Richard Spencer Gets Punched in the Face

White nationalist Richard Spencer punched in the face camera while doing interview

Personally, I am having some trouble reconciling a general disapproval of violence as a substitute for reasoned discussion with absolute visceral delight.

And you?

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180 thoughts on “Richard Spencer Gets Punched in the Face

  1. Balbir Sodhi was shot on September 15th, 2001, as part of a backlash against the attacks on 9/11.

    While it’s technically true that he was a Sikh and not a Muslim, you have to understand the mindset of the person who shot him.

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    • Wrong.

      This argument rests on some sort of conflation of an innocent person completely uninvolved with the events of 9/11 with someone who is leading an attempt resurgence of Nazi ideology. Those are… not even close to the same thing.

      Then again, you focused not on the target of the violence and whether or not he was deserving but on the FEELZ of the person who used violence.

      Which… has nothing to do with Mike’s point, given that he was talking about his own conflicted response.

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        • No one here is saying Nazis should have the ever loving shit kicked out of them. Again, Mike made one statement and it was about the conflicted feelings he had regarding disapproval of violence in general and visceral joy that this particular act of violence brought him. Nothing about what should or should not happen or about what is or is not right. Just Mike’s personal reflection on his response to the incident.

          But you want to attack Nazi Detectors who believe Nazis should be attacked. Why don’t you go find those people and talk to them?

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          • Because, much like with the Death Penalty, we get into questions of “okay, so then what?” real quick.

            Do you support the death penalty for Dylann Roof?

            His case is a real easy case that gets rid of a lot of “is that your *TRUE* rejection?” questions. You don’t get to hide behind “maybe he’s not really guilty of what he’s accused of” counter-arguments. You don’t get to hide behind “maybe the prosecution engaged in shenanigans and maybe the police did too” counter-arguments.

            You just have to look at him and conclude that either some people just need killin’ or they don’t.

            And if you conclude that some people just need killin’, because… hey, some people just need killin’, you realize that you’re also going to be asking questions about Troy Davis and whether Troy Davis should have been put to death.

            And I appreciate that you really, really, really, really don’t want me to talk about Troy Davis when you’re using Dylann Roof as your example for why you are okay with selective application of the death penalty.

            And, hey, if all we’re doing is looking at Dylann Roof, it’s easy to conclude “hey, that’s why we have the death penalty” and get really, really mad at the people who bring up Troy Davis.

            But do you think you can keep Dylann Roof on death row without also Troy Davis somehow ending up on it?

            To bring us back to punching Nazis, sure. It’s real easy to look at Richard Spencer and think “Hey, Nazis *SHOULD* be punched!”

            But, next thing you know, you’re not quite able to keep a laser focus on just this one particular Nazi and this one particular punch, are you?

            For what it’s worth, if Dylann Roof gets the death penalty, I won’t particularly shed a tear. Some people need killing.

            For what it’s worth, I agree with the narrow thesis of the original post: it’s real easy to look at Richard Spencer and think “Some Nazis Need Punching”.

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            • That’s an excellent analogy. I don’t have a problem with looking at someone like Dylann Roof and saying that he richly deserves to die for his crimes. Hell, make it a slow, painful, agonizing death if all we’re talking about is deserts. But that’s not the same as saying the death penalty is a good policy or that anything in particular will be accomplished by his execution or that it’s the objectively morally correct course of action.

              Spencer richly deserves a pop in the snoot. It’s still a bad idea and should be condemned.

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              • You know how we’re all sick of me saying “War or Divorce”?

                We’re discussing the whole “well, under what circumstances is violence that comes short of murder okay?” topic.

                You think that this genie is going to go back in the (redacted) bottle?

                “Hey! I know! I’ll try to limit the discussion to just this one very particular case! That’ll work!”

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                • I don’t know if you follow Peter Turchin, who has been analyzing recent trends in political violence in relation to historical patterns, which he has argued indicate that the 2020s will be a period of heightened political and social instability that may be the greatest in living memory. He’s now answered his critics with a date at which this will be obvious and measurable: it’s 2025.

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                • “You think that this genie is going to go back in the (redacted) bottle?”

                  Jaybird, we made sure to write “USE FOR GOOD REASONS ONLY” on the side of the bottle. Look, it’s right there in big black Sharpie-marker, “GOOD REASONS ONLY”.

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                    • But why are you asking ME if I support the death penalty for Dylan Roof?

                      I don’t doubt that that conversation is happening out there in the wild. The fact is, it doesn’t seem to be happening here. Do you want that conversation to happen here? If so, take a stance and allow others to respond if they so choose. I bet you won’t see much of a discussion, certainly not what is happening out there in the wild.

                      If you want to get into what’s happening out in the wild, well, go out into the wild. You’ve already found a path there.

                      If you want to discuss what those people are saying, then discuss what those people are saying with clarity about who is saying what and where.

                      If you want people here to take a position you see out there because you find it objectionable and you want to object to those people… just stop. No one likes when you do that, it is disingenuous, and it pretty clearly goes against the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish here.

                      This isn’t hard.

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                      • Because I wanted to reorient your thoughts, which are still cooking, to a topic where your thoughts were already cooked in the hopes of making you think about something in another way entirely.

                        In asking you about Dylann Roof, you immediately went to the whole issue of how you don’t support the death penalty, even for Dylann Roof.

                        And I was hoping to direct your thoughts away from “it feels good to see a Nazi get punched in the face and feeling things is a perfectly valid and defensible response to stimuli” to “holy shit, I need to game this out”.

                        After gaming it out, *THEN* you can figure out whether settling back into a comfortable “well, emotions are reasonable responses to external stimuli” response is the proper response or whether “holy shit, I need to get other people to say ‘holy shit'” is the proper response.

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                        • “In asking you about Dylann Roof, you immediately went to the whole issue of how you don’t support the death penalty, even for Dylann Roof.”

