Sunday, 26 April 2020

Nazis: To Punch or Not to Punch?

So here are some questions for you to ponder, to pass time while in social isolation:
Tired of sharing the planet with Nazis? Thinking about punching one? I hope you will ultimately come to understand how completely disgusting "punch a Nazi" is. Here are some questions for you to consider: 
1) What happens when you "punch a Nazi" and his views and behavior somehow remain unchanged. Do you hit him again? If that doesn't work, do you use a baseball bat? 
2) Suppose you are recorded "punching a Nazi". Can he use that footage as a recruitment tool, to energize his followers and elicit sympathy from outsiders? 
3) Do you have a special, extra sneaky, tactic you use when punching a Nazi carrying a concealed firearm? If "punching a Nazi" becomes even a little bit common, you can be sure "Nazis" won't leave the house without a gun. 
4) If this tactic works, however it is that you define "works", why stop with Nazis? Why on Earth wouldn't you punch pedophiles and rapists? Murderers? Those Westboro Baptist Church folks? 
If he can do it ...
Suppose you have some idiot going about in a Nazi uniform, displaying the swastika, heiling Hitler etc, and said idiot ends up getting clocked in the face by someone, perhaps of Jewish descent or some other European ethnicity that really took a beating in WW2? Well, I'm not going to be terribly sympathetic towards said idiot. Play stupid games ...

My grandparent's generation didn't punch Nazis. They shot, bombed and shelled them. This didn't cause bloody noses, this killed or maimed them. Hell, among my fondest childhood memories was me as a young whipper-snapper asking my grandfather how he'd injured an obviously mangled and deformed finger of his. While it turned out he'd done it in the rollers of one of those old fashioned washing machines when he himself was just a kid, he so loved to tell myself and my young cousins how he'd been injured taking on Hitler's chief aid while storming the bunker at the tail end of the war. Either myself or one of my cousins would be listening to this wide eyed while our aunts, uncles and parents were in the background laughing their asses off. Yes, my grandfather did serve and good for him, but not with quite that much distinction, sadly.

It didn't occur to anyone at the time to question the ethics of punching Nazis.

We usually don't when Veteran's Day or its equivalent among the other allied nations rolls around. While I think WW2 in the west can be overly valorized and romanticized at times, the poor bloody Nazis aren't a big concern of mine. They lost, they lost hard and for that I'm glad.

Of course, that was a state of war. Things were different then.


A better question is how we define "Nazi" and how and when is political violence justified?

I recall when Antifa and allies rioted on Berkeley campus in protest against Milo Yiannopolous giving a talk there. A man, keep in mind, who was flamboyantly homosexual and allegedly married to a black man. Things that would have gotten you a one way ticket to Dachau in the Third Reich. And also a man with whom I'd disagree on many things, has done some things on social media I think were, to put it mildly, uncalled for, and who I would not regard as a political ally in any sense, except perhaps in our shared belief in free expression.

Yet that antifa riot was a public relations disaster for the cause of anti-fascism and for the left in America more generally. For all that Milo's political opponents rightly call him a troll, they couldn't have exemplified better how not to fall for a troll's bait. I think he even called himself a provocateur. How could antifa and the left at Berkeley have been so stupid?

That's just one example. There are others - punching Richard Spencer, assaults on Andy Ngo and so on. Doubtless Spencer and Ngo's assailants felt quite pleased with themselves. Almost makes you wonder who they really did it for?

Look, I don't doubt there's a time when fighting fascists with violence is called for. Hell, history makes a pretty damn convincing case after all. But doing so is a question of timing, strategy and context. Organizing an Antifa type group to fight back against skinheads who are attacking minorities and leftists is one thing. Perfectly reasonable. We called the groups S.H.A.R.Ps - Skinheads against racial prejudice - in my time. Was involved with a few tense standoffs with racist skinheads myself back then, though I lacked the close cropped haircut that gave the Sharps their names.

But suppressing public discussion of crucial issues like immigration by means of violence or at least intimidation under the aegis of being anti-racist or anti-fascist is quite another thing all together. This we must condemn in no uncertain terms.

