By Greg Drobny
Yes, I’d love to be able to punch Hitler in the face. But that being said…
I can’t believe we’re in this place where we have to explain this, but here we are. The world has gone mad and we have to get back to kindergarten-level rules.
A couple of people in public places have, in the past couple weeks, been physically attacked for the simple reason that they are a “Nazi.” These Nazis were, by all accounts, not attacking anyone, not physically hurting anyone, and not (from what I’ve seen) even armed with weapons.
And yet we suddenly have thousands upon thousands of people actually debating the question of whether or not this is acceptable, with many coming down on the side of, “totally! If they’re a Nazi, then they deserve to be hit! Punched! Kicked! Flogged and set on fire, I say!”
Really? Are we actually in need of having to lay this out? Because I’ll be honest, it should be really, really easy to refute and demonstrate that, no, people should not be physically harmed for the ideology they hold.
[Insert obligatory “I’m not a Nazi and I immensely dislike Nazis and anything like them more than you do” disclaimer here]
I’ll explain this very simply for the slow kids out there. Imagine one of these people who punched the Nazi for no other reason than the fact that they were a Nazi went to court for these actions. Now imagine as their defense, when the judge asked, “how do you plea?” the person answered, “innocent because they were a Nazi.”
Now picture that the judge says, “Case dismissed. You’re free to go.” Yay! Everyone wins because a Nazi got punched and it was justified! We all win!
Slow down there, pilgrim. Not so fast.
What I want you to do now is go back and re-read that hypothetical, except this time substitute the term “Nazi” with “Muslim.”
Now I want you to go back and read it a third time and replace “Nazi” with “atheist.”
Catch my drift so far?
Starting physical violence over words is not just wrong—I literally learned that in kindergarten—but it leads down an incredibly dangerous path. If we justify violence solely based on the ideology of the individual or group on the receiving end of it, where does that stop? Who decides?
To put this another way, justifying violence due to ideological positions requires some sort of authority figure, as described above, ruling “yay” or “nay” as to which ideological positions, specifically, are worthy of violence. Now take a look at the people at the highest levels of governance in our country—do you really want them making a decision like that?
Go do a quick Google search of the people who were at the root of the protests at Berkley recently when Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak there and listen to their reasoning. They believe wholeheartedly that destruction of property and assaulting human beings is a completely rational course of action for preventing people from using words they don’t like.
That’s not just horribly bad philosophy and grossly ignorant of a consistent ethical framework, it’s also somewhat terrifying in light of history.
Just look back at the 20th century and do a quick examination: which regimes were employing violent acts against people for holding and espousing certain beliefs? Were they good, wholesome governments that exemplified human rights and equality?
Not only no, but groups using that kind of tactic were responsible for more human suffering than any other in the history of mankind.
Listen, I have a deep dislike for Nazis and anything remotely resembling them. Point of fact, I’d argue that “libertarian”-style thought—and the classical liberalism this country owes much of its origin to—is about as polar opposite to “Nazi” ideology as it gets.
But one of the primary reasons I’m opposed to it is that it tramples all over Natural Rights, one of which happens to be the right to hold and espouse an ideology, even if it’s absurd. It is based on the idea that we should be able to stamp out, by any means necessary, ways of thinking that don’t line up with the collective.
And there is no rational stopping point for engaging in that behavior. Go ahead and study the subject of fascism and you’ll quickly come to the realization that even scholars who study it religiously don’t agree on what, exactly, it is or isn’t. So to have a definitive line stating that it’s okay to enact physical violence on someone for holding this ideology but not that ideology becomes incredibly convoluted the minute you try to create a demarcation line.
Consider this also from a more pragmatic perspective: it’s not 1942 and we’re not at war with a country whose political power comes from the Nazi Party. We’re not in imminent danger from Nazis, and I’d argue that they’re not even in the top 10 threats facing our nation, so getting worked up to the point of punching someone who claims to be one seems to be more than a slight overreaction.
We can draw a line when discussion and even yelling becomes physical violence. It’s easy to see that line.
But it’s incredibly difficult to see where that line would or wouldn’t be regarding ideology, because it’s entirely possible that you hold one that makes someone else want to punch you. As fun as it would be (and it most certainly would be in many cases), doing that leads down a dangerous path.
So let’s remember some kindergarten-level ethics and don’t hit someone unless they hit you or someone else, even if you do hate them. Otherwise we’re just going to end up punching each other every time someone says something dumb.
And that’s going to make for a long day at most jobs.