Monday, January 23, 2017

On Punching Nazis (The Richard Spencer Saga)...

Did you see the video of white nationalist/alt-right/nazi/[fill in your favourite description here] Richard Spencer (who says he isn't a Nazi) being punched by someone who appears to associate himself with the Black Bloc given the way he is dressed, but who knows. Could have been coincidence. Could have been associated with another group. Could have been just a guy who happens to enjoy the non-colour black. Should I speculate? I probably will at some point here.

I've seen no shortage of people celebrating the fact that out of nowhere, a guy with admittedly abhorent views was attacked and punched out of the blue by some dude. And, here is where I have a problem.

What kind of society are we aiming for here? One where people go around randomly punching people with horrible views? If the answer is yes then you better be prepared to be punched, because guaranteed someone is not going to like your views or even see them as dangerous or abhorrent no matter how righteous and wonderful you may think they are. And, if this is the way society is now working, how long before someone like Spencer starts arming himself to protect himself against random punches? How long before we have fights in the streets and bullets flying? Slippery slope? No, more like being realistic. More like stepping back and looking at the situation with critical thinking.

I don't, or a second, believe any gains were made by a random punch to a guy who is with no doubt an asshole. Now, with that said, I have had a love/hate relationship with Antifa, one of the protesting groups in Washington DC during the inauguration. When they go toe to toe with actual neo nazi groups marching through the streets of a European city who are out absolutely looking for fights and violence, ya, I can't help but be on their side and see justification there. For a few years I went to a May Day concert put on by Antifa in Prague and it was great. There were a lot of cool people. It was fun. There were some great ideas...and there were also some ideas that, no, I just can't get behind, and in fact, worry about. I'm not an anarchist and I see anarchy as a very disturbing political idea. I ain't about to support it. I see anarchy as a dangerous idea that will pretty much eliminate everything in our Western liberal societies that I believe in. To me, it's libertarianism on acid and it scares the crap out of me. So, am I now justified in going around punching anarchists in the face? The answer is NO, I'm not. I don't have the right. In the US, where all of this is focused, that anarchist is still protected by the constitution. If I punch him, I'm not protected and am breaking the law.

Besides, I believe that the anarchist has ideas that can be refuted. The anarchist view is marganlized...and for good reason. The vast majority of people do not want to live in a society where anarchy reigns anymore than the vast majority of people do not want to live in a society run by National Socialism. Spencer's ideas are patently ridiculous and easily refuted. The estimated 2 million people on the streets across the planet yesterday during the Women's March protest showed that right there. Spencer got a few hundred people together for a Trump celebration before he was elected. That's a mere drop in the bucket. An extremely marginalised viewpoint that very few actually adhere to.

So, the question is, does a person need to randomly cold cock a dude that most people think is a complete idiot anyway, especially when there is not really much to gain...but a lot to lose, like credibility, the higher ground, the presendence that it sets, what it opens others up to, etc? It might feel damn good to watch a dude like Spencer be randomly punched, but is that enough? I don't think so.

In addition, this is what I don't get. I'm a liberal. On the left. Socialist leanings. Understand the value of controlled capitalism. Etc. And, I lived in two Muslim majority countries. In Islam I saw a terribly problematic idea, especially in political Islam and conservative interpretations. There are a whole ton of ideas in the Middle East that match Nazi ideas almost to the letter. And this conservative ideaology isn't confined to the Middle East. It is being spread through Saudi funded mosques and extremist speakers like Zakir Naik who holds near rock star status in the Muslim world and is broadcast into homes all over the world through his "Peace" TV station and the internet. Dangerous and concerning stuff that goes head to head with what National Socialists, white supremacists, the worst of the worst mysoginists and extreme homophobes. And yet, AND YET, the left has absolutely blinded itself to this.

The reason I bring this up? Two reasons: Salman Rushdie and Charlie Hebdo. Oh man, these two cases are part of what made me absolutely scratch my head and scream "WTF!"

Let's take Salman Rushdie, a man who wrote a book that was deemed blasphemous. Millions of Muslims (no, not exaggerating) wanted this man dead after a fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. There was a bounty out on his head, there were deadly and destructive protests throughout the Muslim world, thousands upon thousands took the streets of London calling for his death, burning effigies and his book. Rushdie had to go into hiding under protection for a decade. People associated with the production of the book were killed. Bookstores refused to carry it because of the security risk. And, what did a scary number of people on the Left do? Accused him of provoking people and saying he shouldn't have written the book. WTF? This would be some of the very people who would say "We must punch Nazis!" Now, of course, this isn't representative of everyone on the Left, but it was a major problem and still is.

