Monday, December 11, 2017

Just Take Your Medicine

I've been thinking about it off and on for a while now: Is it alright to punch a Nazi?

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.


A Cuban In London said...

Interesting post. You might as well have said "might" instead of "may" sympathise. :-)

The question can branch out into different directions, however: is it OK to punch a Stalin supporter? He killed more Jews than Hitler, if it comes to that, and he was as much of a bastard as his German counterpart. Is it OK to punch a Blairite? Look at the mess he made in Iraq. Is it OK to punch a David Cameron supporter? Brexit. I'll leave it there. I think that sums up our previous Prime Minister's legacy. :-)

Greetings from London.

Anvilcloud said...

Fair points to add to the discussion. Of course, this Nazi punching was a real issue a while back in the US, so it was a question that was debated at the time. And then I had that brief discussion, so it was on my mind. I guess neo-Nazism is more on the rise both here and there, and so it is the issue that comes to mind as it was a real event.

I don't know if too many are supporting a return to Stalinism etc, but if it became a movement of sorts, I would certainly have to think about it. So, in some cases it may be possible I might end up being in sympathy, but it is hard to say in the theoretical. However, I don't imagine that would actually advocate for it, just as I am not advocating in this case.

Thanks for making me think about the subject a little more. I need prods like this.

Tabor said...

Pick your battles. You cannot win them all and the bigger battles are more important than punching an idiot in the face.

Marie Smith said...

I wouldn’t hit anyone but I understand one’s anger and frustration with nazi sympathizers and nazis. Silent protests against them speak volumes!

Ginnie said...

A conundrum to be sure !!! We, here in the U.S., have our own type of confusion because we have an idiot in the White House who loves to talk (oops, I mean Tweet) in half truths and outright lies. His whole idea is to muddy the waters to divert attention from himself. Now there's one person I would gladly punch in the face.

Hena Tayeb said...

This was an interesting post..
Just because someone deserves to be punched doesn't mean it gives everyone the right to punch him. Now if this someone has done something to you.. directly to you which deems a punch.. then punch away. But there are also consequences of that punching.. so before punching (i am by no means as eloquent as you) make sure it was worth it.. worth the consequences.. usually it's not. My 2 cents.

Dogman said...

Oh Pusher of Buttons,

Let me put this another way. It seems to me you are (almost, you wriggler) condoning physical violence as an appropriate response for "wrongthink." This is the mark of the ideologically possessed (the Beast). And let's broaden the scope just a bit. Stalinism is not the issue, but the utopian ideology of Marxism, which has had a consistent track record in the 20th and 21st centuries of being responsible for a much larger number of deaths than Naziism. So, is it alright to sucker-punch that SJW Neo-marxist waving banner on a stick with the symbol of the hammer and sickle because the ideology has historically been responsible for possibly hundreds of millions of deaths?

And your characterization that the expression of an ideology is justified as "just" free speech is a straw man, in my view. You are the only one I am aware of ever characterizing it that way. Free speech is, in a sense, the foundation of the Enlightenment and Western civilization. It is a "human right," a value, a principle, and a method of bringing light and freedom by exposing ideas and allowing them to be subject to discussion, criticism and refutation, and hopefully at some point resolution and general, thoughtful consensus. It is never "just" free speech!

I find the justification of physical violence (nuanced though it may be) as a means of ideological expression or correction or condemnation to be utterly reprehensible.

The Happy Ranter

Should Fish More said...

Forget the comments. Punch the fucker.

MARY G said...

What about the Inquisition and all the other torturers in the name of a particular strain of Christianity? I have a long list. Although I am not a face puncher, there are good ways to express contempt that do not require soiling your knuckles with the fatuous faces of tormenters of any kind.
As for neo Nazis ... lock them up. There mist be a charge that would stick.

Dogman said...

I apologize to Anvilcloud and all his readers and for my over-the-top rhetorical response to John with regard to the issue he was grappling with in this post.

Just to be clear, I do not think or feel that John himself is a reprehensible person.


troutbirder said...

I agree with your analysis but I want to know what was going on and the circumstances before I'd start punching.

Debbie said...

an interesting post. this is a way of life i do not like to think about. i live in a dream world of happiness and unicorns. it's not the right way to live but it is less stressful!! i have never punched anyone, even with my thoughts!!