Friday slacktivism: Punching Nazis, revisited

Day 24. 69 pages, 31,114 words.

Today it was the turn of my esteemed associate Mr. ThePatriot, Esq., to send me an interesting bit of media that I decided to share. This was a fascinating interview and as far as I’m concerned the headline of the video was really the most minor aside in the whole thing.

I mean I’m all in favour of labelling these guys “useful idiots”. Heh. But anyway, not really the point.

What was most fascinating to me here was the psychology and sociology of why and how people are joining up with these white supremacist groups.

And a lot of it was obvious. Yes, Trump in the US and right-wing populist and isolationist self-servers the world over are empowering this sort of thought and speech, making people forget how not fucking okay it is to spread hate. Yes, forums like Reddit and 4chan are electronic alleys for kids to hang out in and be fed a lot of dangerous shit by opportunistic predators.And yes, it’s (usually? Often? Sometimes?) more about the damaged person signing up than the innocent minorities they decide to target.

My sympathy for hate group members is absolutely minimal, because they’re fucking hate groups. But at the same time, I acknowledge that my place in the world, my position in society and my level of education have allowed me to avoid the sort of spiral these people have descended into. It’s allowed me to look down on them.

It’s not going to stop me, because fuck these dumb genocidal cunts. But I can see it. A better person than I am would certainly feel more kindly towards them – at least, one hopes, with the end game in mind of dismantling their entire ideology and helping improve the world.

What was really eye-opening was the fact that Piccioloni was turned back from one of the darkest places (if you’ll pardon the irony of the expression) human culture can produce, not by being punched in the face, but by compassion shown by the people his ideology required him to hate. Compassion, and understanding, and a daily lesson that the evils he was supposed to see in them did not exist.

I mean, this much seems stupidly obvious: Piccioloni states that he, and many others in the group to which he belonged, was there because of deep-seated self-hate issues and a sense of powerlessness. He was pulled out of it by being shown that the hatred he was pointing at other people had no justification. If a black dude had punched him in the face just once, it seems pretty obvious that it would have confirmed his prejudice, given him all the ammunition he needed to justify his beliefs. Wouldn’t it?

Compassion and patience and the high and peaceful road, was the better course.

Of course, Piccioloni also said he hit rock bottom, lost his wife and family because he didn’t quit the movement fast enough and they had no desire to be a part of it, and so on. He was left without recourse, forced to confront the error of his ways. The empathy probably helped separate him from his phobia of minorities, though.

So look, sure. I’m in favour of the approaches they talk about at the end of this video – the preventative measures and the curative. Heck, they’re far more in line with my own philosophy anyway, as I’ve said – I’m not a puncher by nature. If we can understand these sick people well, I’m on board.

Like I said before, though, I think if that worked on Nazis on a large scale, the Allies would have tried it and declared it a success instead of having a World War. Once you get to that sort of movement, it’s too late. Is it too late now? I hope not.

I think it works on a small and individual scale, and that might be enough right now. Build enough success stories like Piccioloni, and you might find the whole sorry movement disssolving back into the slime from whence it came. But like Piccioloni himself said, he and his associates are few and far between. They had the right starting conditions and the right ending conditions, and the right stimuli in between.

Does that mean the same stimuli won’t work at all on others? No, I’m sure it couldn’t hurt. But when the time comes for the Nazis to show their true colours, their basic cowardice is going to be what breaks them and a good punch in the face is going to do wonders to remind them just how shitty and scared they are to do anything without an army behind them.

Piccioloni is incredibly brave. It takes a lot to admit you’re wrong (I mean look how I’m squirming to avoid even partly admitting it here!), especially in such an intense cult-like surrounding. To break out of that, and then go on the road speaking out against it and trying to save others … amazing. I doff my hat both to Piccioloni and to the people who showed him the compassion that encouraged him to rejoin humanity.

Just … be ready for the punching to be necessary. And don’t expect me to disapprove when a Richard Spencer gets punched.


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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2 Responses to Friday slacktivism: Punching Nazis, revisited

  1. Really well said, I can’t disagree. Which I guess means I agree! I would offer that Spencer isn’t just any neo-Nazi, he’s a leader and organizer. So perhaps you can reason with and convert some of the brownshirts, but Hitler needed that punch in the face? Something like that makes sense to me. To lead this movement, instead of simply being a self-hating follower, seems to require a little more “je ne sais qua”, n’est pas?

  2. I was surprised to see this come from Chris Cuomo of the mainstream media. Although lately he’s been doing a pretty good job.

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