Should we be okay with punching Nazis?

Image: YouTube screen capture / ABC News Australia

Image: YouTube screen capture / ABC News Australia

Ever since the punching of Nazi Richard Spencer outside of the Trump inauguration on January 20, a debate has erupted about if we should punch Nazis.

There are a few layers to this argument and I want to address some now.

And these are real Nazis. Not someone people simply dislike, but actual genocidal, Nazi-saluting, Nazis. So don’t read this picturing some jerk in a Trump hat, but instead someone who is working to organize a movement that if successful, would eradicate entire populations.

Slippery Slope

Can a religious person punch an atheist?

Yes.

Should a religious person punch an atheist?

No.

Can a person punch a Nazi?

Yes.

Should a person punch a Nazi?

Yes.

So how can I hold what sounds like such a hypocritical position?

It’s really simple actually. Ideas don’t exist on a plain.

Atheism and Nazism are not equally founded ideas and one advocates for harm and one does not.

Atheism is the nonbelief in gods. The end. It doesn’t color your views on race, sexual orientation, etc.

Nazism is an ideology based on white supremacy and the eradication, through genocide, of nonwhites (and many others).

A Christian, for example, can believe an atheist is evil for not believing in their god and punch them. Their action, however, is unfounded. They punched an atheist based on an appeal to their emotions.

We know Nazism is evil. We know their goals, we know where their ideology leads. If you punch a Nazi, especially if you’re one of those marginalized and threatened by their ideology, you’re acting in self-defense. Even if you’re a white person punching a Nazi, you’re acting in the defense of others.

So the slippery slope analogy fails immediately here.

If a Christian believes an atheist needs to be punched, their mind is not going to be swayed by whether or not we are punching Nazis.

If you’re not punching a Nazi purely out of a selfish fear that someone can punch you for a non-violent, non-genocidal belief, you’re allowing the Nazis to dictate your fears.

Moral High Ground

Many have argued that we must be better than Nazis and therefore we cannot punch them.

I want to make this simple. A fist to the head is still the moral high ground when you’re punching someone advocating for genocide.

If you’re not a Nazi, you have the moral high ground.

Look, non-violence is wonderful and if you’re non-violent, stay that way! We need you. Hell, 9.9 times out of 10 I am non-violent.

Yet, we need those willing to stand up to monsters. Nazis only know violence. Their entire ideology is violence. We are not going to reason them out of genocide. We can’t wait until it’s too late.

Physically making Nazis afraid is a moral act. They need to be scared to spread their ideas. They need to feel unwelcome in public spaces.

Spencer himself has stated he feels uncomfortable now and needs to hire extra security. One punch rattled him that bad.

He isn’t empowered. No one that thought Nazis were bad is now seeing their ideology as justified because an activist punched him.

Do you know a single person who said, “I thought genocide was terrible until someone punched Richard Spencer.”

No! This is a strawman!

Free Speech

Should Nazis have free speech?

The US basically says yes. Germany says no.

Now, I don’t think Germany is less free because of this, and I doubt its non-Nazi citizens do either.

However, this is not a free speech issue. Spencer has the right to speak on the street corner.

He did, and he paid the price for it.

The government did not arrest him for his speech. No violation of his speech was had. Free speech is not free of consequences.

A single activist interrupted Spencer’s speech. He was, by all accounts, free to continue his interview after had he chosen to do so. Again, what you say has consequences.

Was it legal for the AntiFa activist to punch him? No. Does that make it morally wrong?

I say, no.

Sometimes, laws don’t work. Sometimes, things are not black and white.

Nazis are not sharing an opposing view, they are literally advocating for the erasure of entire races.

This is not a debate between should healthcare be free or at a premium.

This debate is whether people of color have a right to be alive.

If you think that’s just an “opposing view” you’re part of the problem that contributed to the resurgence of Nazism.

If they want to take that kind of rhetoric to the public square, they need to know it’s not welcome. They need to be afraid to do so.

These FSWs (free speech warriors) want you to believe free speech is sacrosanct. They throw a fit if even a protest takes place outside of an event.

These people normalize hate. They normalize Nazis. They defend genocide and don’t even seem to notice. Some speech must be stood up to and sometimes words are not enough. They are advocating for nothing less than death. Stop claiming we can stop them with words.

You must sit atop a castle of privilege to think Nazis are not a threat to life itself.

You can be a staunch advocate for free speech and still understand the actual threat Nazis pose and that we must, as a society, work to stop it now before it grows.

You can try reasoning with a Nazi if you so please, but good luck trying to reason with someone who doesn’t value human life, let alone reason.

Reason didn’t stop the first wave of Nazis, it’s not going to stop the next.

Non-violence works in many situations and we should always seek it out.

Non-violence against Nazis is a waste of time and while some pat themselves on the back for not throwing a punch, the movement is growing. The alt-right has a man inside the White House with Trump’s ear.

The threat is real. How are we going to stop it?

 

Note: I am not advocating that we run around looking for Nazis to punch. I am not one to seek out violence. However, this debate is being had and with the rise of Nazis in the US and around the world, we should discuss this topic.

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About Dan Arel

Dan Arel is an award-winning journalist and the author of the best-selling book The Secular Activist; and Parenting Without God. He is also a freelance columnist for AlterNet, Time, and The Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter: @danarel