Alright, so over the past few months I pretty much intentionally embroiled myself in the controversy of “go forth and punch a Nazi” with the opinion that physically assaulting someone when their actions are mere speech, and not an imminent threat of violent action, was no bueno. The most common reaction to that opinion was that statement that it was morally correct to punch a Nazi, and therefore justified, regardless of the presence or lack of an imminent threat of actual harm. In essence, the opposition to that position boiled down to “legal or illegal, it’s right to punch people who espouse such vitriolic and hateful opinions.”
I mean, I personally disagree, just because I believe violence is an appropriate response to the threat of use of actual violence, not the intangible threat of some possibility of violence in the future, and I have some issues with the position we should legitimize violence as a response to speech (when it is only speech). Rest assured, I don’t like the goddamn Nazis, I don’t like the goddamn bigots, and I’m not saying we have to discuss the validity of their positions or “hear them out.” My concerns are primarily linked to that whole “slippery slope” thing we lawyers talk about, and the belief that if we legitimize a violent reaction then we’re handing them a nail-and-barbed-wire covered bat to come back with when we speak out against them louder than they speak out against us.
Plus I think that when you punch these fuckers, all you really do is give them more goddamn attention and air time and spur a national fucking debate about “Who the real Nazi is, hmmmm?” God do I fucking hate that fucking trope.
But that’s not the conversation I want to have for this week’s Film Friday, because the majority of people with two fucking brain cells to rub together all agree on the basic premise that Nazis, white supremacists, the alt-right, cue whatever feel good nickname they’ve come up with this month, are absolutely and positively shitheads who make no valuable contribution to society, whose opinions (while constitutionally protected) have no goddamn merit, and who we definitely don’t need to treat as having legitimate speech that adds anything other than disarray to the world. The conversation I want to have this week is a little more nuanced than that, and it’s the concept that something can be legally wrong, but morally right.
And I can think of no better way to illustrate this point than to talk about Schindler’s List, a movie which embodies the principle of “Legal is not always moral, nor is illegal always immoral.”