More on Nazis and the punching thereof.
Okay, so every time this subject comes up, I end up getting strawwomanned to hell and back. If you must call me a pussy, an idiot, a Nazi-lover, a naïve sheltered little tittybaby or a snotty sermonizer, I’d much prefer it be on the basis of opinions I actually have, as opposed to the ones I don’t have. That’s sadly where my bar is at right now. :-)
So I figure I’ll go ahead and do up a post about exactly where I do currently stand on all this, that I can refer people to in a link. Mind you, I’m aware that the kinds of people who love to strawman arguments are also the people who don’t love to read any opinion that can’t be boiled down to a tweet or at maximum a listicle. So I’ll try to make it as close to a listicle as I can? But my hopes are not high; brevity is not among my gifts. I’m already very aware of that. Don’t feel the need to inform me. I get bludgeoned with the shame stick for that on a regular basis. Also, I know I talk too much, especially for a girl, and I clearly labor under a delusion that I’m smart or something. I’m not sure who the hell I think I am, really, but whatever. This is the Internet. Try and stop me.
- Fascism and white supremacy are inherently and irredeemably bad. Full stop.
This should of course be a DUH, and yet right now we’re all watching a lot of people throw rhetorical dust up in the air to try and confuse the issue. I get that. I’ve argued with those same little dirtfuckers, okay? The ones I suspect to be crypto; the ones who don’t think they’re racist/misogynist/etc but totally are; and the ones who are just looking for excuses to do nothing. When I’m not arguing with you, I’m arguing with them. (If you don’t believe me, peruse anyplace on the Internet where I post. My history on this point is many years in the making.)
Point being, I understand extremely well, and from personal experience, that violent words will sooner or later be joined by violent deeds. Feelings lead to thoughts, thoughts lead to action. And the logical endpoint of a fascist/supremacist ideology is mass oppression and genocide. Which — just to be crystal fucking clear on this point — is precisely what I have been devoting all my effort to preventing. In meatspace as well as the Internet.
- If there is some way I can make that any clearer, for Jesus’ sweet sake, tell me, ‘cause I’ve reached the end of my repertoire.
- I find it vastly ironic that a lot of the same people who still think I don’t believe #1, above, are the same little shits who called me a hysteric in ’15 and ’16, when I was sounding the alarm about Trump and his racist cryptofascism.
Yes, ‘bros and people who are too pure for a political party, I am looking at you. And I really don’t give a good goddamn whether you voted in the general for Stein or Johnson, or wrote in, or stayed home. You were the ones I was begging through all of ’16 to do something and you couldn’t even be assed to pick up a phone or knock on a door. But you sure were great at bitching about how equally vile Hillary and Donald were! You and your thoughtless propaganda-spreading were part of the problem, and how you have the gall to come at me now for insufficient devotion to justice and liberty is and will always be totally beyond me.
- I am very results-oriented — but also aware of moral slippery slopes.
People who think you can only be one or the other frankly baffle me. I mean, it’s true you can’t eat and drink at exactly the same time, but both are kinda crucial, and most of us manage to do plenty of both. Obviously what actually happens to real people as a result of one’s choices matters — because if that doesn’t matter, then what the hell does? But as a history goob who’s made particular study of Nazi Germany, I’m well aware of how easy it is to get backed up to the edge of a moral abyss. History tells of many people who were well-meaning (or believed they were) but ended up more and more complicit in their country’s evil…with less and less plausible excuses for it. I’m actively terrified of that danger, for myself and for others, because I know authoritarian regimes excel in making the unforgivable tolerable over time.
So. You have to keep your eye on both of those things. Motivation/reasoning and results. They both matter.
- I think it’s both wrong and counterproductive to throw the first punch — but I support self-defense.
The exact moment in which a situation becomes morally and/or legally self-defense is something decent people can disagree about, and varies depending on situation. And depending on the relative power or privilege of the two parties.
