Bill Maher and his guests on punching Nazis

Reader Eli sent me a 5-minute video from a new segment of Bill Maher’s “Real Time” show about punching Nazis. The three guests are Tom Morello (Musician, “Rage Against the Machine”), April Ryan, a journalist and author, and journalist John Heilemann. 

Maher gives the recent example of a guy on a Seattle bus wearing a swastika armband. In short time, people on Twitter tracked the guy down and attacked him, beating him unconscious. And then they celebrated. That makes my stomach churn, for these people badly hurt someone who hadn’t hurt anyone, because he (supposedly) adhered to an ideology that, nearly eighty years ago, did hurt people. What did they think they accomplished? Did they prevent a Nazi takeover of America? I doubt it.

When asked whether punching Nazis in this way was okay, the three guests were surprisingly in favor of PUNCHING.

Morello says “yes” because his uncle, a World War II veteran, influenced him by noting that German Nazis killed Jews and wanted to get rid of all blacks. His uncle, says Morello, would have punched the guy, and he he would have had his uncle’s back. Yet Morello apparently favors the First Amendment. Wearing an armband apparently doesn’t count as “speech” (it does). The audience applauds at Morello’s call for punching.

Heileman argues that someone showing up “with a torch or a club and is threatening someone,  (so) punching that person is fine.” He says that people should be allowed to speak, but seemingly thinks that “threatening someone” is grounds for being punched. (Remember that the courts have ruled that a threat is not sufficient; one must be inciting imminent violent behavior to violate one’s First Amendment rights.)

Ryan says she “doesn’t believe in violence, but there needs to be something. . .” and then adds later that “some of these old laws need to be revisited because they just don’t fit what’s going on,” apparently referring to the First Amendment and its interpretations. She argues that there’s a difference between “freedom 0f speech” and “intimidating and inciting”—but the guy on the bus wasn’t intimidating or inciting anyone. Her argument is that there’s a “bubbling up” of bigotry in the U.S. now, and it has to be stopped.

So three liberals (Morello says he’s not one) are okay with punching—on the grounds that wearing a swastika armband is itself some form of violence—or at least a threat. That’s not the way the courts have viewed this and, as Maher says, we’re a nation of laws. We can’t let people decide to start hitting other people on the basis of their views, and I can’t abide advocating such violence.

I know many readers don’t like Bill Maher, but at least in this discussion he’s the voice of reason; and he’s right.

I was wondering why liberals, all of a sudden, are advocating violence when a few years back people like the three guests wouldn’t have done that, even (I think) to someone wearing a swastika armband. What’s different, of course, is that Trump was elected. I conclude that this approval of violence is frustrated liberals’ way to get back at Trump. It’s not the Nazis they want to punch, it’s Trump. And advocating violence is a form of temper tantrum about his election.

You might also want to hear Maher’s theory, which is his, about why America is so divided. See the segment about “the city mouse and the country mouse,” called to my attention by reader Bryan.


  1. Ken Phelps
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    “… a form of temper tantrum…”

    That seems to sum it up pretty well. Welcome to life with the generations that didn’t get their asses smacked when they threw a hissy fit in the Cocoa Puff aisle.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      So they should have been spanked when children to avoid them “spanking” others as adults? Neither seems to be a solution.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      So a bit of child abuse would fix it eh?

    • pali
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Except research shows the opposite: kids who received spankings or similar punishments are more likely to be aggressive and anti-social, not less.

      • Mark Mac Donald
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        keep your facts to yourself! That’s not what I want to believe /s

  2. Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Bill’s theory got me thinking; no matter it’s blue state or red state the cities in those states always vote liberal there’s something to it.

  3. alexandra Moffat
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Mahrer is popular with me for his atheism, his care about humane treatment of animals, his irreverence, iconoclasm – so the foul language and sometimes extreme jokes are not of great concern. Some are funny! He is, as far as I can tell, on the right side of the first amendment always and his language is just a way to nudge an elbow in the ribs of those who are on the wrong side of it – without violence. Mahrer is a serious man.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      And he usually has at least one guest on who disagrees with him, and shows how to conduct an amicable dialogue that dies not evade the points of disagreement.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Comedy can be deadly serious. As C. Hitchens used to say (attributing it to O. Wilde and E. Waugh), always treat the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.

