It seemed like something that could unite a broad swath of Jews: Richard Spencer — figurehead for the infamously white nationalist “alt-right” movement — was punched in the face at an anti-Trump inauguration protest on Saturday.
While giving an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Spencer was explaining the meaning of the Pepe the Frog symbol — a formerly harmless cartoon co-opted by the “alt-right” during the campaign season that the Anti-Defamation League has since entered into its hate symbol database. A masked man then appeared and punched Spencer in the side of the face before running away. Spencer didn’t press charges.
For some tweeters, the moment was the perfect opportunity to mock the maligned movement leader. Footage of the punch went viral and inspired a variety of memes and remixed videos featuring music for comic effect.
IT’S THE, PUNCH OF THE FREE WORLD IT’S THE HAND OF THE RIGHT, STANDING UP TO THE DEVILS OF THE NAZI’S #RichardSpencerpic.twitter.com/EnDbEm6LZd— Niall Carey (@CultofNiall) January 22, 2017anybody done this yet? pic.twitter.com/9Ath6xFuxf— Jordan Freiman (@JordanFreiman) January 21, 2017Here is the cleanest video of the Richard Spencer punch I could find. pic.twitter.com/1VgmEpKK9p— Finch (@finchlynch) January 21, 2017
But as The New York Times pointed out, the incident also sparked a debate on whether it is OK to punch someone, even if that person is a neo-Nazi. (Spencer has repeatedly said, as he did again on Saturday to the Times, that he is not a Nazi and that the term is outdated.)
In the midst of that debate, Spencer found an unlikely defender: liberal Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman.
Silverman tweeted that the man who punched Spencer was “wildly misguided” and lamented that the attacker would never be open to learning about non-violence.
Would MLK lynch a kkk member if he could’ve? I’d wanna. But would it make the change protesting & non violence did? https://t.co/ULLWq8zg3q— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 22, 2017
Silverman then proceeded to respond to several tweeters who took issue with her.
@SarahKSilverman In history, when has fascism been stopped by talking?— DaveAnthony (@daveanthony) January 22, 2017Ooph Excellent point. How is fascism usually stopped? Asking for a friend https://t.co/vVkSJsgiB8— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 22, 2017
On Sunday night, Silverman revealed that she wasn’t fully aware that Spencer (and not some random Trump supporter) was the one who was punched and appeared to backtrack on whether he should have been hit.
The alt right coining cunt is who got punched? I hate violence ug shit I gotta think on this I’m supe conflicted on what’s long-term right. https://t.co/3HAilSpUxy— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 22, 2017No shit I wanna delete it. Still a non violence person. But the young man thing makes me feel like the swim team rapist’s judge https://t.co/v38U8d91Ya— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 22, 2017
Eventually, Silverman deleted her original tweet about the “misguided” man. But by the end of the night she felt pretty exasperated from the extensive debate.
I want my mom— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 23, 2017