                          When did I do this?

                          “And I was hoping to direct your thoughts away from “it feels good to see a Nazi get punched in the face and feeling things is a perfectly valid and defensible response to stimuli” to “holy shit, I need to game this out”.”

                          When did I indicate those were my thoughts?

                          It seems you have had a whole conversation with me but only in your head.

                          If you want to do all that orienting and re-orienting and whatever, do so explicitly and transparently please. At least with regards to me.

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                          • When did I do this?

                            I imagine a couple of months ago, when we were discussing Ta-Nehesi’s essay on Dylann Roof getting the death penalty. (I don’t have an exact time.)

                            When did I indicate those were my thoughts?

                            You’re indicating that they are your thoughts now.

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                              • I know you oppose the death penalty, Kazzy. Even when it comes to Roof. Hell, opposing the death penalty *ENTAILS* opposing it for Roof.

                                Whether you take a stance is beside the point, by this point in the process.

                                But you will wish that you had at least written something down at some point before having had written something down becomes completely irrelevant.

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                                • We’ve gone way off the reservation. You have now made repeated assertions about things I’ve said and when I pointed out I did not say those things, you’ve either doubled-down or evaded. Is it that hard to admit you’re wrong?

                                  I think punching Nazis for the beliefs they hold or things they say is wrong. I do not think Spencer should have been punched. My initial reaction was, “Ugh!” because I thought this would cause more problems than whatever value it may offer (per ) below. I have little sympathy for Spencer. As a non-Jew who sends his children to a JCC which has now sent three emails saying, “We aren’t one of the JCCs to get bomb threats but we’re upping security anyway,” and with many Jewish friends (including my ex, I understand Mike’s visceral response. I’m bothered by folks who are celebrating or advocating this behavior.

                                  Clear enough for ya?

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          • For the record, despite my own position, which I made abundantly clear on my FB feed, a brief discussion that I think did contribute, I had the same conflicted feeling he did.

            Part of me deplored it. Part of me remembered the famous Chris Tucker line from Friday.

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  2. I’m not worked up about the punch. Its a minor incident involving a guy who doesn’t matter who did a lot to earn what happened to him.

    I’m pissing vinegar mad about the general reaction of many people I’m ideologically allied with by celebrating the thing like its Christmas. Yeah he’s a scumbag, but the scumbag has rights and they were just violated. That’s a rule that protects us all. We don’t have to respect anything about the prick except his basic rights but he still has those regardless of what he’s done.

    I have very little respect for those that mistake schadenfreude for righteousness. The idea that this consitutes pre-emptive self-defense is paper thin justification.

    This isn’t an endorsement of non-violence or pacifism as a concept, because I don’t hold to them. Its a recognition that there are justified and unjustified uses of violence, and the justification that “he’s a Nazi” doesn’t hold up to moral scrutiny.

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    • Exactly. If it doesn’t apply to your enemies, it’s tribalism, not conviction. Pre-emptive self-defense such as this example is nothing more than a lame excuse for becoming exactly like the people we criticized for punching protesters at Trump rallies, and cheering about it is no less repulsive when our tribe does it.

      I’m also not real happy about all the trash left behind at this past weekend’s protest marches. Now is not the time to be abandoning principles and setting bad examples.

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    • The guy that punched him was — as best I can tell — one of those black bloc morons.

      You know, the handful of literally, flag-waving (hilarious!) anarchists that hang around the edges of big protests specifically to trash stuff?

      They don’t hang around the center because people stop them. They hang around the edges where there’s too few normal protesters to stop them and plenty of room to leg it after they’ve trashed something and the cops show up.

      I’m pretty sure some people would like to make this a big social “thing” — but in the end it was an anarchist idiot punching a white supremacist in the face. It’s about as meaningful as a local bar brawl.

      It might be funny to some, but then American culture has found punching Nazi’s to be funny for decades, so that’s probably not really meaningful either.

      I wish Spencer luck in identifying his assailant, as even Nazi’s should be able to trust the criminal and civil courts of America.

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        • Anarchists aren’t about anything, and this particular group is particularly annoying. You can seem them going back decades. They’re always the same. All black, hoodies and face masks, occasionally with the anarchist flag (which clearly indicates they’re twenty-somethings who don’t even understand the point) and they hang around the edges to stir crap up, break stuff, and run away.

          There’s nothing anyone can do about them. There’s no protest king and protest security to kick them out, they avoid areas where there’s enough protesters to stop their crap, and they seem to exist solely to break stuff and then leg it. If you’ve ever seen the start of the pepper-spraying and crack-downs when they’re involved, what you get is the handful of people doing things are already gone by the time the police respond, so the people getting a faceful of pepper spray rarely even noticed it happening much less participated.

          Which often infuriates them, as from their PoV they were protesting peacefully then cops whipped out pepper spray and batons and it all went sideways.

          Calling them “agent provocateurs” is wrong (they’re not working for anyone). They’re real life trolls whose primary goal is enthusiastic and pointless destruction, with bonus points for getting innocent people maced.

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            • Those nutjobs have been around since, oh, at least the early 90s. They’re not a new phenomenon.

              Most people going out for a protest don’t know those black bloc idiots even exist, much less the way they use protests as camouflage for their jollies.

              Calling them “deplorables” implies they’re some new protesters, some new group arising out of the election. They’re an anarchist group that’s been around decades and exists to do exactly what you saw: Find a protest, break stuff and set it on fire, then run away while innocent protesters take a can of mace to the face.

              They’re not left or right or conservative or liberal. They’re anarchists, and care nothing for your pedestrian political labels. Only breaking stuff because…well honestly, something-something-something-new-world-something-elite-something-I-just-like-to-burn-stuff-but-don’t-want-to-go-to-jail-something.

