrent beliefs. Rather I was deeply disturbed and actually quite horrified by the joy others took in it and how much of the mainstream media tried to justify it and encourage punching more Nazis.

Of course there will be some at this point who will try to engage in semantics and say “he wasn’t a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party” and “there haven’t been any Nazis since 1945”, but the dictionary also describes a Nazi as being “a person elsewhere who holds similar views” to the NSDAP – which I think it is safe to say accurately applies to Richard Spencer. 
“Punching a Nazi is a statement that proclaims racist views will not be tolerated. Let’s frame a moral rule: “It is good to be civil and kind toward people, except toward people who want to exterminate different races.” This does not justify punching. Instead, it says people who want to see me and my family murdered don’t deserve the same respect I’d give others. It’s a negation of action that says: “don’t be kind to Nazis,” but is not a call for action, which would be “hurt Nazis”.”
A website called Feministe which apparently exists “in defense of the sanctimonious women’s studies set” weighed in:
“A Nazi has taken the rhetorical first swing by promoting white supremacy and all of the violence that always — always always always — comes with it. Punching someone who hasn’t punched you should be discouraged. Punching someone who wants you to die so he can have the whole country to his white self and his white friends? Someone who has workshopped ideas for disposing of you? Arguments could be made for self defense.”
Yet if we’re taking the approach of “make racists afraid again” by making white supremacists like Spencer afraid to express their views why stop at punching? Why not “shoot a Nazi” or “stab a Nazi” or “burn a Nazi’s house down”? Doesn’t that achieve the same objective? This is where this all leads when we justify violence against certain people. It’ll eventually lead to “Nazis” getting killed. Some antifa idealist might set fire to a white supremacist’s house killing them and their family and where will the likes of Rupert Myers and others who lined up to applaud Richard Spencer getting punched be to take responsibility for endorsing this mindset?  
I can certainly understand and sympathise with the idea of not wanting a society where the likes of Spencer’s ideas and rhetoric are normalised on the other hand I have a problem with the ethicality and morality of suppressing it by violence. Who is to say it will stop at punching? 
The same problem exists with the use of violence to stop the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes from speaking at events as occurred at U.C. Berkeley and NYU, where people were beaten with metal poles, pepper sprayed, fires set and property destroyed. Is it moral to go to these extremes to prevent Yiannopoulos’ talks taking place? Arguably it attracted far more attention to it than simply letting it go ahead. Why not just organise a peaceful mass walkout from the auditorium where he’s speaking or hold up signs of dissent in the audiance he would have look at? Wouldn’t that have a greater effect than smashing stuff up? Yiannopoulos can now be presented as a free speech martyr and his opponents as authoritarians who don’t want any other points of view to be heard.
In an article for The Spectator on this issue, Brendan O’Neil writes:
“This behaviour would be shocking on any campus, but at Berkeley it’s especially tragic. This is the university where, in 1964 and 1965, students agitated for freedom of speech. The Free Speech Movement staged sit-ins and protests demanding that university management lift restrictions on inviting outside political speakers and on students and staff advocating for political causes. Students fought for their right to invite to ‘controversial’ people, including Communists, and to express their political feelings.” 
Yiannopoulos isn’t merely a “controversial speaker” though. As far as his critics are concerned unlike the Communists O’Neill referenced, he is someone who goes around in a tour bus with the deliberate aim of harassing and belittling marginalised people in colleges like Muslims, lesbians (who he claims, unlike gay men choose their sexuality) and trans people. Feminists are a particular target for his ire. In one video he goes out his way to taunt Muslim women in the audience until they got up and left, which he responded to by sneering, “they don’t like to hear the facts”.
I can’t say I ever understood the adulation Yiannopoulos receives. His career seems to built to making inflammatory statements and then basking in the inevitable outrage. He didn’t impress me one bit in his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News. Rather than making any sort of intellectual argument, he sets out to provoke and upset his targets and then feed off their reactions. Still, I am minded to support his free speech and dismayed by self defeating violence of those trying to prevent it.
What I fear is that during an era where the populist right is in the ascendancy and more prominent than ever in the media and their idol Donald Trump sits in the White House we’ll see more instances of violence to suppress such views and will be asking ourselves again and again when it is moral and justified to permit these acts.

Rorschach AKA Mr Cloud ©