Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably aware that Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer recently got his clock cleaned. Probably everyone is aware of this vile suit-and-tie Nazi taking one to the jaw and sulking off. And let’s be real: it was glorious. It’s wonderful to see all of the remixes of him taking one to his stupid, self-important face, whether the reference is Sonic the Hedgehog, KSHMR & DallasK, New Order, The Dead Kennedys, his own words, the theme to Neon Genesis Evangelion, Smooth by Rob Santana [ft. Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20], or even intercut with a preview for Bee Movie.* For someone who, just a few months ago, was arrogantly shouting Hail Victory (an English translation of “Seig Heil”), Spencer was quickly exposed for what he was with one swift punch: a fucking clown in a 3-piece suit.
* Here is a clearinghouse for many of them.
This isn’t a piece to debate the legitimacy of punching Neo-Nazis,* or whether or not Spencer deserves to be called one (he does); rather, this is an attempt to talk about something that has been lacking since the election returns came in: joy. Alfredo Bonanno opens the pamphlet Armed Joy by discussing youth shooting a fascist journalist in the legs—which is better, in his estimation, than having shot him in the face, as it leaves him with a daily physical reminder of what he is. While Spencer wasn’t quite kneecapped, he was certainly humiliated, and will live with that humiliation forever. Let’s hear it from the smacked one himself:
“I’m afraid this is going to become the meme to end all memes,” Spencer said in a Periscope video. “That I’m going to hate watching this.”
Of course he is going to hate watching this, and—good. For all of his posturing as someone into “gentle” ethnic cleansing (an absolute contradiction in terms), Spencer has never been anything more than a cheap fascist in an expensive suit. The difference between him and Lord Haw-Haw (William Brooke Joyce) is that the British swung the latter by his neck in 1946 for being Nazi filth, while Spencer is given free platform to try to differentiate himself from the cretinous population of white nationalist message boards.**
Plenty of fawning press coverage has tried to present him as astute, educated, well-dressed and well-mannered (he, shockingly, won’t use racial slurs in front of interviewers!), as some sort of New Wave for the White Supremacist Jet Set. But all of that carefully cultivated image came crashing down with a single punch to the face. At risk of sounding hyperbolic: for as much as the “alt-right” is obsessed with their acumen at memes, Spencer being decked is now the top result for him on YouTube rather than one of his interviews or speeches, He is the subject of a news topic asking whether it is ok to punch Nazis again (the answer is yes, in case you need it spelled out for you). The seemingly-invulnerable childless single men who masturbate to anime demographic had their victory shattered by historic marches, shattered windows, black blocs and one of their poster boys being punched in the face; all of which overshadowed the actual inauguration.
*Insofar as there could be an official EoL platform, my best guess would be that it is “line every ditch with every Nazi,” but I can only speak for myself.
**He isn’t strictly speaking wrong that many of them don’t like him, he’s not open in his display of overt white nationalism (preferring a softer hand and subtler approach) and formerly had a thing for dating Asian women, as documented by Mother Jones, an ostensibly liberal publication which sort of openly lusts after him.
Which brings me back to the point of bringing up Bonanno in the first place: there was some goddamn joy to the whole thing. While the bruised pride and cracked jaw of Richard Spencer doesn’t change that the gutting of the Affordable Care Act will probably be lethal, or stop any of the other awful things coming down the pipe from coming, we at least have something to smile about in the long, cold dark of the future. Rather than an iconography of grim militancy and endless heartbreak, we get to hear peals of laughter, even for a little bit, over a smug little Nazi getting “a well-deserved pimp hand.”
Fascists cannot stand when you laugh at them, and whether or not Richard Spencer getting treated as a leftist punching bag, both in real life and online, says anything about tactics of struggle is a debate for Jacobin, the New York Times, and the Nation. Whether this radicalizes anyone is to some extent beside the point; the real question is: who’s laughing now, Richard? How does it feel when your best defense is taking to Twitter to brag you “can take a punch,” to be met by torrents of laughter from the people you look down upon? Or when your only defense is to try to stop the torrent of abuse by reporting YouTube videos for “bullying”? Maybe tomorrow—anarchist, communist, insurrectionist, illegalist, socialist, liberal, and moderate—we’ll march hand in hand to make sure Spencer’s face stays punched, or maybe we won’t. But ultimately, right here and now, we’ve won one.
Art by Jun Joestar.