Originally printed in the Batesville Daily Guard
If you didn’t catch it, there was a new president sworn in last week.
It was followed by protests, claims by the president it was the “biggest” attendance for an inauguration ever and the entry of “alternative facts” into our lexicon.
A much-memed but less discussed event happened on the streets of D.C. though, one that could have far-reaching repercussions — the punching of Richard Spencer.
It is an incident that not only highlights the two extremes of those who call themselves “right and left” but might have also been the snowball that kicks off an avalanche.
If you don’t know who Spencer is, then all you need to know is that he’s a white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right” and likes to lead people in Nazi salutes. He’s active on social media and like most people who enjoy tormenting others, he doesn’t ever shut up. He’s the president of the National Policy Institute, a Virginia-based white nationalist “think tank.”
Spencer’s predecessor, Louis R. Andrews, said “There’s no such thing as post-racial. There’s conflict, conflict and continued conflict.”
Andrews also said he voted for Obama because he wanted to see the Republican Party destroyed, so it could be reborn as a “party representing the interest of white people.”
Spencer has continued the provocatory approach of Andrews. He has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and has called for a sort of “white Zionism” to create a “white homeland.”
Anyway, while giving an interview after the inauguration on Friday, a person clad in black with their face hidden ran out of the street and punched him in the face, disappearing as quickly as he appeared.
A lot of people cheered because Spencer is who he is. It has even become a meme of sorts.
Taking joy in Spencer getting punched is a natural reaction. Spencer is, after all, the proponent of an ideology that reflects a dark past and ought to be shoved back into it where it belongs.
But those cheering may not be thinking of the repercussions of the action.
In a way, that punch is the best thing that could have happened to Spencer. Now he can say “we’re under attack!” That single punch may have opened the door for others to attack those who they disagree with on the street, no matter what their political leaning.
Of course, the person who attacked Spencer was an anarchist, a group that sees no legitimacy in a central government (or really any government at all), whether it be Democrat or Republican — and really, they consider both to be enemies considering their behavior during both parties’ conventions in the past.
Where ever there are large demonstrations, anarchists show up, using black bloc tactics to disguise their identities and engage in actions like property damage and now violence. They are extremists who don’t care whether or not they harm the cause the actual demonstrations are supporting. The anarchists only seem to care about fighting some ambiguous enemy via smashing windows and setting things on fire, often throwing rocks and firecrackers at law enforcement. The actions of the anarchists often distract from the message of the peaceful demonstrators, who are pretty much always the majority when it comes to protests.
No matter how much someone points out to the anarchists that they’re harming the cause they’re allegedly supporting, you’ll usually get similar responses such as rioting being a form of expression against exploitation by business or destroying the system. The general reaction when such is pointed out is usually dismissiveness or outright tirades against “useless” nonviolent protesters.
Now it seems that both sides have gotten what they wanted. Spencer’s white nationalists can now claim there’s a war against them and the anarchists can claim they took “direct action.”
I for one hope that the punch of Spencer isn’t a sign of some sort of escalation. But with the current state of American political dialogue, that’s very, very unclear. We aren’t living in some sort of dystopian society, yet. But it seems that we now have movements that want to force society to fit a certain vision. There’s no telling where a single punch could lead to.