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Punching Richard Spencer

By now everyone will have heard seen the clip of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer being sucker-punched by a masked left-wing “anti-fascist” activist [1] on the streets of Washington. I am on the record in this space as rejecting and loathing everything Richard Spencer stands for. He has publicly denounced me, and said that I represent the decline of this magazine. Spencer is a Nietzschean who despises Christians.

But his being attacked on the street when he was doing nothing violent, and threatening nobody, is indefensible. Many on the Left are celebrating it. I’m not going to link to any of that violence porn. You can find it all over the Internet if you want to see it. It’s not shocking that there are people in the world who take pleasure in watching people they hate be physically assaulted, even when those people are doing nothing more than peaceably exercising their right to free speech. What is shocking, though, is a mainstream magazine publishing a piece praising the act.

Here is what The Nation‘s contributor [2]Natasha Lennard [3] had to say in praise of that thug who slugged Spencer. [2] Excerpts:

The transcendental experience of watching Roger Federer play tennis, David Foster Wallace wrote, was one of “kinetic beauty.” Federer’s balletic precision and mastering of time, on the very edge of what seems possible for a body to achieve, was a form of bodily genius. What Foster Wallace saw in a Federer Moment, I see in a video of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face.



If bodies run out of formation to take a rock to a Starbucks window, they melt back to the bloc in as many seconds. Bodies reconciled, kinetic beauty. If that sounds to you like a precondition for mob violence, you’re right. But this is only a problem if you think there are no righteous mobs, or that windows feel pain, or that counter-violence (like punching Richard Spencer) is never valid.

In the end, says Lennard, the only way any anti-Trump sentiment will get anywhere is “with unrelenting force, in a multitude of directions.”

“You don’t have to fight neo-Nazis in the street,” she writes, “but you should support those who do.”

That last line hyperlinks to a place where you can donate money to pay the legal costs of arrested antifas.

By publishing this essay, The Nation has implicitly endorsed violence to achieve political goals. It is shocking and contemptible. And it is also the No. 1 most read piece on the magazine’s website.

Natasha Lennard’s reasoning is the same kind used by anti-abortion radicals who believe that extremism in defense of unborn life is no vice — this, to justify destroying abortion clinics and even shooting abortion doctors. The mainstream pro-life movement has loudly denounced it. What sort of response do you think we would see if National Review, the Weekly Standard, or The American Conservative published an essay praising the “kinetic beauty” of watching a shot take out an abortion doctor, or of seeing an abortion clinic burn? What if one of these conservative magazines told its readers that they don’t have to fight abortion by assaulting pro-abortion activists and clinic staff, but they should give money to pay the legal bills of those who do?

I don’t think people like The Nation‘s editors truly understand what they are calling up. What will they say if skinheads starting assaulting people like Black Lives Matter’s Deray McKesson in the street? Where will it stop? How will it stop? Do the editors of that magazine really think they will be physically safe if political violence spreads? Do the liberals who wouldn’t dirty their hands by throwing a rock or swinging a fist honestly believe that they won’t be held responsible for supporting those who do? Could it possibly be the case that they genuinely believe anarchist street violence is going to win them popular support, instead of give ordinary people incentive to back whatever illiberal thing Donald Trump wants to do to suppress them?

Do they really want to live in a society where political questions are decided by street violence and the fear of it? Because that’s what the editors of The Nation are helping to bring about.

182 Comments (Open | Close)

182 Comments To "Punching Richard Spencer"

#1 Comment By M_Young On January 24, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

You know that four of the four guys on Mount Rushmore were white nationalists, right?

#2 Comment By Bill Murphy On January 24, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

Alastair Roberts, one of Rod’s favourite bloggers, has written a long list of excellent reasons to be anxious about this move to street thuggery: [4]

#3 Comment By JonF On January 24, 2017 @ 4:52 pm

Re: C’mon, Jon, the anarchists even had a website calling for people to come to DC during Inauguration and break things.

