Richard Spencer is a prissy looking neo-Nazi who got punched in the head. Thwack. Sucker-punched while he was being interviewed on the telly. Given its endless replaying on the internet, it seems few things bring such joy to so many as an overt racist receiving a handful of swiftly delivered knuckles.
The act has been widely condoned and even encouraged.
Including by a fellow Herald columnist who advocates we do the same in New Zealand.
If we are happy to punch people espousing Nazi ideology, who else are we allowed to punch? And perhaps more importantly, when can people punch us?
My grandmother was no fan of Nazis but she was pretty damned racist. Her views were not as extreme as Spencer’s, though, so perhaps we punch her but not so hard?
How about people who make up false claims about immigrants? Can they be punched also? Even if they are an MP?
How about abortion? Many people see abortion as the murder of a child and an affront to God, are pro-lifers cool to start cracking those who argue in favour of a woman’s right to choose?
Yep, once you start to cheer violence against those you disagree with, where does it stop.
In fact, we enshrine the right to free speech and celebrate it. Voltaire’s principle states: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
Voltaire would get howled down on Twitter were he alive today.
I like this quote from Noam Chomsky:
“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”
The fact Spencer has such repulsive views is exactly why we should condemn the man who punched him, not cheer him.
And let me finish with another Chomsky quote:
“With regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards. It is unfortunate that it remains necessary to stress these simple truths.”
Pleased to see Gilbert as a defender of free speech.