The topic came up with a friend recently, but we didn't stay with it long: a couple of sound bites, and we moved on. Sometimes, conditions are not right for a protracted dialogue. Then there's the fact that my poor, wee brain is seldom up to much deep reflection of any type.
But I had considered the question somewhat before then and have thought about it somewhat since. Not deep thoughts necessarily (because brain strain is devoutly to be avoided), but I mull it over from time to time.
As in much of my fuzzy thinking, I am somewhat ambivalent. I tend to see both sides of many topics, and when I support one side of an argument, it may seem as though I am taking a firmer stance than I necessarily hold. It may actually be that I would argue for the other side at another time, depending on the stance of the other person at that moment.
It seems as though I am always on the fence. Well not always but often enough..
With regard to the topic at hand — Is it alright to punch a Nazi? — most seem to say: "Of course not. It's just free speech. You don't become violent over someone's free speech." It's pretty hard to argue with that on the face of it, but I think I want to try a little bit anyway.
For one thing, that word, just, is problematic to me. When you put just in front of something, it automatically tends to reduce it and even trivialize it. But let's let that concern lie for now and maybe come back to it later.
Here's the heart of it. It is ipso facto hate speech to claim to be a Nazi. While hate speech should not necessarily be suppressed, partly because our definitions of hate might vary considerably, this is a special case in my mind. Nazism is ultra racist by definition. Totally racist, ugly racist. You are freely identifying with a ideology that embraced genocide.
You know all about it. Nazis tried to exterminate a whole ethnic group and much more. They slaughtered many millions for just being who they were. Then, they caused perhaps 20 million military deaths in an aggressive armed conflict and possibly 60 to 80 million deaths in all when you factor in the results of war such as famine and disease. Wikipedia
So, there's no just about it.
See here, if you choose to align yourself with that group, you deserve a punch. You probably deserve much worse than a single punch, for you are, by definition, the worst sort of racist who condones the worst possible sort of treatment of others. If that's not what you mean by identifying as a Nazi, then choose another word. Words matter, and those are the horrific connotations associated with that word.
So no, I don't sympathize with a self-admitted Nazi who gets punched in the face. When you choose the action/belief, you also chose the consequences.
And I may even sympathize with the puncher.
Hold on: I did say may. I would really have to know him or her and their motivations before I could say for sure. What are their principles? Why did they take that action? Is that person a goon spoiling for a fight, or is s/he motivated to stand up in defense of those who could become the ultimate victims of that foul ideology. Goon or justice warrior: just like words, motivation matters.
But I did say, sympathize. And I also said, may.
I did not say, condone.
There's a difference, for I can't say that I condone this sort of aggression. I simply can't think of a realistic case in which I would actually encourage someone to take such an aggressive action. I only said that I can sympathize with the motivation and action, at least a little bit. That's the nuance here. I can be sympathetic towards an action while not necessarily espousing it. It is not the case that I would encourage someone to go out and punch someone in the face — as much as that someone might deserve it.
But whether I would support the punch or not, whether I would espouse punching or not, I sure as heck do say that if you are going to identify with Nazism and all that it represents, then you darn well deserve a punch in the face. It's not just free speech. There's no just about it. So take your medicine.
Just take your medicine.