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      • “I’m pretty sure some people would like to make this a big social “thing” ”

        I’m pretty sure that tons of people all over America have already made this a “big social ‘thing'”, in fact, and it means something to look at who is most loudly and gleefully making it a thing.

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        • Back in 2001-2002, a variety of people forwarded around a “How to deal with an anti-war protester” that, literally, was “Punch them in the face until they understand pacifism doesn’t work”.

          The same people who passed that around — and I mean that literally, because I can see the same people doing it on my Facebook feed — are Deeply Concerned About What it Means For Society that an anarchist punched a Nazi.

          I don’t take them or their concerns seriously. At best, it’s an attempt to gin up manufactured outrage to detract from a series of large protests. At worst, it’s an acknowledgement that it’s okay to literally punch liberals and no one else.

          You know what happens in life? Sometimes people get punched. We have a whole class of laws dealing with it. Heck, we even have free speech cases that touch on it (I suspect “talking while being Richard Spencer” probably qualifies as “fighting words”).

          It’s a thing that happens. It happens in bars over literally nothing. It happens at sporting events. I’ve even seen it happen between friends.

          And sometimes, when someone is punched, a bunch of people say “That guy had it coming”. Conservatives say it about people. Liberals say it about people. Completely apolitical people say it about people.

          I’m not going to suddenly decide, after 40 years of life, that suddenly this is a huge thing that concerns people when I’ve seen people get punched and others respond “That guy had it coming” more times than I can count.

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            • Because that’s clearly what I said.

              You know what happens in life? Sometimes people get punched. We have a whole class of laws dealing with it. Heck, we even have free speech cases that touch on it (I suspect “talking while being Richard Spencer” probably qualifies as “fighting words”).

              It’s a thing that happens. It happens in bars over literally nothing. It happens at sporting events. I’ve even seen it happen between friends.

              And sometimes, when someone is punched, a bunch of people say “That guy had it coming”. Conservatives say it about people. Liberals say it about people. Completely apolitical people say it about people.

              I’m not going to suddenly decide, after 40 years of life, that suddenly this is a huge thing that concerns people when I’ve seen people get punched and others respond “That guy had it coming” more times than I can count.

              Yep. Clearly.

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              • I dunno hoss, you’re the one who said Back in 2001-2002, a variety of people forwarded around a “How to deal with an anti-war protester” that, literally, was “Punch them in the face until they understand pacifism doesn’t work”.

                The same people who passed that around — and I mean that literally, because I can see the same people doing it on my Facebook feed — are Deeply Concerned About What it Means For Society that an anarchist punched a Nazi.

                I don’t take them or their concerns seriously.

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              • And, y’know. I’m entirely on board with the idea of this being Just The Kind Of Thing That Happens And Stuff, but when people got drummed out of Trump rallies for being obstreperous it wasn’t played off as “Just The Kind Of Thing That Happens”.

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  3. This just increased Spenser’s notability and public persona. He’s not just a nazi loser now, he is the controversial guy who got attacked!!! The news will pay more attention to him. CNN will cover him now cause there might be blood. People who never heard of him now have or at least know who he is. So a dollop of Streisand Effect and toss another briquette on the already inflamed American love of Righteous Violence.

    How about don’t be violent unless you being attacked. Mock him, pun him, belittle him. If you can’t clown on that dipstick then you shouldn’t be on the front lines of fighting nazis. The public who don’t pay attention to the nazis wont’ see any difference between him and the good guys.

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    • Even if you are going to go pure cold-blooded anti-fascism above all else, a punch does nothing to shut the man up. On the balance of probabilities it likely gives him more voice rather than less.

      If it is essential to use violence to silence Spencer, then that’s done with a bullet, not a fist. As Machiavelli would say, its politically useless to give a man a minor injury they easily recover from. If you are citing WW2 as a precedent, this is what you are invoking the right to do, not give him a tap in the face.

      If you aren’t willing to go that far, then your “shutting up Nazis with violence” plan has serious holes in it. In that its not actually going to work.

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      • If this was a matter of pranking Spencer, I mean go at it, that would be great.

        The people taking an offensive amount of glee in it aren’t talking about it as a a harmless humilation. They’re saying you should have kicked him when he was down.

        I understand the schadenfreude. I have the schadenfreude. I can’t contenence those that recomend this action as policy for everyone.

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      • For this to work the way you’re talking about, you have to use a pie.

        If you don’t want to spend too much, a pie tin and Wal-Mart branded whipped petroleum product will suffice.

        You can’t use a punch. That’s too visceral.

        You have to use a pie.

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        • If the goal would have been to throw a pie then there would have been a pie. I remember someone here mentioning the thin veil covering the violence of the right. How does that look in the mirror now.

          This is just further adding to the kinetic nature of social constructs. Factions are built to escalate. There would be no need for them otherwise.

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        • It’s possible to be funny and gracious after being hit by a pie. Admittedly, not everyone can pull it off (Trump would be homicidal), but picture Joe Biden or John McCain after being pied, reassuring people that no harm was done except to their egos and joking about the taste. They’d be more likable than before. Since Spencer is a soft-spoken, polite Nazi, he might be able to do that too.

          Being punched in the face is different. if you’re a good guy (think Obama), you can make it into a lesson about violence. (“I’m sure there were lots of folks who enjoyed seeing it. Heck, there are people I’d enjoy seeing punched! Not naming names now … (pause for audience laughter.) But that’s not how we settle things in our democracy.”) But if you’re trying to seem powerful, and Nazis are all about power, it’s a humiliation there’s no way around.

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          • But if you’re trying to seem powerful, and Nazis are all about power, it’s a humiliation there’s no way around.

            Is Spencer more or less powerful today than he was at this point last week?

            As far as I can tell, this humiliation he’s suffered is accelerating things rather than slowing him down.

