Welcome to yet another installment in the literary genre called, “But wait . . . if you take the word ‘white’ out of that sentence and replace it with the word ‘black,’ wouldn’t it be . . . racist, according to you?”
When Richard Spencer was infamously sucker-punched on the street on the way home from attending Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Internet was soon awash with articles gleefully asking, “Is it okay to punch a Nazi?” Richard Spencer did not attend this event after tweeting messages to his followers about how he planned to go in and come back carrying a hundred severed liberal heads. He wasn’t even there to promote his own ideas or activities – he was simply attending the inauguration when someone recognized him by his distinctive haircut. Celebratory memes cropped up which replayed the attack on an endless loop. Visit an institution of degenerate millennial culture (but I repeat myself . . .) like OKCupid, and in the “What do you do on a Friday night?” category you’ll find answers suggesting that what many liberals spend their entire week looking forward to is getting off on Friday so they can spend hours watching those videos without distraction.
So the meme asks, “Is it okay to punch a Nazi?”
Of course, Richard Spencer is not literally a Nazi; this didn’t happen in Germany, Hitler is long dead, and it’s been a long time since 1945. In fact, in the moments leading up to the punch, Richard Spencer was on camera for an impromptu interview explaining both that he did not identify as a neo-Nazi, and that the people who do identify as neo-Nazis hate him.
So what does it mean to ask if it’s okay to punch “a Nazi,” when the term has obviously outlived its literal meaning?
First and foremost, Richard Spencer is considered to be “a Nazi” because he subscribes to hereditarianism. Wikipedia defines hereditarianism as “the doctrine or school of thought that heredity plays a significant role in determining human nature and character traits, such as intelligence and personality. Hereditarians believe in the power of genetics to explain human character traits and solve human social and political problems.” Never mind that according to this definition, mainstream science is unanimous that its claims are true! This is the definition of “Nazi” that shortly thereafter allowed the very same people to describe a homosexual Jew who claims to exclusively date black guys as “a Nazi.” And it was then just moments later that the same group of people forced out a college speaker – Charles Murray – who is a serious academic and who has devoted his career to proving that heredity plays a significant role in determining human nature and character traits, and discussing its implications.
The idea is supposed to go something like this: first, the Nazis were evil. They committed horrible atrocities, and left a dark stain on human history.
Second, the Nazis were hereditarians.
From these two points alone, sheer guilt by association is supposed to render all further discussion of the truth or falsity of hereditarianism impossible. By this outlook, the cancer that is the hereditarian conviction must be treated aggressively, lest the Nazi atrocities be inevitably repeated. There are those who dispute that the atrocities the Nazis actually committed were as horrible as is often claimed. These people are usually called Holocaust “deniers,” but a proper reading of their works will reveal that even the most extreme among them still grant that at least some Jews and others were treated quite brutally.
So where does this argument go wrong?
First of all, to argue that eugenics or hereditarianism were the source of the brutalities committed by the Nazis ignores the fact that hereditarianism has been the norm throughout most of human history. All the way back in 378 BC, Plato’s dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon in The Republic goes as follows:
Socrates: I see that you have hunting dogs and quite a flock of noble fighting birds at home. Have you noticed anything about their mating and breeding?
Glaucon: Like what?
Socrates: In the first place, although they’re all noble, aren’t there some that are the best and prove themselves to be so?
Glaucon: There are.
Socrates: Do you breed them all alike, or do you try to breed from the best as much as possible?
Glaucon: I try to breed from the best. . . .
Socrates: And do you think that if they weren’t bred in this way, your stock of birds and dogs would get much worse?
Glaucon: I do.
Socrates: What about the horses and other animals? Are things any different with them?
Glaucon: It would be strange if they were.
And then Socrates says:
Dear me! If this also holds true of human beings, our need for excellent rulers is indeed extreme. . . . It follows from our previous agreements, first, that the best men must have sex with the best women as frequently as possible, while the opposite is true of the most inferior men and women, and second, that if our herd is to be of the highest possible quality, the former’s offspring must be reared but not the latter’s. And this must all be brought about without being noticed by anyone except the rulers, so that our herd of guardians remains as free from dissension as possible. . . . And among other prizes and rewards, the young men who are good in war or other things must be given permission to have sex with the women more often, since this will also be a good pretext for having them father as many of the children as possible.
