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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Your Violence is Not Justified

I'm going to post a very unpopular opinion. Please, join me for this most fantastic voyage!

I've been noticing a disturbing trend on Facebook lately. Friends and strangers I find myself agreeing with politically have been posting memes and text about how funny, karmic, and just downright awesome the assault on alt-right leader and white nationalist Richard Spencer was.

In case you've been hiding from the world for the past few days, and who can blame you if you were, you may have missed the video of a man in a mask sucker punching Spencer as he was doing a street interview with a journalist. He was explaining the meaning behind Pepe the Frog, which apparently has become a mascot for the alt-right, when the attack took place.

And the internet cheered. Punching a Nazi quickly became more popular than kitten videos and "datboi" memes, which needs to come back in a big way. It became apparent that a big chunk of the internet believed punching someone you disagree with in the face is absolutely okay.

Possibly, for the first time in history, the internet was dead wrong.

I'm not going to pretend that I agree with or understand the hate speech that Spencer spews. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I don't think punching a Nazi in the face isn't funny. Of course it is! If I could, if it were legal, I would slap every person I disagree with on a daily basis. To be fair, I'm also kind of a dick.

But in no way is that thought process justified. You can't punch people just because you disagree with what they're saying. As far as I know, in all of the research I've done on Richard Spencer, I've never seen him to be violent or advocate violence against other races. Yes, he wants an ethno-state where America becomes a haven for white people, and that's despicable. He thinks that other races are inferior and that's incredibly wrong. My personal opinion of the man is that he's a racist idiot and the kind of person that keeps true progress from reaching the easily influenced of the United States.

But just because I personally disagree with his message doesn't mean he doesn't have a right to say it. And it worries me that so called progressive thinkers, who abhor brutality and demand equal rights in a country that can be severely lacking at times, take so much pleasure in seeing a man being assaulted in public.

Sure, Spencer is a scumbag. I don't deny it. His rhetoric makes me feel ill, but is there a difference between preaching hate and advocating violence? I think there is. The constitution protects our right to freedom of speech, and the response to that is yes you have the right to say whatever you want in this country as long as it's not a lie (unless you're in the Trump administration), but you should be prepared for the consequences. However, there is no law stating assault is a proper response to a disagreement of opinion.

This isn't the first time that Spencer has been targeted for violence. When you give an unpopular opinion you're bound to make some enemies. Believe me, I know from experience.

Just last year the national editor of fact checking site Politico resigned after giving out Spencer's actual home address and telling readers to "exercise" their rights as "decent Americans."

You can't pick and choose who gets rights under the law. That's what we're protesting against! You might disagree with what Richard Spencer says, but I have yet to find any solid evidence that he has advocated violence against anyone. He is wrong in his opinion of inferior races and a white America, but the answer to his negativity is not to physically assault him.

Would it be acceptable if an alt right supporter punched Shaun King for pointing out the racial injustice in America? Would we laugh if someone assaulted a woman for talking about women's rights, just because the person who hit her disagreed with her opinion? I mean, to some people, the rights of others is just as offensive to them as these neo-Nazi's beliefs are to us. So where do we draw the line on free speech and when physical violence is an appropriate response?

It's an easy answer - violence is never the answer. The day that we celebrate attacks on our enemies for merely using the same rights that we all fight for, whether we agree with their message or not, is a sad day for America.

No, I do not have to turn in my movies and games where the heroes use violence to topple an evil empire. This is not that. Richard Spencer is not the leader of an oppressive organization with the power to destroy us all. He is the spokesperson for a fringe movement that gains more and more sympathy every time someone posts a meme about his assault.

What makes it worse is that people are advocating for more violence against him. This isn't a case where he has assaulted people and gotten away with it and someone finally delivered some swift justice to his face. This is someone speaking his mind and being physically attacked for it, and how can any of us believe that is just?

If we open up the door to answer verbal hatred with physical violence, what's next? How far will this escalate and how long will it be before killing someone who disagrees with you becomes a common solution? And, in a Trump America, who do you think the law will side with?

Just because someone says something you disagree with doesn't give you the right to hit them. I learned that when I was a child. It makes me sad to see so many supposedly righteous people taking pleasure in the assault of a horribly flawed but innocent man.

I know a lot of you will disagree with that opinion considering what a piece of work Richard Spencer is. Some of you might even call me an alt-right sympathizer. What I am is an American and a journalist, and I cannot condone sucker punching a guy twice for stating an opinion that is different from mine.

If you disagree with that, maybe you should reevaluate what exactly you stand for.
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