We all saw the video, and I dare say, some of us quite enjoyed watching a Nazi getting punched in the street. Undeniably, the past year has been unpleasant for those of us who align ourselves in opposition to racism, sexism and fascism. Watching the enemy get laid out has been claimed as catharsis by some, but it shouldn’t be treated as such. This is not the time for catharsis, this is the time to be coordinated and calculating, a simmering force of opposition, but not one of violence.
The left’s street combat with fascism dates back to fighting the Black-shirts in the 1930s. Certainly, in the fight against fascism, there are points at which violence has to be fought with violence, particularly when resisting attacks on minorities, or preventing fascists from seizing power. The time to man the barricades has come in the past, and may well come again, but not yet.If we resort to violence now, before the war of ideas has been fully waged, we surrender our ideology’s eminence in the eye of the observer. This is not a war we have any excuse for losing; our position atop the hill is not only morally superior, but factually and functionally more effective. Once we descend to the physical battlefield and enter the melee, there is no way back. Why surrender our side’s greatest attributes; our ideas, to engage a pig in a mud wrestling match. Fascists love violence, but we do not.
Naturally, I understand the desire to make society feel like a risky place to be a racist, and know that societal change is crucial in combating it. Regardless, attacking someone because of their views, however repulsive, is anathema to a liberal society. Just as torture doesn’t get answers, violence doesn’t change minds, and this fight is about protecting our collective moral values from those who would distort and destroy them. We cannot protect them by breaking them, until we’ve lost an ideological battle that we have no business losing.
Yet as hard as it is to stomach, the fascists are not seizing power, they’re winning it. Trump won the election in America, and provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos are outmanoeuvring liberals in debate. Currently, we’re losing the war of ideas with an incoherent ideology that abuses our basest, most Neolithic instincts. Undoubtedly, this is where the frustration, and the ensuing act of punching a Nazi comes from. To defend our shared moral code, it must sometimes be broken, but this time has not yet come.