Punch the Peacenik: A Response

As U.S. jets bomb the Afghan countryside, there's a chain e-mail message making its way around the Internet. You may have seen it: it's called "FUN AT THE PEACE RALLY." It goes like this:

FUN AT THE PEACE RALLY

When you meet a peacenik...

  1. Approach ignorant moron talking about "peace" and saying that there should be "no retaliation".
  2. Engage in brief conversation; ask if military force is appropriate.
  3. When he says "No," ask, "Why not?"
  4. Wait until he says something to the effect of, "Because this would just cause a vicious circle of more innocent deaths, which would be awful and we should not cause more violence."
  5. When he's in mid sentence, punch him in the face as hard as you can.
  6. When he is about to punch you back, point out that it would be a serious mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would "be awful and he should not cause more violence."
  7. Wait until he agrees that he has pledged not to commit additional violence.
  8. Punch him in the face again, harder this time. Repeat steps 5 through 8 until he understands that sometimes it is necessary to punch back.

This message is meant in part to be funny -- haw, haw, punched the commie peacenik! But in no small part it is also meant to be a serious argument against the anti-war message. The biggest problem with the argument made above is that it sets up what's known as a "straw man." A "straw man" is a misrepresentation of one's opponent in ludicrous terms that makes him easy to prevail against [notice the target's a guy here - I guess the author doesn't intend to hit women or kids - don't they need to be taught a lesson, too?].

What makes the protester character in this posting a "straw man?" All too conveniently, the peace protester does exactly what serves the author's purpose. First, the protester moves to land a punch of his own in an apparently hypocritical move. Bad, silly, inconsistent peace protester! Second, eventually the protester conveniently "understands that sometimes it is necessary to punch back." Wow, you convinced him! Third, the protester is mostly mute, only getting sentence fragments of statements out, while the person confronting the protester gets to do quite a bit of talking with his or her fists.

As anyone who's spent any time listening to (rather than punching) peace protesters knows, there are actually a number of types of peace protesters with a number of belief systems who would react in a number of different ways to someone trying this "punch a peacenik" strategy out. Perhaps the author of this chain e-mail is simply ignorant and hasn't actually ever talked to a "peacenik." And we also know that peace protesters are talky sorts (sometimes even too talky), not blank and mute slates.

Let's remedy those problems, shall we? First, we'll imagine the encounter repeatedly, each time with a peace protester harboring a different motivation. Second, we'll listen in a bit more on what each protester might actually say during the encounter. Third, we'll let the protesters' motivations inform what actually happens at the end. Ready?....Roll'em!

FUN AT THE PEACE RALLY: PUNCHING THE PRAGMATIC PEACENIK

When you meet a pragmatic peacenik...

  1. Approach "ignorant moron" talking about "peace" and saying that there should be "no retaliation".
  2. Engage in brief conversation; ask if military force is appropriate.
  3. When he says "No," ask, "Why not?"
  4. Wait until he says something to the effect of, "Because this would just cause a vicious cycle of more innocent deaths, which would piss off a huge number of poor, desperate young people, who would form the next generation of terrorists to attack us all over again."
  5. When he's in mid sentence, punch him in the face as hard as you can.
  6. When he is about to punch you back, point out that it would be a serious mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would "be awful and he should not cause more violence."
  7. Wait for him to pledge not to commit additional violence.
  8. React with surprise when he says, "I'm not a pacifist, you turd! Sometimes retributive violence is appropriate. But bombing an already-bombed out country is just plain stupid if it results in even more violence inflicted upon us over the next 30 years. Following a path to justice through diplomacy, economic development, police action and criminal trial will probably achieve our goals more efficiently in the long run."
  9. Cry like a baby when he and his pragmatic peacenik (but not pacifist) pals wrestle you to the ground, call the police and charge you with assault.
FUN AT THE PEACE RALLY: PUNCHING THE PESKY ANARCHIST

When you meet a pesky anarchist...

  1. Approach "ignorant moron" talking about "stopping the war" and saying that there should be "no U.S. military action."
  2. Engage in brief conversation; ask if military force is appropriate.
  3. When he says "Not now," ask, "Why not?"
  4. Wait until he says something to the effect of, "Because the U.S. military stands for multi-national corporate greed that stands in opposition to human needs..."
  5. When he's in mid sentence, punch him in the face as hard as you can.
  6. When he is about to punch you back, point out that it would be a serious mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would "be awful and he should not cause more violence."
  7. Wait for him to pledge not to commit additional violence.
  8. React with surprise when he punches you right back in the face instead, screaming: "You weren't listening, were you, you blithering idiot! Who the hell do you think I am, some namby-pamby pacifist? I'm not going to let you get away with your fascist bullshit..."
  9. As you move to punch him in the face again, harder this time, watch fellow anarchists approaching you with bricks.
  10. Feel brick hit your face, hard.
  11. Repeat step 10 until you cry "uncle" and understand that a) the anti-war movement is not completely composed of peace-loving hippies, b) regardless of one's intentions, violence tends to breed more violence.
FUN AT THE PEACE RALLY: PUNCHING THE PRINCIPLED PACIFIST

When you meet a principled pacifist...

  1. Approach "ignorant moron" talking about "peace" and saying that there should be "no retaliation".
  2. Engage in brief conversation; ask if military force is appropriate.
  3. When he says "No," ask, "Why not?"
  4. Wait until he says something to the effect of, "Because this would just cause a vicious circle of more awful violence. I do not believe in committing acts of violence, and I do not want any more committed in my name."
  5. When he's in mid sentence, punch him in the face as hard as you can.
  6. React with surprise when he doesn't move to strike you back.
  7. Point out that it would be a serious mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would "be awful and he should not cause more violence."
  8. React with further surprise when he agrees, saying: "I do not believe in committing acts of violence. I accept the risk of being a victim of violence in this world and choose to live with hope. We're all going to eventually die anyway..."
  9. When he's in mid sentence, punch him in the face again to "teach him a lesson."
  10. Listen as he staggers to his feet and asks, "Why are you doing this? I'm not harming you, I'm just using my right of free speech to express what I believe. You're the one who's acting like a terrorist..."
  11. Again, punch him in the face as hard as you can, harder this time. Come on, teach him that lesson.
  12. Listen carefully as he crouches on the ground and gasps, "All right, you got me. But I'm not going to hit you. All you can do to me is hit me again. Look at yourself. Is this the kind of person you want to be?"
  13. Punch him again and again, waiting for him to understand that sometimes it is necessary to punch back. Keep punching as he refuses to hit you back. When he is reduced to a pulp and collapses into silent unconsciousness, wipe your bloody knuckles on his shirt and walk away, hoping nobody saw what you did, knowing you had to be right.

Saying nothing is just saying you have nothing to say!
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