            A pie? A pie might not have worked… but it would have gotten horselaughs all around and the opportunity to mock the people who talk about “what if they put *ANTHRAX* in the whipped cream!” rather than…

            Well, what we’ve got right now and what we’re going to have tomorrow and you won’t *BELIEVE* what we’re going to have next week.

            A pie? A pie *COULD* have worked (even if we don’t know that it necessarily *WOULD* have).

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              • I hope you’re right.

                I suspect that something awful is being normalized and we’re going to wish that we had done a better job of explaining that it’s never okay to throw the first punch but, by god, it’s okay to throw the second.

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                • I think the idea that anything important turns on Spencer getting punched is wildly overblown, myself. I mean, seriously, if the future of America hinges on an antagonistic dick getting cold-cocked then the game is already over.

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                  • It’s not the Spencer getting punched that this stuff turns on.

                    It’s the people going on record explaining that, hey, sometimes you have to punch someone if you feel threatened by their speech and other people nodding vigorously that this stuff turns on.

                    My original example, waaaaaaaaaay up there, was Balbir Sodhi.

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                    • Personally, Jaybird, I think the problem arises by people like you making this incident into more than it actually is that imperils …. whatever you think is imperiled.

                      Personally, I don’t really give a rats ass about. I wouldn’t have punched him myself (well probably….) but if someone else did then good or bad on ‘im. His (or her) choice. All the resulting meta-stuff – including you going meta on the meta (always one level above the fray!!) – does more damage than the otherwise inconsequential punch did.

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                      • The incident itself is a little nothing.

                        Dude got punched, condemn it, move on.

                        But there’s a debate about this. Like, a *NATIONAL* debate. In the NYT and everything.

                        That’s where things are going to go wrong.

                        Dude, game this out. Where does this go? It’s all well and good to say “we shouldn’t focus on this” but we are (two posts today!) and we are representative of the society at large.

                        God help us.

                        Where do you see this going?

                        Well, here’s where I see it going: Civil War evolving from “Cold Civil War” to “Cold Civil War Thawing To Reach Violence Short Of Murder”.

                        From thence, “Cold Civil War With Targeted Assassinations From Time To Time”.

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                        • That’s where you see this going?!

                          I’ll give gaming this out a try. We have another day or two of discussing this ‘issue’ before we all move on.

                          Edited to add, we are not representative of society at large for a number of reasons.

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                          • We have another day or two of discussing this ‘issue’ before we all move on.

                            Exactly. Tomorrow morning early A.M. Trump will tweet something outrageous about 3-5 million illegals voting for Hillary and we’ll all forget about the political significance of The Spencer Punch. We’ll wonder why we thought it was such a big deal. Eg., “I can’t believe I thought that was such a big deal what with the NEW big deal Twitter en fuego.”

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                        • Hence my earlier comment: if anything important turns on Spencer getting punched then the game is already over. And perhaps more to the point, the antidote to worries that Spencer Punch constitutes a potentially game-ending disease is to reinforce the view that Spencer getting punched actually IS a nothing burger. Going meta on it (like D&R partisans), or meta-meta (like you’ve done), or even meta-meta-meta (like CK did) feeds the idea that hyperpartisanship is legitimate and justified here since climbing the meta-ladder is evidence that even so-called “nonpartisans” see this incident in hyperpartisan, hyperpolitical terms.

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                        • If it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal because liberals are supposed to be above this. If somebody got beaten up for burning the flag, it would barely be reported. People like me are supposed to be harmless except when our smugness hurts people’s fee-fees.

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                  • Well, if the future turns on THIS and no, say, cops pepper killing innocent citizens to the applause of people, I’d really like an explanation there.

                    You’d think the actual police force, with the full authority of the state, habitually getting away with far more violence and injury without even charges would be the problem.

                    Not a guy who got punched and who knows that, if the assailant is found, people will actually charge him seriously for assault.

                    “Well son, the straw that broke the camel’s back wasn’t when cops shot a twelve year old with a toy gun, or cops shot a man reaching for his identification like the officer demanded, or cops pepper spraying peaceful protesters, or when cops killed a guy for selling loose cigs on the street — all of whom faced no charges or farces of a trial, walking free despite being caught on tape — it was when a Nazi got punched by an anarchist. I mean the Nazi was fine, might have had a nice bruise for a day or so, but the real damage was social.

                    Because….we were all white supremacists that day. Getting punched by the vile fist of liberalism”.

                    Or…something.

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                        • “{{We really need to get rid of police unions….}}”

                          No, we don’t. You need to convince people that police should have stricter rules. Without police unions, you’ll still have the same police brutality, it’s just that the good cop will no longer have a pension and lower overtime pay.

                          Or in other words, you deserve a right to collectively bargain, even if you’re a Nazi.

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                          • Without police unions, you’ll still have the same police brutality,

                            If firing corrupt cops is an issue litigated by the union (which it is) then I think you’d have at least no worse brutality/corruption in a non-unionized force with the arrows pointing in a pretty positive direction.

                            And I gotta say that as a Dem voter from way back, and a self-identified political liberal (tho the HRC campaign is making me rethink that identification) I’ve never understood Democrats love of unions which prevent firing for obviously, except for CB agreements, fireable offenses. Teachers, cops. If people underperform, there should be a clear and easy way to fire them from their jobs, but unions prevent that.

                            If you want better cops, you need to break up the union.

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                            • These protections are a perk of the job. Take away tenure and teaching becomes a less attractive profession, other things being equal, and you get crappier teachers. Opposition to teacher’s unions always seems to be weirdly premised on this idea that if teachers have less bargaining power, the result will be no tenure but equal or higher pay. Seems at least as likely that the opposite will be true.

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                                • Yes, let’s take away the things that make the policing profession preferable to people who aren’t sociopaths.

                                  I mean, obviously, we can point to all the European countries that also don’t have police unions – oh wait, they do? Weird how those countries don’t have the same issues.

                                  It’s almost like collective bargaining rights aren’t the issue here.

