I’m no stranger to violence. This isn’t to suggest I’m in any way, shape or form, a violent person. Rather, I abhor it in all its forms, but as with anything, there is a boundary. Sometimes, that boundary gets crossed and you’re left with no choice but to engage in it. Never once have I ever engaged in it without reason. I’ve had aggressively drunk patrons calling me every slur they could think of, inches away from my face, to the point where I could taste the alcohol-flavored spittle erupt from their mouths as they screamed. Not once did I take action against them other than look them in the eye and inform them that it was time to leave.
Most times, they left without further incident. But at least once every weekend, someone would try their luck against me.
I’m not a particularly good fighter, let’s get that out of the way right away. There is no way I would willingly go out to look for a fight. No time in my life have I ever thrown the first punch. But when you were dealing with drunken patrons that felt like their masculinity was being challenged because I put a stop to abhorrent behavior, fights aren’t as much of a challenge as one might thing. In that state, they’ve got more confidence than balance or precision.
That said, when you’re in that environment for long enough, you soon start to learn the form and function that violence usually takes. You learn the value of stoicism, and you learn the triggers and psychological mechanisms that go into play when violence is engaged. You also learn how it stems from different personality types on both sides of the gender gap. Neurotics tend to fight when they feel threatened, as opposed to when they are threatened, for instance.
There was a time, not long ago, that I remember most people wholeheartedly rejected violence, especially in the political spheres. But with the rise of the Trump phenomenon, it appears that has changed. During one of his rallies, a Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester inside the auditorium. Outside of his rallies, Trump supporters were being chased down and beaten by what could only be described as a lynch mob. After the election, protesters felt they could bar people’s access on public roads. Some people felt differently. But the worst I’ve seen came after the inauguration, when a Black Bloc mob of protesters flooded the streets, with the sole intent of causing violence and riots.
Countless incidents of violence occurred. Very few, it seems, from the pro-Trump crowd themselves. From looking into it, I could only find one example of violence against anti-Trump protesters, and it’s not entirely clear whether or not the man was a Trump supporter, or just a man who wanted to get to work and forced his way through a poorly-conceived blockade that was only too happy to let women pass through unchallenged. Even then, he only attacked them after being prodded with a flag pole and spat upon by one of the protesters. Thankfully, the police witnessed it and the only arrest made was one of the protesters.
Even in Canada, a female reporter for The Rebel was assaulted by an anti-Trump protester on camera who insisted she had no right to film him or ask him questions. According to the rights afforded to photographers in Canada, she absolutely did. After a reward was posted, his identity was soon discovered and he learned that he doesn’t get to pick and choose who gets rights and who doesn’t, as he was charged.
But, perhaps the most infamous example is the random attack on Richard Spencer, a self-described alt-right personality, who had been in the midst of explaining the meaning behind the Pepe the Frog pin on his lapel when he was blindsided by a man dressed in black with his face covered.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to defend the ideas of white nationalism. I think they’re mostly backward and have no place or reason to exist on land that is 99.1% populated by immigrants. Most of their rhetoric I find disagreeable, and they aren’t people that I would ever ally myself with.
But committing random acts of violence against them isn’t justice. It isn’t the right thing to do. Regardless of his stance, Richard Spencer has rights. The very same rights afforded to him by the United States constitution. The very same rights shared by each and every American citizen living on American soil. That includes being protected by police from random attacks by violent thugs that might need to read a little bit of Nietchze before they’re allowed to opine politically.
I’ve often heard it said: “White supremacists don’t understand dialogue. They only respond to action.”
Let’s assume that’s true for a moment. What kind of response do you think they’re likely to have against actions taken against them? Do you truly believe they’re just going to rub their jaw and laugh it off? Unlikely. You implicitly give them license to take action against you. And if, to you any old White Nationalist is worthy of being punched, then consider who they deem worthy of being punched in retaliation.
During my training as a bouncer, I was instructed to watch the film Roadhouse to glean the philosophy of the job. The message in the film was very clear. To mitigate violence, you could not be an aggressor. The moment you are violent, you must expect it to be returned, and there are numerous options available to you to prevent it before it erupts. (My personal favorite was to encourage their friends and peers to mock them.) It’s quite literally, even in the eyes of the law in many states and provinces the world over, permission to engage in violence against one another.
My stance on it is the same as it always was. Words are not violence. Even hate speech, as much as we despise and deplore it, is not violence. I would prefer white supremacists spew hateful rhetoric over the course of my lifetime than commit a single act. So I allow them to speak– and then I speak against it. I allow them to have their conferences, and then I stand outside and speak to remind them that they’re wrong. Because the moment we disallow them from speaking in public about their views, we force them into basements. And when they’re forced into the dark corners of the world, they’re not just going to talk; they’re going to act. And if there’s anything history tells me about them, it’s that they’re better at violence than I am.
So, when is it okay to punch a white nationalist?
When they throw the first punch. When they’re just running their mouths, that’s all the power they have– to run their mouths in opposition to an entire country that despises what they stand for. (For evidence of this, weigh the turnout for white nationalist conferences versus the turnout for, say, feminist conferences.) White nationalism and supremacy are not the popular voice in America, and have no been for a very long time– longer even than most of us have been alive, despite many people’s narrow-minded and puerile view on working-class Trump voters. When they’re attacked like Spencer was, you give them power that they didn’t have before– permission to fight back. Permission that many bystanders will accept because they saw, on national news, a man getting hit in the face at random while speaking calmly. We cannot and must not give them that permission.
Groups like AntiFa and other Black Bloc extremists fail to grasp this very simple concept. You cannot fight Fascism, real or assumed, with more Fascism. Because no matter which side wins the fight, it’s Fascism that takes the trophy.