And there's no excuse for slandering as Nazis men and women who simply are not Nazis. Period. Disagree with Sargon of Akkad or Jordan Peterson all you want, my fellow leftists. That doesn't make them Nazis. There's plenty to disagree with conservatives and libertarians on too. But those disagreements are better settled through the presentation of better ideas rather than fisticuffs. We have no business promoting the use of force as a first measure in the settling of political disputes. Keep in mind that the mainstream left of that time was also wrapped up in concerns over "toxic masculinity." That kind of punch first, ask questions later mentality completely undermines the anti-macho posturing of the social media era mainstream left.

People are right to take exception to antifa taking it upon themselves to deplatform not merely actual fascists and racists, but even more mainstream conservatives. Those who say that this makes antifa the "real fascists" are mistaken - fascism is much more complicated than that. But fascism also isn't the only form of ideological authoritarianism either, and antifa all too often comes across as being the other kind of totalitarian barbarism that soaked the 20th century in blood. They don't exactly try to hide it either. Hammer and sickle symbols abound in their protests.

Fascism and Nazism must, of course be resisted, and occasionally this must be done with force. Were I younger, in better shape and knew how to fight, I'd join an antifa action if it was being carried out against people actually brandishing swastikas, S.S insignia and so on. On the other hand, I just might line up against them if they were trying to shut down someone whose worst offense was daring to criticize feminist dogmatism or open door immigration or the like. But the use of force mustn't be something to glamorize. It must be but one part of a much larger overall strategy.

The most important means of doing so is to recognize what helped give rise to fascism. Widespread discontent and disillusionment with both the mainstream powers that be as well as with the leftist opposition was crucial to the success of Hitler, Mussolini, et al. Thus both the mainstream and the left of our day should consider how they might be failing the working classes if they so fear the possibility of a fascist uprising.

It's crucial to study what real existing fascism was. The right is very fond of reminding the center and the left of the failures of socialism and communism. We should do the same with fascism. It simply failed. Fascists placed great value on the manly art of war, but when bang came to crunch it wasn't the western allies and the Soviets signing surrender papers in May of 1945. Thirteen years of German Nazism and 21 years of Italian Fascism (23 years if you count the rump Italian Social Republic of '43 to '45) resulted in devastated nations and populations. Motivated by ideology, they began wars that they ultimately could not win, and Nazi/fascist ideology drove some of the worst military blunders made by the European Axis powers during the war. Ask your young tough guy who might be giving some thought to fascism just how cool he thinks that is?

As Jello Biafra, former lead singer of the leftist punk rock band the Dead Kennedys and one of my earliest political role models once sang: "You still think swastikas look cool, the real Nazis run your schools. They're coaches, businessmen and cops. In a real fourth reich you'd be the first to go!"

Indeed. The stormtrooper thugs - the Sturmabteilung, or S.A brown shirts were purged early on in the Third Reich, and replaced by the much more militarily professional blackshirted Schutzstaffel, or the S.S. Regrettably, unlike other storm trooper regiments you might be familiar with, the S.S very much did shoot straight. If you're a Nazi skinhead or something of that sort today, you've more in common with the S.A, sorry to say. But even if you were S.S, your fate wasn't admirable. Many were killed, mostly on the eastern front. Others were brought up on war crimes charges. Today they're a disgrace to history and the world, synonymous with the worst crimes against humanity ever perpetrated. That is what you're really aspiring to if you think /pol/ silliness is somehow edgy and subversive. Not so cool, isn't it?

Life as a neo-Nazi is hard. You lose friends and family and become a pariah in your community. And rightly so. Jail is a very real and common destination. Good luck getting a job with your swastika and S.S tattoos. Now you're just like the layabouts and parasites that you want to purge society of. How ironic. Does anyone really want that, provided they haven't already been pushed to that point in the first place?

And therein lies the rub. Perhaps we should be careful not to alienate too many of our already precarious young men. Perhaps they need a place in our society, positive role models and hopes they can aspire to, rather than scorn from both right and left. From the right for being poor layabouts abandoning good old fashioned morals and values,  and from the left for daring to be ... white and male! Oh no! Call the police! Call the army! Call the National Guard! In taking so casual an attitude towards the fate of our young men, we've forgotten one of the most important lessons the fascist era has to teach us, and so undermine our own credibility when we preach about the evils of fascism.

In suggesting that mainstream society are the real Nazis, perhaps Mr. Biafra was righter than he thought, though not in a strict, political science sort of way.  Listen to the Dead Kennedy's "Nazi Punks F**k Off" here. Some nice easy listening for ya! A favorite of mine all the way back to the late 1980s.

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