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                            • No, , you need a population that doesn’t by massive margins, think cops are doing a good job. Go look at the polling – the populations approval of cops has gone up over the past year.

                              And as I’ve pointed out before, states with no collective bargaining rights aren’t exactly paradises for people being persecuted by the police either.

                              The cops don’t think it’s open season on “thugs” because of their union rep. They think that because large chunks of the population believe that.

                              As for teachers go, find me a way of measuring teaching achievement that I agree isn’t BS made up by “reformers” who want to get rid of older teachers and I’ll happily agree with you.

                              Until then, I’ll continue to think workers of any stripe having strong due process before they’re fired is something we should have more of, not less of in this country.

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          • When I read this,
            He got punched in a way that’s just humiliating, and then looked ridiculous trying to act tough afterward. Horselaughs all around, which is why it’s so much fun.

            my thought was that you were engaging in the type of pro-bullying behavior that bullies use: it’s funny when other people get hurt and it’s fun to watch the injured try to cope with being hurt/embarrassed. The key element is that someone you don’t like gets hurt and it’s funny, kind of what (I think) I was getting at when I wrote this piece.

            But now that you’ve clarified with this:

            But if you’re trying to seem powerful, and Nazis are all about power, it’s a humiliation there’s no way around.

            I realize that’s not exactly what you were saying. I guess I have two responses. The first is that even Nazis of the 1920s and 1930s liked to portray themselves as victims and used examples of attacks against them as reasons why decent people should support them. (I actually don’t have examples, but I think I’m right.)

            The second is that if you’re using “humiliation to expose as powerless someone who professes an ideology of power” as something legitimate, you’re in a sense also legitimizing the rules by which the neo-Nazi’s are playing. Maybe that type of approach is necessary (and I’m not sure you’re arguing it is, but you seem to be saying it’s at least a colorable argument). Maybe in order to advance a greater good, you need to become enough like your enemy to do so effectively. But even if it’s necessary, you’ve become like that against which you are fighting. It’s (arguably, at least sometimes) necessary, but that’s part of the cost. Maybe the blame is on what/who you are fighting and not the person fighting them, but the person doing the fighting has still become what they’ve become.

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            • I’m not excusing the behavior; I’m explaining why I got so much pleasure out of it. Which was the original point.

              I would not get any pleasure out of his being beaten bloody, much less permanently injured or killed. Which is enough of a difference that I don’t think we’re on the path to Nazihood.

              Here’s a hypothetical: Trump takes liberties with a woman, and a camera records her slapping his face. Is it OK to love that?

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                • My answer was too curt. Here’s a less curt version.

                  It is my belief that we all are potentially guilty of things just as awful as whatever evil thing you can think of. When we take joy out of others’ pain, even if the others’ deserve it, we’re tapping into that potential at least a little bit.

                  In your answer to me, you clarified that you weren’t excusing the behavior. You were just pointing out the conflict you feel between not condoning the violence and having an amused reaction. That, as I said, is “fair enough.” So thanks for clarifying that point. While I think anyone who believes they’re safe from enacting the type of evil that you-name-it represents, I misunderstood what you were saying.

                  To your hypothetical, I have some different answers. To recap:

                  Trump takes liberties with a woman, and a camera records her slapping his face. Is it OK to love that?

                  I probably would love to see that. If I saw it, I’d probably smile to someone get his comeuppance. I’d say that’s true even if he wasn’t assaulting the woman, but just trying when he shouldn’t have tried. If he was assaulting the woman, I’d go further and say the slap was justified. Even if he wasn’t assaulting her, a slap would be justified once she made it clear she wasn’t consenting. (In fact, once it’s clear she’s not consenting, it’s assault anyway. Maybe it’s assault before that’s clear, but it’s definitely assault after it’s made clear.)

                  I’m not sure what I’d do with replaying that slap for the internet. One concern would be Trumpers’ reaction to the woman. I could see a large number of “alpha male” types seeking her out and harrassing her with threatening mail or worse.

                  Another concern, though, is even that type of violence shouldn’t be celebrated. That may or may not be your point in raising the hypothetical, and I don’t believe you’re stating such a scene would be analogous to the sucker punch at issue in this thread. I believe that violence, even when necessary and justified, shouldn’t be celebrated.

                  Now, my belief, my feelings, and my practice can be three different things. I won’t say I’ve never “celebrated” violence (for whatever value we assign to “celebrate”), and I certainly consume popular culture that makes a lot of jokes, and not always ironic jokes, from violence (I watch Family Guy, for instance). But in sober second thought, I think it’s wrong to celebrate it.

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          • Yes. Glitter would have worked too.

            Might have been better. Glitter bombing could have become a thing. You can hide a film canister (remember those?) full of glitter a hell of a lot easier than a pie tin/tub of Cool Whip.

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            • You have seen the website that will send glitter bombs?
              Couldn’t get rid of that project soon enough…
              1) Create Website
              2) Get Buyers and Good Reviews
              3) Sell Website
              4) Run like hell!

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  4. As others have pointed out, getting punched in the face is probably a net win for Spencer.

    It’s natural to take a bit of glee in the misfortunes of people that we don’t like. The problem comes when you are more interested in hurting your enemies than in helping yourself. Do the game theory. That doesn’t end well.

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  5. Bottom line, I think if we still think we want to deplore violence, we have to be disciplined here, and deplore violence. But again – if. If OTOH we’re declaring violent rebellion or embracing some type of strategy of violent inter-group resistance, then that’s a whole different can of whoop-ass.

    But the jubilant defense this has received on Twitter etc. I think will work to the detriment of a resistance that aims to be peaceful. (That seems obvious on its face, doesn’t it?) As much as I completely sympathize with the impulse, as a matter of a considered political action, if you resist Trump, isn’t this very much part of what you have to be against? Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not totally sure.