Same thing with Charlie Hebdo who printed cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. For their efforts, their offices were attacked and 12 people were killed. Over a cartoon. And what did so many people on the left say? They accused the magazine of provocation.

Frick, online I still see people arguing that when people criticize Islam, or defending the Charlie Hebdo, they are provoking and should expect violence. WTF? I question how many would say this and also argue that out and out pounding on a guy out of the blue who has said horrible things is a good idea. They will defend the bad ideas held by people who are upset about cartoons mocking a figure at the center of the world's second largest religion that was a war lord, caravan raider, homophobe, dictator and slave owner...but also want to see people like Spencer punched randomly?

It baffles me.

I've also heard that this stuff is why more terrorists are created. By drawing a pic of Mohammad is offensive to Muslims so of course some of them are going to turn to violence. Wait...what? Seriously? Think about what is being said there and apply it to the Spencer situation. If drawing a pic gets people with abhorent ideas violent, what do you think cold cocking a dude with abhorent ideas is going to do? Do you think it will turn him and his followers into pacifists? Under this logic, if white nationalists feel that they are going to get their lights punched out for their beliefs isn't it going to create more white nationalists and more violence? No, apparently, in that case, the absolute opposite happens. At which point you can't help but slam your head against a wall.

Now, we come around to the idea of free speech. Saying one is cool with genocide is vastly different than actually committing genocide. One has the right in the US to say they are cool with genocide. They also have the right to be dead wrong. They also have the right to be laughed at and called out for their terrible ideas. Others have the right to write volumes about how wrong they are and counter the idea. People have the right to peacefully protest his ideas. What right do people NOT have? To go around punching other people. And there is a reason for that...a damn good one. It is against the law. Having horrible beliefs and ideas isn't. And, as hard as it is to accept, it is the truth. And that really is the way it should be. If we justify beating on people randomly for beliefs, then, ya, we have a situation where that becomes the norm.

When there was more of a problem with bombings at abortion clinics, people were outraged and rightly so. You can't go around bombing abortion clinics! You just can't. But, what was the justification? Those who did it and supported it argued that it was for the greater good and that in the end it would SAVE millions of lives by ending abortion or sending a message that it was unacceptable. And, really, if you stop to think about it, there is logic in that. But, it is still wrong to do! Absolutely wrong to do no matter how righteous the one doing the bombing THINKS they are! See the connection? One might think they are being righteous and punching people randomly is justified because of that. But, other people can do the exact same thing and argue their actions are justified because their beliefs are righteous. Heck, that is why we end up with much of the wars and conflicts we have. If we want to bring National Socialism into this, then Hitler was perfect at this. He was able to justify his actions and paint them as being completely righteous and for the greater good. Sounds familiar?

There is an argument that yes, we want a society free from this kind of violence, and in order to do that we must punch nazis in the face first. Getting rid of these people and their ideas will mean that we can then go back to living a peaceful, wonderful life. Well, guess what. People have had absolutely horrible ideas for, well, since forever, and nothing has actually stopped it and nothing actually will and no, there won't be and never will be a post-bad idea time and people will have to be punching people forever...and ever. And even if every white nationalist in the world disappeared there are all kinds of other horrible people and ideas that exist. So, it won't end. It will never end. And at SOME point people are going to have to say "Hmmmm....this randomly punching people isn't exactly working out as planned.

The last point I want to make is this. Some of those who have argued that punching Spencer was okay are people who have, literally, said that "toxic masculinity" is bad because it's violent. Wait...what? Apparently, "toxic masculinity" is cool when it suits your agenda, not so cool when it doesn't. Bizarre.

So, I invite those who are celebrating the punching of Richard Spencer to step back for a minute and to really think about it. I'm sure many will say "Nah! LET'S PUNCH NAZIS!" but at least hopefully before they do they will think of at least one point I made. Please.

I Object To The Term "Toxic Masculinity"

I don't even know where the term "toxic masculinity" came from. But, tt seems to have now crept into common usage in social justice circles. I hear it more and more, and I find it problematic, and here is why.

