Erick Werner: Never OK to use political violence

In 1941 the U.S. declared war on Nazi Germany. By 1945 that regime, and its adherents, had been wholly wiped away. It is interesting, then, that in 2017 the question has come up: “Is it OK to punch a Nazi?” The answer for many has been “Yes, it certainly is OK.” However, the fundamental issue with this logic falls in line with the fact that because there are no longer any real, official Nazis anymore, then simply applying that label to anyone you disagree with gives you carte blanche to use violence to silence that person’s views. The topic itself came up when white nationalist and head of the National Policy Institute Richard Spencer was assaulted on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. While giving an on-the-street interview with ABC, a member of the Antifa black bloc ran up and sucker-punched Spencer. Now, for those unfamiliar with the group, Antifa stands for Anti-Fascist and is a group that has been operating as a far-left protest and riot organization that has grown considerably in the United States. A fair amount of the destruction caused in recent protests on college campuses has been due to the actions of Antifa. So when an Antifa member hit Richard Spencer, the conversation that ensued was not one of condemnation, but one in which people legitimately questioned whether the blow was socially acceptable. Organizations like the Guardian published videos advocating for this kind of behavior. The fact of the matter is that for a representative Jeffersonian democracy to work, political violence must be shunned at every level, no matter how ignorant or misguided an individual’s views are. To be certain, I have disagreements with Richard Spencer and do not advocate his style of holistic identitarianism. However, if I met him in a crowd, I would much rather have a debate, rather than a fight. Richard Spencer aside, however, let us assume the position of the left that implicitly or explicitly justifies political violence if it is targeted at a Nazi. What in 2017 constitutes a Nazi? The SS has been a defunct organization since 1945, and even George Lincoln Rockwell has been dead since the late 1960s. How, then, would someone identify a modern Nazi? Critics might cite Neo-Nazis who come out of prison gangs, of course, but let’s be honest with ourselves – those guys aren’t the people who are in any threat of being targeting for political violence. They are not the individuals that Antifa and those supporting the group are advocating violence against. No, Antifa and the authoritarian left is decidedly bringing back the label “Nazi” as a way to justify violence against those they deem politically incorrect. The punching of Richard Spencer was just one of many assaults on supposed “Fascists” – though certainly a well-documented one – due to his prominence. Many dozens, if not hundreds, of other assaults have taken place at an alarming rate over the past year or so, and the trend does not seem to be letting up. Make no mistake, this is the degeneracy of the American political system, and it is being spurred on by turning something that was once a well-defined, and frankly archaic, political party into a catch-all for those deemed conservative or on the political right. These people do not want to listen and debate; they want to brutalize and punish. In a sense, they are forgoing their civic duty as it was visualized by our Founding Fathers. Every enfranchised person should, theoretically, be an informed advocate of his or her political opinions. These people are using the privilege of protest allotted by this country to silence opposition. As we continue to move forward, there will no doubt continue to be more such events. To save the American political process, we must unmask these Antifa rioters and hold accountable those who grant their implicit support. Only then will we be able to once more stand united and strong.