For instance (and I’m deliberately traveling outside the Nazi/KKK racist-violence framework here, btw, to clarify the basic ethics in play) if a woman who has been threatened, stalked, and beaten by her husband kills him in his sleep because she’s convinced he will kill her soon, obviously that won’t meet a legal standard of imminent danger for a self-defense plea. If a nonviolent or less-violent way to make herself and her children safe was reasonably available to her and she didn’t take it, then yes, her choice was morally wrong and needlessly harmful. Even leaving aside the husband’s welfare, which he’s arguably given up his right to demand that she give a shit about— she’s still bereaved his loved ones when she didn’t have to.
BUT! I can say that, whilst (and at the same time!) saying that there were definitely mitigating circumstances there, which must affect how she’s treated afterward. If they don’t, then that too is injustice.
And I’ll go on to tell anybody judging her that they should consider how they would have handled it before getting on their high horse. And think about her life and her children’s, and what would’ve happened to them if the situation had continued as it was. Finally, they must ask themselves why, if they truly care so much, they’re not working to end DV itself. Which would kinda be the real win-win, right?
Another example — if one is unjustly imprisoned, one certainly has the right to escape. But is it okay to preemptively kill guards on the way out? Well, no. Not okay, especially if there’s another way. But not hard to understand either—after all, many people would value their freedom as much as or more than their life, and with good reason. Either way, no one should judge that prisoner without also judging the unjust system that put them in that dilemma in the first place.
There, see? Shit can be morally complex. I have never, ever said otherwise. First principles should be clear; and we should be clear, when principles are being violated, that it’s happening and that’s not a good thing. But in the real world, first principles can conflict and get mixed up, and we are all finite, fallible human beings whose judgments are not always rational when threatened. You can acknowledge both those truths simultaneously. I just did it. And they apply to all axes of oppression, not just the ones I’ve mentioned. No exceptions.
- I do truly no-shit mean it about supporting self-defense, for Chrissake.
Sorry to repeat myself, but apparently I have to? Look, I know there are people who believe violence is never under any circumstance okay. Which in an absolute moral sense may be true. But sometimes it can be the least bad of the available options, and one can only do one’s human best. Nobody has the right to demand more than that. So the people who are 100% pacifist, I get and respect why they hold that belief. I just disagree. And if we’re in a situation where that disagreement is more than academic, I’m not gonna be quiet about it either. (Especially if I think someone’s not sincerely thinking about real-world impact or power imbalances. Sometimes pure pacifism is a cover for less savory motives. BUT SOMETIMES IT ISN’T. How do you tell the difference? By their fruits shall ye know them. More on that later.)
- Mass actions declared to be absolutely nonviolent in advance have a great need to maintain nonviolent discipline. But that’s not the same situation as an individual clash, or even a regular protest. Don’t assume my positions on very different things are remotely similar.
So I do think that when a mass action is promoted as being 100% nonviolent, as in you’ve said “we won’t fight back even as you haul us off, just to make the moral difference SUPER obvious,” then yeah, breaking discipline on the nonviolence oath even for self-defense is a problem.
…Which is why nonviolence training is a thing. It’s not easy to think straight when your spinal cord is screaming Danger Will Robinson. In fact, the SNCC folks trained hard to learn how to not meet violence with violence. It took practice. There are films of the roleplay trainings. But outside that specific context, I won’t judge anyone’s acts of self-defense, and I reserve my own right to it as well.
That doesn’t change the fact that sworn, absolutely nonviolent mass resistance actions are some of the most powerful and effective actions you can do, which fact alone makes trying it more than worthwhile. I am hoping for many chances to engage in such actions.
- I also absolutely agree that “riots are the language of the unheard,” and false equivalencies should still be called out even when both sides of a conflict are using preemptive violence.
Excusing is not okay (two wrongs do not make a right, just like all our moms said) — but pointing out false equivalencies where relevant certainly is.
In 1930’s Germany, people were way more scared of the Communists than of the Nazis. Obviously, in retrospect, oops. And anyone studying the raw numbers even back then could see that even though Communists and Nazis both fought and killed each other in the streets (so did other parties’ paramilitaries, btw), violence was still more extreme on the Nazi side. And Nazi violence was far more likely to be exonerated by the authorities, which is also a goddamn relevant point.
