Nazi Punching: a Primer

22 UNUM 17

‘Politically Correct’ has become sort of a buzzword in American politics. Plenty of people voted Trump strictly for his disregard for politeness. It’s a pejorative thrown against liberals, and critics on both sides of the aisle discuss its “rise” as the downfall of modern political discourse.  

And we’ve been using it all wrong.

The Overton Window.

There is a concept in contemporary democracies that every position has an equal and opposite believe. It’s its own pseudoscience. We first saw this applied to scientific theory. If evolution is a valid and accepted idea, then there must be an alternative. Yet you never see someone arguing against gravity, or heliocentrism.

Nothing is absolute, but that doesn’t mean every idea is valid. Some ideas are objectively bad, or worse, damaging. There are concepts so ignorant they aren’t worth even considering, only dismissing.

“You’ve gotta respect everyone’s beliefs.” No, you don’t. That’s what gets us in trouble. Look, you have to acknowledge everyone’s beliefs, and then you have to reserve the right to go: “That is fucking stupid. Are you kidding me?”
— Patton Oswalt

It’s not “edgy” to consider banning all Muslims from entering America: it’s stupid. 

There’s an idea in political theory called “the Overton Window” (not capital ’T’ the; that’s a Glenn Beck novel). The idea is simple: the Overton Window is the range of ideas the populace will consider valid, or up for debate. This is constantly shifting. You’d be considered a lunatic to suggest women shouldn’t have the right to vote now, but at one point that was a valid discussion.

This has come too far. We’re allowing Trump and the Alt-Right (read: Fascists) to push the conversation farther over than it’s been in 80 years. 

There are ideas that are so stupid and ignorant they are not worth considering. We need to be better about excluding those from the conversation.

Is Nazi Punching Right?

Recently, Richard Spencer, an infamous self-described “identitarian” was punched while conducting an interview on the street. Spencer has become well known over the past 2 years for his extremist right wing positions, and often been called a Nazi. 

Immediately after the punch, there were people on both sides of the aisle discussing the encounter. Some were in favor of the move to shut down his hate speech, and others decried the attack as assault, and not a valid means of debate. But you can’t just go around punching people you disagree with, right?

Well, yes and no.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. It was battery. Assault only implies the threat to do harm, where this clearly connected. In a court, this could and should be tried for battery, and sentenced appropriately. But was it wrong?

More and more I’ve found myself referring back to the Nietzschean line of thought and examining what right and wrong is in the first place.

In a moral and legal society, of course this attack, like all attacks of this nature, was wrong. But to borrow from Hegel, we are not beings drifting in the void. We exist in a world of context, where actions relate to one another. That’s not to say it has meaning per-say, but to divorce ourselves from the world is a limiting, blinding prospect. 

Let’s look at Spencer. He founded a website called that published an article called, ‘Is Black Genocide Right?’ which argues for the position you think it does. He says he’s not a Nazi because that is a “historical term” that “would not resonate today”. He supports “peaceful ethnic cleansing”. He says “Race is something between a breed and an actual species”, and “Race is real, race matters, and race is the foundation of identity”. His main goal is to create an authoritarian ethno-state, where the only criteria for citizenship is the color of your skin.

Sound familiar?

Let’s call it what it is. It’s fascism. It’s neo-Nazism. Richard Spencer is 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag. 

Was punching him legal? No, nor was it polite, or within proper debate. But these are not ideas for debate. They’re pathetic and disgusting. Was punching him right? Fuck yes.

If his, or anyone’s beliefs are against welfare, or healthcare, or immigration, I’ll gladly sit down an debate it. But they aren’t. They’re whether or not certain people are people at all. That’s so ignorant it’s not even in the same wheelhouse.

By insisting this is another political theory, and therefor something to be debated and not fought, it lends validity to an altogether indefensible position. Fascism is not a political party. It is not a theory. It is violence and ignorance. It is the manifestation of stupidity. Let’s treat it as such.

Anything else isn’t strong enough.