    • dabertini
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      He’s antivaccination (at least for the flu vaccine) but pro climate change. I would guess he is anti gmo, so he is scientifically illiterate. His comedy, however, is spot-on. I’ve seen him live, and enjoyed the show. I do like him.

      • tomh
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Not just an anti-vaccine kook, who praises RFK, Jr for promoting the long-discredited vaccine/autism hoax, but anti Western medicine in general (germ theory of disease is flawed, for instance) and that it’s all a plot by “Big Pharma.” And yes, he’s virulently anti-GMO. Maher is the perfect argument against those who claim it’s the Republicans who are anti-science.

        • dabertini
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          Yes, germ theory. What a scam! Oy!

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Yes, these and a couple other items are important strikes against Maher, and they are very troubling. But in other areas he is right, and those too should be kept in mind.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        He’s antivaccination (at least for the flu vaccine) but pro climate change. I would guess he is anti gmo, so he is scientifically illiterate

        You’ve listed three things, one of which is evidence against your conclusion and one of which is a self confessed guess.

        That leaves us with his alleged anti-vax position. I’ve read that before, but it was on PZ Myers’ site so I didn’t give it much credence. I’d appreciate it if you could provide a link to Mayer being anti-vax. Until then, I’ll treat your claim of scientific illiteracy as false.

        • tomh
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

          “That leaves us with his alleged anti-vax position.”

          Seriously? Bill Maher has been one of the most well-known anti-vaccine proponents for the last twenty years. Quotes such as, “It’s a big scam to make money, but flu vaccines are bullshit,” might give you a clue, but for an in-depth look I suggest reading Dr. David Gorski on the subject on his science based medicine site.

          • Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

            So that looks pretty damning, however, your assertion that he doesn’t accept the germ theory of disease is at least proven false by one of the clips.

            • tomh
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

              Well, you could research some Maher shows. For instance, on Real Time, “I don’t believe in vaccination either. That’s a… well, that’s a… what? That’s another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur theory, even though Louis Pasteur renounced it on his own deathbed and said that Beauchamp(s) was right: [complete bunk] it’s not the invading germs, it’s the terrain. It’s not the mosquitoes, it’s the swamp that they are breeding in.”

              He has always believed that it’s not germs, but one’s own body, that accepts or rejects disease.

              • Posted October 3, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

                I did research his shows and came up with one (that was in your link) where he specifically denied that he doesn’t believe the germ theory of disease.

                His claim is that proper nutrition is enough to fight off the bacteria/viruses etc, not that they don’t exist or don’t cause disease.

            • dabertini
              Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

              If you are a woomeister, you are scientifically illiterate. Sure let’s laud meteorologists for their work on climate change, but then turn around and make claims that the flu vaccine is a hoax. That is not only being scientifically illiterate that is being mushbrained. And since Bill Maher pokes fun at ignorant people it is only right that at the very least he should be called out, if not ridiculed, for his ignorance.

              • Posted October 3, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

                Being wrong on some science does not make you a woomeister or scientifically illiterate generally.

                Sir Fred Hoyle never accepted the Big Bang theory in the face of the mounting evidence and he had some bizarre ideas about the origin of life but he was not scientifically illiterate or a woomeister.

                Bill Maher is simply wrong about vaccines.

              • tomh
                Posted October 3, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

                “Bill Maher is simply wrong about vaccines.”

                As if that were just some litttle quirk of ol’ Bill’s. I wonder if he’s done more harm by convincing people not to get flu shots, or good by railing against such ephemeral topics as “punching nazis.” Let’s see, tens of thousands of people die from the flu each year – from punching nazis? not so much.

                And Maher’s anti-western medicine stance is much more than just vaccines. Last year on his show he fawned all over HIV quack Samir Chachoua who claims to be able to cure people of HIV and cancer using milk from arthritic goats.

                Anyway, excuse him all you want. If he convinces one older person not to get a flu shot, I have no use for him.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      The thing I like about Maher is something he said about two years ago – it went something like, “Liberals have forgotten that to be liberal you have to support liberalism.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 2, 2017 at 4:35 am | Permalink

        That’s good!

  4. Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I’m in dismay. I’m not going to watch it. And the day that I care what a former comedian comments on is the day I need to be put in a home.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Dismay over what? And seriously, you are having a tantrum over what a “former comedian” says, as if that completely disqualifies him from any rational discourse. What you’re doing is the equivalent of a two-year-old child putting their fingers in their ears and saying “Nyah nyah nyah nyah–I’m not going to listen to you.”

      You may not need to be put in a home, but you clearly have feeling too tender to continue on here. I suggest you go over to the HuffPo website and join the crowd.

      • sang1ee
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        I think Andree here read the title, assumed that Bill was in favour of punching Nazis, didn’t bother to read or watch the video and made the comment expressing his dismay that Bill was promoting violence. I think.

        • Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

          I was unclear. The dismay is about the violence. I read the article. I did not watch either video.

      • Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        Dr. Coyne: I sure messed this up. After all the many thoughtful responses here that have me pondering on the topic, I thought that responding to the comments on my comment would be too trivial. But I decided to respond anyhow.

        I apologize if my comment came out as critical of this post, of you using space for Maher. I was, actually, highly interested (and dismayed at what you reported) because I had not heard of the incident. My comment about a “former comedian” is so wrong. What I meant (and I have since realized that this is so bad of me to think) was: why report Maher’s thoughts when there are yours and other informed people’s thoughts? Before you holler, I have now revised that opinion of mine and am embarrassed to learn I have this snotty bias. Commenter Jeremy Pereira is right. I should not dismiss Maher simply because of his profession.

        My apologies to you and to Mr. Maher. I will never comment again without hours of thought and editing.

    • dabertini
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      He is not a former comedian. He is a comedian.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      A former comedian?
      Bill Maher is a lot more than that.

      He is a serious thinker who has had a seriously significant positive benefit on the world.

      He may err on a couple of things, but overall he is great.

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Guess you also really don’t care what a certain senator from Minnesota has to say, amirite?

      • XCellKen
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Jesse Ventura? Oh wait, he was guvner lol

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Comedians are often very perceptive. I don’t think you should discount anybody’s views based purely on their profession.

  5. Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I think people who are violent in public are generally even more violent in private.

    There’s no way antifa and their advocates take off their boots at home, put on their slippers. and snuggle up with their spouse and kids.

    My betting is that we’ll see increased reports of domestic violence on the Left.

    Once you feel the adrenaline rush of hitting your opponents and being cheered on by the public beating the shot out of your wife and kids might not seem so abhorrent.

    • sang1ee
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Most are young adult males, the age group most implicated in violence, and will not have wives and kids. You can only hope many will grow out of it, if ideology doesn’t cement the violence further into them first.

      • XCellKen
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Maybe they are angry BECAUSE they don’t have wives (sex) ???

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Do you have evidence?
        Check out the picture of the Evergreen vigilantes with baseball bats.
        There is more to it than such a simplistic ‘young males bad’ assertion.

        • sang1ee
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          Just by looking at all the photos of the antifas? All of them look young and mostly male. You can say simplistic, but that’s just what you see in them photos.

  6. BJ
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I’m a big fan of Maher. I don’t always agree with him, but I respect him for his repeated willingness over the years to stand up to the left when it gets things wrong.

    It’s incredibly worrying that we’re now seeing this “punch a Nazi” rhetoric (and remember, anyone who doesn’t agree with much of these people’s ideology is automatically a “Nazi,” so it’s more about punching at least 1/3 of the people in the US) from older liberals. These aren’t just misguided college students who may outgrow their idiocy. At some point, we have to admit to ourselves that the left may be becoming as extreme as the right and actually do something about it. This is horrifying stuff.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      “At some point, we have to admit to ourselves that the left may be becoming as extreme as the right …”

      But we need admit no false equivalence between them. The control-left stands for some idiotic ideas, sure. But what do they actually control? Some librarians, campus denizens, and bloggers.

      The extreme right controls the Oval Office (and other offices in the West Wing), cabinet posts and agency heads, numerous seats in congress, and statehouses across red America. There’s really no comparing the two in terms of political potency.

      • Historian
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Liberals need to repeat time and time again the false equivalency between the POWER of the far left and far right. Liberals cannot let the rightists attempts to control the narrative. Over the past decade or so, the right has attempted to divert attention from their ruinous policies by saying that the “left is just as bad.” We have seen this attempt many times by rightist commenters on this site. I’m glad you shot down this attempt.

      • biz
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        For where the cultural Left holds power, you forgot to mention some major media. And some major and majorly powerful corporations (witness e.g. Google’s recent behavior in the Damore affair, Facebook’s 56 gender choices, and the notorious “American Inventors” Google search result). Those along with academia are a powerful trifecta.

        The Right holds institutional power in the places that matter most for today but the Left holds institutional power in the places that matter most for tomorrow.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think you find much “extreme” leftism in the mainstream media, or in corporatedom. The problem there is more often mushy-headed interpretations of standard-brand liberalism.

          • biz
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

            Well whatever you want to call it, it holds a tremendous amount of institutional power in some places that really matter. James Damore is out of a job for expressing a reasonable opinion about corporate policy. Bret Weinstein is out of a job, branded a racist, and had threats against his family.

      • Taz
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        On the left you can add most universities and large cites, while the “Oval Office, cabinet posts and agency heads” can be corrected with one election. The left scares me because they’re the ones openly talking about changing the First Amendment, and it seems like that idea is catching on.

        • Historian
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          The chance of the First Amendment being changed is about the same as me becoming an astronaut. Amending the constitution requires the approval of three quarters of state legislatures. The vast majority of state legislatures are controlled by Republicans. The Supreme Court is controlled by conservatives. In the very unlikely event that the First Amendment is changed, it will be by conservatives. Your “fear” is a right-wing red herring.

          • biz
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

            The most dangerous part for the moment is not that they will actually succeed in repealing or neutering the first amendment, it is that they are openly talking about it as a good idea. That is an unprecedented break with American civic norms, and with 100 years of liberal tradition.

            • Taz
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

              This is exactly what I meant. It’s the mindset that worries me, not the thought of the amendment actually being amended.

          • BJ
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            You can fear a shift in cultural views. Cultural views need not have a direct influence on law for them to hold power and do significant damage, and dismissing them if they don’t meet that single criterion is foolhardy and/or a method of dismissal.

            • Travis
              Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

              I mean, can’t the same be said for abortion? It’s not likely the option will ever be appealed even though it may be more costly or difficult in some ways to achieve one… yet I see a common concern on the left is that somehow abortion is going to be made illegal.

              • tomh
                Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

                “yet I see a common concern on the left is that somehow abortion is going to be made illegal.”

                You don’t think that’s a legitimate concern? It seems likely that if Trump gets to replace one of the aging justices, Ginsburg, Kennedy, or Breyer, Roe v Wade will be overturned. This would open the door for states to outlaw abortion, and the majority would most likely do so, though it would still be legal in some states. I’d say that’s a cause for concern, at least for those who care about the issue.

              • Travis
                Posted October 2, 2017 at 6:15 am | Permalink


                Wouldn’t something closely related have to first advance to the supreme court for it to possibly be overturned?

              • tomh
                Posted October 2, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

                Why would that be a problem?

      • BJ
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see how “one side currently holds more power in government” is an argument against the equality of extremism on either side. It may be an argument for the danger posed by the extremism, but I didn’t bring that up. The subject of your post doesn’t seem relevant to mine.

        Regardless, even if it was, we just finished having a Democrat as President, who had a Democratic Congress for two years of his presidency. Power shifts. So, even if what you said was relevant to my comment, it’s still a false measure of danger posed over time.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          The shift in government control back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats is beside the point. The GOP is currently in a fight for its soul with its own extreme right wing (one which it’s losing, badly). There are currently no control-leftists holding positions of power either in government or the Democratic Party. Thus, the “extreme” left does not pose anywhere near the danger to the lives of Americans as the extreme right — which goes to the point in your initial comment regarding the urgency that we “actually do something about it.”

          • BJ
            Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            Well, I would think all rational people would want to do something about it before things get to that point. Regardless, as I said to Historian above: shifts in cultural views don’t need to have the backing of law in order to do incredible damage. When you see even some mainstream and older liberals going on TV and writing in media that we need to have the option of violence open to suppress certain views, I don’t see how your first response to someone pointing out this extremism (and other various signs of increasing extremism on the left, of which you are well aware) and proposing that we do something should be “yeah, but the right is worse.”

            You can fight two battles at once. Just because you believe extremism on the right to be more dangerous doesn’t mean there isn’t an urgent need to fight the dangerous and growing extremism on the left. And I never made an argument as to which one is more urgent in my initial post.

    • ploubere
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink


  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink


  8. Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    This should be a no-brainer. Especially with Trumpists talking about a civil war if they don’t get their own way.

    Anyone hoping for impeachment or him being pressured into resigning needs to figure out a way of avoiding that. Punching Nazis walks straight into that trap.

    And when the Nazis start punching back, liberals can’t plead self defense.

    • ploubere
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Exactly. Antifa are not only amoral but dumb.

  9. Randy schenck
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I believe that Maher does what he has always done. He is a comedian making social commentary. And I would say he is very good at it. Regarding this specific example, he was showing on live TV that many liberals do not understand their own purpose and can be very stupid. To think it is a good idea to beat up someone in an offensive costume is pure ignorance. It seems more like something Donald Trump would say, so who is the stupid one?

    • ploubere
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink


  10. sang1ee
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Well, there’s another artist from a favourite band growing up that I didn’t care to hear the viewpoint of in fear losing respect for the guy. Thanks Bill.

    • walkingmap
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      hear hear

  11. Carey Haug
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Nazi has become a multiple meaning word. Its traditional meaning refers to Hitler and his followers. It also includes Neo Nazis who espouse Antisemitism and white supremacy.

    Recently people have started to apply the Nazi and fascist labels to anyone who does not have a sufficiently progressive ideas.

    I think Nazis of any sort have the same civil rights as everyone else. Unprovoked violence against them is never justified, no matter how loathe some their ideas.

  12. Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    It sounds like Tom Morello has something in common with Ted Nugent: Played guitar in a song with a message and then later distanced himself from the message.

  13. Historian
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The debate over punching Nazis is part of the larger debate over free speech. I am distressed that some fellow liberals no longer defend it. Fortunately, many do. Jill Lepore is a Harvard historian. She writes frequently for the New Yorker. From her writings, I think she is a liberal, but I’m not sure. She has just posted an article on the New Yorker site on free speech where she traces the flip-flop of students on this issue from the 1960s to today. She calls on colleges and universities to support free speech.

  14. Rob
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    If each of us (sanctimoniously) decides who deserves to be punched, where does that lead us as a society?

  15. DD
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Should the same be done with someone wearing a hammer and sickle? Or any other Communist symbol?

    Remember that Communist regimes murdered far more people than did Nazis. And yes, the US fought them in Vietnam.

  16. Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    PZ Myers also thinks punching Nazis is a good thing…

    PZ Myers is a nasty piece of work.  He, like all those other people wanting to punch “Nazis”  (in many cases, what often mean is anyone they deem a Nazi – like Trump supporters and other right-wingers), simply doesn’t understand the consequences. Do these people think right-wingers won’t start punching back?

    It is a genuine example of the slippery slope, for if one were allowed to punch Nazis because it is a totalitarian, violent and oppressive ideology, should one also be allowed to punch Marxists, Stalinists, Maoists or anyone on the revolutionary, anti-capitalist far-left like himself?  Of course not. Or how about punch one of the postmodernist campus identity-politics extremists, like those at Evergreen for example?  Of course not. Or punch for example, the likes of Melissa Click or her goons?  Or how about a leftist marching with a Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin flag (like Corbynistas at a Trafalgar Square rally)?  After all they were genocidal monsters, who had millions executed and sent to die in the Gulag – though are still worshipped by the hard-left today. Or what about punching a supporter of that anti-Semite, homophobe and misogynist Louis Farrakan?  Of course not. Somehow I can’t see PZ Myers approving of punch a black Islamic fascist like Farrakan! And of course one shouldn’t.

    Some of PZ Myers views in my opinion are extremely unpleasant and bigoted (not to mention the fact that he is libellous and a liar).  PZ Myers is advocating something very, very dangerous.   He is basically saying you should be able to punch anyone whose views you find obnoxious.  PZ Myers has gone completely mad. He seems to want mob rule.

    I haven’t watched the footage of the Nazi getting punched in Portland, because I don’t want to see something like that.  He may well have been a thug.  But what if this Nazi was a mentally disturbed individual? Or what if encouraging people to punch Nazis leads to mistaken identity?  The Swastika is an innocent symbols in some places and cultures, like Finland and in Hinduism.  There have also already been cases of mistaken identity, with people being attacked for being right-wing (and left-wing) when they were not.

    The far-right and far-left are poisoning America.

    • tomh
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      You seem rather hung up on PZ Myers.

