(A lot of the same ideas as found here, but with the specific Warren Ellis parts removed, and no use of the word “boner” so you can show it to your mom.)
Let me first say that I hate Nazism and everything it stands for.
Now let me say that unpopular, even hateful speech is, and should be protected by the First Amendment. Part of that protection is the protection from being punched in the face. You can dicker around with reasons why you think you’ve found a specific loophole about why you’re allowed to punch people in the face, but probably we should leave arguing constitutional law to the lawyers; let us set that aside and say that celebrating the act of punching people for their speech is not only morally repugnant also short-sighted.
We came up with the idea that speech deserves punches—let’s call it “punchism”—when our demographic, the progressive demographic was ascendent: Obama rode a tidal wave of adoration into the White House; TV shows were embracing lifestyles that used to be called “alternative” and were now called “the new normal”; tumblr and twitter were breaking new ground in exposing tweens to postcolonial theory. Everything was coming up Milhouse, and we thought we could pound the last few nails in the coffin of certain moribund demographics that slunk feebly around our throne (I think I mixed that metaphor). Punchism taught that there was a narrow Overton window of acceptable ideas, and anyone who fell outside that window deserved punishment. At first the punishment was just shame; then it was unemployment. We’ve been flirting with the idea that it should also be violence for a while now. Why not violence? It all seemed so safe!
That mobs should have this much power over our lives was what we decided at a time when we assumed we would always control the mob. We had not kept in mind that “mob” etymologically means “fickle.”
Fear of our power got Billy Bush fired for egging on “locker room talk”; but then there was an election and our power turned out to be a paper tiger. Our mob worked fine against Billy Bush, but not against his (much worse) interlocutor. While we were busy making sure a D-list celebrity was unemployable, the man who told Billy Bush his rape strategies snuck into the White House.
And punchism sounds like less of a great idea when the reins of government are in the hands of someone who hates everything you stand for as much as you hate what Richard Spencer stands for. Remember, before you say we should punch Nazis, that Trump has called those who question him Nazis. Remember, before you say that violence should be inflicted on unpopular speech, that our speech—yours and mine—is unpopular in the corridors of power.
During the McCarthy era, people were punished for their beliefs, specifically their support of a genocidal dictator who had sworn to overthrow the US government. And then we decided that the punishment was bad. Remember? When Elias Kazan, whose sin was ratting on supporters of that genocidal dictator, got a lifetime Oscar (in 1999) my friends were outraged. The outraged audience refused to applaud. Not because Kazan was the enemy of Stalinism—presumably we’re all enemies of Stalinism—but because he helped blacklist people who spoke unpopularly (i.e. in favor of Stalin).
We were very certain that the Hollywood blacklist was bad every minute of the day until we saw that we had the power to create blacklists ourselves. We were 100% opposed to the suppression of free speech until the moment we realized we could suppress the free speech of our opponents.
And now we want to celebrate because someone we don’t like gets punched for his opinions. Hey, I don’t like him either! I understand! If you get some kind of guilty pleasure out of watching other people get hurt, that’s your business and I’m not the boss of you. But if you pretend that this is not a guilty pleasure, that people who disagree with you should righteously be hurt, that violence should righteously be used to suppress dissent…
Look, if I can’t persuade you on moral grounds not to celebrate violence against unpopular opinions, I appeal to you on practical grounds. If you decide that violence to suppress words in justified, DO NOT BE SURPRISED when a thin-skinned, impulsive president with a history of calling mobs to violence calls the leviathanic power of the state against you. Don’t say you didn’t see this coming. Instead say, like Adonibezek, “Yeah, that’s what I would have done; it’s only fair.”
If you can say, “This isn’t a free speech issue” (when it obviously is), so can Trump. If you can say, “I don’t think this speech should be protected,” so can Trump.
After you use the button, you may remember from the Twilight Zone, it goes to someone who doesn’t know you. And Trump literally, and I mean this literally, has the button.
That’s what you’re celebrating.