If you want to help the Nazis expand their influence, punch them and celebrate those who punch them

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Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

I’m assuming you’re not here to help the Nazis expand their influence.

But if you are here to help them expand their influence, I’m not terribly worried about giving you fresh ideas. You already understand exactly what you’re doing when you incite people to attack you. You’re trying to mainstream radical right wing violence by portraying yourselves as victims of the extreme left, in order to mobilize fear and hatred for anyone to the left of Mussolini. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, so you can head back over to 8chan. This snowflakery is about to bore you to death.

Okay, now for the rest of you, the ones who don’t want to expand Nazi influence, let me break this down for you a bit. You’re welcome to disagree with me, and it’s always possible that I’m wrong. But I think this is a pretty simple open and shut story, kind of like a 2 + 2 = 4.

The audience that the Nazis are interested in, when you punch them, is conservatives who are more mainstream than them. Unfortunately, those more mainstream conservatives have been soaking in a swill of more mild white supremacist stuff for a very long time now, and they’re highly primed to worry about a radical authoritarian left wing movement that is coming to stomp them all into submission. You don’t have to think this is reasonable, or even sane. But you know it is true.

When you punch Nazis, or celebrate Nazi punching, the main thing you accomplish is this: you put yourself into the ‘dangerous out-group’ category for these more mainstream conservatives. And guess who gets pulled into the ‘safer in-group’ category for them when you do that? You’ve got it: the Nazis.

So when you punch Nazis, you mainstream them and help them gain influence with conservatives, who start to feel like the Nazis are at least better than anti-fa. I know that’s not your intent. But it is, I think very clearly, your effect.

So externally, you help mainstream them, and help them draw a false equivalence between themselves and the violent authoritarian left of their dreams. You step into the story they’re trying to tell, as exactly the street theater character they need. They wrote the script, and you played the part they wrote for you. Do you want to star in Nazi propaganda plays? No? Don’t punch Nazis.

Ah, but you send those Nazis packing when you joke about punching them on Facebook, don’t you? No. Here’s what you do to Nazi organizations internally when you punch random Nazis, and joke about punching them: you give them heroes and street brawlers who’ve bravely faced the ‘anti-first amendment’ socialist scum. You help them recruit other angry young racists, who want to punch and shoot some Muslim-Mexican-commy-Jewish-queer-snowflakes. You’re not hurting their internal recruitment efforts in the least. Their model and ideology depend on creating the kinds of ‘heroes’ you’re giving them. You should wrap your fist in an entirely unironic ribbon when you punch them.

If you want to have a discussion about what tactics are most effective, I’m happy to have that. But let me just be clear from the start: I think that if you stop and think with your actual brain for more than 30 seconds, you’re going to understand that this shouldn’t even be a serious discussion. Doing non-violent stuff that refuses to play their game works well. And if you really want to go down a rabbit hole, non-violent resistance has now been shown to be much more effective at producing good results and powerful social movements than violence. Now more than ever, violence doesn’t have a leg to stand on, if it ever did.

When the Nazis co-opt you and integrate you by getting you to punch them, they aren’t playing some kind of sophisticated 11-dimensional chess. This isn’t even tic-tac-to, which requires you to think about a couple of your moves and a couple of their moves. This is ultra-simple “action and reaction.” They’re beating you at less-than-tic-tac-to.

Feel free to show me your equivalent, well-reasoned case for punching Nazis and celebrating those who do. Let’s just be clear though: we both want to stop the Nazis. I just think that it is overwhelmingly clear that punching them helps them, and that creative non-violence is powerful in opposing them.

Seriously look at this hilarious and fun and powerful example of what people in Germany are doing, to actually fight back against actual Nazis in a country where they actually took control. Learn from them. Put them in your story, don’t put yourself in theirs.

Whatever you do, don’t feed the Nazis. Just don’t.

Community Organizer. Enemy Lover. Pastor. Practices honest, serious, loving and fun discourse. (Yes, still just practicing.) Author of According to Folly, etc.

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