A response to the "Spotted at Mac: 'punch a Nazi'" article from the Sept. 21 issue.
By: Lilian Obeng
I remember when every single social science and humanities professor chose to dedicate a portion of their lecture time to discussing this infamous question last year. A video showing white nationalist Richard Spencer getting punched by an anti-fascist protestor had gone viral and captured the attention of western liberal media. Everyone had a hot take, everyone picked a side to this debate and everyone continued to miss the mark. The article published this week did just the same.
Let’s begin with the campus-specific premise on which this article was based. First, the Revolutionary Students’ Movement is not an MSU Club. Any affiliation to McMaster and the larger McMaster community is tangential at best. Second, this article is rife with logical inconsistencies. The author states that expressing “violence against those who identify as Neo-Nazi is a violent act in itself.” Contained within this statement is the failure to acknowledge the initial violence of being a Nazi. Let me make this very clear — Nazism and white supremacy are ideologies that advocate for genocide and hatred. To view the stances of the RSM without interacting with this historical fact is a failure to acknowledge the violence and oppression that have gone into marginalizing certain groups. Power dynamics are ever-present in our discussions, and the resistance of the oppressed in in no way equal to that of their oppressors.
“Is it okay to punch a Nazi?”
Additionally, this useless question gives rise to an even more irrelevant debate. For starters, this whole punching Nazis business is quite literally a joke. It can be argued that it is in poor taste, but the vast portion of internet memes follow this suit. No person interested in rational debate is actually suggesting that punching individual Nazis is a productive use of time or is conducive to social justice. To act as though this is the case to be fundamentally intellectually dishonest. The fact that people are attempting to derive some sort of knowledge from this joke is troubling. and use it that the basis on which to draw conclusions as to the validity of the use of violence as a means of resistance is particularly irritating.
This question does nothing but obfuscate the real, pressing conversations we should be having here on this campus and beyond.
Why do we as a society hesitate to condemn Nazism and white supremacy in the strongest possible terms? What do we define as violence, and why are certain acts by specific parties excluded from this definition?
What this debate displays is our poor collective analysis. We continue to distill matter of systemic oppression and violence down to the actions of isolated individuals. We continue to refuse to examine our dependency on oppressive and state-sanctioned regimes of power. In this case, it is white supremacy.
The tension between what exists materially and what is conceived within the confines of purely academic and theoretical thought — divorced from the social reality marginalized groups face and what our society perpetuates — is the root of the frustrating practice. It results in disjointed attempts — such as that article — to appeal to “both sides” when one side is morally incorrect. It legitimizes actively harmful beliefs, and displays the extent to which we have these conversations in vacuums. Bigotry will be challenged. Hate will be challenged. No amount of intellectual posturing changes these premises.