In light of noted Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer being punched in the face by a protester during an interview, much debate amongst many liberals has spawned as to whether it is an acceptable means of dealing with those who spread hate. Many hold the belief that in a situation wherein hate speech and the capitalisation on fear is used as a political weapon that reason, patience and debate are the methods through which political action must be realized. It is interesting indeed that there has been as much debate as there has, given the circumstances of the previous two years or so. In the last 24 months, we have seen repeatedly that in the public eye, there is definitely an atmosphere of fear and hatred that has built in a way that has seriously undermined the causes that liberals hold dearly. It has been seen in the rise of far-right populists around the globe, the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump to the office of US President that in cases where democracy is challenged by arguments that pull on nationalistic lines, lines which are based on misinformation and the deliberate denial of evidence and fact, there has yet to be a significant gain for liberal causes against these movements in the last number of months.
The arguments that are often given by those of a liberal persuasion is one in which tolerance by its very definition means that as a tolerant society we must ensure that the far right movements that have grown recently must be allowed to exist. Surely this logic holds weight as the definition of tolerance can’t be debated. However, I would argue that when we look at what we as a society have, when we look at what we as a society have been through, when we look as a society at what these movements stand for, we must question if these movements are worth tolerating at all. Let us not forget that historically, we can be quite tolerant in extremely pick-and-choose fashions. The alt-right as far as a movement is concerned, is a jumbled mess of hatred and unintelligible nonsense that only serves to add protection to those who fear that they won’t be able to ever reach a level of significance that they deem is worthy of themselves within societal norms.
When we look at what these alt-right movements demand, we see that evidence based arguments almost always prove that they are wrong, we see that many of them would have considered themselves liberals but recently side with these movements for whatever reason. It’s not a completely unreasonable argument to look at where this movement has spawned and look at it as unruly hipsters who were upset that society was converging more and more towards liberalism.
The argument that there is a moral high-ground that must be maintained in order to overcome these fascist alt-right movements is one that in principle makes a certain amount of sense. When we look at the principles that we as liberals hold dear to us and the ways in which they have been challenged or denied in the past, holding our ground through reason and determination has proved to serve us well. The issues that arise in this particular case are that the alt-right movement refuses to accept that the possibility of them being wrong exists. They exist as a contrarian movement that simply looks at the world and says “no”. The very idea that we should look at them as anything respectable is laughable given that when we look at their “plans”, we see that they know absolutely nothing about what they are doing and that they are utterly incapable of maintaining any semblance of governance. The moral high-ground may be a beautiful concept in which we stand tall and proudly refuse to stoop to the level of those who seek to undo our work. The moral high-ground might well work against a rational actor who can not turn down the repeated findings of science and reason. The moral high-ground may cause those who don’t see issues in the correct manner to change their minds after seeing an alternative. The issue we experience then with the alt-right is that there exists no rational thinking within the movement. Repeatedly saying “no” never created anything, never built a society, never allowed for progress or development. The idea that we must take the alt-right as some sort of equal peers within the political arena is a farce given their evident disregard for everything that we have built our political arena to stand for.
The moral high-ground might work against a rational human being who shows sign of reason and has the ability to debate. The alt-right refuse to show reason and refuse to debate. It was clearly seen in the Clinton/Trump debates last year, that trying to win arguments against these people is like trying to beat a wall at tennis. The idea that we can fact-check the alt-right into submission, the idea that we can beat them at their own game in arguments, the idea that we need to respect them in the slightest, is abhorrently wrong and shows that we as a society need a genuine perspective check in order to protect ourselves. The second World War was not won by holding the Nazi government to account or by fact checking the statements that they make. Fascism was defeated by those of us who stood up for what we believe in and refused to stand down in the face of bigotry and ignorance. So if it is the case that the use of violence must be used in order to show the alt-right movement that we will not let them win, so be it. As a believer in freedom, as a believer in reason, as a believer in political system, I genuinely believe that not only is it ok to punch Nazis, it’s a highly respectable act that all should engage in.