Is it ever acceptable to inflict physical violence on someone for voicing a political opinion? If someone, for example, says that gays shouldn’t be allowed to get married, or that women should be denied access to abortions, is it ok to punch them in the face? What if it’s someone who says they’re against allowing Muslims into the USA? Punch them? Suppose it’s someone who says prayer should be mandatory in schools? Should they be assaulted for what they believe?
What if it’s a Nazi?
There was an incident recently where someone who identified as a Nazi was going on about all sorts of things, mostly against black people. Someone then punched him in the face. Many on the left cheered this. Probably so did many in the center and on the right. I mean, the guy’s a Nazi, right? So punch away.
But that’s not right. That’s not moral. That’s not how America works.
If you accept that it’s ok to punch a Nazi for nothing but the words he is saying, then you’re saying that it’s sometimes ok to physically hurt people for their beliefs and their words. This is like saying it’s ok for child molesters to get raped in prison; it doesn’t make you anti-child molester, it just makes you pro-rape.
Further, this also means that if you think it’s acceptable for someone to punch a Nazi for what he’s saying, then you’re also saying it’s ok for someone to punch you for what you’re saying. As soon as you make it acceptable to hit someone for what they believe, you make it acceptable for everyone to hit everyone else for anything they believe.
So it is here. If you’re ok with this guy getting hurt for talking, then you’re not anti-Nazi, you’re pro-violence. You’re in favor of suppressing speech, and supporting censorship. You are, in fact, advocating a fascist viewpoint.
This is very important to understand. If someone is simply standing there talking, and espousing viewpoints you don’t agree with, you do not have the right-morally, ethically, or legally-to physically attack them. You do have the right to disagree with them. You can engage them. You can debate them. You can discuss their beliefs and yours. You can even walk away and ignore them. But you cannot hit them.
To paraphrase what Voltaire never said, but is credited with doing so, I would fight to the death for any Nazi’s right to stand there and talk about how blacks are inferior and Jews and gays should be rounded up and killed. If you don’t see why that’s important, you really just don’t understand freedom of speech. It exists to protect the speech we dislike, not the speech we love, and it saddens me that this most very basic of concepts is something that so many people seem to have trouble digesting.