Before I get to the meat of this argument, allow me to make one (unfortunately) necessary disclaimer: I am a liberal. For as long as I can remember, I've leaned much more towards the political left than the right. I am unsure whether this originates from my growing up in a low-income family or my inability to treat people with legitimate animosity or any other factor, but the origins of my political philosophies are irrelevant. Look at my political compass:
So, it's very clear that I am quite liberal in my ideas. But why is it that I must introduce my liberalism as a disclaimer?Well, it's simple: I refuse to tow the liberal line.
While I may agree with many of the general assertions of contemporary liberalism, I do not align myself with many of the movements that call themselves liberal. Whether it be Black Lives Matter, feminism, the LGBT community (even though I, myself, am a G), or any other Progressive label one may throw my way, I agree with the general notions provided but refuse to explicitly label myself in this light.
I say this because I was once an anarcho-communist. I was so far left that I considered Bernie Sanders too conservative. I came to the conclusion that government is an intrinsic source of oppression and must be demolished in order to bring about true equality. I was hateful, full of existential angst that was poisoning my mental health. But, eventually, I realized the error in my ways and returned to homeostasis, vowing to myself that I would never subscribe to an ideology ever again.
I understand that this is basically irrelevant to the conversation of punching Nazis, but I bring it up because I have a unique perspective in this manner because I quickly failed to keep this promise as, brace for it,I was part of the Alt-Right.
Yeah, I'm a bit ashamed of it too. But here's the thing, my experience in the Alt-Right was not even close to the current truth about this movement; it is, indeed, an ideology based on reactionary nationalism and race realism—both unrealistic/dangerous and unscientific/hella dangerous, respectively. When I first got into it, though, it was because I had lost faith in the left. I felt that the way it was going was blatantly against the liberal ideals I held dear and that we were in for a rough time this election (e.g. the five times [here, here, here, here, and here] that I proved I don't know how to shut my mouth about this issue) because of it.
But why exactly am I bringing this up? Well, in case you haven't heard the news, a group of protestors at UC Berkeley escalated a once peaceful assembly into a full-scale riot, burning several garbage fires, assaulting people, pepper spraying a woman in a MAGA hat giving an interview and destroying private property over one man: Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos is a conservative edgelord whose sole purpose is to make people angry. But after the so-called founder of the Alt-Right Richard Spencer got sucker punched while giving a TV interview, something changed about how the media saw him. Of course, I simply laughed that Spencer got punched in the face while talking about his cute widdle froggie pin on live television. Soon, however, I started seeing these two images circulate on my Facebook feed:
When I first saw the first one, I laughed, as I do with any meme that has any sort of dark connotation. But by the time I saw news of the Berkeley riots, the second one was incredibly disturbing to me. In fact, what I saw in the videos of the riots made almost too much sense. Terrifying amounts of sense, but sense nonetheless.
First, let me clarify, Milo Yiannopoulos is not a Nazi. Ignoring the fact that the Nazi party dissolved back in 1945, Yiannopoulos is a gay Jew who exclusively dates black men. He would make for a horrible Nazi. I would argue that he's not even a white nationalist. You want proof? Here it is:
Guess when this video was posted: January 26, 2017. When did the Berkeley riots take place? February 2. But how did Milo react? Here it is:
This video is over five minutes long, so I don't expect you to watch the whole thing, but there's one phrase that caught my eye. At 1:15, Yiannopoulos calls UC Berkeley "the home of the free speech movement," pointing out the irony of these Black Bloc activists trying to ban him from their campus. Yiannopoulos is right. The irony of this literally makes me a bit angry because it is establishing a precedent—the very precedent set by the riots at President Trump's Inauguration or after he was first given the moniker President-Elect: that when you get angry about something, violence and destruction are not just reasonable but ideal.
Here is where I get a little bit heated. Even if I may have ended up being a supporter of the Black Bloc (better known as Antifa, a portmanteau of anti-fascist) myself in the past, I am no longer making such an ideological mistake.
I hate to break it to you, but Milo Yiannopoulos is following the law to the fullest possible extent because of the abstract concept of the First Amendment. Guess what? Offensive speech is still speech. It is still protected. And attempting to silence him is only going to show that you stand against opinions that are to the contrary of yours. By the logic of the word Nazi enables you to punch someone without any regret, that means that any of the Alt-Right can punch any person they label as a communist because of all of the "hate speech" they spew, meaning just about every single person at the Berkeley riots should now be punched, and I should feel no guilt about doing it. In fact, I should be proud, because I hate communists, and people I hate deserve to have their safety violated because I don't like their politics.
But the key words in that little tirade I just spewed are "they label as." You don't need to prove that someone has Nazi ideologies to punch them. You just call them a Nazi and that immediately justifies a not-so-metaphorical "kick me" sign on their backs. In the end, I guarantee that people who are against the concept of fascism will end up making flagrant exaggerations and, quite frankly, fascist attacks against those who the attackers believe have wrong political opinions. I don't care if that seems like a worst-case scenario, but I don't put it above Americans at the moment considering how tempestuous our political climate is right now.
After several deep breaths, I have come to the conclusion that the people advocating for this violence are using their empathy selectively. They refuse to even consider learning why exactly people on the Alt-Right end up being polarized in such a way. But I have experienced both stories; I have held the black and red flag of anarcho-communism and the rarest Pepes of the Alt-Right and have decided to throw both to the ground.
People who go to Milo Yiannopoulous's presentations are doing so because they feel marginalized for not towing the political line. They are skeptical of the identity politics rubbish that has become the norm in society today and want to find others to discuss this matter with. And they find it in the Alt-Right because there isn't exactly much of a popular outlet to go to. There they find a community of like-minded individuals who share at least somewhat similar hopes to help improve America and pull it from the mess it's gotten itself into.
To wrap this up, there's one more movement whose goals I agree with but whose membership I do not claim: the phrase "Make America Great Again." But I would say that America will be great again the moment we allow legitimate discussion to take place and consider why people believe what they believe, their stories and struggles that have led them to where they are. We have to tolerate differences between people—just as Yiannopoulos advocates for in the first video cited above. But what happens if we don't make this change? People get hurt. The more liberal America continues to spew this farce of labeling people as Nazis to justify their desecration, the more they continue to portray us as the villains. They feel more justified in their animosity towards you because of your ideology. Keep in mind that Trump is in office now. You are out of power, so if you don't work with the establishment to make and keep the peace, you will have a long four years ahead of you. If you're not careful and allow the fascists of the Black Bloc to destroy without consequence, then don't complain when the fascists on the other side decide to bite back and extend that tribulation to eight.
But I'm confident that it won't come to that. As long as America takes a collective deep breath, everything will turn out fine and no one has to get hurt—regardless of their political ideology of choice. If we want to be #StrongerTogether then we actually have to come together under and be, just like the Pledge of Allegiance says: indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.