What does that have to do with the substance of my post, which is about a very specific incident, for which, as far as I know (correct me if I am wrong) no one has been arrested or even identified. As such I think minds need to be kept open, not jump to conclusions– especially in light of the sorts of frauds committed by people like James O’Keefe. (Nor am I claiming the radical left is above faking such incidents for its cause– I am not implying the far right is uniquely perfidious– it is not).
I really do think we are to the point where absent hard verified facts we should hold all judgment in abeyance.

#4 Comment By Colm J On January 24, 2017 @ 5:03 pm

If, as Newt Gingrich and others have said, Madonna should have been arrested for saying she’d thought of blowing up the White House, and then thought better of it, surely a journalist who explicitly condones a violent assault, should be arrested for inciting violence?

Plus, much of the coverage of the Trump riots on British TV (and probably elsewhere as wall) tacitly condoned the rioting and even seemed a bit crestfallen that it wasn’t more serious and widespread. The subtext of the reporters’ commentary seemed to be that the more rioting there was the more it proved that Trump’s presidency was viewed as illegitimate by many Americans.

The outlets concerned are not leftwing in the old-fashioned sense; on the contrary they are mostly keen advocates of capitalism, globalism, and military interventionism. This is the intriguing thing about the anti-Trump SJWs – the way their actions and rhetoric dovetail so precisely with the agenda of globalist bigwigs.

#5 Comment By K. W. Jeter On January 24, 2017 @ 5:44 pm

In the meantime, “antifa” types that came to DC to cause trouble are now complaining that they’re facing consequences for their actions; warning, NSFW language:


As for the guy who punched Richard Spencer, don’t worry; various alt-right types have already done a good job in ID’ing him. Nothing final yet, but Spencer has filed a police report, and the guy could be looking at felony assault charges, due to his having worn a mask during the incident; that can bump it up from what would otherwise have been a misdemeanor charge.

#6 Comment By Marko On January 24, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

Well, here’s a counterpoint, also in the Nation (two days later, true).


#7 Comment By Hound of Ulster On January 24, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

All good Christians should punch a Nazi in the mouth…as long as said Nazi is an actual, legit, card-carrying follower of Adolf Hitler et al, not some knucklehead who is play acting or is just a bog-standard fascist. Nazism is at it’s core Christophobic, and deeply hostile any form of Christianity. Read about Himmler and others’ long term plans for Europe, which included the de-Christization of the German nation and a reversion to paganism, with everything that implied. So, yeah, punch a Nazi. As long as they are, you know, an actual Nazi.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 24, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

The MSM wants to make Spencer the face of the Trump movement.

The Trump movement already has a face. His name is Donald Trump.

#9 Comment By Joan On January 24, 2017 @ 9:37 pm

@Will Harrington

The difference between a Communist and a SJW is that, if you punch a SJW, the SJW will probably go to the police and demand their right to be protected. If you punch a Commie, the Commie will probably punch back. Violent revolution is an essential part of Communist doctrine, so the movement doesn’t tend to attract people who are uncomfortable with violence, or who expect any kind of help from society’s existing institutions of power such as the police. Social Justice is a moral purity movement, like Abolitionism and Temperance, so they feel totally entitled to the support of thos same institutions.

#10 Comment By Thrice A Viking On January 25, 2017 @ 1:03 am

Hector, I agree with you in large part, but still believe that Spencer isn’t much of a threat. I recall Huey P. Long’s response to a question about whether we’d ever get fascism in the US. His reply was to the effect that sure, we’d get it – but it would be dressed up as 100% Americanism. I believe he was right. Well, not about the certainty that we’d get it, but how an American fascism would look. People like Spencer, who addressed a crowd of supporters with “Hail, Trump” (a slight variation of the Nazi “Heil Hitler”, for those who don’t know, if that’s anyone on this literate commentariat) just isn’t likely to cut it. Neither are Maoists, Stalinists, or even Trotskyites. We could get either kind of totalitarianism, but its purveyors will have to be far more clever than to base its appeal on a long-dead foreigner.

