Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ken White on Punching Nazis

From Popehat:
1. Nazis are scum.

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.
It's hard to be a good person, and hard to have consistent principles, but it's still worth trying.


Unknown said...

Yes, but I can accept this sort of measure and fairness only so long as Nazis remain a pathetic, scorned, tiny minority. I'm pretty happy for powerful Nazis to be fought with any means at one's disposal. And if that makes me just the mirror image of rightists who feel that way about Black Lives Matter or Jews or anyone else, too bad.

G. Verloren said...

Am I personally going to go out and punch a nazi? No, odds are good unless I'm really pressed, I'll stay my hand and speak up instead. And I think the vast majority of us are like this, and that's why nazis aren't getting constantly punched all the time.

But am I going to feel remotely bad for watching some less well composed individual beat the snot out of someone who advocates enacting "peaceful ethnic cleansing" in our country? Nope, absolutely not.

If your agenda is to destroy the lives of other people, I may not take it upon myself to do you any harm personally, but I'm damn well going to wish you all the ill in the world, and rejoice when the universe sees fit to deliver it upon you. And I see no moral or philosophical conflict in this stance whatsoever.

ArEn said...

I have not behaved as I would have wished since this election. I have posted hateful FB things calling Trump voters names. I am SO angry. I feel such rage. But I know calling people names is wrong. It's petty. I felt foolish when called out on it.

But I do wonder what the boundaries of "resistance" are, though. Is expressing anger always wrong? What should anger look like?

John said...

Until the Republic is actually threatened with armed takeover, I think violence against dissenters is wrong, period. Plus, I think it often backfires; some movements really are helped by making martyrs.

I have been trying hard to bury my anger because I think Trump is the apotheosis of anger; I think right now anger and hate from any corner only feed the dark side and give more power to the Sith Lords.

Seriously. Right now I think the biggest danger to the Republic is not bad ideas, even fascist ideas, but anger, hate, and division. Trump rose to power through the cracks created in our society by angry, hate-mongering politics. I think responding to anger with anger, to hate with hate, will only feed the fires that are eating through our state and society. I think we need to cleanse ourselves of anger and hate and be ready to pick up the pieces, peacefully and without rancor, when his regime collapses. If there is a real turn toward fascism, I will be in the streets with the anarchists. Until that happens, I will be preaching peace until I drive everyone crazy.

G. Verloren said...


All the more reason to embrace steps like the Women's March.

Whatever your views on the value of protests vs boring "statecraft", one thing that marches can accomplish that the everyday workings of the bureaucracy can't is to spread messages of love trumping hate.

Anyway, it seems clear we're all pretty much on the same page here, more or less. (Except for our resident eugenicist, of course.)