Is it ok to randomly punch a Nazi? This is the question that plunged the Cracked staff into the chaos of relatively polite disagreement.
Last Friday, after the inauguration of DJ Trump as the president of the United States, noted Nazi luminary Richard B. Spencer was sucker punched while giving an interview. Now, to be fair, Richard Spencer does not identify as a Nazi. Instead he calls himself an "identitarian" (and he's the one who actually coined the term "alt-right"), but who cares about what he thinks, he's a goddamn Nazi. For those of you who haven't seen the video, please do the intellectually responsible thing and watch it before reading any further.
Watch it as many times as you like. Watch it set to "Hide And Seek" (the "Mm Whatcha Say" song):
Even The New York Times is asking "Is it O.K. to punch a Nazi?" So to get to the bottom of this complex and nuanced moral question, we let two half-Jews -- Katie Goldin and Aaron Kheifets -- duke it out in a public forum to decide once and for all whether or not it's OK to punch a Nazi.
Katie: I just want to begin by going on the record that I don't like Nazis. In fact, I'm against Nazis and all they stand for. I like that about me.
Aaron: And I'd like to get out of the way that I don't condone violence to achieve political ends. I'm a really, really good guy who believes in following the rules and telling people what a good guy he is.
K: But at the same time ...
A: Yes, at the same time ...
K: You want to punch Nazis in the face, and I don't.
A: Look, there are basically only two unquestionably good wars: When we killed people because they wanted to own slaves, and when we killed people because they wanted to holocaust everybody. If we look at history (or, for me, recall movies that are loosely based in history), we see that doing violence against Nazis specifically is an unquestionably a good thing. Are you suggesting we should be less like Indiana Jones?
The only reason to be against punching Nazis is if you're worried that it will erode our democracy and freedom of speech. You're thinking "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a socialist." But what you're forgetting is that the "they" in that poem are the fucking Nazis! There's no need for a slippery slope. You can punch slave owners and you can punch Nazis. They get special dispensation to be punched. Like how Native Americans are allowed to run casinos. There's a history to keep in mind.
K: I'm actually not that concerned about the Nazi's free speech. As far as I'm concerned, we'd be better off if Nazis were never listened to again and Pepe the Frog got flattened like a tube of toothpaste under an 18-wheeler. But that's not what's happening. We've been giving white supremacists a lot of attention lately, including covering their little Nazi cosplay rally, where reporters flocked to show them sieg-heiling Trump. But they did that precisely because white supremacists love this kind of press. And they love looking like victims, because they get even more attention. Like a four-year-old who's pooped his pants and butt-scooted across the room while crying, screaming that the Jews put crap in his shorts.
A: OK, that is a totally fair point. They weirdly do love looking like victims, and it gets more eyeballs on them. But it's also just inherently satisfying to watch a group that is all about might and oppression whine like babies about being victims. For example, Richard Spencer, in his Periscope about the attack, claims both that it "didn't hurt that much" (because he's such an ubermensch) and also that he "probably suffered a minor concussion" (because he has to play up his victim status). And watching Nazis struggle to do those kinds of mental gymnastics is almost as good as watching them struggle to outpace Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Yes, more coverage of Nazi rallies means more people will be exposed to their hateful message, but you could say the same thing about Captain America. Watching Cap punch Nazis exposes more people to swastikas, but it also exposes more people to how smacking them around will make literally millions of people cheer your name.
K: I'm not going to pretend I didn't enjoy watching him get punched. Or that I didn't watch it loop for a solid 15 minutes. I'm also not going to act superior for thinking you shouldn't punch them. In the grand scheme of things, when karma sees you punch a Nazi, it probably shrugs, fights back a smile, and says, "Tsk-tsk, oh you." Morally speaking, I can't muster the will to be against smacking the smirk off a Nazi, and that's not the hill I want to die on. I'm more concerned about whether this kind of thing breeds more Nazis and more douchey little haircuts. The carefully manufactured victimhood of the white supremacists / white nationalists / Nazis holds that "White men are under attack." Richard Spencer literally (lhitlerally) says he wants a homeland for the "dispossessed white race," as if whites are refugees from the trauma of, I don't know, having to see a Jewish person and a black person at a Costco or something.
A: Your concern for our nation's haircuts is commendable. I think we're actually on the same page about the morality of punching a Nazi -- we just disagree about what the net result of viral Nazi punching videos is. I envision a future in which Nazi punching becomes the new planking. Imagine if all of those Harlem Shake videos also had someone clocking a Nazi when the beat dropped. We'd be giving them Oscars.
You and I will never be able to settle which way this Lebkuchen crumbles. We'll have to leave that to MIT's Chair of Nazi Punching Statistics (a position I hope is being created as we speak). So let me point out one other merit of the Nazi punching video: It is art. We've all watched it dozens of times. Like interspecies friendships, it speaks to something pure and good in the deepest part of the human spirit. Don't forget the true meaning of the Nazi punching videos: family. Or Jesus. Whatever floats your boat.
K: I'm half Jewish, so I only believe in half of Jesus. Anyways, maybe it is art, but I'd like to point out that the video of Shia LaBoeuf screaming sweet nothings into a Nazi's ear is also art. In the video, Shia LaBeouf and the LaBeoufs chant "He will not divide us" as a peaceful art piece / protest against Trump. Then a Nazi dressed as a douchier version of Eugene Levy photobombs the video and says "14 words," which is a reference to a white nationalist slogan that I'm not going to repeat here, and instead hope the graphics department will supply a picture of a dog pooping.
"Have two." - Layout
Whatever you think of Shia, he aggressively shouts down the Nazi without touching him. The Nazi bobs around with an "I just farted" kind of smirk, while pointing to his chin in an attempt to get Shia the Beef to punch him. He wants to look like a victim, but instead comes across looking like a Nazi who is pathetically bad at improv.
A: In bringing up "a Nazi who does bad improv" you also raise another point: It's possible that whoever the Mystery Nazi Puncher was, he had no control over his actions. Richard Spencer talking about Pepe the Frog may simply trigger a reflex in healthy human beings that causes an involuntary punching response -- a law of human nature stronger than any individual. Whoever it was may have just been walking by with a bandana on and acted without thinking. Like if you dove to save a child wandering into traffic or took a bullet to stop someone from doing blackface for Halloween. It might just be something we instinctively do.
K: That's true. And I think "freedom of speech" doesn't mean "freedom from consequence." If you talk about how you think certain people are subhuman for long enough, those people might start feeling a little punch-in-the-facey. But I still don't think we should actively encourage it.
A: And if we're talking about the law, we're in perfect agreement. We've had a lot of fun imagining punching Nazis (and I encourage you to have lots more fun doing that for hours on end), but I very much do not support making it legal to punch Nazis. A country that makes it legal to single out a political party for violence is like ... well ... Nazi Germany. And I have no desire to get into a paradox where I'm advocating kicking my own ass.
But the fact that it must remain illegal makes the actions of the Masked Fascist Smasher all the more heroic. It elevates him to Jack Bauer levels of heroism. He did what was right, even if his country must officially disavow his actions. On paper, we must all agree that it should be illegal and must be punished. But in our hearts, we salute you, FasciSmashist. Richard Spencer was talking about Pepe the Frog, and you sucker-punched (I prefer the term "blitzkrieged") him, embodying the change you wanted to see in the world.
K: In closing, I'd like to say "identitarian" sounds like a Nazi vegetarian.
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