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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Helsinki and Canberra; comparing the electoral systems of the parliaments of Finland and Australia

This is a post for Ma & Pa Farmers (@lutajobe) on Twitter, who had some questions about the comparability of the Australian Parliament and the Finnish Parliament

A note before we begin; Finland is a semi-presidential parliamentary democracy in the European Union, while Australia is a constitutional monarchy and federal parliamentary democracy that is not. For the purposes of discussion, we are ignoring any parliament other than the national ones, the Finnish presidency, and Finnish members of the European Parliament.

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Mistaken about Machiavelli; what people get wrong about Il Principe

In 1513, the former Chancellor and Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, now disgraced and deposed, published what would become one of the most famous, and most reviled, political texts of the European Renaissance – The Prince. Over the centuries, thanks to this work, the man’s name has become synonymous with the kind of manipulative, underhanded, and utterly ruthless mentality personified by Frank and Claire Underwood in House of Cards; primarily because most people consider The Prince to be encouraging such amoral behaviour in politicians and leaders. Thus the adjective “Machiavellian”.

They’re wrong.

If I had to put my finger on a specific phrase most at fault for this error, it would be a tie between two lines. The first is the line “it is better to be feared than loved”. The second is the line “the ends justify the means”. Both lines encapsulate “Machiavellian” attitudes, and neither actually appears in the text.

Be warned; this post will quote The Prince at length, because truncating the work is what landed us in this mess in the first place. There are also spoilers for House of Cards.

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The ALP, the Plebiscite, and Marriage Equality

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about Kevin Rudd’s support of marriage equality. It was, frankly, over-dramatic and painfully self-righteous and looking back on it I cringe a little. I’m leaving it up, instead of hiding the old shame, because although my presentation was awful, the argument itself I fully stand by.

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