King: It’s Always Justified To Punch A Puritan Or A Roundhead

There’s great power in the name Nazi and Nazi imagery. That’s why losers want to claim the identity. Through this new identity they feel powerful and meaningful. It’s not all that different from losers who join ISIS or declare themselves a martyr for a man pretending to be emperor without any of the humor of the Marx Brothers.

Through the magic of our brains, the Tiki Troopers can become feared as Storm Troopers. Though I am sure my grandfather would have no problem distinguishing between the men of the Wehrmacht, SS, the U-Boats, and the Luftwaffe and these wannabe losers. But nowadays ignorance abounds and any asshole can call themselves a Nazi, get attention, and cause fear. And our primitive need to smash a squawking irritant with a rock becomes rationalized and verbalized as the “right to punch a Nazi.”

But there’s a problem with justifying violence against people who say and think things we don’t like. It seems like an obvious problem, but Ken White was forced to state it:

This is the final hypothetical come to pass: if the state asked you to give up freedoms in exchange for a dubious promise it would make you safer, would you do it? Would you convince yourself that the state would only use the power against Them, and not you?

In response, Elie Mystal wrote:

But this weekend a woman was attacked with a car for (wait for it) EXERCISING HER FREE SPEECH RIGHTS, and all the First Amendment defender crowd can think to write are reasons to defend THE NAZIS WHO KILLED HER.

FUUUUUUUUUCK you people. Ain’t nobody got time for your “first they came for the Nazis” inverse prattle today.

Elie’s post asks what good is defending free speech when people are dying. In this way, it echoes Justice Jackson’s famous “suicide pact” metaphor regarding the First Amendment. He questions how many dead bodies it will take for the free speech defenders to be quiet. It’s reminiscent of the freshman-level philosophy question of whether it would be moral for you to time travel and kill baby Hitler.

The inherent problem with this general line of thinking is that it’s heavily influenced by hindsight bias. We know what baby Hitler grew up to say, think, and do. And we now know what the wannabe-Nazi did at the rally. From that perspective, we have all the relevant facts upon which we can make a utilitarian judgment about killing, hurting, or maiming these killers. Even the Trolley Problem has a flavor of this because there aren’t unknowns when you’re making a decision.

But life doesn’t work that way. We are moving constantly forward until we stop forever. And while we’re falling into the future, we do so with highly imperfect knowledge and subject to randomness. If we knew James Fields would drive his car into a crowd, then we’d no doubt approve of a number of ways to stop him. But we didn’t and we can’t. Before he used his car as a weapon, he was just some faceless Kentuckian who went to a rally in Virginia.

Once upon a time, some monk named Martin Luther upset the entire religious landscape of the West. He and his Protestant followers were the cause of turmoil, war, and death. Protestants no doubt believed that they were justified in speaking out against the Catholic Church and “protecting” themselves from Catholic reprisals.

If you asked the Catholics at the time whether violence was justified against the Protestants, you would have gotten many to agree that it was necessary to stop them. The Protestant’s speech was dangerous, subversive, and inevitably led to violence. They were right in fact, but few nowadays would agree with the robust efforts to suppress the Christian heresy.

Eventually, the Puritans came to prominence in Parliament (Roundheads), leading to a civil war in England. The Roundheads deposed the King, and then turned the country over to Cromwell. Many who lived through such troubled times would have agreed that the Roundheads were responsible for much suffering and death, and if you could go back in time to stop them, it would have been a wise thing to do. What good was religious freedom and democracy when your children were murdered or starving?

As it turned out, without the English Civil War we may not have had the Glorious Revolution or the American Revolution. More directly, the Roundheads gave birth to the Quakers, who in turn came to America and infused the country with many of their values and established many colleges. Plus, you wouldn’t be able to read this post because I probably wouldn’t have been born, which really concerns me most of all. But we now know what those living during the English Civil War could have never known. And that knowledge influences how we judge the past conduct of the Puritans and Quakers.

Just as a substance diffusing through water does so randomly in the present moment, it is possible to retrospectively understand the path it took. But it would have been impossible to predict that path prospectively. Our culture, institutions, and organizations are all similarly influenced by random forces.

If Elie could got back to the English Civil War, he might ask what is the point of Parliamentarianism when all these people are dying. He might similarly question allowing Martin Luther and his spiritual children the ability to spread their heresy—so many are suffering and dying. And those questions would be appropriate. Indeed, many asked them at the time.

But the answer cannot be to silence speech, enforce current cultural norms, and forbid challenges to the status quo, even when the call is to avoid possible death in the future. The efforts to suppress heretics failed in the past and caused even greater suffering and death; there is no reason to believe Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot properly solved that problem.