#11 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 25, 2017 @ 8:53 am

All good Christians should punch a Nazi in the mouth…as long as said Nazi is an actual, legit, card-carrying follower of Adolf Hitler et al, not some knucklehead who is play acting or is just a bog-standard fascist……. So, yeah, punch a Nazi. As long as they are, you know, an actual Nazi.

Hound of Ulster,

I largely sympathize with this, especially with the fact you’re intellectually careful to distinguish between Nazis and “bog standard fascists”. I would observe the same distinction and agree one should treat them differently. FTR I think Spencer is much closer to the Nazi end.

For those who don’t think Spencer is a Nazi, I would ask, as Viking points out, why does he end speeches with “Hail Trump” and Nazi salutes then?

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 25, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

You know that four of the four guys on Mount Rushmore were white nationalists, right?

White, yes, nationalists, yes, white nationalists, no. Washington initially wanted black soldiers out of the continental army, but thought better of it, and championed the idea that Indian nations such as the Cherokee could form states that could be admitted into the union. Lincoln… no real need to talk about the evolution of his thinking, its all been said before. Jefferson… a very mixed bag, but Gore Vidal’s Burr didn’t tell the entire story. Roosevelt… probably more true of him than anyone, but he did invite Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House.

#13 Comment By Colm J On January 25, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

Joan: A rather romantic view of the Communist movement. Contrary to what you say history is full of examples of Communists pleading for protection from the very “forces of reaction” they otherwise claim to despise. In any case much of the SJW movement is dominated by Marxists of one sort or another – even if they are usually bankrolled by the supercapitalist class. Nothing new there if the truth be told

#14 Comment By Harkin On January 26, 2017 @ 12:29 am

Huey Long couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s not conservative nationalists weaponizing the government to go after anyone trying to limit its power and corruption, its liberal democrat globalists.

#15 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 26, 2017 @ 12:58 am

That deserves a separate comment. Its a very interesting question. On the one hand, its kind of an academic exercise, since we can’t go back in time, job Woodrow Wilson’s elbow, and institute an alternative line of history. On the other hand, if it is cited as a good model for the future, those of us who reject it should be able to pose an alternative.

Hi Siarlys!

Your separate comment in turn deserves a separate response. Woodrow Wilson himself I don’t place much hope in: he was a hypocrite when it came to the aspirations of ethnic groups, willing to grant them to Czechs and Yugoslavs but not to Vietnamese or for that matter Black Americans. That being said, I think the issue of how European nation states ought to have been formed is a really interesting one. It’s also a very much relevant one today, since the countries formed from the 1918 settlement are currently having internal debates about to what extent Muslims on the one hand, and Roma/Gypsies on the other, are part of their national community.

Ethnic “purity” in the strict sense is obviously neither desirable nor achievable, any more than pure and total equality of incomes is, and like all other perfect ideals, the attempt to achieve it is inevitably going to lead to some very bad consequences. That being said, I’d probably go for your suggestion #2, and opt for relative ethnic homogeneity over “defensible borders”. (This applies to modern day Israel as much as to the Czech Republic). Plus some kind of population exchanages (along the lines of the Greco-Turkish population transfers in the 1920s).

Having said that I think an important distinction has to be borne in mind here, and it’s the same distinction Malcolm X made when he responded to someone who asked him “How is your racial separatism distinct from segregation?” He answered that one was a kind of settlement imposed by a superior on an inferior party, and the other was a situation mutually agreed upon by two equal parties on the basis of what was good for both of them. Any settlement of borders or populations, in 1919 Europe or anywhere else, would need to be fair and equitable, taking into account legitimate desires of both parties. Not necessarily fair to individuals, but to groups. This is what differentiates, say, the 1919 settlement or for that matter the 1945 border changes, or the Greco-Turkish and Indo-Pakistani partitions, from the segregation imposed in the pre-1964 US or in South Africa.

