1. Nazis are scum.It's hard to be a good person, and hard to have consistent principles, but it's still worth trying.
2. Principles are in a constant struggle with viscera. I want punching Nazis to be acceptable, and find the spectacle of Nazis getting punched to be viscerally satisfying. . . . But I know that sucker-punching someone because their views are evil is wrong.
3. We have social and legal norms, including "don't punch people because their speech is evil, and don't punish them legally." Applying those norms is not a judgment that the speech in question is valuable, or decent, or morally acceptable. We apply the norms out of a recognition of human frailty — because the humanity that will be deciding whom to punch and whom to prosecute is the same humanity that produced the Nazis in the first place, and has a well-established record of making really terrible decisions. . . .
4. In embracing a norm that sucker-punching Nazis is acceptable, remember that you live in a nation of imbeciles that loves calling people Nazis. Also bear in mind that certain aspects of our culture — modern academic culture, for instance — encourages people to think that you're a Nazi if you eat veal or disagree with them about the minimum wage.
5. By the way, there are tons of people right now who would welcome an emerging social norm that it's acceptable to punch, say, Black Lives Matter protesters. I know Nazis aren't remotely comparable. You do too. They disagree. And you've handed them the rhetorical tools to defend themselves, and handed the broader populace an excuse to look away. Well done.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Ken White on Punching Nazis