The first few months of 2017 have given the internet a lot to mull over; one question in particular: ‘is it okay to punch Nazis’. This first started being passed around when prominent alt-right figure Richard Spencer was punched in the face by a masked protester at the Trump inauguration day protests that occurred in Washington DC. Since then an undeniably large contingent of people have postulated that this assault, as well as others like it, are justified because those being assaulted are ‘Nazis’ and spread hate.
To drain the swamp, it is necessary to state that Spencer is not a nazi/neo-nazi, although he is a white nationalist, that supports identity politics specifically between members of the white race. For the vast majority of people, myself included, these are stupid and ridiculous positions to hold, and can be arguably labeled racist without deviation from the facts. However, no matter how detestable an opinion someone espouses, it is never okay to respond with physical violence, unless it is in self defense in response to violence initiated by them(actual physical violence, not “hate speech”). Such a thing would be to violate freedom of speech, one of the most important western values that protects all individuals right freely express themselves without fear of being harmed.
Nevertheless, hordes of people flooded twitter with the celebration of this ‘nazi punching’ delighting even further to learn that Spencer had been previously assaulted the same day. Going further than condoning these singular acts of violence, many people chose not to speak out against the Inauguration day riots that were initiated by Black Bloc in DC, which resulted destruction of property and vandalism: a much larger act of protest against Trump, and his ‘offensive and hateful views’.
This pattern of justified violence against ‘harmful opinions’ continued in February, when riots broke out on UC Berkeley campus in response to Milo Yiannopoulos coming to speak at the campus to spread his ‘hate speech’. Another instance of violence that was initiated by Black Bloc and Antifa protesters. Like other violent protests, it caused damage to the surrounding neighborhood, as well as instances of assault against pro-Milo, or pro-Trump individuals.
This staple tactic of violent protest has been very prevalent in 2017 so far, going hand in hand with the moral justification of said violence. Say someone says one should not punch Nazi’s, well why wouldn’t you want to punch them? Nazi’s are bad, and you don’t want to cause them harm? So your supporting Nazi’s. Berkeley associate professor Deborah Blocker commented on the riots, stating that the Black Bloc techniques were effectively used to cause just enough damage to the area to prevent Milo from coming. Both of these attitudes justify the violence caused in these instances, incited by nothing more than thought crimes.
People need to understand that violence is not an acceptable response to a difference in opinion. No matter how personally offensive one may find something, that does not give them the right to cause bodily harm to the ones committing this offense. The attitudes of many people who endorse such acts of violent protest are alarming and should be treated as such, because they are suggesting the creation of moralistic Fascism, in order justifiably silence those who disagree with them.