The way I see it, the term is vague, yet loaded. What exactly is this "toxic masculinity"? How is it determined and by whom? How much "masculinity" is one allowed to show before being accused of displaying "toxic masculinity". And, for that matter, what the hell IS "masculinity" in the first place? In order to determine what it is to be masculine, one must fall back on stereotyping to even define what it is. There isn't a clear definition of what masculine is, yet, we have the term "toxic masculinity"? We've added a negative word onto an ill defined word to come up with a term that is even more ill defined. And, as these terms have been known to do, I fear that this is going to be yet another term used to shut down free and open discussion and to label people or their behaviours. With no clear definition it's not going to be that long before this term is abused, if it isn't happening already. Words employed by those deeply invested in social justice have this tendency to be misused and abused, I've noticed.

In my quest to find out what the heck "toxic masculinity" is, I'm met with a variety of often odd answers. One I have heard frequently is this idea of a narrative that tells boys that they shouldn't cry and the use of phrases like "man up!" is part of "toxic masculinity". Now, I DO have a problem with these ideas. Boys should feel free to cry and I believe that many actually do cry openly and are not ashamed. I hate the phrase "man up!" but my association of it is less to do with other men telling men to "man up!" but from Sarah Palin who seemed to love that phrase.

More generalized ideas like domestic abuse, rape and violence seem to be categorized as "toxic masculinity". There is no doubt these things are terrible and we must, as a society, fight against them. But, sadly, we see domestic abuse, rape and violence in both women and men, which raises the question if it is really a "masculine" trait or behavior, and more the behavior of certain types of people regardless of gender or sexuality?

Yes, sadly, men are statistically more likely to commit acts of violence. Why this is so is complex, and not being a sociologist or anything I can only speculate. One reason that I have read about is the evolutionary reality of some men being powerful and violent, traits needed to hunt and protect. So, we take an animal, which a human is, and within a short time frame of a hundred years or so, jam that animal into cities where they no longer have to hunt or use energy to search for food, and some issues will happen. Our intelligence and our ability to shape our society evolved a lot faster than our brains, it would appear.

So, the question is, if certain humans have certain evolutionary traits designed to keep the human and the species alive, is it really "toxic"? Obviously, in society in general, we must work to keep these traits in check, but obviously, we aren't succeeded as much as we would like. But, this is one way where the term fails us.

When we connect a term like "masculinity" to the term "toxic" we really are creating a connection between men and horrible behaviour, and although it would be argued that all men are not guilty of "toxic masculinity" the name implies very differently. It links being a man with bad things. This is problematic. This makes the term a loaded one.

Interestingly enough, we don't ever hear a term like "toxic femininity". Why? Are there not traits, stereotypically or in reality, that women can possess that are damaging to society? Well, I already mentioned that there are indeed women who tell boys that they shouldn't cry and man up and therefore are pushing this "toxic masculinity". So, would that be a case of "toxic femininity"? Is the fact that a common trait amongst SOME serial killers or violent people the fact that they have an overbearing mother an example of the damaging effects of "toxic femininity"? When women go to hockey games and cheer on hockey fights, what is that all about? It's very common at a hockey game to see women practically frothing at the mouth wanting one player to beat the crap out of another player. And what about women who are UFC fighters? It's not a sport I like because of the violence, yet there are women who participate and women who are fans. What role are these women playing in the issues that the term "toxic masculinity" is supposed to address? Are these women plagued by "toxic masculinity" as well?

And, does things like telling a boy not to cry really lead to negative outcomes? No. Not always. I don't agree with the idea that boys shouldn't cry, but it also does not necessarily mean that the male won't have empathy or will head down a wrong path. I think there is great stereotyping in there and assuming a connection between one behavior and another that isn't necessarily as pronounced as one thinks it should be.

I argue that instead of using a, dare I say, "toxic" term such as "toxic masculinity", we call out the behaviour in both men AND woman that are problematic in our society. And, yes, we must never pretend that all the ills and problems we face are due only to men or "toxic masculinity" which is an idea too often pushed along with the term. Women seem exonerated from responsibility while it is all placed with men. Why?? That, dare I say, is indeed, sexist, and close minded.

If we are against violence, be against violence. If we are against domestic abuse, be against domestic abuse wherever and whenever it happens. If we are for societies where people feel free to express their emotions, that's great, but do it through encouragement instead of guilt or loaded terms like "toxic masculinity". If we are against rape, be against rape, no matter who perpetrates it and for what reason. But, to equate all of these ills with "toxic masculinity" and then not even discuss the role women play or the damaging behaviours they can take part it, is not really doing a service to anyone. It perpetuates stereotypes using a vague, ill defined, but very loaded term.