The Punch is Not the Problem

The following is a staff member’s opinion and does not reflect the views of the The Quadrangle’s Editorial Board, the College or the student body.

Due to the continually prevailing online narrative of current events, many Manhattan College students and professors alike have likely seen the video of white supremacist activist Richard B. Spencer getting punched in the face by an angry protester.

The video, titled “White nationalist Richard Spencer punched in the face camera while doing interview”, depicts Spencer getting interviewed and harassed by protesters. Toward the end of the video, someone runs up to him and punches him in the face, at which point many of the people in the video start cheering.

As of press time, the video had 2.4 million views and counting.

This incident was not an isolated one, either.  Spencer was once again punched in the face on camera on Thursday.

The American “alt-right” movement is one that is associated with fascism and white supremacy, similar to Nazism, the political movement that swept to power in Germany in the 1930s.  While Spencer himself has denied this label of ‘neo-Nazi’, many of his views are in direct accordance with Nazism, most notably his anti-Semitism and call for a “peaceful ethnic cleanse.”

According to a report from the Associated Press, Spencer attended the Republican National Convention and attended an after-party at a nearby hotel where he “matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States.”

The video has sparked a widespread debate across the country: is it morally acceptable to punch a Nazi in the face?

Many people would say no, because punching people based on their beliefs, however deplorable they may be to almost everyone else, is immoral, not to mention illegal.  Many others would say yes, because Nazism is an ideology that advocates genocide and is associated with racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, most notably.

Now, while I am certainly not an advocate for violence, at some point the consequences of racism need to be made very explicit and very clear.  People can agree that racism is wrong, but it took a video of someone punching a white supremacist in the face to get more attention called to it.  Maybe punching a Nazi in the face is not the ideal way to communicate the consequences of blatant racism, but it will certainly get people talking.  Unfortunately, I think that we as a country are focusing on the wrong part of this entire situation.

We all need to stop asking if it is morally permissible to punch Nazis in the face, and instead call attention to the fact that this man, who has both considerable power and a considerable platform, is a Nazi.  More importantly, we have to relentlessly call attention to that fact.

While Richard B. Spencer, thankfully, does not actually have a position in the American federal government, many people with similar ideas and viewpoints do.  Most notable of these people is Stephen K. Bannon, President Donald J. Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Adviser, who had been the CEO of the far-right news outlet Breitbart News prior to his selection for President Trump’s Cabinet.

Breitbart News is a favorite among the alt-right movement, and has been known for its particularly offensive and incendiary headlines, among them “Would You Rather Your Child Have Feminism or Cancer?” and “Gay Rights Have Made Us Dumber, It’s Time to Get Back in the Closet.”

Furthermore, Bannon also allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks about sending his daughters to a certain school because too many Jewish children attended it.  According to NBC News, Bannon’s ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, said, “He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney [sic] brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

White supremacy and Nazism have no place in America.

Many of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers actively fought against Nazis in World War II, so how have we gotten to a point where people with disturbingly similar views have acquired such power and influence in our own country?

While the American people do not have a direct say in who President Trump selected for his cabinet, we do have a say in what is and is not acceptable in this country.

Nazism is an ideology that should never be upheld as normal.  The phrase “Nazism is bad” should be a given, but for some reason, that claim has now become contestable.  Rejection of this deplorable ideology is one that should be spread across party lines, one that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike should wholeheartedly and resoundly speak out against.

Make your voice heard, and assert to this new administration that America cannot and will not become a place where white supremacy is even the least bit acceptable.