Tuesday, January 24, 2017

So, I spent this afternoon getting into an argument in someone's Facebook comment thread.  (A waste of time, I know.)

10 or so years ago, this same discussion would have occurred in a blogger comment thread.  But since Facebook has killed the age of peak blogging, all the interesting discussion happens over on Facebook walls.

But as for me, I never really gave up on the blog, so any interesting discussion I have I like to post over here instead.

The thread started with a post of this video here.

Spencer LL Cool J Edition from Anon2World on Vimeo.

Several people commented on how satisfying it was to watch a Nazi get punched.

Then, just to be a smart-ass, I commented:
This will teach that Nazi. I bet the last thing he wanted was all this attention...wait...

My friend Rob responded:
I'm gonna put more blame on whoever was interviewing him for that one since they were the ones willingly giving him a platform.

And I said:
Well, anyways, you can imagine how mortified he is now that he's become an Internet meme. These guys hate attention. We really showed him.

And my Rob friend said:
A valid point, but there are some pretty glaring examples in history of how ignoring nazis didn't make them go away

....which, to be fair, is actually a pretty valid point.  So I let it go at that.

Or at least I would have, if  a 3rd friend hadn't entered the conversation.  This 3rd friend was Philip, the conservative of the group (every group has one) and he accused us liberals of being intolerant of freedom of speech.
He ended his comment by calling me out by name specifically, and asking if I was okay with this behavior.  I responded:
If my sarcasm wasn't already apparent in my comments above, then I'll be direct here. I think it's counter productive. These guys thrive off attention. This was the best thing to ever happen to Richard Spencer. He's gotten tons of new twitter followers from this, he gets his name in all the papers, and now he gets to play the martyr.

Philip responded:
With respect Joel, that is not an answer. If it was productive (whatever that means) would it be OK? Is it OK to assault someone for having different views?

So I said:
In my opinion Philip you're asking the wrong question. The issue is, to quote Joseph Fouche, "This was worse than a crime, it was a blunder." But to answer your question for the record, yes it is wrong to punch someone who is only expressing their opinion.

The debate then entered a 3-way turn.  Rob expressed the opinion that it was good to punch Nazis, I expressed the opinion that it was a tactical error, and Philip expressed the opinion that this incident showed liberals didn't respect freedom of speech.  But since Philip and Rob were mostly engaged in a different argument, I'll omit that and just focus on me and Rob.

Rob (to Philip):
I haven't called for any legal action against Spencer and I believe his freedom of speech is perfectly intact. As for your battles, I'm just saying I wish you were half as interested in standing up against racism and misogyny as you are in standing up for a nazi

The idea, though, that we can punch our way to a tolerant society is misleading. It plays right into Richard Spencer's hands

 I'll agree that we can't punch our way to a tolerant society but nazis are a much bigger road block to a tolerant society than punching nazis is

 But this just increases Richard Spencer's visibility. And when it increases his visibility, we give him a greater platform for his views. This whole incident has been one great wet dream for Richard Spencer. He is playing liberals like you

I kinda doubt that. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think people are gonna go from 0 to genocidal over this. I think trump and his connections with the alt-right have already done more damage than this could possibly do

 I never said that this was going to take us from 0 to genocide. What I'm arguing is that this gives Richard Spencer an increased prominence that is not reflective of how representative his views are in America. Instead of stopping Nazis this kind of thing just encourages them. These guys thrive off of getting into fights like this. They're hoping you will punch them. It takes all the focus away from their arguments, and makes them into media personalities instead.

From what I've seen of nazis in Georgia, they don't wait for opportunities, they create them. The more comfortable they feel, the worse it is for everyone else

We may just have to disagree on this Rob.
Final thoughts: http://fredrikdeboer.com/2017/01/23/everybody-got-some/

That link isn't working.

Damn it. Okay, never mind then.

Editor's note: That link above is working again, and well worth reading.
Anyway, it probably should have ended there, but then several hours later another friend named Tom chimed in.  And I accepted the bait and jumped right back into the argument.

In my opinion violence is sometimes justified, and is always subjective. I wouldn't have hit him but it doesn't bother me that someone else did.

Alright, let's try this as a thought experiment then.
In 1965, John Lewis was beaten on national TV by a racist White state Trooper. The image was broadcast all across America on the news. Now, whose cause was best served by the widespread distribution of this image? Did it help the civil rights movement, or did it help the racists?

This is an unfair and problematic comparison. Broadcasts like these forced white people to see injustices that had been going on for ages and they had just been ignoring. John Lewis and countless others were (and still are) beaten and systematically oppressed by the state. There is no such oppression against white supremacists, who have been coddled by the state, and nothing is being exposed here. We're not going have masses of people moved by the plight of the nazis - just a handful of people like Philip who are insecure about society being less accommodating of systems that give them unearned privileges. Yes, Spencer is going to get a few more Google hits and YouTube subscribers (although I'm sure this is nothing compared to what trump has done for breitbart), but this could also help people on the left and center finally move away from the whole "hey let's hear them out" trend they've been on when hearing them out means giving a platform to genocidal hate speech

Yes, it's great theatre for the people already on our side. Meanwhile it convinces people like Philip that the left does not respect freedom of speech. But fuck people like Philip, right, because we've already got all the votes we need and we're winning every election. Oh...wait...

Ok, but can we please never ever ever compare nazis and the civil rights movement again?

I'm not drawing an equivalency between Nazis and black people. I'm comparing the tactics of allowing yourself to be beaten in front of the TV camera versus the tactic of punching someone in front of a TV camera. When you provoke someone into hitting you in front of a TV camera, you have won. When you hit someone in front of a TV camera, you have lost. Dr King understood this. That's why you never saw Dr King punching Nazis on TV.

I doubt that's the only reason, honestly.

Can that tactic still carry water when there is no real injustice to expose, though? The puncher will rightfully be arrested and punished and justice will be served. Spencer remains free to say whatever he wants.

Sidenote: it bothers me whenever anyone says that this is a violation of freedom of speech (it simply isn't) but remains quiet when police brutalize protesters, like in North Dakota, or just laugh it off as "lol liberal tears"

Yes, exactly, Spencer remains free to say whatever he wants. Only now he's got increased prominence and he can shift the narrative to talking about how the Left suppresses free speech.

>>but remains quiet when police brutalize protesters, like in North Dakota, or just laugh it off as "lol liberal tears"

It bothers me too. But what to do about it? How to convert those people? I guess we just didn't punch enough people. That will bring everyone around to our side.

My worry is that the nazi sympathisers will now feel more justified and protected (because trump is in power) to beat up any 'snowdrop' liberal troublemakers.
I can see this spiraling.
Can we all agree that he now has à higher profile but it was funny?

I've been thinking about it and his higher profile comes with a caveat. Spencer doesn't want to be labeled a nazi and it hurts image to be called one. At no point during the arguing have I seen anyone suggest that Spencer is anything other than a nazi.

Other than that, yeah punching doesn't really change anything but boy is it satisfying to see a nazi get what every nazi deserves


Another friend entered the conversation next (Jeff):
here is a wide swathe of the population that is just unreachable. To borrow from our Orwell conversation, they believe 2+2=5 and will not be swayed. Attempting to engage with them is simply a waste of time. They will only come around when the shit hits the fan, but even then they'll blame the LIBTARDS, the LAMESTREAM media, Clinton, Obama, George Soros, Muslims, Mexicans, everyone but themselves.

Harlan Ellison — 'You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.'

Jeff, I hear your frustration. But let's talk strategy. How will we win in 2018?  Is punching more people the answer?

No comments: