The Ethics of Punching People in the Face

When you’re in the business of commentary, every day you see hundreds of people speaking authoritatively on subjects they know little about. Usually it’s political, but make no mistake as to the capacity people have for not knowing what they’re talking about. It’s aggressively broad.

For example, despite all the tough guy talk on Twitter, I think most people would be stunned if they were actually punched in the face. No matter how “alpha” you believe you are, that shooting, burning sensation across your face after getting decked is hard to quickly recover from. It’s a shock.

When I was about 18, I was jumped by several guys. One of them punched me in the face and before I could respond, another came running around the car we were near and clocked me in the side of the head. I went flying. It was less than enjoyable.

I haven’t always just been a punching bag, either. I’ve also shoved my fist into another person’s face when I thought they deserved it. It hurts your hand a lot more than keyboard warriors could acknowledge, and probably only half the time did the person I punched actually “deserve” it, as opposed to me just doing something that in the moment relieved whatever anger I may have had.

But in light of the punching shenanigans of late, from Richard Spencer getting sucker-punched to journalist Ben Jacobs being body-slammed and then allegedly smashed in the face, it seems like the question of who “deserves” it is coming up a lot more.

As Jay Caruso pointed out earlier, there are some who say Jacobs “deserved” it because… uh… he’s a reporter and therefore is fair game? I guess? At least that’s what Brent Bozell seemed to indicate. Laura Ingraham was at least “nice” enough to say that the would-be Congressman that did the punching should’ve “kept his cool” but then went on to dog whistle the macho crews of guys yelling “beta” at everyone by indicating Jacobs wasn’t “manly” enough to fight back.

I suppose the old Christian virtue of turning the other cheek doesn’t apply to modern Republicanism.

On the flip side, a lot of these same folks were happy to talk out of both sides of their mouths when Richard Spencer was punched a few months ago. Lots of “Hey, he’s a jerk, but our PRINCIPLES say you have no right to assault another person.” They probably get around their hypocrisy by claiming journalists aren’t really people.

But here’s an uncomfortable truth: some people DO deserve to be punched. And to be even more direct: Jacobs did not deserve it, and Richard Spencer did.

Before anyone reading goes into an outrage spiral, please understand how deliberate I’m being with my words. “Deserve” is not the same as “should.”

If anyone reading this is honest with themselves, they know there is a huge difference. It would be absolutely preposterous and unrealistic to think that you’ve never encountered, argued with or otherwise seen someone that deserved to be punched in the face.

The guy verbally berating the hostess in the restaurant because she couldn’t force seated guests to get up from their table mid-meal just so Mr. Important can get his Awesome Blossom faster.

The dude who tweets photos of a dead person to a grieving family from behind an anonymous account because he thinks it’s super funny to push the limits of decency without getting caught.

And yes, the guy who called for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of America, also deserves to be punched in the face.

Should he? I guess that’s a decision to be made by the person doing the punching. Personally, given that I have kids and a need to put food on the table for them thus requiring my not being in jail, I would not do it. But also I should not do it. An argument could be made that no one should. But certainly he deserved it. All scumbags do. I don’t feel an ounce of pity when it happens. I’m sure people feel the same about me.

So it could also be argued, from the perspectives of Ingraham & Bozell, that Jacobs “shouldn’t” have been punched but that, using my reasoning above, he deserved it.

I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion, and I reserve the right to mine as well, so here it is.

If you think Ben Jacobs, a reporter asking a legitimate question of a person running for public office “deserved” to get punched in the face for it, then frankly, so do you.

Here’s hoping you don’t run into anyone that goes beyond “deserve” and in to “should.” Because if you do, my empathy will be nonexistent.

I would add that, as a practical matter, if you think a Nazi doesn’t deserve it but a journalist asking questions does … it’s time to stop and consider the troubling places to which your political allegiances have led you.

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