When people go out to shop for apples, they’re bound to spot a few bad ones. One is losing its color, another’s side succumbs to a slight touch and another’s stem is surrounded by a thin layer of dust. Some apples simply don’t make the cart because they won’t appeal to our tastes. The average shopper drops those apples where they found them, leaving them to rot.
Apples and ideas can be comparable. Regardless of varieties in taste, when one is rotting, it’s just gross. Yet unlike apples, when people spot rotting ideas there’s a difficulty in leaving them to wait through their process of decay.
Richard Spencer is a contemporary bad apple, a really bad apple. His writings and ideas are violent. He has asked whether or not genocide is a considerable race resolution. For many, he is an embodiment of evil.
That’s why a debate was sparked after he was filmed being struck in the face by a masked assailant during Donald Trump’s inauguration. Was it OK? Should we be able to punch Nazis?
My opinion is no. I do not believe people should punch “Nazis” because you should not punch anyone who is not going to strike you.
I’ll discuss two reasons for my opinion. One is a discomfort for creating any standard that condones violence against a peaceful individual. Richard Spencer may have written about violence, but is there credible evidence to suggest he has the means of bringing it about? I think this relates to labeling someone as a Nazi.
I’m irritated by quick associations. For years, I’ve heard different groups of people in different ideological groupings referred to as nazis, and by most understandings they were never even close to Nazis. They were usually political oppositions in relation to the one referring to them as Nazis.
But isn’t Richard Spencer an actual nazi? My opinion is that it’s hard to say. He’s a racist, an extreme nationalist and a white supremacist. But is he a Nazi? The Nazis that most people would agree should be resisted to the most extreme degree were those defeated in WWII. The contemporary Nazi is someone like Richard Spencer. A political figure on the outermost fringes of the contemporary political scene, although certainly within it. I could concede calling Richard Spencer a Nazi, but I do it apprehensively because I worry of who could be next.
Race is at the center of political thought right now, and I’m not one to leave that unacknowledged. Nor am I unaware that I have never been a person persecuted by groups like Nazis.
Regardless, I am no less concerned about quick associations. Is Richard Spencer a Nazi worth hitting because he writes about genocide, or because he’s a racist? I assume his racist beliefs are one reason why people took joy in his assault.
But does this make striking a racist acceptable? Recently I read of the case involving Sidney Chan, a U.K. student rugby player that was recently cleared of assault charges by a U.K. court. I read about how Chan had been charged after a bar patron was left bleeding in a parking lot with a broken nose and eye socket. He had thrown a racial slur towards Chan.
I bring this case up not because of its details, but because of the context I saw it in. There were tens of thousands of people who had liked a tweet that shared the article’s descriptive headline with the caption “fuckin right he did”. If it’s OK to punch a Nazi, is it OK to punch a racist?
My second reason for my belief is that bad ideas should be left to stand against the free market of ideas. People should be aware of the existence of extreme forms of racism. It is imperative to know about this reality. But to violently engage it gives the idea an unwanted level of validation and attention. To assault an idea is to show it’s rejected, but simultaneously shows that it’s worthy of fear.
My opinion rests on the assumption that Richard Spencer isn’t anything more to fear then a bad apple in a grocery store should be. For all the bad apples, there are usually countless other healthy ones with their own unique tastes and differences. I believe his status as a public figure necessitates that we as people know that the sorts of ideologies people like him espouse still exist in the world, but end there by adamantly turning attention towards more worthwhile ones. Embody the values and ideas we want to exist and leave the bad ones out to rot.
News Editor | Class of 2017 | Major: Political Science | Minor: English