    • XCellKen
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      My Hindu neighbors painted a pink, backwards Nazi sign at the foot of their door. Hope nobody sees it, and punches them

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        I hope they can add a sign explaining the meaning. Remember that every once in a while a Sikh is attacked b/c some moron thinks their turban identifies them as a Muslim

        • XCellKen
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

          Guess who is moving out as I speak?

    • noname
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      We shouldn’t punch Marxists, because we can’t
      tell the difference between Marxism and Stalinism, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

      We should punch anybody who drinks Heineken, because there’s a red star on the bottle.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Didn’t Sarah Silverman freak out at a Nazi sign that was actually a surveyors mark.

      Ideologically motivated stupidity, enhanced by basic ignorance, at it’s best.

      I think P Zee wants to punch anyone who is not a feminist.

  17. Randy schenck
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The one person practicing unhinged free speech, while denying that others should have it, would be Don Juan Trump. He twitted this morning that his own Sec. of State is wasting his time talking to N. Korea. So much for the handlers getting a muzzle on this dip.

  18. Joe Kosiner
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Bill Maher does indeed point out the hypocrisy on the regressive left. Several weeks ago he also “critiqued” the regressive left on their over sensitivity to all things not to their liking. Including, but not limited to, trigger warnings, free speech on campus and Halloween costumes. He did this with both serious surgical precision and humor. I find his honesty quite refreshing. I shudder to think that this group of young people represent our future generation of leaders.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I have come to not like Bill Mahar for various reasons, but he is very good at some things and he does especially well here. I recall some time ago his commentary about the ctrl-lefts over-the-top reactions against perceived micro-aggressions (I paraphrase): ‘If that was a micro-aggression, shouldn’t you be micro-pissed off’?

  19. Curt Nelson
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t tell what April Ryan’s point was — that people shouldn’t be saying nasty things in public?

    The thing that wasn’t said that bridges the gap between “punch him” and “do nothing” is: give the nazi a hard time (back). Ridicule him. Invite others to join in.

  20. Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    First came the punchings.

    Then the lynchings.

  21. FB
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is. (Noam Chomsky)

  22. jaxkayaker
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks for calling attention to this, Jerry. I like Maher even when I’m dismayed at the quality of his arguments or which side he takes (he’s expressed some unwarranted skepticism about vaccines), as here. He’s on the right side here, but inadequately counters his guests’ poor arguments or lies. It’s appalling to see people claiming that wearing an armband justifies violence.

  23. Paul
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I’d like to know what these people advocating violence really expect to happen. Law, compassion, humour, winning an argument, persuading people and so on all seem to be failing.

    Isn’t there an effect in psychology where groups can have their opinions dragged to extreme positions by small numbers of vocal poeple. Maybe it is being amplified by social media?

  24. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I saw that segment on youtube. It is quite disturbing knowing how many people excuse such violence.
    Tom Morello’s crap statement made me squirm.
    Who is he to speak for his uncle.
    Would his uncle have beaten up unarmed Nazi prisoners? Would he ‘reeducate’ them by punching them till they were no longer Nazis.
    It is an absurd assertion.

  25. YF
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Maher is my hero. Though we might not agree with him all the time, we should feel immense gratitude for his unwavering defense of reason and the principles that TRULY make America great.

    However, I was quite dismayed by a recent episode in which he referred to himself as a “Libertarian” – not once, but 3 times!

    • Randy schenck
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that one bothered me as well. Sometime, we need someone to stop him when he says that and ask if he really knows what a libertarian is.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        I agree…I think he likes that libertarians want to legalize drugs, but doesn’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          I think of Rand Paul when the word, libertarian comes up and I don’t think that is where Maher wants to be.

  26. Frank Bath
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I once saw Punch A Nazi here in London in the ’70s. Trotskyists waylaying members of the BNP (British National Party). Then later the BNP beating the Trots in return. Thugs, they were good at it. That’s the way it goes, like in Germany in the ’30s – a warning from history.

  27. Toby
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    You’ve apparently done shoddy journalism there, Dr. Coyne. “Heileman argues that someone showing up “with a torch or a club and is threatening someone, (so) punching that person is fine.”” It looks to me that he was referring to self-defense instances, as in, a man with a weapon has you in a corner & you punch to fight back. He seemed to me to be agreeing with liberalism (as opposed to the pernicious Leftism promoted by the two other people there).

