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On Punching Nazis
I've been mulling over the "punching Nazis" incident a couple of weeks ago, to understand how I think and feel about it.

Really, it's not a simple one. On the one hand, I can totally understand the visceral satisfaction of pasting one to the smarmy bad guys. OTOH, as many folks have pointed out, that doesn't make it right: the Nazi preaching his subtle hatred on the street is almost the textbook definition of why *really* believing in freedom of speech is challenging. That latter argument is pretty compelling to me.

But as I contemplated the rioting over Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, I realized that there's a much simpler and in some ways more important argument here: at this stage of the game, letting yourself get provoked into violence is incredibly *stupid*, and wildly counter-productive.

Look -- Trump and his cronies are attempting to build a fascist state.  Their *primary* mechanism for doing so is preying upon the fears of Middle America: convincing them that Those Evil Liberals are selling out the country, are out to get them, and are full of Those Awful Terrorist Immigrants.  They have brilliantly built a narrative that Normal White People are *victims*.  Yes, it's bullshit -- but to people who in fear for their jobs, and have spent many years with the news telling them about every awful thing that might happen, it's compelling bullshit.  The Dangerous Other is *always* the go-to tool of the fascist dictator.

And when they can show scenes of terrible violence caused by "the Left", against Trump's talking heads, that is *gold* -- it plays directly into that "we're the victims and must protect ourselves" narrative.  Guaranteed, they'll be spinning that to explain why they just need to crack down a *little* bit.

(Of course, it is *such* gold, and *so* convenient, that I'm deeply suspicious of it -- I'd give better-than-even odds that Trump's own surrogates instigated the Berkeley riot.  But unless proof comes out, that suspicion isn't going to get very far in the news.)

Anyway, it's just an example, but it's a telling one.  This is why non-violent protest is so deathly important in any struggle for hearts and minds -- and make no mistake, so long as the US is still an actual democracy, that's what the struggle is.  We *must* not feed into their narrative -- if we're going to win this thing, we have to be conspicuously better than they are.

That does *not* mean being meek or weak: we should be loud, we should be clear, we should have our message in front of the country every day and every way.  But we should refrain from punching the Nazis, and settle for just telling them off...

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Part of the problem, though, is as soon as one gives equal-time-to-talk about whether or not, say, black people should be genocidally expelled from the US or whether or not Chuck Schumer is a foreign national because he's Jewish - both of these topics dear to Spencer's heart - one has lost some critical battles.

I've seen a lot of people basically saying "We cannot actually let these people have a platform, because Naziism is designed explicitly to use the 'everyone gets a platform' nature of modern democracies to destroy those democracies using their own institutions." There is no functional public debate to be had with someone who starts from 'these people are not people like you and me'; individuals on an individual level can make a difference, but that does not reach far enough fast enough.

It's still complicated.

Oh, I am *totally* not agreeing with the "equal time" myth. The press is under no more moral obligation to give airtime to the Nazi on the street than to the loony who thinks that the moose in his back yard is an alien from Neptune.

Indeed, this is a dangerous false equivalence, and now is the time to fight back against it. A lot of right-wing nutjobs have been peddling the notion that they have the right to spew their bile *anywhere they want*. (Particularly on the Internet, but also in the media and the physical world.) That is, again, bullshit. We should be against censorship: you have the right to say what you want. But you do *NOT* have the right to demand that others forward it on or report it, nor do you have the right to literally or figuratively bust into peoples' houses and start yelling in their faces.

Censorship has an intentionally specific definition: it is when the *government*, directly or indirectly, tries to prevent you from saying something. That's a deathly critical restriction on government power, especially now, and one we should be fighting to defend. But that doesn't mean we have to listen to or report on the bad guys, and it *certainly* doesn't mean we need to pretend that their views are equally valid.

I just wish more of the press would grow a spine and remember this...

A friend of mine has been consumed by the need to write the stuff on this site today, in response to some of the same impulses.

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