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99% of Nazi-punching discourse is posturing

There has been an outpouring of discussion on the left about the moral justifiability of punching (or otherwise physically assaulting, but punching seems to be the go-to) Nazis ever since Donald Trump won the presidency, and it's seen an unsurprising uptick after the events of Charlottesville. Lots of energy has been poured into the debate on various social media platforms, but the overwhelming majority of it is not serious discussion. It's just posturing to make the participant feel virtuous.

Consider first the anti-punchers. They give us high-minded dissertations on the virtues of non-violence, of not "stooping to their level," of maintaining the moral high ground. But how many of these people would have punched a Nazi if they did think it was justified? I suspect not many. These are not people holding themselves back from Nazi-punching temptation on the basis of moral principle. They're cowards afraid to get involved in a physical fight, who are cloaking it in fancy language to make themselves feel virtuous for not doing something they wouldn't have done anyway. And hey, I'm a coward about physical fights too. But I don't present it as a demonstration of my moral virtue.

And then there's the pro-punchers. They too talk a good game -- about the necessity of responding to inherently violent ideologies, about the privilege inherent in non-violence, and so forth. They share comic book panels of Nazis getting punched, and that one video of someone clobbering Richard Spencer, and Twitter threads about how to punch effectively. But they too are not out there actually punching Nazis. While pro-punching memes rack up hundreds of thousands of shares and likes, I can count on one hand the number of Nazis who have actually gotten punched by a leftist since the election. Hundreds of Nazis came to Charlottesville last weekend. It was a target-rich environment for anyone wanting to punch a Nazi. But how many of them actually got punched? And OK, maybe taking on a heavily-armed mob is too dangerous. But they marched around un-hooded, so people have managed to determine the identity and personal information of many of them. And yet they still went largely un-punched. Nobody walked into Top Dog to clobber Cole White. The big anti-Nazi victory of the last few days was using social media to shame Top Dog into firing Mr. White. So I can only conclude that pro-punching people aren't actually planning to punch any Nazis. They just want to feel tough and fantasize about literally striking a blow for justice. Most pro-punching discourse is a combination of ally theater and social justice masturbation.

So I don't have time for the Nazi-punching arguments on either side. Come back when some non-negligible number of Nazis is actually getting punched, and then I'll care whether it's morally justified.


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