Now, does that make Communists preemptively beating or killing even known Nazis okay? I say no, of course not. But the German public’s distorted picture of the relative levels of violent deeds and rhetoric (i.e. one party was kinda overtly pro-genocide, the other kinda not) caused them to totally miss the true threat…and they ended up subjecting captured Communists to horrible cruelties and mass murder, as well.
In hindsight, being visibly and preemptively violent was not a smart move on the Communists’ part — it lost them allies they desperately needed, Black Bloc folks please take note — but that doesn’t mean they remotely deserved what was done to them.
So. That’s all bad too. Just repeating again for the cheap seats. :-)
- I also believe there is such a thing as a just, or at least a necessary war.
Again, I’m really not a 100% pacifist…just more like 95%.
There was a certain point in time at which Hitler could still have been stopped without violence, and it sure woulda been nice if people had been wise enough to do so while that was possible.
But at some point, that point was past. Irretrievably past.
At that point, going to war, and knowingly throwing millions of lives into the meat grinder in order to win it, was legit the least bad of the available options. When you actually reach that point, I say, go to war.
But that situation comes up a hell of a lot less often than most people think it does. And I think anyone who regards war as anything less than an unfathomable hell on earth, that leaves generations’ worth of open festering wounds on the world? Probably has their meter deeply miscalibrated on this whole question. Probably does not understand what war is.
I don’t really personally understand what war is either, mind. But that’s why I fucking listen to the people who’ve been through it. And not listening to the people who knew the things while there was still time to change course, by the way, is a hell of a lot of what got us here in the first place. -_-
We are not even close to a point where I think war is the only answer left (if you think we are, I suspect you’re not considering how much worse things really can get). But if we keep being stupid, I suppose we well may eventually get there. …Could we not, though? My thought was to skip it. That was why I spent most of 2016 trying to stop Trump at the ballot box.
- Despite the foregoing, I still advocate nonviolent confrontations, especially when they’re part of a militant, organized nonviolent resistance action.
Go ahead and roll your eyes now, because I’m going to bring up MLK and Gandhi, but here’s the thing. A lot of folks who throw around their quotes after a spate of violence remember that MLK had a Dream. But they forget he also had a plan — a cold-bloodedly calculated and studied plan that took human hatred and selfishness fully into account. And that although he was unwilling to shed the blood of others, he and those who joined him spilled plenty of their own. “Nonviolent” resistance is actually pretty damn violent. It’s just one-sided violence.
Also, they were successful. Dunno about you, but that part is very important to me. Yes, MLK and Gandhi were assassinated. But not before they’d achieved significant liberations that have never (yet :-( ) been rolled back. Public facilities in the US are still integrated last I checked. India is still independent. That’s not nothing. If you try to tell me it’s nothing, I will not react well. Sorry in advance.
- I can’t believe I even have to say this, but nonviolent resistance does not mean running away or hiding OR knuckling under.
Those are in fact mutually exclusive things. So the very last thing I’m espousing is fleeing from Nazis. Just the opposite. They must be confronted, openly, and in numbers, if we’re to have any hope. That’s why I went directly to Crissy Field instead of one of the other actions elsewhere in San Francisco, against official advice. (As it turned out, the Nazis/KKK/whatever punked out. Which is what I call a happy ending.)
- One more time for the cheap seats, I care about results for real people as much as, if not more than, moral judgments.
So did our “saintly” nonviolence heroes. Their reasons for what they did were moral, but not solely moral. MLK studied Gandhi’s movement directly, and he also worked from the detailed observations/analysis Bayard Rustin made of the Salt March and similar actions. There is a strategy behind militant mass nonviolent resistance (it works much better when it’s a mass instead of a single person btw, though even one person can inspire) that I’m not going to get into the details of here. But let’s just say, it relies less on the inherent goodness in people’s hearts than on their need to perceive themselves and their society as “good.” It also involves deliberately provoking the oppressor into reacting badly to open but peaceful defiance. (The day they’ve stopped reacting badly is, not incidentally, the day you’ve won.)