#16 Comment By Richard Parker On January 26, 2017 @ 1:21 am

Thank You Art Deco for your excellent summary of the different type of ‘Fascist’ regimes at 1/24 @ 1:59 pm

#17 Comment By lhfry On January 26, 2017 @ 7:32 am

What these people don’t realize is that if this type of violence spreads and chaos ensues in the street, ordinary people will turn to whomever promises to restore order. And who will those people likely be? Read your history.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 26, 2017 @ 12:59 pm

It’s not conservative nationalists weaponizing the government to go after anyone trying to limit its power and corruption, its liberal democrat globalists.

Oh, I think they’re both quite dangerous, speaking as an unromantic not-quite-communist anymore. Its two or more brands of capitalism making false promises to the working class. Trump’s promises are also false, but it will take a while to fully reveal that.

#19 Comment By p isaac On January 26, 2017 @ 12:59 pm

Ironically, Lennard’s comments sound very similar to the paeans to violence and action by fascists and Nazi’s during the 1920’s and 30’s

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 26, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

Hector, I really think the meandering boundaries would themselves become unworkable. Just too many twists and turns. I also think partition of India was an unmitigated disaster, more so in the long run for Pakistan than for India, but a few million Hindus as well as a few million Muslims were killed in the process, and all kinds of economic relations viciously disrupted. Millions of Muslims, sensibly, didn’t really care to move at all. The old USSR plan of having e.g., Azeri enclaves in Armenia and Armenian enclaves in Azerjaijan didn’t work out — each wanted inclusion in their “homeland” which posed significant obstacles for the larger entity they wanted out of. I think massive federations of small departments actually would hold the best hope. Everyone would get a nice local enclave of “our people” where everyone knows the right way to cook and speaks the familiar language, but they wouldn’t be Slavs under Hungary or Poles under Slovaks or Hungarians under Austrians, they would be our nice little Shire in Federated Bigopia, where no ethnicity really dominated. Electoral campaigns could be run like the Steel Strike of 1919 — in fourteen different languages, over common economic issues.

#21 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 26, 2017 @ 7:38 pm


Again, Hindu-on-Muslim and Muslim-on-Hindu violence were not uncommon before Partition either, and you can make a case that they became less common afterwards (though in the case of modern-day Pakistan most of the Hindus ended up leaving). I think when weighing the costs and benefits of Partition you have to consider the likely alternative. Although if I had been in charge of dividing up the subcontinent I would probably have done so on ethnolinguistic as much as religious grounds.

It’s true that millions of Muslims didn’t want to leave their homes, but in the event they were a distinct minority of Muslims. In the 1946 regional elections around 90% of Muslims voted for the party that ran on an explicit platform of Two Nations, and they got the separate country that they wanted. I don’t see how a united India could have worked given that the Muslim minority overwhelmingly rejected it.

#22 Comment By Paul Clayton On January 26, 2017 @ 8:20 pm

Lately, in America, it’s only the left calling for violence. I recall the little female professor on a college campus calling for ‘some muscle’ to push away a reporter covering her event. I recall a fat mannish woman leading a march of BLM protesters along a shut-down freeway, leading the chant, “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon.” Seems a day doesn’t go by without the Left either snickering in delight at violence visited upon conservatives or calling for same. We’ve all seen it, we’ve all read about it. It is news; it is happening. But when have you seen this liberal leftist call for violence and mayhem ‘dramatized’ in a movie or book? Never. It’s a taboo, especially if there’s race involved. I suggest you take a look at a wonderful book that goes where other authors fear to write: Van Ripplewink: You Can’t Go Home Again.

#23 Comment By Rusty Nail On January 26, 2017 @ 10:05 pm

I welcome this. Give the left what they’re asking for, HARD and OFTEN. They’re already accusing us of “violence” for simply voicing our political beliefs. I liken it to the old saying about cheating, “If you’re being accused anyway, you might as well get the benefits”.

#24 Comment By BadReligion On January 27, 2017 @ 1:43 am

sdb, the abortion rate and overall abortion numbers have gone down drastically, but that is because fewer women are getting pregnant overall. See here, and then consider why most of the people who supposedly oppose abortion are hostile to the most important reasons for this decline: [7]

Similarly, Opatus Cleary, why don’t your pro-life associates do more to advocate for this sort of thing? The National Association of Evangelicals apparently understands this, as do most secular pro-lifers.

