Friday, January 27, 2017

Okay Seriously Guys, Knock off the Violence Fetish: It's Stupid, It's Immature, and It is NOT Helping our Cause

When the memes about punching Richard Spencer first started to appear last week, I was content to ignore them.
I mean, sure, I didn't approve of violence, but he was a Nazi after all, so let the kids have their fun, I figured.

It started to get a bit more disturbing when it became clear that the Left had developed a bit of a fetish over punching.  But, whatever, it was still good theater.

At this point I just contented myself with retweeting Fredrik Deboer's thoughts on the incident, and let it go at that.

(Seriously, go read Fredrik Deboer's piece on it.  He completely nails how counter-productive this whole fetish is).

Then, when the incident was still being glorified on Facebook several days later, I got into an argument on the comment thread of a friend's post, and then reposted my comments here on my own blog.  And at that point I felt like I had said my piece, and was content to let it go at that.

But today I open up Facebook and Twitter, and find people are STILL glorifying Richard Spencer being punched.

Some people are treating the incident as a joke.  (ie, comments like, "I know I shouldn't approve, but it is just so satisfying to see a Nazi get punched in the face.)
But a disturbing amount of people are now trying to justify the incident.  Some people are even saying that this doesn't count as an assault on free speech because Richard Spencer was attacked by a private citizen, and not arrested by the state.
And by the way, these are not just 19 year old anarchist kids I'm talking about.  These are people my own age who are actively glorifying violence--in other words, people who should be old enough to know better.

For example, in my twitter feed yesterday, I saw this.

I don't know who this Saladin Ahmed is, but this popped up in my twitter feed because one of my friends had retweeted it.  It was retweeted by someone my own age, who was an intelligent guy, and whose opinion I would under normal circumstances respect.

I retweeted it with my own addendum:

Today I find out that twitter is exploding with news that Richard Spencer was punched again, (see: Spencer Got Punched For The Second Time And Twitter Is Losing It) and people are again taking delight in the violence.

This is officially out of control now.
And perhaps it got out of control because people like me were just content to wink and look the other way when these memes started last week.

But this has now reached the point where it is seriously damaging the movement, and everyone on the left who has not already lost their senses needs to get on this and condemn this at once.

This is not an effective means of dialogue.  This is not how political change happens in this country.  And this WILL NOT help us in November 2018.

And just for the record, Indiana Jones is a fantasy adventure story.

If you want to indulge your violent fantasies, then by all means, go rent this movie, and enjoy it.  That's what it's there for.  (And I enjoy a good violent Hollywood movie as much as the next guy).  But this is a movie.  This is not how real life works.

 And you confuse the two at your own peril.  You're only hurting your own cause when you confuse fantasy with actual political reality.

Yes, America has huge problems right now.  Yes, Racists attitudes are getting worse.  Yes, Trump sucks.  But the idea that we can punch our way into a more tolerant society is misleading.

We did not lose in 2016 because we didn't punch enough people.  We lost in 2016 because we didn't have the votes we needed in the states we needed them.  (Yes, the electoral college is unfair, but for now it's a reality).

Already there's a perception among the conservatives and libertarians that the Left is the real enemy of free speech.  And this incident plays completely into their narrative.  And if you don't believe me, check out the Facebook page of your conservative uncle, and see what he's been saying about this incident.

And it's one thing when it's just a silly meme.  But when people on the Left actually try to start intellectually justifying this incident, and people start claiming it was not an attack on free speech because of whatever reasons, then that's a very worrying sign.  That's a sign that the movement is becoming intellectually and morally bankrupt.
We're already losing the elections. If we lose the moral high-ground as well, then we've lost everything.

When conservatives and centrists see the Left celebrating violence, it will not convert them to our side.


Often this past week, I've seen Leftists try to change the subject by talking about how violent Nazis can be when given the opportunity.  People often talk about a time when liberals tried to have a peaceful rally somewhere or other, and the Nazis attacked.

Fine, if that's the situation, by all means, hit them back.

But this is not what we're talking about here.  We're talking about a situation when a Nazi was only using his words, and it was the Left that initiated the violence.

It is not acceptable to punch someone who is just talking.

In other words: if you see someone using violence, it is acceptable to respond with violence to protect yourselves and others.
But if you see someone using words, it is not acceptable to respond with violence.

And to respond with violence to someone who is only using words is essentially conceding the argument to them.  It's like saying: "I don't have any way I can verbally argue with you, so I guess I'll just hit you."

"I'm no Nazi.  I'm an Idealist

Okay, I'm going to go on a digression here a minute, but I hope to make a point at the end of it.
Interesting history fact: the 1960s in the United States was actually quite tame compared to many other parts of the world.

In particular, the student movements in Japan and West Germany were much more turbulent and violent than the student movement in the US.
This was because the generation gap in those countries was actually much worse.  They were young idealistic students, but their parents had been real-life actual Nazis and Fascists.
Also, at this stage in the cold war, the U.S. had decided that keeping the communists out of power was more important than punishing the Nazis and Fascists, so in both countries some of the old Fascist guard was quietly being let back into power.

Imagine the situation.  Here you are in the student movement, in a country that historically has a history of Nazism and Fascism, and the literal Nazis and Fascists are coming back into power.  This isn't rhetorical exaggeration, this is the real thing.
Well, the Left went crazy.  I mean, they went literally crazy.  They lost their mind for the next 10 years.  Terrorism, violence, purges, bombings.  Its an interesting history.

After the Vietnam War started to wind down, the international Left was looking for a new cause, and they settled on the Palestinians.  Both the Japanese Left and the German Left got very involved in the fight for Palestinian Rights.

This unfortunately took the form of terrorism against Israel.  And unfortunately, this had some  historical ironies for the German Left.

In 1976, a group of German Leftists captured an Israeli airplane.  They flew it to Uganda where they started to sort out the Jewish passengers from the rest of the passengers.  One Jewish passenger had seen this all before, and he confronted the German hijackers with his tattoo, which showed he had been in a Nazi concentration camp.

The German hijacker (a Leftist, remember) responded: ""I'm no Nazi.  I'm an Idealist".

This ideological distinction, however, was completely lost on his Jewish victim, who only knew that a German was once again punishing him for being a Jewish.

The lesson is: if you want to be like the Nazis, don't be like the Nazis.

It does no good to do the same things that the Nazis do, and then proclaim to the world, "I'm no Nazi.  I'm an Idealist."

Who responds to arguments by punching people in the mouth while their talking?
Do Nazis do this, or do idealists do this?

Who fetishizes beating up people who disagree with them?  Do Nazis do this, or do idealists do this?

Also, historically, groups that have fetishized violence have ended up in some pretty dark places.
For example, the Japanese Red Army (an off-shoot of the Japanese student movement) ended up killing many of its own members who weren't ideologically pure enough.  That's pretty extreme, of course, and we're nowhere near that level now.  But it's important to realize that this wasn't something that happened overnight to them either.  This was a result of spending years in an intellectual environment in which violence was seen as acceptable.
In other words, this kind of stuff has to be nipped in the bud NOW, or we will not like where we end up 10 years from now.
Stop celebrating it when someone gets punched in the face.


The Daily Show from May 5, 2015.

Watch this clip, but instead of thinking about shooting someone, substitute in punching someone.

See also: Thoughts on Non-Violence

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on Freedom of Speech and Anti-Fascism


Whisky Prajer said...

Yeah, this is right off the kindergarten playground -- only there aren't any adults to intervene and nudge the kids towards the responsible behaviours we associate with adulthood.

Joel Swagman said...

Exactly. Amazingly immature, and by people who are old enough to know better.
It's going to be a rough 4 years.