I’m a big fan of Malcolm X. In fact, I used to think I supported violence-as-a-solution more than most people, and stayed quiet about those beliefs out of shame. Richard Spencer being punched has proven me wrong.
Race riots were acceptable & necessary because the law was on the side of racial oppression. That was an armed struggle against state-sponsored terrorism. The law supported and protected extra-judicial violence against black people.
The law is not on the side of the Nazis. In fact, the only law that IS on Richard Spencer’s side is the law guaranteeing freedom of speech. If our side is the one resorting to extra-judicial violence because we take issue with a law guaranteeing *freedom of speech*, we might need to take a serious look at ourselves.
Some people I know are saying that the law now IS on the side of the Nazis. I don’t see any evidence of this yet. Simply asserting “Trump loves Nazis” absolutely does not do it for me, because anyone can assert anything. I am, of course, worried that this will become the case. I was horrified when Trump called for a “2nd Amendment” solution to a Clinton win. But just as I would expect any decent person in the Republican party to say “Guys, that’s not OK,” I’m also willing to say that, until we see this happening, we shouldn’t be the first to resort to vigilante violence.
Yes, Spencer is a racist who advocates awful things. He organizes like-minded people and tries to rally them to political action. The Westboro Baptists so the same. So does the KKK. I think there’s better ways of handling this than anonymous beatings in the streets.
Spencer was literally on a public street, answering questions that an interested reporter was putting to him. Are we OK setting a precedent of walking up to two people engaged in a conversation and punching the one we dislike?
Germany has straight-up made Nazi rhetoric illegal. I think they’ve decided on a good tactic. I would be more than willing to at least seriously propose a similar law here in the US. Any system that protects ideologies that calls for its destruction is lacking a certain self-preservation instinct. It would have to be a careful law. But it is, at least, a good idea in the abstract. I would much rather live in a system where the law clearly carves out certain speech as unacceptable and Nazis face legal consequences, rather than having to live in a world of anarchy where I have to hope that I’m not on the wrong side of mob sentiment lest I be beaten and everyone decides to look the other way.
There will always be crazy fuckers with awful ideas. You discredit them, and you rely on the laws to protect us from their violence. The law is what holds them back. It’s when the law fails to do so that things are dangerous (see: the South, up until just a few decades ago). That’s why I become worried when people gleefully cheer at the failure of the law to protect people from violence. If you think beating someone in the street will effectively discredit them and keep public opinion on your side, well, I think that’s a bad way to influence public opinion.
Follow-up note: I’ve had one note of disagreement cleared up when it turned out me and a friend view a punch to the face as very different levels of violence. To me, it’s the first step to a beating, and the horrors that come with that. To them, it was merely the outside-level of a slap. I would not be nearly as horrified by a slap, or something symbolic like a thrown shoe. I see a lot more violence in a closed fist.