On Punching Nazis (And Dealing With Extremists)…

This week, Richard Spencer, prominent Alt-Right ideologue, was punched by an anti-fascist as he was being interviewed. Leftists cheered, because of their belief in direction action and, I think, because applauding violence from the comfort of their bedrooms makes them feel like they are not lily-livered liberals. Heirs of John Stuart Mill were appalled and condemned the violence – condemning being pretty much all they do nowadays. Spencer’s allies, most of whom are young, web-savvy foreign dwellers, promptly doxxed a hitherto obscure fetish pornographer they thought had thrown the punch. May you live in interesting times? Ours are downright bizarre.

My initial reaction was contempt – not so much contempt on seeing aggression but on seeing cowardice. The hooded, masked assailant ran off before Spencer could even recover his wits. If you are going to punch someone, I firmly believe, you should at least give them a chance to defend themselves. I am sure that he feared a life in prison and not Spencer’s uppercut but he looked, I think, to most people, gutless and sly.

But what of the moral issue? Let me separate this from the case of Spencer, who is less interesting than he seems, and consider acts of ideological vigilantism in general. I am neither a pacifist nor a free speech absolutist. Who is? I would be surprised if half the members of the Alt-Right, many of whom think it was the height of comedy for Pinochet to throw trade unionists out of helicopters, would extend unlimited freedom to the left. People are more pious about free speech, in general terms, when their own speech is unfashionable. It tends to be self-interested.

As a conservative, however, I believe that if speech is to be prohibited it should be in accordance with the rule of law. Anarchists and communists who tend to pick fights with Nazis, fascists and white nationalists believe the rule of law is merely a bourgeois defence of property and, thus, oppose it too. They are my enemies as well, then, in a real sense. I would no more trust the kind of ludicrous left wing ideologue who thinks all borders are tools of racist oppression to decide what is and is not a legitimate right wing opinion than I would trust a member of the John Birch Society to decide who is a communist. The least that they could do – the least – is to elucidate what they believe legitimises violence. Until then I would not feel at all safe from them myself – and, to some extent, I suspect that this is the point.

How would I deal with Nazis? First, to define my terms. Racial eliminationists (well, all elimationists) should be excluded from polite society. Happily, most people find them obnoxious enough that all one must do is expose their worst ideas, as well as the personal dysfunction that always accompanies such eccentric beliefs. (David Duke, for example, is a tax fraud with a bogus PhD. William Luther Pierce had six wives, some of them imported from Eastern Europe.)

This becomes, I will accept, harder to do as a society grows more divided. Liberalism thrives when it founded on group cohesion and social trust. As we grow apart, demographically, culturally and ideologically, it will be difficult to keep. We will have fewer shared assumptions beyond which we can debate. The best way to exclude extremists from society is to maintain a steady course that makes a radical change of direction seem absurd. We have failed to achieve this and are seeing the results.

About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
This entry was posted in Extremists, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to On Punching Nazis (And Dealing With Extremists)…

  1. Mook says:

    “As we grow apart, demographically, culturally and ideologically, it will be difficult to keep.”

    Was puzzled by the idea that we are simply growing apart as though it might be some ineluctable natural process. I mean the evidence from Twitter is overwhelming, but that’s just Twitter. Brexit and Trump certainly seem to confirm this but I’m not sure they didn’t simply highlight long existing divisions; fault lines which no sensible consensual politician would normally go anywhere near.


  2. Jim says:

    This article may be of interest in the efficacy of antifa style street fighting.


    “In the week after Cable Street the BUF ‘conducted the most successful series of meetings since the beginning of the movement’, attracting crowds of thousands and little opposition. Mosley made an ‘enthusiastically received’ address to an audience of 12,000 at Victoria Park Square, which was followed by a peaceful march to nearby Limehouse. By contrast the Communists’ efforts to consolidate their victory had ‘met with a very poor response’. ‘A definite pro-Fascist feeling has manifested itself’, the Special Branch report concluded: ‘The alleged Fascist defeat is in reality a Fascist advance.’

    The reason the BUF was able to profit so handsomely from what had initially appeared a setback was that, at this stage, it thrived off the publicity that violent opposition produced. The national media, under pressure from the government, largely avoided reporting on Fascist activity other than when disorder occurred. A leading Mosleyite lamented the ‘total silence’ in the press when BUF events passed without incident, complaining that only after disruption by opponents did newspapers show any interest.

    When such incidents took place the party was able with some success to portray itself as a victim. It claimed that its efforts to exercise free speech legally, through organised meetings and police-approved processions, were being systematically suppressed by left-wing extremists. Whatever the truth of such allegations – and it was certainly the case that anti-fascists were responsible for the majority of disorder, albeit often in the face of Fascist provocation – the Blackshirts elicited a degree of sympathy in certain quarters. After the Olympia meeting, for example, although respectable supporters abandoned the BUF in droves, there was also a short-term influx of new recruits angry at attempts to silence Mosley.”


  3. Pete says:

    To be honest the running away actually looks to me like the least embarrassing part of this whole thing. If he’d stayed around it would have suggested he thought he was making a profound political statement.

    As it is he’s left open the possibility that he’s just a guy with an impulse control problem.


  4. Pingback: Free Speech at Blueberry Park – spottedtoad

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