To modern ears, this may sound like hardcore fascist eugenicism. In fact, this is one of the most celebrated and influential thinkers of the entire Western philosophical tradition, more than 2,300 years before the rise of Nazi Germany.
Furthermore, even eugenics policies had been in place around the world – including in the United States – for years, before Nazism arose in one of them. There is an essay titled “Eugenics and the Third Reich” which explains that Hitler opposed the Jews “because he held them responsible for World War I,” which “had nothing to do with eugenics”; that the German euthanasia program was instituted for economic and practical reasons “which bore no relation to eugenics”; and that the German sterilization program “could in no sense be characterized as perverse, savage, or (most importantly for my argument) unusual for its time.”
So while Nazi Germany did have some eugenics policies, and while the Nazis were hereditarians, neither of these things can be, in any sense, what made the Nazis unique.
So what about Communists?
The reasoning of those who claim that the Nazis were hereditarians goes as follows: hereditarianism is Nazism, and Nazism was brutal, therefore “Nazis” should be preemptively punched in the streets even before they’ve actually contemplated so much as forcefully touching another human being.
If we apply this same logic to Communism, we would say this: the Communists were blank-slate environmentalists about human nature. Therefore, blank-slate environmentalism is Communism, and we should call anyone who leans too close to a blank-slate environmentalist understanding of human nature a Communist, whether they identify as one or not – even if they actively disavow the label.
And Communism was brutal.
Professor Rudy Rummel was the author of twenty-four scholarly books on collective violence, war, and other deaths inflicted by governments which earned him numerous awards and accolades. According to his estimates, the total number of people killed worldwide by governments throughout history is around two hundred twelve million. Of these, Communist regimes murdered around one hundred forty-eight million. That’s almost seventy-percent of the worldwide historical total of all known deaths ever caused by governments.
The total number of deaths estimated to have been caused by Hitler is just under twenty-one million. In contrast, the total number of deaths estimated to have been caused by Mao in China alone stands at nearly seventy-seven million. That is already well over three times as many. It’s more than fifty-five million additional deaths. And that’s before adding in any other Communist dictatorships. Stalin alone murdered almost twice as many as Hitler: around forty-three million.
Clearly, if it is justified to peg hereditarianism as the cause of Nazism and treat all hereditarians as if they would cause or deserve blame for the atrocities of Nazi Germany, then that goes several times over for blank-slate environmentalists, considering that Communism involved such assumptions about human nature in the same way that Nazism involved hereditarian assumptions. And collectively, it was Communists – not hereditarians of any form – who were responsible for the vast majority of worldwide deaths by government atrocity in human history.
So why doesn’t society treat college kids wearing Che Guevara T-shirts the same way it treats one wearing a swastika shirt? Why doesn’t it treat college professors who downplay the atrocities committed by Marxist regimes the same way it treats “Holocaust deniers”? Why is it willing to grant the assumption that even if those college kids, or professors, are deeply misguided, they are still at heart good, decent people – even if they are promoting a misguided ideal? Why is everyone so aware that the mainstream estimate is that up to six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust that articles about the Holocaust are literally among the top results when typing the generic phrase “six million” into a search – and no one even has any idea what the estimates of those killed by any Communist leader or regime are? And now that it’s a member of the antifa who is at the center of a famous “punching” incident – someone who showed up claiming to want to come back with “one hundred scalps,” someone who is part of a group that sells posters advocating violence against government agencies – why aren’t we having the same conversation about punching “Communists” that we recently had about punching “Nazis”?
Suddenly, the mainstream media has a moral compass which says that regardless of a person’s ideology, punching them when they haven’t yet initiated physical violence against anyone else is unfair. And suddenly, even trying to have any of these broader discussions about history and ideology are merely seen as a distraction from that basic injustice. Isn’t the mainstream media’s ethical stance admirable?