Pretending that people who insist on punching Nazis as private citizens are the moral or legal equivalent of the men who stormed Normandy is not only false, it is idiotic and ahistorical. Allow me to introduce you to Mssrs. Harold Sturtevant and E.C. Lackey, USN:Let's not forget pic.twitter.com/q5wjVmZylR— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) August 16, 2017
Harold Sturtevant was a sailor in the United States Navy. In January 1941, he and fellow sailor E.C. Lackey climbed up the fire escape of the building which housed the German consulate in San Francisco, California and slashed and tore down the flag of Nazi Germany which was flying there in honor of the 7th anniversary of the founding of the Third Reich. The two men were arrested, tried, court martialed for malicious mischief and received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy. The German Foreign Ministry protested the incident and the United States Department of State expressed their regrets.Which is to say, the United States, then being at peace with the German Reich, issued a formal apology and punished the perpetrators. Yes, the modern white supremacists are odious and worthy of full-throated denunciation (something President Trump apparently couldn't quite bring himself to do), but punching Nazis doesn't make you a hero, it just makes you a thug and a vigilante. Mike Godwin's famous law about discussions eventually hauling in Hitler and Nazis is fine as far as it goes; his point was to force people to use such analogies thoughtfully. But it has no obverse, and we desperately need one.