A projected 3 – 4 million people participated in peaceful protests across the United States, largely comprising and organized by women to protest Trump and the dramatic swing of the pendulum to the right this past election. That makes it the biggest protest in American history and over the next few weeks there is going to be hand-wringing, pontification and high fives over the good it did, the bad it did and how “worthless” it was.
Truth be told, I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy, I’m proud, I’m sad that it was necessary, but at least there was a loud message sent to our country and the world that people aren’t going to simply take all of this sitting down.
The right, specifically the toxic alt-right, believe that their opposition is weak-willed, the gentrified consumer lemmings that do whatever Democratic leaders tell them to do. They’ve adopted what they consider the left’s tactics in normalizing their hate-filled rhetoric and helped to push the guy that they selected as their candidate into office. They don’t actually think that he’s great, but that he’s dumb enough to push their agenda for them.
The racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic decided to do things the legitimate way; to normalize their behavior, use more refined language and more nuanced approaches to getting their way. Rest assured, their way is still wholesale terrible and all of the above awful things. They just want it to be legislation and they are patient enough to let it be a slow burn, to let lawmakers start off simple and build up to their white, christian utopia.
Over the past two days, while proud of the protests and horrified at what the President has done in his short time in office, one of the biggest news items has been notorious racist and white nationalist Richard Spencer getting decked in the face. Spencer, who created the National Policy Institute and coined the phrase “alt-right,” has worked to normalize strange racist ideals in the past few years, giving white supremacy a new face that comes in a suit, a tie, with an education, vocabulary and agenda that goes through legitimate channels as opposed to burning crosses and lynchings.
Rest assured, that underneath that slick veneer is a rotten person with a rotten agenda. What’s so infuriating about them is that they aren’t burning black churches or crosses, they aren’t even using the old standby racial slurs. They’re wrapping up their prejudices neatly in wrapping paper with a bow on it. But why are they doing this? Because they know it’ll work and they truly believe that the left won’t do anything about it. They know that it works because it was the left’s tactics in the first place. The left works its way through legislation, tries not to advocate for violence and is about a kinder, gentler approach. The left uses language, design and catchphrases to rally people to their causes.
So we have neo nazis without the swastikas doing press, talking about their cute, old french cartoon frog that has become a symbol for their racist agenda and they are flaunting it in everyone’s faces because who is going to do anything about it? If you silence them, you are a hypocrite, if you don’t allow them to tell their side of the story, you are obstructing their free speech. And clearly those pansy liberals would never, ever resort to violence, so yeah, they can stand on a street corner in front of people of color protesting with a smile on their face and talk about their racist agenda in front of television cameras without fear of reprisal.
That’s why that one punch was such a big deal. Clearly nobody wants to advocate violence here, nobody wants to start things down a dark path where escalation is the only end game and nobody is safe to express themselves anymore. The thing is, how can you not be frustrated right now? Hillary Clinton and the Democrats ran a campaign on phrases and concepts like “When they go low, we go high,” as well as the concept of giving Trump enough rope to hang himself. But it didn’t work. It didn’t work at all. The reason why is quite simple, actually; using logical, reasonable tactics against people who don’t care about the rules isn’t a winning tactic. These people are using the left’s own tools against them, but seeing better success because they aren’t doing it out of a place of genuine interest or belief, but out of malice. Racist, xenophobic people that would be called white supremacists during any other era have had their voice heard and through their reach on social media and traditional media to push a version of their message that on the surface doesn’t seem overly offensive. That message, though, is simply a starter kit that excludes a lot of the radical ideals, but leaves those interested with the desire to delve deeper into the ideology. they wan you to ask “the jewish question” and want you to read their incorrect statistics about people of color as being dangerous and a threat to white people and be outraged.
I hope that we don’t see more violence and I hope that things don’t escalate further, but Spencer is not a person to cry over and should be called for what he is; a nazi. Sure, he’s not wearing the uniform, he’s not wearing a swastika or goose-stepping, rifle-in-hand. Instead, this is what we are contending with.
And he’s getting media attention. A lot of it, but chances are that most people didn’t know who he was before this punch. While the press that he has received should be chilling, it’s not to everybody. That’s what’s scary. You should be scared of these people. They are more than just trolls on Twitter, that racist guy leaving anonymous comments on articles on your favorite news site or your weird, shut-in uncle.
Yeah, violence is bad, but can you really blame people for being frustrated right now? For feeling helpless while watching these figures rise to prominence? That punch sent a message, loud and clear to these people, making it a symbolic gesture of resistance. So while most of us aren’t going to throw a punch, there might always be that one guy that does and he does not give a shit what you think about him, what you think about violence or the nuanced arguments against it. He just wants to cold-cock a nazi.
Because while violence is not always a great solution and Richard Spencer has the right to speak his mind, he’s done so without fear of repercussions and now, perhaps, he’ll think twice about it. The chances of him and his followers using this as a chance to martyr him has already began, but in the internet age something else has happened, something magical and delightful; he’s become a meme. The alt-right that swept up young, disgruntled white boys with their memes has fallen into memedom. He’s become a joke and the people who didn’t know who he was before know who he is now; they know that he’s been up to some stuff and that he’s dangerous. While he has mostly operated in the shadows, he’s public now and he’s the laughing stock of the country.
— Steve Kim (@Fobwashed) January 21, 2017
this is as patriotic as I've felt in a long time pic.twitter.com/yiVxd8semM
— PESTERING PUPPETS (@prttybadtweeter) January 21, 2017
Another I just couldn't let go by without existing. pic.twitter.com/drgRgGf7TT
— Sen. Bradley Geiser (@therealbradg) January 21, 2017
I made one of those Richard Spencer videos. pic.twitter.com/ToudvGAPhW
— don (@donswaynos) January 21, 2017
Spread the word around. pic.twitter.com/pacj1K7Xl3
— Peter Nygaard (@RetepAdam) January 21, 2017
Because, at the end of the day, remember what this guy represents and what he wants to do. There is a time and a place for moral victories, but moral victories are what led us to where we are today. Eventually someone has to get their hands dirty to ensure that these people don’t grab more power. No, violence isn’t always the answer, for now it has made us openly discuss and acknowledge that these people exist and need to be stopped. It’s time to stop calling them “white nationalists” or any other coded language and just call them what they are; nazis.
If you'll recall, it was not punches that brought down the Nazis in WWII but respectful discourse and scathing witticisms
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) January 21, 2017
So while people are trying to talk about freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the moral high ground, remember that crappy people who represent bad things exist. Make no mistake, these people represent all of the terrible things that you could imagine. Don’t let the faux-intellectualism fool you. Their end game is no different than past hate groups like the KKK, Nazis, Neo Nazis and everyone else in between, they just know how to present it better.
There is a culture war going on and the racists want you to feel bad for them. Personally, I don’t feel bad that a racist got punched in the face while being a racist in public. If you consider that a moral failing, that’s fine with me. You can take the high road all you want, but at some point, someone is going to have to make the difficult decisions and not walk away with a moral victory because all of those big moral “wins” haven’t meant shit for us in a long, long time.
The next few years are going to be difficult, but this weekend has shown that we’re in store for some interesting resistance and some frustrating discussions and arguments that’ll carve out our future.