    • Posted October 1, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      And you’ve apparently done shoddy (and rude) commenting there, Toby. It’s not clear whether Hellerman is advocating punching in self defense or punching because marching with a club and a torch is “threatening you.” I think it’s the latter, and that’s advocating unilateral violence.

      In fact, what I reported above accurately characterizes his statement. Someone marching with a club and a torch is not a threat UNLESS THEY ATTACK YOU.

      Read the Roolz, okay. You could have made that comment withoout the “shoddy journalism” snark. Pity.

      • dabertini
        Posted October 5, 2017 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        Ok. But marching with a torch and club or parading around campus with a baseball bat sounds intimidating. Would that be an offense?

  28. Barry Lyons
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    A few days ago I had a brief interaction with a guy on Twitter about this Nazi guy. I was adamant in saying that it was wrong for the Nazi to get punched. The Twitter person disagreed. *Sigh*

    It’s easy to take the argument to the next level as a way to underscore the obvious (why punching the guy was wrong): to say that it’s okay to punch this guy is to say that if the guy had died that it would’ve been okay for the puncher to NOT be arrested for second-degree manslaughter (not murder, I don’t think, because the puncher didn’t necessarily intend to kill the guy). That, to quote the kids, is fucked up.

  29. Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    The Nazis have killed millions of Jews in concentration camps, starved and worked them to death, shot them, and killed them with gas. Afterwards they were often cremated.

    What is not true is the meme, out of Holocaust denialism and troll culture, that Nazis have thrown Jews “into ovens”, which is alarmingly now taken over uncritically by the American Left, as we see in this clip. Please, don’t spread such memes.

    The holocaust does not need embellishment in its moral depravity and utter evilness, and it’s not a good idea to invent elements which do not hold up to scrutiny. In addition, the meme was invented by so-called edgelords to shock people, not a statement on how history was.

    • Doug
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      The idea that the Nazis “marched the Jews into the ovens” has been around at least since the 1970s, which is when I first heard it tossed around. People confuse the gas chambers with the “ovens” that were used to cremate the bodies.

  30. Posted October 1, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I like Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine, and his solo project, too. But especially Tom Morello has this massive blind spot.

    • Benjamin
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Based on his own logic he is now punchable. After all, the grounds by which we decide who is and is not punchable is, according to him, based whether or not an individual displays an affiliation or affinity for a morally depraved regime. I wonder if he would appreciate being punched for displaying soviet propaganda or if he is somehow exempt from these new rules for society…

  31. kelskye
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I really wish the Left would take the right of right-wing nationalism as a wake-up call to learn how to be politically expedient in a liberal democracy. The left’s current strategy is costly not working, and even fuelling the right wing.

  32. KD33
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying, but no go. I have to say I’m very disappointed this article has gotten such a positive imprimatur here. The Instrumental Rationality section had some nice points, but started off badly with the Kansas discussion (what then *were* the Kansas voters voting for??) Half way through the Epistemic Rationality discussion I have to take a break, pausing at “I will stop here because the point is made. There is plenty of science denial on the Democratic side to balance the anti-scientific attitudes of Republicans toward climate change and evolutionary theory.  Neither political party is the party of science, and neither party exclusively contains the science deniers.” The point is far from made. This is just silly, especially based on the examples chosen. Of course there are dumb left wingers who are anti-vexers and have an unwarranted suspicion of GMO’s. But the arguments in this section should be a great case study of how to argue into existence a false equivalence. To reach his conclusion in quotes by comparing climate change denial and evolution to a quantitative argument of *how much* gender inequality exists in wages, STEM hiring, gender differences and other complex sociological issues that are *not central* to our governance or affected much by those in power is just … again …silly.

    So I’m disappointed after all the buildup. Let’s see if the article can redeem itself further on … at the very least, I would read this article with extreme caution.

    The final stake in the heart: “Many of our most contentious political issues hinge on values and culture rather than facts. That may be a good thing. It could be signalling that our society has already handled the easiest issues—those that can be solved by educating everyone to accept the same facts and then implementing the obvious solution that follows from these facts.”

    What this exercise (and the comments here) show me that we are in fact farther than ever from this state. Sigh.

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      You’ve posted your comment on the wrong blog post, KD33.

      • KD33
        Posted October 1, 2017 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

        Yikes! Thanks.

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