Don’t Bash the Fash; objections to punching Nazis

Alice More: Arrest him!
Sir Thomas More: Why, what has he done?
Margaret More: He’s bad!
Sir Thomas More: There is no law against that.
Will Roper: There is! God’s law!
Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
Alice: While you talk, he’s gone!
Sir Thomas More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Will Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Will Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
Robert O. Bolt, A Man for All Seasons, 1960

I have to admit, when I saw Richard Spencer get punched while explaining his Pepe the Frog badge to a reporter, I smirked; inside me there is a kid who giggles at that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure part of me never stopped laughing at the Road Runner’s antics.

Then I scrolled further on my Twitter feed, and was disturbed by the sheer amount of glee people were displaying. Yes, it’s Richard Spencer, a carbuncle on the backside of humanity, and yes, he’s got what Reddit calls a punchable face, but come on guys; aren’t we just a little disturbed at that act of political violence in the full glare of the cameras?

Apparently not; since then I’ve seen a lot of tweets and blog posts and opinion pieces that are condoning, celebrating, or even encouraging such acts. Disturbing, to put it mildly.

Before we begin:

  • No, I’m not a Nazi, or a fascist;
  • No, I’m not a sympathiser with either;
  • Yes, I think they have the right to free speech;
  • Yes, this includes speech I find repugnant and awful;
  • Yes, I know there are other issues in the world, but I’m not talking about them right now;
  • Yes, I am aware of those cases where violent protest did have a fortuitous outcome – such as the Stonewall Riots – that will be dealt with below;
  • Yes, I know that sometimes “say shit, get hit” applies – that doesn’t mean we should be celebrating or encouraging it;
  • No, this isn’t a complete list of my objections, but it is pretty thorough; and
  • As always, all the sources used here are listed at the very bottom under the heading “Sources”, including hyperlinks where available.

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