    But it has seemed to me that the defense of this has been over-the-top in something of a calculated way. It’s seemed to me that people are acting in such a way that suggests that they know that the wise thing to do strategically here would be to deplore the violence. But they’re not emotionally capable of it right now. Most people are genuinely conflicted (though know what the right thing to do is.) But a tepid or conflicted defense would be the most damning. So the only thing to do is create a huge wave of exuberant cheering for it, in an attempt to flip the balance of feeling about it.

    I think it might have worked, actually. Which isn’t that surprising: he’s a Nazi.

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    • Interesting observations and they make some sense. Feelings are very raw right now especially among minorities and women and it seems like we are being asked by friends and potential allies to do really long olive branches.

      If a normal Trump supporter was sucker punched, I would be appalled but Richard Spencer is a real White Nationalist, not a run of the mill Republican.

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    • But doesn’t that tell us more about how people act on Twitter than about beliefs or actions in real life? Twitter is our societal subconscious, where horrible thoughts float around but very few people act on them. (Not that Twitter is harmless.)

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  6. Seems nobody tried to grab the attacker. Pity. It warrants prosecution. Punching a guy when he’s not looking: the height of cowardice.

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    • I’m reluctant to criticize folks who didn’t intervene. The incident was over in a moment, essentially ending the threat. If he continued to pummel Spencer, I might feel differently about inaction. But even then, faulting people for not attempting to stop a masked man who just perpetrated unprovoked violence feels unfair: they have no idea what the attacker was capable of or how he might respond to intervention (even among likely ideological allies*).

      * It occurs to me that we don’t actually know the attacker’s rationale. For all we know, the guy knew Spencer and had a personal beef and used that moment as convenient cover. Or he was a guy off his meds. Or doesn’t like people with brown hair.

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  7. Richard Spencer is such an unsympathetic victim that its hard to get worked up about this. I guess I’m mainly on the it was wrong to sucker punch Richard Spencer camp because its still an unprovoked criminal assault with no self-defense involved. Even a-holes can be victims of crimes and deserve the same protection of the law that everybody else does.

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  8. I don’t fully agree with above but think he makes some good points.

    1. Richard Spencer strikes me as being cowardly. I don’t think he would ever organize a White Nationalist march or demonstration in Oakland or Harlem. He allegedly went into hiding after the punch which makes him even more cowardly.

    2. I get what people are saying about violence and the norms of liberal democracy but Richard Spencer is someone who argues for actual violence against minorities including reviving the Holocaust. There has been a lot of pearl clutching about the protests on Friday because a few windows were broken by a handful of anarchists. What I’ve noticed over the past years or so is that a lot of these norms on speech constrain the left in ways that the right does not respond to. So you have gamergaters harassing women into hiding and making rape and death threats. You have Richard Spencer spewing racist garbage but as soon as one anarchist throws a punch or breaks a window, it becomes tut tut to the entirety of the left including from people who should frankly no better. Sometimes the norms of political speech seem to exist in a fantasy world where everything resembles a highly polite tea party. The dialogue goes like this:

    Richard Spencer: Say old chaps, the Holocaust did not happen but that Auschwitz was a really smashing idea and the Jews need to go.

    Me: I’m Jewish, old bean and I say I must disagree with you here.

    When does something like this happen in reality? I’ve seen a lot of libertarians try and claim the moral high ground by claiming BSDI or asking liberals to reach out to Trump voters in an election where Trump got elected despite (or because) he mocked nearly ever minority group possible and/or enabled people who are openly White Nationalist and used his sons as envoys. We are fighting and worried for our rights to exist as free and full Americans and people are pearl-clutching over a punch and some broken window. What sense of priorities exist here? Why is the left always in the sucker position?

    Lee has pointed this out in other places but Mel Brooks and Woody Allen used to debate on how you solve the problem of Nazis and attack them. Mel Brooks argued for ridicule and humiliation. Woody Allen argued that they need to have a bit of fear put into them. I am a bit on Woody Allen’s side here. I think it is kind of good the Richard Spencer knows that people will not put up with racist shit or go without a fight.*

    *I am also largely dismayed at the softball way the MSM has treated Spencer. He seems to get a lot of softballs for a novelty factor including when he was a PhD student at Duke. A profile I read said that his fellow PhD students were all on the left but saw him as a kind of novelty for being an “actual fascist.” This is bullshit.

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    • See, this is reminding me of the dialogue we had after the Ferguson riots where I was waxing a bit too enthusiastically about the virtues of mob violence, and it was Lee who brushed me back from the plate with the observation that for Jews and other minorities, unrestrained mob violence has never worked out well.

      While part of me does very badly want to root for punching Nazis, I also have to remind myself of that fact that as a rather comfortable member of the dominant group its sort of facile for me to do so.
      Its not like I am going to be squared off with a Nazi and risk getting my face punched. So I kind of need to keep myself in check.

      On the other hand…I stand by what I said over at LGM, that a civilized society can only thrive by having boundaries, taboos and things which are declared off limits, and meting out punishments to those who cross the line.

      Spencer’s views are NOT merely objectionable or disagreeable. He very literally wants to murder people.

      If I asserted here in all sincerity that I wanted to go to Kazzy’s house and kill him and his family, I very much doubt that the moderators of this blog would insist that disagreements with me remain civil.

      So maybe not punching, but we as a society need to mete out a punishment for Spencer, some way to let him know that his comments aren’t acceptable, and won’t be tolerated.

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      • There is a difference between a minority that is 10 percent of the population and a minority that is 2 to 3 percent of the population. The former could use selective violence a bit more effectively because they aren’t constantly out gunned. The latter has no option to use violence because the reaction will always be fiercer than the resistance.

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    • I’m frankly not amused with your idea that the left feels constrained by shit.
      There’s a dead mother who would say otherwise. The internet is just words, folks, hot air.

      So don’t fucking talk to me about death THREATS when the left is fucking stabbing someone in the heart with a knife.