Here is a scientist briefly explaining the results of her study that found that when a revolution becomes violent, its chances of succeeding drop by half.
I’m not willing to cut our odds by that much. Why is anybody else?
- If you DARE demean the efforts and heroism of nonviolent resisters, in the name of every civil rights movement ever I’m going to have to school your ass.
This is an extension of the previous point, but it bears calling out specially, because this is something that enrages me on a gut level, and I freely admit that. Many white people alive in the US today would never have been born at all, if Black people had taken a violent vengeance on their Southern ancestors that would have been just by any historical standard. We owe what we enjoy today not just to their lack of resources to make war on their oppressors, but to a conscious decision by the vast majority not to pursue violence even when that option was open. Were numbers and materiel ever in their favor? Of course not. So were there practical reasons not to violently rebel? Sure. Slave rebellions rarely ended well, and I really dunno how much better the odds were under Jim Crow either. But they still coulda killed a hell of a lot of people and done a hell of a lot more societal damage, if they’d chosen to. They could have made the oppressors’ victory very Pyrrhic indeed. Provided you’re reconciled to your own certain death, you can nearly always make that happen.
To put it bluntly? At one point, white folks in America were kind of the Nazis.
Let that shit soak in. I’ll wait.
I don’t think white folks are quite conscious of how very grateful they should be to the leaders of Black nonviolent resistance in every era, that they didn’t try to take that other, bloodier path. I think we take that shit way too much for granted.
(…I could also add here that women, who are half the population, also chose a nonviolent and successful path for winning the vote, the right to own property, the right not to be raped, the right not to be murdered in a “DV incident,” and other little things like that. We didn’t have to be so nice about it, y’know. But nobody ever seems to even consider the possibility of our choosing differently. I do wonder why…)
- N.B.: When I say respect is due I don’t just mean the people at the actual civil disobedience actions, either.
There are beloved friends who I very much disagreed with on their decision to go to the anti-hate events elsewhere in San Francisco on August 26th (i.e., instead of going to Crissy Field itself).
BUT I also know a lot of those same friends are busting their asses each and every day doing all the scut work that is as ignored as it is necessary to impede the Trump regime. And elect Democrats, and protect vulnerable populations, etc etc. They were with me knocking on every door, calling every voter, yelling at all the members of Congress, in 2016 and in some cases for decades before my ass ever GOT political. Never complaining. Never asking for social-justice cookies. Paying for the food out of their own pockets (and these are not rich people btw, or even middle class in many cases). And even in their present heartbreak, even when they’re treated like the bougie enemy of all that is Right and Good, they continue to quietly do this, and they will never, ever give up.
In my book, they are way more badass than some little dirtfucker who won’t do fuckall for the cause unless it’s Glamorous and Exciting. And if you disrespect them, even in the cases where I categorically disagree with their approach? You will be schooled. You need to appreciate that these people are the very pillars of any movement for justice. If nobody steps up to lick the stamps, all that high-flown rhetoric ain’t getting very far. Do not discount their strength and tenacity and devotion, just because they’re doing women’s work. (Whether they’re women or men or any other gender. We all know some parts of resistance get macho prestige and others…do not.)
- No matter where you stand on the Nazi-punching continuum, don’t be a fucking hypocrite about it.
This is my other big hot button. I am not here for your vague-ass underpants-gnome “revolution,” and I’m obliged to point out that a lot of folks with more marginalized and more obvious minority statuses than mine agree.
By no means all, but definitely most of the people I see vigorously waving their figurative dicks around all the time about how you can only stop fascism by going out and preemptively punching ALL the Nazis? Are not the first ones whose asses would be on the actual firing line in an actual revolution. So they know perfectly well (or SHOULD -_- ) that it’s not their own blood they’d be pouring out on the altar of their not-terribly-thought-through Cause. Nor do they seem to care. And that just flat disgusts me.
