In 2016, a video of white nationalist Richard Spencer being punched in the face by an unidentified assailant went viral. As it did so, a question that was first asked in World War Two rose to the surface of public debate again: is it morally permissible to punch a Nazi? Some consider these increasingly-publicized acts of violence to be slippery slopes that endanger free speech and compromise morals, while others consider games of whack-a-fascist to be their God-given right, as well as their moral duty.
No, it's not okay to punch NazisShow moreShow less
Punching Nazis might sound satisfying, but if we want to uphold our morality, both individually and societally, we must find other means to mitigate the threat of fascism.
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Violence isn't a long-term solution
Though punching a Nazi might shut them up momentarily, it will neither effect their actions or correct their beliefs in the long run.
Punching a Nazi is like eating an Oreo when you’re sad; it’s instant gratification that will actually do more harm than good in the long run. Sure, it will feel cathartic or even productive for a brief moment-but after you finish the sleeve (or your fascist opponent walks away with a bloody nose,) what happens next? In all likelihood, the Nazi will remain the exact same. It’s not as though being punched will change their worldviews or affect their actions. If anything, they may use the act of aggression perpetrated against them as a rallying cry for their comrades, or as “proof” that their opposition is more violent than they are.
The real solution to this issue is far more complex and nuanced than standalone acts of aggression can address. To truly dismantle the fascist, white supremacist worldviews held by modern Nazis, we must focus on re-education rather than the vigilante justice system proposed by self-proclaimed Nazi-punchers. In this way, we can rise above the violence of their belief systems and secure our democratic values from the threat of fascism.
In many cases (especially for the most die-hard neo-Nazis) “re-education” is not a feasible option. Sure, we can tell them about the errors in their worldviews and the fundamental importance of human rights for all, but for so many of these people who have been entrenched in their bigoted belief systems for years, such attempts will make little difference. It soon becomes evident that more aggressive means of stopping fascism-like Nazi-punching-must be implemented.