Evelyn Beatrice Hall summarised the beliefs of philosopher Voltaire with the much-quoted line “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech. The people should be able to say whatever they like. And that opposing voices be given the same treatment. And that defense of that principle of free speech is the holiest of holies – no matter how objectionable that speech be. You’ll find it at the head of this Amnesty International article about journalists being attacked and killed around the world, including the cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo.
It’s a principle that has been cited after Richard Spencer white supremacist was punched in the head while being interviewed on television. Captain America writer (no relation) Nick Spencer‘s tweet condemning support for that action was retweeted by said white supremacist himself.
I’m going to guess that no matter how principled that stance, Nick may have felt a little awkward by that turn of events. The lessons of Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America have been cited. After creating Captain America, arguing against the prevailing US opinion of isolationism in World War II at the time, when the US entered the war, he enlisted and fought against the German army in Europe. And killed Nazis.
But he didn’t just wait until being a soldier to act violently against people who espoused such race hatred. Mark Evanier, friend, collaborator and expert on Jack Kirby recalled in his book, Kirby: King Of Comics from before the US entered the war.
As for Matt Furie, creator of the Pepe The Frog character co-opted by the alt-right movement, the use of which was being espoused by Richard Spencer on camera when he got punched, he knew where he stood. On Tumblr, he answered the question,
So, plenty of people have weighed in. And continue to. We cited Warren Ellis, but other comics creators include
So YES. Punch Nazis! But we need a next step, a plan beyond punching Nazis cuz Nazis need punching.
— Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) January 21, 2017
— thechrishaley (@thechrishaley) January 21, 2017
A common stance is that Captain America is all about punching Nazis, so why doesn’t Nick Spencer support that as well? The difference being that a) Cap is fictional, and no one expects the writer of Wolverine to be in favour of slicing open the entrails of bad guys, b) Captain America only seems to punch Nazis who are actually doing something to threaten people’s lives rather than just talking about it and c) previous issues of Captain America have seen him defend the free speech rights of Nazi supporters, and equate them with aggressive Jewish protestors.
The writer of that comic remembers….
I remember it well… https://t.co/a5D4ZcRJ3h
— J.M. DeMatteis (@JMDeMatteis) January 21, 2017
Though that’s all he’s saying for now.
It does turns out that a lot of people are realising that they are less of a supporter of free speech than they might have considered. The cracks exposed by the CBLDF supporting publisher Siegel & Shuster over a linewide boycott because of their decision to publish the autobiography of Milo Yiannopoulos have widened. Some are happy to contain dissonant positions, others are coming to terms with them.
For me, living in Britain, I’m in a country that doesn’t enjoy free speech in the way the USA does. We have government involvement. In the UK, Richard Spencer would quite likely have been arrested, or TV stations not allowed to report some of the beliefs he has espoused. Indeed, it is likely that MI5 would have been on his case long before this. In the US, those kind of sanctions are forbidden by the First Amendment.
For some, punching a white supremacist in the head, in the street, is all they have. Especially when done so in a Fibonacci Golden spiral.
I dunno who made this but **** pic.twitter.com/vcPXCOTABS
— Andy Khouri (@andykhouri) January 23, 2017
Voltaire and Fibonacci in one Bleeding Cool article? What is going on?
But also punching someone on the street, especially on camera, is going to get you arrested and “he’s a Nazi” isn’t going to be admissible in court. You probably have to be okay with that too. So while this image has received plenty of posts….