      Ooooh, but that’s just One Person, right?

      Want me to pull some of the trannies going after my friend for being… what was that term, “a cis transphobic womyn”? Because, dude, I can pull that. Internet mobs are just as shitty on the left as the right. Possibly worse on the left…

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    • Look, if Richard Spencer is a threat to public order, the security of the citizenry, or the safety of individual citizens or any group of them – charge him with a crime, arrest him, conduct a trial by jury, and put him in prison.

      But if you think Richard Spencer is a threat, but are unwilling to charge him with a crime – but are willing to let vigilante locally sourced, free range organic artisanal justice take care of him…

      …well, I can’t see anything that could ever go bad with that course of action.

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    • In Manhattan, Woody Allen referred to the Skokie march by having characters at cocktail party talking about a similar Nazi march in New Jersey. Everybody else was talking about a devastating satirical response in the Times but Allan thought the proper response involved bricks and bats.

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  9. My daughter told me about this last Saturday, but she thought it was Milo Yiannopoulis who got punched. Well, Milo has been punched in other forums. And he maybe deserves it more than Richard Spencer.

    The thing is, it’s bad both morally and politically. Getting punched is what feeds these guys. It’s what they are about, it’s what they want. It’s how they get press, and how they motivate their followers.

    We all have feelings. Feelings do not carry any moral valence. Behavior does.

    “But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” – Rachel Dawes, Batman Begins

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    • Exactly, for fish’s sake can we be real? If you doused Spencer with truth serum and told him to tell his assailant how he felt the man would say “This was great for me, thank you.” If you offered Spencer an opportunity to have it happen to him again in the same context and manner he would accept, eagerly, hell he’d probably offer to pay someone to do it to him again.

      So if his assailant was truly a left wing believer rather than one of the anarchist opportunistic douchebags who parasite on mass protests to cause destruction and get some jollies then that punch was not only immoral and against our principles but it was also stupid and unproductive in that it helped(in a minor way) the causes the left purports to hate and hurt (in a minor way) the causes the left purports to support.

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      • I am not sure that is true. Spencer is apparently in “hiding” now. This makes him look like a cowardly villain from a kid’s cartoon show.

        As others have said above, I am rather tired that liberals get tutted by the actions of a small number of anarchists while the conservatives don’t get damned by far-right actions.

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        • Saul, from your unsympathetic view it makes him look bad, sure. To my cynical view it looks like he’s milking and amping this event up for all that it is worth.

          I am also tired of liberals being painted with broad brushstrokes for the actions of the nutball left fringe. Dreher brand painting of the entire left with the colors of the fruitcake rainbow is a huge daily activity of the right wing media. You know what makes it especially easy for the right to do this? All those liberals trying to argue that the punch was proper- deserved even or complaining about liberals denouncing it.

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          • , Rod Dreher and the right will always find some wacky nutbag lefties saying crazy things that make moderates queasy.

            But ya’ know something, those nutbags have been the birth of every positive change in the history of this country. In the 60’s, the only reason why MLK wasn’t considered part of the “nutbag” left is because Malcolm X existed. FDR wasn’t considered part of the “nutbag” left because actual Communists and Socialists existed and were becoming popular.

            And so on and so forth. People who thought we shouldn’t have slaves were “nutbags” at some point.

            And guess what? In 25 to 40 years, those people on college campuses making you uncomfortable will be in their comfortable middle class homes whining on the Internet 3.0 about the new generation of college kids saying wacky things.

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            • You wanna carry a torch for the left wing regimes that murdered millions because they made FDR look nice and moderate? Go ahead. You wanna laud Malcom X who didn’t want to eliminate racism but rather merely desired to reverse the roles because he made MLK look good? Fine. I won’t punch you over that.

              I, however, have a much higher opinion of FDR and MLK. I don’t think they needed extremists and murderers to be hideous violence soaked parodies of themselves to accomplish what they did. I don’t think their messages depended on moral monsters doing the “hard stuff” and I’m pretty sure MLK viewed Malcolm X as an impediment to the cause rather than a boon. Frankly I think it’s kind of insulting to the true legacies of abolitionists and liberals in general to sully their names by numbering the violent monsters among their number and calling them necessary.

              I don’t want to punch you over it though.

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  10. What’s going to happen of course, is that eventually Spencer will be replaced (or superseded) by someone rougher, who will instigate actual violence. And that will be blamed on the liberals who didn’t criticize the Spencer punching enough.

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    • Well we saw how the murdering of abortion doctors wasn’t criticized strongly by the right, which of course was devastating for them, leading to a complete loss of political power…um….OK bad example.

      Then there the incidents where right wing militias staged an armed confrontation with federal officials, including a takeover of a federal facility, and how that completely destroyed the credibility of the conservative cause…ooohh, OK, bad example again.

      OK hows this. When the Tea Party staged rallies, they allowed Neo-Confederates and white supremacists to attend carrying signs picturing Obama as a witch doctor and even lynched him in effigy. Man, that totally destroyed, ah…Hmm

      Oh, what the hell.

      But yeah, that guy who punched Spencer?
      Man, historians are going to look back on that as the death knell of liberalism, second only to the guy in Occupy who crapped on a cop car.

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  11. “But it was funny in the Blues Brothers when they chased the Nazis off the bridge!” Yeah, and the Blues Brothers had a flying car. I’m not gonna look to that as a moral polestar.

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    • For what it’s worth, if the response was to make a movie with an actor who looked *EXACTLY* like Richard Spencer and gave him a whiny voice and they had another character who came out and…

      Well.

      Did pretty much anything to this guy…

      Then what complaints would we see? A handful dealing with Hollywood being biased. A handful dealing with the punching up/punching down distinction.

      And it wouldn’t be vaguely scary.

      Heck, if they did it and it was really *FUNNY*? You’d have to put up with even fewer complaints.