Which is why I always say, if you want me to take you seriously on the absolute need to shed blood for the Cause right this minute, start with your own.
On this, I actually get less mad at the people who are literally going out looking for Nazis to preemptively punch. I mean I think what they’re doing is wrong, foolish and harmful, and plays too much into a narrative of “both sides” (which would be one thing if that were unavoidable but it’s not). But I will give them credit for at least putting money where mouth is. For risking themselves and not just other people.
Contrariwise, somebody who’s loudly going on about how punching Nazis is The. Only. Way. To stop them, and spitting on me for disagreeing — but then starts hemming and hawing when I ask them if that’s true, why aren’t they out there punching those Nazis? (‘Cause if I believed that, I sure as shit would be.) Well, let’s put it this way: they better have a damn good reason for not matching word to deed.
There are damn good reasons. If you have your hands full enough just with baseline survival, if you have dependents to think of, if you’re simply physically or financially unable to do what you think needs doing, that’s one thing. But again, those are not most of the people talking so big.
Here’s the bottom line. I’m always happy to have ethics or strategy discussions. Whether I agree or not, I’m always grateful to hear other people’s perspectives on such issues. (Especially if they’re speaking from a more vulnerable or difficult place than mine. And I don’t take it upon myself to, for instance, tell immigrants how they should do immigrant rights work. That’s getting out of my lane. I’ll keep my opinions to myself unless specifically asked to share. :-) )
But one of the reasons I work so hard, however imperfectly, to keep word and deed matched in my life is because to me, the very least useful thing of all is lying to oneself or others. So if you are not matching your word to deed, I am going to point that out. Now you can fix it in either direction, I don’t care which. You can fix the word end, or the deed end. But fucking pick one. We don’t have time for bullshit.
Oh, and for the record: I do not count fighting with people on Facebook — or coming up with a cute new soundtrack to put under that video of that little punk in a hoodie coming up behind Richard Spencer, lightly sucker-punching him and then running like hell — OR creating Captain America “I WANT YOU to Punch All the Nazis” memes… as actually doing something.
That’s not doing shit. And you know it. You just don’t like hearing it.
There are many, many ways to do concrete work toward the goal we all presumably share. Start on one and even when I disagree with you, I’ll at least respect that you came here to work. The only thing I can’t respect at all is fucking bullshit.
…Especially bullshit coming out not of a desire to actually help, but out of the same damn toxic machismo that got us here in the first place. But that’s a rant for another day!
- Don’t overestimate how much I really finally care what you think.
Argue with me if you think there’s something actually to be gained from it, if you think it’s important I change my mind. That’s generally why I argue with people on these messy subjects.
But don’t think you’re ever going to humiliate me into compliance. I realize in lefty circles we’ve all gotten very into the virtue-signaling. (Shut up, SHUT UP, I KNOW ALREADY. I know apologists just love to use the “virtue-signaling” label to dismiss anyone making a legit argument. But. They do have a tiny grain of a point. We do actually do way too much virtue-signaling on the left. And we do tend to pillory anyone who has the temerity to diverge from the consensus of the moment. We do sometimes care more about outward performance of the liturgy than actual committed intent. That is ballast we need to be offloading as of yesterday.)
But in the wake of the election, I realized in the pit of my stomach that if I wanted to be as useful to my country and the world as I hope to be in a time of dire peril…then I was going to have to learn to give far fewer fucks about what people think of me. Still working on that, but I know it is an absolute necessity. This isn’t about my feelings — or yours. It’s beyond any one of us.
And I know that in times like these, no matter what I choose to do or say, the odds of nobody thinking it’s a terrible, wicked idea are very, very low indeed. :-)
So. I won’t say I don’t care. I have scars from intense bullying experiences in childhood that won’t let me not care at all when people are publicly humiliating me.
But I can’t allow that to stop me from doing what I think is right.
Seriously, if I’ve already decided I’m willing to go to jail if necessary, what in the hell would make you think Internet insults are going to work? :-)