On Punching Nazis and Non-Violence

I’m seeing a troubling trend on the social justice left. After being ejected from the halls of power in America, I’m now seeing open calls to violence. It is just a small step over the line, because they are currently limited to advocating violence against open white supremacists, a deplorable lot no matter whom you ask. But this is a troubling and disturbing slippery slope. One that invites catastrophic decay. Here’s an example; a series of tweets from a fellow named @meakoopa.

  • every liberal democracy realizes early on there are some positions which must prima facie be aggressively excluded from public discourse
  • u can’t even articulate WHY they are unreasonable bc to articulate WHY they are unreasonable is to itself open the possibility of reason.
  • this is why u can’t allow “just hypothetical” questions abt whether Jews or blacks, as Spencer posits, are innately inferior/destroyable.
  • Nazi theorists like Carl Schmitt VERY QUICKLY diagnosed this weakness in liberal democracies –
  • U can collapse a democracy by insisting the democracy had a right to end itself: Hindenburg to Hitler, “the peaceful transition of power.”
  • Intolerance cannot be tolerated, bc this corrosive effect means the law can be co-opted by, and so protective of, fascism.
  • Fascism wriggles into democracies by insisting on right to be heard, achieves critical mass, then dissolves the organs that installed it.
  • WHICH MEANS the stronger it becomes, it cannot be sufficiently combatted with reason. Bc “reason” becomes the state’s tool to enforce.
  • The Overton Window becomes weaponized – as we are seeing in @KellyannePolls and @seanspicer’s “alternative facts.” The state decides.
  • Liberalism literally cannot see this – its insistence on rule of law, not genocideal lust, is what turned the German people into good Nazis.
  • some positions must be excluded from discourse. Some positions you do not listen to – u can only punch.
  • A society that begins to entertain why some members of its polis might not belong invites catastrophic decay. Those voices must be excluded.
  • TL;DR – punching a nazi is actually a supreme act of democracy bc it will not tolerate a direct affront of a fellow citizen’s citizenship.
  • the term to interrogate in “should you punch a nazi?” is SHOULD – what is the status of that “should”? Legally: no; ethically: fuck yes.
I am troubled that when civil society doesn’t go our way, we so easily slide into hatred and violence. Even when it appears justified, like punching a Nazi giving an interview, physical acts against hateful ideas yield only more darkness, as Martin Luther King Jr. said.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Strength To Love, 1963

Ideas must be opposed with ideas or direct non-violent action. For the Nazi who was punched, refusing to interview him or give him a platform to speak is non-violent and pretty effective. I stand between complacent ‘do nothing-ism’ and the hatred and despair now emerging, and advocate for both refuting harmful ideas with better ones and non-violent action. The night before the Nazi got punched, a man in Seattle was shot because he was taken to be a white supremacist. He was actually a fellow protester.

Alistair Roberts said on his own blog post on the subject, “The carelessly hyperbolic rhetoric of the social justice left greases the surface of the plane of social antagonisms, enabling us to make some incredibly dangerous moves from ideological opposition towards physical violence extremely easily.”

Vigilante justice has never yielded justice. In Seattle, it led to an injustice. To embrace violence against harmful ideas is to reject Martin Luther King Jr’s more excellent way that he laid out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It’s persuasive for a reason. And it is now once again relevant today. Please read it.

While it is true that ideas that have contributed to evils such as genocide must be managed with care, insisting on the right to be heard is not the only way in which fascism can wriggle into a republic. It also wriggles into them by rejecting reason as useless! And in advocating for violence to silence objectionable opinion, fascism also rejects the path of Christian love and non-violent protest.

When love is rejected, frequent use of hyperbolic language (see: Twitter, Facebook) becomes the way to label those who don’t support your belief system. And when reason and non-violence are rejected, individual violence is legitimized against the more deplorable of those nonbelievers. The problem these two trends create is twofold. On the one hand, hyperbolic language has a dehumanizing and delegitimizing effect not just on the objectively inhumane and hateful speech of white supremacy, but on any other person who holds an opinion rendered unfashionable by the collective. That’s because the list of ‘nonbelievers’ inevitably expands (see Animal Farm), and each are driven out or silenced with mob violence or the threat of social repercussions.

That’s how brown shirts enabled Hitler’s rise. That’s actually how the organs of a republic are dissolved. The brown shirts didn’t ask politely for a seat at the table of public discourse and the Germans in the Weimar Republic let them sit down. They bullied their way in.

Punching a Nazi giving an interview is an act of fascism, because it already says that some members of the polis do not belong. And here’s the part meakoopa is right about; that when we entertain that some members of our society do not belong (no matter how objectionable we may find them) then that begins the “descending spiral of destruction” Martin Luther King talked about toward the catastrophic decay meakoopa talks about as we soon find out that there are still others who also do not belong. And still others. And more after that. Until there’s just us.

No justice. Just us.

“Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Why We Can’t Wait, 1963