      I mean have we ever heard a *SINGLE* complaint as to how the Nazis in the Blues Brothers were portrayed? That the violence in the movie be deplored? The only complaint about the Blues Brothers that I’ve ever heard is that they swore too much but they even went and put a lampshade on that.

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  12. I have a semi-serious question here:

    What if Richard Spencer was hit with a cream pie or a water balloon instead of a sucker punch? Or if everyone got behind him in the video and gave the Bronx Cheer?

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  13. Here’s video of a male punching a female reporter in the face at one of the Trump protests.

    I watched it with the sound off so I don’t know if the reporter is a Nazi or not.

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      • I don’t know enough about Rebel Media to know the extent to which “Oh, Rebel Media… well, you have to understand…” is something that would seriously be argued.

        My gut feeling is that *EVERYBODY* is appalled by this (and, I understand, the puncher has already been identified and all of the lawsuits and whatnot are being filed).

        But is Rebel Media far enough to the right that there will be a significant chunk of people who will automatically start waxing philosophical about the use of violence in civil society when one encounters people who shouldn’t be protected by everyday politeness norms?

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        • But is Rebel Media far enough to the right that there will be a significant chunk of people who will automatically start waxing philosophical about the use of violence in civil society when one encounters people who shouldn’t be protected by everyday politeness norms?

          Obviously, YES.

          Look at the tape. Right when it happened, nobody in that crowd thought what the guy did was wrong. Indeed, they actively try to gaslight the woman, help the guy get away, blame the victim, and threaten her with more. And act self-righteous while they do it. None of them are tempted to help the woman (at the Women’s March), at their most benevolent they want her to fish off and take her ickiness elsewhere.

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    • And the point is not “let’s count up the number of examples to figure out who has a higher score”.

      The point is that if this sort of thing is bad then it’s always bad, for everyone.

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      • But you have to understand that even though I don’t support this woman being punched in the face, that I appreciate that she is a bad person who probably deserved having been punched. Probably. I don’t know anything about Rebel Media.

        Even if the guy who punched her did not deserve to be the person who deserved to have punched her. Probably. I don’t know anything about the guy.

        Let’s take a moment and spend more time talking about the feelings we get watching this sort of thing than wondering how we’ll feel once it starts being freaking everywhere, shall we?

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        • Probably. I don’t know anything about the guy.

          If you couldn’t tell how hipsterer-than-thou he was at first glance, the dude has a tattoo of a pennyfarthing.

          The jokes about whether it’s ok to punch hipsters may now begin.

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            • The guy has been charged, and he has made a statement.

              It turns out he is totally innocent.

              You see, he didn’t punch that woman, he just punched her camera, and that just happened to be against her face at the time. And he punched that camera because he has a right not to be filmed while at a protest march.

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              • I’m sure the courts and the jury will give his defense all the consideration it deserves.

                As I said about Richard Spencer — just because I think he had it coming, doesn’t mean it wasn’t assault. And should his assailant be fond, he should be charged appropriately (for, you know, whatever grade of assault punching a guy is).

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                • A Fun Article.

                  More than 200 people who were mass-arrested at the Washington, D.C. protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump have been hit with felony riot charges that are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Those picked up in the sweep — including legal observers and journalists — had their phones, cameras and other personal belongings confiscated as evidence, a lawyer confirmed to AlterNet.

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  14. I thought this was an interesting take on the punch itself but moreso on the conversation…

    “As you probably know, that incident set off a fiery and condescending internet debate that The New York Times summarized as “Is it O.K. to Punch a Nazi?” At first I was really conflicted about this debate, because on the one hand I abhor violence, but on the other hand I’m super not into Nazis and it felt good in my heart to see one get punched. I had an interesting discussion about it on fucking Twitter, somehow (Twitter, I’m sorry I doubted you). But then I realized that this entire debate is stupid and it doesn’t matter.

    Protests are here to stay because they’re effective and fun. Nazis are here to stay because ignorance and hate are tough ailments to shake, apparently. And, sadly, punching is going to be around for a while because it’s effective and fun. So it stands to reason that, eventually, another Nazi will get punched at a protest. But it’s not actually that important. Discussing a Nazi getting punched by an anonymous Nazi-puncher when behind them is a massive demonstration against the sitting president of the United States is like worrying about the ammonia level in your fish tank while your friends battle acid-blooded aliens (from Aliens) in your living room.”

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/things-your-angry-relatives-always-get-wrong-about-protests/

    Which partly goes to why the punch was strategically wrong, too.

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    • Which partly goes to why the punch was strategically wrong, too.

      No offense to you Kazzy, but that sentiment up there?, that it was strategically wrong to punch Spencer?, all that sentimental strategery? – that’s why we have Trump.

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      • I’m not sure I follow but, I will say, when I wrote that sentence, it felt all sorts of wrong.

        What I really meant was that the consequences of the punch go beyond SuckerPunch and Nazi boy. If that incident gives cover to people who wanted an excuse to ignore, dismiss, or demonize the marches, that’s a really fucking big shit the guy took on the day.

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        • , the people who wanted to ignore, dismiss, and demonize the marches would’ve found some other reason to do so. Actual history shows that to be the truth. Go back and find polling about the CRM from the 60’s – ya’ know, the thing that moderates and conservatives are telling BLM to follow?

          Guess what had shitty approval ratings among white people in the 60’s? I’ll give you three guesses and a clue – the answer isn’t The Beatles.

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            • More seriously, I agree. I get sick of tired of those in power constantly changing the rules of engagement and then insisting their opponents failure to adhere is why they aren’t listening. It’s bullshit. But punching a guy in the face is a different story. They’re right to criticize even if their motivations are suspect.

              These marches went damn near perfectly for an event of this scale. But one of the few fuckups was unfortunately and frustratingly done as news cameras rolled and played right into the other side’s hands.

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