So by now you've probably seen the clip of white supremacist and noted s******d Richard Spencer getting punched in the face. If you haven't, here's what all the fuss is about.
God, that's satisfying to watch, isn't it? One moment he's talking about his goddamn Pepe the Frog pin, and the next he's getting smacked around like a ripe pinata. This is a man who thinks non-whites are predisposed to low intelligence and criminal behavior, who refuses to denounce the KKK, and who's been caught using the Nazi salute. If there were a list of Americans who deserve to be punched, Spencer would be right near the top. No wonder there's already a site dedicated to cataloging all the wacky musical remixes of him taking one to the cheek.
There's just one problem -- getting punched is exactly what Spencer and his ilk want. And it's not even a sex thing. Let's look at some headlines and quotes from the screeching rabid dogs that are the "journalists" of the alt-right.
The Occidental Observer
Now here are some mainstream news headlines.
The alt-right -- the neo-Nazis -- get to present themselves as the rational, wronged party. Meanwhile, the mainstream media that they constantly decry as biased are treating a crime (moral debate aside, it is illegal to just punch a dude in the face) as hilarious. Remember, the alt-right presents themselves as rational defenders of civilization bravely taking a stand against violent, repressive hordes who are trying to tear down the modern culture that white men worked so hard to build. Celebrating one of them getting punched in the face and then debating what music makes it funnier is the best propaganda they could ask for. And don't take my word for it -- they're literally telling us that.
Or you can listen to Spencer himself talk about how the "cowardly" attack was proof that the alt-right is making history, how he's worried that attacks on his peaceful movement are growing more violent, and how he fears that future attackers won't bother to distinguish between his supporters and moderate conservatives. Then he ends with a call for fundraising, and implies that he was naive for thinking that people outside of his movement could be reasoned with. As propaganda goes, it's a pretty good speech. You can't even tell that what Spencer calls his body is actually just dozens of angry snakes. Hey, here's one of the comments on that video.
Yeah, it turns out that punching someone in the face is a good way to give them a lot of free publicity. A video of Spencer giving a speech at a neo-Nazi conference got 129,000 views. The video of him getting punched is at 2.4 million. I'm sure most of those views came from people who just wanted to see a jackass get smacked around, but how many people do you think saw a man who was trying to calmly express his views, only to get attacked for having an opinion?
"Oh, but who could possibly believe Spencer's nonsense?" you ask. "He wouldn't give a s**t if a black man was beaten to death in the streets tomorrow, and you only have to listen to him for a few minutes to realize that he's full of s**t!" Sure, but this isn't about you. Whether you're a hardcore socialist or a moderate Republican, Spencer doesn't care about you. You're already a lost cause to him, an adult who's been sucked in by the evils of the mainstream.
Spencer wants impressionable kids. Here's an article about his efforts to recruit college students. "I think you do need to get them while they are young." Or listen to the journalists who have gone to alt-right conferences and found a lot of young, angry white kids. White kids who are worried because they can't find a job that pays okay, who are lonely because they're no good with women. Here's a former white supremacist talking about how he was angry all the time when he was a kid -- at his family, at school, at life. These are not happy people.
Those white kids hear two narratives -- one from people like Spencer, who tell them that white kids are the vanguard of civilized society, and one from people who cheer Spencer being punched, then complain that white men are ruining the country. "But if you put the idea of the patriarchy in the proper historical and social context, they'll see that actually..." No. Stop. Angry, lonely, scared teenagers aren't going to appreciate a nuanced lecture on how centuries of male dominance has produced a system that oppresses them just as much as everyone else. They just see society kicking them while they're already down (it doesn't matter if you think they're "down" or not ... it matters if they do), then Spencer offering them sympathy and a hand up.
So hey, did you know that Spencer actually got punched twice on the same day?
Man, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd think Spencer asked some of his friends to punch him until one went viral. The PR is just too good. Especially since other fascists were trying to goad people into hitting them around the same time. This next bit is going to sound like I'm having a stroke, but I swear it's real: Shia LaBeouf has an art installation in New York City where passersby are encouraged to say "He will not divide us" into a camera that's going to be livestreamed 24/7 for the next four years. However, one young man came up and said "fourteen," a reference to the 14-word white supremacist mantra "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." Shia LaBeouf yelled at him until he left, but not before he got in LaBeouf's face and pointed at his own chin. He was challenging LaBeouf to punch him. Oh God, I smell burning toast.
Later, another delightful fellow threw his arm around LaBeouf and declared "Hitler did nothing wrong," which prompted LaBeouf to shove him away. LaBeouf was then arrested for misdemeanor assault and, while it's hard to feel too bad for a plagiarist who contributed to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, this is how Nazis roll. They goad you and goad you and goad you until you snap. Then you're the violent, reactionary villain, and they're the innocent everyman who was just trying to express their freedom of speech.
So feel free to laugh at the hundreds of videos that have emerged from this. I'll be the first to admit that some of them are pretty clever.
But keep in mind that every time one of these assholes gets beaten up, they get to write a headline that's red meat for their supporters. Every time someone says "I don't normally approve of punching people, but..." the alt-right gets to point and say "See? They say they're better than us, but they don't really believe in their principles!" You're giving them ammunition for their cause, and the only price you're charging them is a few seconds of feeling smug. They're the 12-year-old children playing Call of Duty, and we're the adults who have been annoyed into screaming "Oh yeah? Well how about I come over to your house and f**k your mom?!" at them.
Hey, you want to talk about the original, fought by B.J. Blazkowicz Nazis? German communists used the slogan "Beat the fascists wherever you encounter them!" And they did -- in June 1932 alone, they killed 99 Nazis in street brawls. But the Nazis did their fair share of fighting too. One of the great ironies of their rise to power is that they goaded leftists into fights, murdered them in the streets, then endeared themselves to the public by restoring law and order. Who cared if they did it by imprisoning or executing anyone who disagreed with them? At least you could go out for groceries without worrying about getting shot. I guess it's hard to fit all of that onto a Twitter hashtag, though. #theriseofthenazipartywascomplicatedandnuancedbutwasundeniablyenabledbytheuseof nonstateviolencebyboththenazisandtheiropposition barely leaves you any room for "LOL, headshot!"
Well, the modern alt-right -- the frog-meme-spewing racists who are worried that Trump won't go far enough -- are in no position to start brawls. Oh, America's supposed intellectual elite will yell at you over the internet because they don't have anything better to do with their time, but they don't have hundreds of paramilitary thugs to do their bidding, and most of the supporters they do have are way too out of shape to pursue their dream of being rapists, let alone hold their own in a fight. Hell, they're worried that infighting, non-violent protests and the fact that people have stopped mincing words and just started calling them Nazis is going to splinter and destabilize their movement. Yeah, they're worried that if you say their real name, they'll collapse. Spencer may have been inspired by Hitler, but he has more in common with freaking Rumpelstiltskin.
Look at what non-violent protests and the use of the legal system were able to accomplish in response to Trump's immigration ban. But every time we say "Eh, that sounds hard" and attack someone instead, the Nazis get a chance to talk about how they're the picked-on underdogs who are being beaten just because they're white. They get an opportunity to recruit people by presenting themselves as the rational, level-headed side. They get to be the put-upon heroes in a story where they should be the racist, hate-mongering villains. Don't give them that opportunity, no matter how hilarious the memes are.
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