The Ethics of Punching Nazis, An Addendum

Every once in a while I poke my head into another “Nazi Punching” debate. I always see people using the same quote to indicate why we don’t have the right to punch Nazis.

“The right to swing my arms in any direction ends where your nose begins.

First of all, the first true recorded use of this quote, or something similar to it was during the 1880s in regards to Prohibition.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech John B. Finch gave in Iowa City in 1882:

“Is not this a free country?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

“Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes.

Jonathan Lighter, 1887 “A man’s personal liberty to drink whisky and support barrooms ends where the rights of the family and the community begin.”

Men like Jonathan Lighter and John B. Finch used this quote to demonize the inherent ‘violence upon the community and family values’ that was alcohol.

In our modern world people are using it to indicate actual physical violence. i.e., Punching Nazis in the Face.

I would then submit that the point of this quote, and a correct contextual usage of it, has nothing to do with physical violence. Instead it means that while this is a free country and you do have rights, your rights end at the point where they begin to infringe upon the rights of another.

So when Nazis begin spreading genocidal rhetoric and hate speech, they’re infringing upon the rights of others. Specifically the Right to Life, and the Right to a Pursuit of Happiness. The Nazis Right to Free Speech is now metaphorically hitting the nose of another person’s Right to Live Their Life Unmolested By People Who Want Their Ethnic Group Dead.

Punch Nazis.


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