Richard Spencer, internet punching bag and co-creator of the alt-right political movement (an “alternative” to the Republican party, the alt-right advocates for the “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of America, the ban of Muslims from the United States, and many other racist, sexist, xenophobic, and supremacist actions), was assaulted during an interview at last month’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
The motive for the punch is unknown, but it is safe to assume his association with the alt-right and his apparent love of saying racist things were large deciding factors in the attack.
This incident has since been used by both sides of the political spectrum to disparage the other’s beliefs, with the left crediting the attacker as taking much-needed action against dangerous ideologies and the right claiming those supporting his attack are violent bullies. Either way the story is spun, I know one thing for sure: It felt great to see Spencer get hit and cry.
Normally, I would sympathize with the victim of such an attack, but given Spencer’s track record of helping create the alt-right, mainstreaming white nationalism and advocating for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of America, pointing and laughing was easy.
The attack on him was definitely misguided and uncalled for, given he was calmly talking to a reporter about his beliefs when the assault occurred, but it can be enjoyed just the same as the defeat of a movie supervillain can. Sure, 007 did not have to shoot Mr. White in the leg to interrogate him, but it was very satisfying to see.
I do not mean to promote randomly punching people who do not share the same beliefs as you, nor do I mean to promote randomly punching people at all. Violence is the least effective way of communicating a message and should be used only in extreme situations. Furthermore, not all Trump supporters or members of the alt-right are as loony as Spencer, and should not be punched for any reason.
However, asking yourself why Spencer was punched is misguided; instead, ask yourself why it did not happen sooner.
The alt-right eats up whatever its media outlets and figureheads push out as facts, creating dangerous situations for people trying to live their everyday lives. From coining the euphemism “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to describing their dream of deporting all people of color from America to flat-out anti-Semitism, once the group sticks to a subject, they run with it long after it is worn down.
While Spencer has not circulated some of the wilder stories which have become mainstays in the Big Book of Alt-Right Conspiracy Theories (Pizzagate, which postulated that Democrats sell child sex workers out of a pizza parlor, is one of my favorites), by creating the alt-right, he essentially made a banner under which people abuse, harass and endanger whomever they choose.
Though these views are controversial, the punch was uncalled for and only deepened the divide between the left and alt-right — which may have been Spencer’s intention all along. I was surprised to find out that Spencer was out on the streets unprotected considering he is such a recognizable member of the alt-right. His appearance at the D.C. Women’s March was tantamount to putting on an “I Love SeaWorld” T-shirt, crossing his fingers and swimming into a hungry pod of orcas.
Whether or not he was looking to take part in some voluntary martyrdom, Spencer got something he did not entirely deserve, and unknowingly gave the internet something it desperately did.
After the video went viral, the internet did what it does best and mocked Spencer getting punched as much as possible. Countless remixes of the hit seemed to drop instantaneously, and Spencer’s post-attack martyr-like tweets (my favorites were the ironic Nelson Mandela quotes — ironic in that Mandela’s fierce anti-apartheid beliefs stand completely against Spencer’s vision of an all-white America) about being unable to stand for your beliefs were met with countless replies of “everyone saw you cry on TV.”
Most replies to his tweets swing back and forth from his followers attempting to soothe his injured ego to his opponents trying to break it even further.
It seems like a lot of effort is being made to make fun of one guy for something he had no control over, but before anyone says that Spencer is being cyber-bullied, don’t.
Members of the alt-right have abused several celebrities for simply voicing their political sidings, and Spencer is getting a fraction of what those people, such as comedian Leslie Jones, notoriously received in 2016. For any member of the alt-right, which constantly slams the idea of safe spaces and ridicules the left for being oversensitive, to insinuate that Spencer is being treated unfairly in the aftermath of the punch requires either a huge lack of self-awareness or a serious case of hypocrisy, neither of which is more comforting than the other.
Again, the punch was unwarranted, and I hope that no one reading this becomes encouraged to run in the streets knocking out political opponents just for the hell of it. However, the trolling aftermath Spencer has received is something he has been ignorantly avoiding up until now. Online abuse is the alt-right’s favorite battle strategy, with Spencer and his cronies leading the digital charge against their opponents multiple times this week alone; and though an eye for an eye leaves the world blind, it is amusing to see Spencer try to make his way through the experience he has set upon so many others.
Richard Spencer seems to be doing a lot of soul-searching ever since the Women’s March, but it is obvious that this incident will not change his political alignment at all. Luckily, it helped reinforce many others’ and, if anything, will help people to realize what is and is not worth doing in a time of crisis.
Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.