A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the optics of punching Nazis and how it plays into false equivalencies. I’m sorry to say that I was wrong.
I’m not a fan of violence; be that immediate fisticuffs or the horrifically banal racist violence that is part and parcel of our system. I’m very quick to reach for “violence is not the answer,” no matter what the question is. But in this case, the question is (sometimes) begging for a fist to the face.
The argument that punching Nazis is always wrong is rooted in the presumption that our society’s current state is one of nonviolent homeostasis; but that’s not true. The global system is a meat grinder that chews up poor people (especially poor people of color) and spits out fat checks for millionaires and billionaires (mostly white).
Nazis aren’t just advocating for that status quo. They’re calling for a full-scale ramp up of these human rights violations. They will violate human rights to the exact extent that we let them get away with it, up to and including committing genocide. There is no other possible outcome if the ideas they share are enacted into law or practice. It is definitionally impossible for Nazis to be arguing for anything in good faith.
Those who argue that Nazis have a right to free speech are technically correct. The First Amendment protects people’s right to say horrible things without government intervention. Thankfully, Antifa isn’t the government.
I still don’t think we should go around punching people when there are other options. The ultimate goal is to make Nazis afraid again. If we can do that by confronting them with huge crowds, or by peppering them with derision and silly string – that’s always preferable to throwing a punch.
I’m also not a fan of ganging up on Nazis and beating them bloody once they’re down. If we’re going to stay true to our moral center, we shouldn’t be brutalizing people at that level. In that same vein, we should not punch Nazis just for the fun of it. If you enjoy punching anyone who hasn’t consented to be punched, it’s time for you to reconsider your life choices.
All of that said, sometimes you just have to punch a Nazi because, in your most sober judgement, it is the most efficient and effective means of shutting them up.
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