Also, on-topic: “At the heart of the anti-fascist ethos is a rejection of the classical liberal notion adopted from Voltaire that “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” After Auschwitz and Treblinka, anti-fascists committed themselves to fighting to the death to stomp on the right of Nazis to say anything.”

#25 Comment By Publius On January 27, 2017 @ 9:17 am

If the Nation OK punching people for what they believe, what about a person who believes in female genital mutilation, throwing gays off buildings and that any non Muslim is an inferior person who should be conquored in the name of Islam?
Pretty soon its a free-for-all, no?

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 27, 2017 @ 12:00 pm

After Auschwitz and Treblinka, anti-fascists committed themselves to fighting to the death to stomp on the right of Nazis to say anything.”

Yet somehow, with the support of the ACLU, Frank Collin managed to hold his pathetic little Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois. And he hasn’t come close to staging a Beer Hall putsch yet.

#27 Comment By BadReligion On January 27, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

Here’s Mother Jones, not editorializing per se, on “The Long History of ‘Nazi Punching.'” It’s an incomplete treatment of the subject, but still pretty informative: [9]

#28 Comment By BadReligion On January 27, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

Yeah, but Siarlys, it’s best to not even give them the opportunity.

#29 Comment By vukdawg On January 27, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

Sargon of Akkad has been studying Antifa for a year or two.

Having been in plenty of street fights in my youth, I have to agree with one of his points. Anyone with a pair of balls and arms stronger than limp spaghetti would have knocked Spencer the Eff out.

He presents evidence that most of the antifa are social justice snowflakes who are simply emboldened by the “black bloc” they are with. *shrugs*

Just some info about Antifa.

#30 Comment By Andy On January 28, 2017 @ 2:11 pm

“The Left” didn’t punch him, an idiot acting on his own did. No one likes to have their own faction, whether religious or political, painted by the action of one idiot. Let’s follow the wise man’s recommendation and not do unto others what we would not have done to ourselves.

#31 Comment By tyler kent On January 29, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

Political naivete: Dreher says, “I don’t think people like The Nation‘s editors truly understand what they are calling up.” Sorry, Mr. Dreher. They understand completely. When someone says they endorse violence against their opponents, it is because they endorse violence against their opponents.

#32 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 29, 2017 @ 4:20 pm

Yeah, but Siarlys, it’s best to not even give them the opportunity.

A dangerously vague statement. Its best not to even give Nazis the opportunity to stage a beer hall putsch? Agreed. Its best not to even give Nazis the opportunity to march? That opens a Pandora’s box of questions.

I could easily imagine some of the quirky types Rod writes about (and there must be a few such people in real life, somewhere) denying me the opportunity to speak on the street in support of Fight for $15 for fast food workers because I oppose allowing male bodies in women’s showers, consider Obergefell to be wrongly decided, even if I am indifferent to whether my state licenses, regulates and taxes same-sex couples, and defend the right of pro-life citizens to state their argument publicly. They might even call me a Nazi, albeit without any coherent definition.

So, if “Nazis” are not allowed to march, then at minimum there must be a rigorous, consistent, reliable, definition of what constitutes a “Nazi” so that the free speech rights of all non-Nazis will be scrupulously respected. And of course, various shades of right-wingers could virtuously sidestep the law by affirming under oath that they do not celebrate Hitler’s birthday, have never used the swastika as their symbol, and do not venerate the memory of Rudolph Hess.

Better is to recognized, every citizen has the right to free speech, and free association, even if that means people marching down the street in Nazi uniforms or KKK sheets and hoods, but if they actually kidnap, beat, burn or murder someone, they are liable to the full penalties of the law.

As Publius points out, pretty soon it would be a free for all if we start making exceptions. Everyone has an opinion about someone or something that is not deserving of protection.