It may sound risky, and there is some risk in allowing minority speech, as recent events remind us. Yet it’s essentially how stubborn minorities made entire populations submit to their preferences. Taleb’s observation cuts both ways, that is, stubborn minorities, and the speech they promote, can be either good or bad. The rule of “shut up, people might die” may exclude much of the bad,  but it doesn’t leave room for the good that may arise over time.

Plus, we should stop acting like punching them will resolve our fears and stop them. Advocates of this problem solving method are over-valuing the power of their fists. The real Nazis continued to fight hard after D-Day, despite years of Allied bombing and tank battles.

11 thoughts on “King: It’s Always Justified To Punch A Puritan Or A Roundhead

  1. paleo

    “reasons to defend THE NAZIS WHO KILLED HER”

    The self-identified Nazi (singular) who killed the woman is in jail, where he belongs. I haven’t seen anybody defending him, although I’m sure there are some of his co-losers out there trying.

    How far is Mystal ready to suspend the Constitution to stop the Nazi hordes? Should the government be allowed to search the homes of presumed Nazis any time they want? Should the driver of the car be forced to go to trial without a lawyer? If he’s convicted can we torture him? Hell, he’s a Nazi – why should he have any constitutional rights? Amirite?

    Once we’ve decided that the Constitution for the Nazis, who else should this New World Order apply to? Antifa is violent as hell, so certainly it should apply to them. Same with MS-13 and the 55 Hoover Crips and the other (mostly minority) street gangs. And Muslims, I mean, hell that goes without saying. There are plenty of idiots on the right who insist without evidence that BLM is violent, and their “targets” in this fantasy world are cops, so just to be safe…….

    I thought Mystal was a lawyer. You’d think that he’d have a better grasp of actions and consequences than he appears to.

  2. Richard Kopf


    With respect, and with no criticism intended of you, I am surprised you took the time to address Mr. Mystal’s post. Mr. Mystal’s offering was neither interesting nor informative.

    The only part of the piece that sorta intrigued me was his use of “FUUUUUUUUUCK.” If he had only added one more “U,” I might have thought Mystal mildly amusing.

    All the best.


    1. SHG

      Not me. That would be Ohio prosecutor, brother Andrew King of Fault Lines fame, Judge. And I suspect his purpose was less to address Elie’s post than it was to seize the opportunity to use the word “roundhead” in the title.

      1. Richard G. Kopf


        Proving once again the value of paying careful attention to detail.

        Anyway, FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK Andrew. Just teasing.

        All the best.


  3. B. McLeod

    Well, Elie has a bad temper, plus, when AtL allowed comments, there was always a lot of chatter about his rum consumption. However, he isn’t a stupid person. In reality, he is well able to comprehend the difference between white supremacists speaking and a single white supremacist running into cars and people with a motor vehicle.

    The white supremacists who were speaking didn’t kill anyone, they simply helped (in conjunction with the Antifa thugs and woke progressives) to create a climate of unrest and a few scattered street combats. Obviously, it is completely possible to defend white supremacists’ right to speak (and even their right to defend themselves while speaking) without endorsing street combat and without endorsing vehicular homicide. Rants like Elie’s are ill-conceived. Like the Antifa thugs who came to the dead woman’s memorial with bats and shields, he is basically pointing the finger of blame solely at those he disagrees with, and is fanning the flames.

    The more people on each side fan the flames, the more young people who are misfits will join these lumpen groups, rioting in the streets to achieve “acceptance” from whatever, misbegotten tribe of thugs will have them.

    1. SHG

      Elie feels strongly about things, and he’s entitled to do so. As for his rum consumption, and speaking from personal experience, he holds it well.

      1. B. McLeod

        Of course, he is as entitled to be racist as are the white supremacists, and as entitled to fan the flames. It still is what it is. My favorite character at Commeterial Commune is “Vera Raceist,” which character resembles Elie, photoshopped into a blond wig. “Vera” exclusively re-posts Elie’s comments, with “white” and “black” switched.

  4. LegallySpeaking

    Funny, Elie had no problem with murder when it was black on white. Elie has stated many times that he was happy O.J. got off and, in fact, has fondly recalled high diving other blacks at his school when the verdict was announced.

    Elie’s reasoning? It’s ok for blacks to murder whites because “racism.” I kid you not.

    Elie’s just a hypocritical racist with a small brain. The fact that SHG took his two-faced little whine seriously is sad.

    1. SHG

      High diving? Your characterization of what Elie’s said is flawed. He argued for jury nullification when a black person is on trial in reaction to cops being acquitted for killing blacks. He did not say it was okay for blacks to murder anyone. More to the point, Elie may tend to be hyperbolic to make his point, but he’s not without a point, even if one disagrees with him. Make no mistake, Elie is very smart, but also quite angry.

      As for my taking his “two-faced little whine seriously” being “sad,” note the writer so you don’t look even more foolish than writing about “high diving.”

      1. B. McLeod

        Sometime when we’re having another Talk Tuesday, “Favorite lie Stories” would be a great topic.

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