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On Wednesday night of this past week, the night before the Montana special election for a vacant congressional seat, republican candidate Greg Gianforte body slammed and repeatedly punched Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian newspaper. The story of Gianforte's attack spread quickly and was accompanied by Jacob's audio recording and eyewitness accounts of other media members who witnessed the event.
Upon reading accounts of the incident and hearing the audiotape, my first reaction was at odds with those that were relaying the story to me on the television…I thought this would insure Gianforte's victory, not impede it. Our current political culture is so toxic and distorted that it makes Gianforte's assault into an act of decisive courage, not one of unsettling violent impetuosity.
You get the government you deserve, and the people of Montana deserve Greg Gianforte. But Montana is not alone in their preference for the unhinged bully. The biggest example of this is, of course, Donald Trump, who huffed, puffed and bullied his way into the White House.
The media quickly came to the defense of their compatriot Jacobs and rightly condemned Gianforte. Shouts of fascism and the perils of the war on the press were hot talking points surrounding the Gianforte assault. Much blame was placed at the door of republicans in general and Trump in particular. What struck me though was a complete lack of self-reflection regarding the acceptance of violent speech and outright violence on the part of liberals and the resistance movement that have heightened our already strained and sweltering political climate.
The most famous case of violence from the left occurred on inauguration weekend when a masked man infamously sucker punched alt-right firebrand Richard Spencer as he stood on a D.C. street corner conducting an impromptu interview. Much hilarity ensued on the internet when people created gif's and memes of the video of Spencer being punched. The mainstream media did not condemn the violence, they laughed right along with liberals and other resistance fighters. The New York Times wrote a piece asking if it was ok to punch a Nazi. The answer was basically…always.
Nazis are so evil that not only CAN you punch them, you SHOULD, or so the theory goes at the moment. Nothing is out of bounds when taking on fascists, as the antifa (anti-fascists) will tell you. And we have seen this play out across the country this past year.
There were the riots at the University of California at Berkeley when protesters tried, and succeeded, in stopping right wing glamour boy provocateur Milo Yiannoppolis from giving a speech. The same occurred at Middlebury College in Vermont when Charles Murray, of the Bell Curve fame, was invited to speak at the school. Murray and a professor were physically assaulted and driven off of campus by protestors in a violent and chaotic scene.
The election was filled with much violence as well, from Trump supporters assaulting protestors to anti-Trump protestors assaulting Trump supporters. The clashes that erupted in Chicago at a Trump rally between pro-and anti-Trump forces, echoed of the insanity of the '68 democratic convention.
I have written numerous articles since the election about the perils of violent speech emanating from the left. Madonna's remarks at the Women's March and Snoop Dogg's anti-Trump video were just two such instances of the left embracing the dangerous language of the aggressor. Add to that the knowing nods of approval from the mainstream media over the Richard Spencer assault and liberals are left stripped of any moral authority whatsoever in regards to this issue. Their shock and horror at Gianforte's repulsive behavior rings hollow and hypocritical.
When liberals excuse and exalt themselves for literally "fighting" Nazis, they set themselves up for defeat. Liberals will end up losing the argument and the fight, if it ever comes to that. Liberals will be blamed by voters for any appearance of lawlessness and chaos when riots break out, but the right will not be blamed for organized counter attacks, as we witnessed in the clashes at Bekreley last month. Martin Luther King understood this strategy well, and through the use of patient non-violence he turned public opinion in his favor when images of calm, peaceful protestors being beaten by a vicious and chaotic police force revealed who the lawless really were in the civil rights struggle.
And just as a practical, strategic matter, God forbid it ever comes to this, but liberals have positioned themselves as devoutly anti-gun, and their opponents in any potential civil war battle that could be shaping up are not unarmed, in fact, they are armed to the teeth So liberals will end up being the fools who show up to a gun fight with nothing but their fists and righteous indignation, a surefire recipe for slaughter. That won't end well for liberals in the long term, and neither will trying to match the right bully for bully and assault for assault in the short term.
This is a time in history when "strength", or at least the appearance of strength, draws instinctual support from many voters. The right went for their own type of strongman in Trump in the last election, a way for his voters to attempt to quell their fears and anxieties. Trump's appearance of strength is a mirage, he is a hollow, cowardly man. This is why the left must counter this type of vacuous "strength" with a genuine spiritual strength. This is not the "strength" of a man like Trump (or Duterte or Erdogan), but rather the strength of men like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Ceasar Chavez, Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh. The moral and ethical strength of these men should be the guideposts for the resistance movement. These men did not fall for the trappings of myopia and the easy path of the punch, they played the long game, and maintained their righteousness throughout without ever letting it turn into righteous violence.
Look, I know all too well the temptation and appeal of a little bit of the old ultra-violence. Punching people, especially those who you think deserve it, feels really, really good….in the moment. But it rarely, if ever, feels good in the long run, and it is even more rare for it to be effective.
The problem with believing it is ok to punch Nazis, is that your opponent can and will appropriate that mindset and make it their own. And as we have seen many times, who we label a Nazi is in the eye of the beholder. Bush was Hitler, Obama was Hitler, Hillary was Hitler, Trump is Hitler. If punching Nazis is now within the norm, your enemies will simply label you a Nazi either before of after they punch you. Gianforte thought he was righteous in hitting Jacobs, the masked man who hit Richard Spencer thought he was righteous, the old coot who punched a protestor at a Trump rally thought he was righteous…we all think we are righteous and our opponent is evil, so we give ourselves permission to do all sorts of unthinkable things.
The moral of this story is that punching Nazis is fun, unless you are the Nazi. And the truth is, as our political culture spirals ever faster and further down into delusion and madness, we have all become Nazis, and I fear we have the government and politics we so richly deserve.