A video of white supremacist Richard Spencer getting punched by an Inauguration Day protestor went viral on social media this weekend, prompting a dozen overlapping conversations about the act’s value, as well as the value of celebrating it.
While many argued that celebrating any amount of violence hurts the cause of peaceful protesters, others argued that the social risk of being a neo-Nazi should be as high as possible.
Spencer was attacked while in the middle of explaining the pin he was wearing — a Pepe frog that has been used so persistently as an anti-Semitic meme that certain usages of Pepe have been labeled a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. He is one of the public faces of the internet’s “alt-right” community (a term he coined), which takes its power from memes and has built its rhetoric around them. He’s probably best known for arguing in favor of “ethnic cleansing” and leading a Nazi salute in our nation’s capital. Shortly after the punch, Spencer said on Periscope “I am worried about going out to dinner on an average Tuesday because these people are roaming around” and “I’m afraid this is going to become the meme to end all memes. That I’m going to hate watching this.”
Regardless of whatever thrill a person can choose to take or deny themselves while watching a white supremacist get punched in the face, there’s an ironic twist in the fact that Spencer is being subjected to the same force that he has tried to wield against entire populations of people he considers less human than himself. Spencer and the rest of the alt-right have spent their lives, and particularly the past few years, relishing the power to troll and to attack other people with hateful and bigoted memes, and now it’s coming back to bite them. If Spencer thought he was the only person who could make powerful use of the medium, this moment at the very least proves him clearly wrong. The only universal rule of memes, after all, is that they know no master.
Now a progressive faction of the internet is racing to make Spencer’s fear of being memed come true. A Twitter account called Alt-Right Getting (with the handle @PunchedtoMusic) has already retweeted and reposted over 50 remixes of the video accompanied by music both goofy and profound — Aaron Carter’s “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” Beyoncé's “Freedom,” the Yuri on Ice theme song, Kanye West’s spinoff of the Civil Rights anthem “Blood on the Leaves.” Many of these videos have hundreds to thousands of retweets and favorites and the account has netted 5,900 followers in 24 hours.
This morning, Spencer has been trying to change the conversation by trolling Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson and tweeting quotes from Nelson Mandela, but the first response to everything he says is a taunt or another embed of the video. A subreddit called r/RichardSpencerPunched sprung up overnight and hosts even more memes, including Spencer getting punched to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” a link to a website called canipunchnazis.com, and a spinoff of the popular Bee Movie meme titled “Bee Movie but every time they say ‘bee’ Richard Spencer gets punched in the face.”
On Tumblr, one user mashes up a popular clip of Rick and Morty characters beating up a neo-Nazi with the clip of Spencer. That clip was already a meme, often intercut with videos of other unsavory people getting laid out. Another writes a poem inspired by Dr. Seuss: “punch a nazi by a moat / punch a nazi in the throat / kick a nazi by a tree / kick a nazi in the knee.” Tim and Eric’s Tim Heidecker wrote a song for Spencer with the chorus “You can’t wish anyone dead / even if their baseball cap is red / But if you see Richard Spencer / Why don’t you punch him in the head?” Many on Tumblr and Twitter have placed the image of Spencer getting punched alongside Indiana Jones punching a Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Captain America punching Hitler.
Memes may be masterless, but they have an interesting way of cycling back around to where they started. Matt Furie, who created Pepe the Frog as a “chill” and “good-natured” meme with no political connotations, was interviewed by The Atlantic in September and said that he didn’t feel much of anything about Pepe’s new meaning: “I think that’s it’s just a phase, and come November, it’s just gonna go on to the next phase, obviously that political agenda is exactly the opposite of my own personal feelings, but in terms of meme culture, it’s people reapproppriating things for their own agenda. That’s just a product of the internet.”
Yesterday he was asked on Tumblr how he felt about Richard Spencer getting “decked mid-sentence describing Pepe.” He responded: “Once is never enough.”
Alt-right leader Richard Spencer worries getting punched will become 'meme to end all memes'
Richard Spencer has said he is worried the video of him being punched in the face after the inauguration of Donald Trump will become “the meme to end all memes”.
Spencer, a white supremacist, was punched in the face in downtown Washington while being interviewed by a journalist at the anti-Trump protest. Prior to the punch, onlookers had started asking him questions such as: "Did he like black people and was he a member of the KKK?"
The "alt-right" leader was explaining the meaning of his Pepe the Frog badge, a cartoon character who has become a symbol for white nationalism, when he was punched by a man dressed in black.
The video of Spencer, who is credited with coining the term "alt-right", immediately prompted a torrent of jokes, memes and remixed videos on social media.
“I’m afraid this is going to become the meme to end all memes,” Spencer said in a periscope video. “That I’m going to hate watching this.”
In the video titled “The assault on me”, he said he was left with a black eye on Saturday and was going to have to start considering “operational security”. He told viewers he was recording the video from what he called a “safe space”.
“I was planning to go out tomorrow during the Women’s March to do some journalism but I can’t do that anymore,” Spencer told viewers. “I have reached a stage of being a public figure where I am going to be recognised and then be attacked."
The footage of Spencer being punched has been remixed to everything from Thin Lizzy’s “The boys are back in town” to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”.
Jon Fareau, a former speech-writer for Barack Obama, tweeted: “I don't care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I'll laugh at every one.”
Spencer is a leader and spokesperson for the so-called “alt-right” movement – a political movement which has been accused of racism, antisemitism and misogyny and of sharing an ideology with far-right parties such as the French National Front.
Spencer, who is president of the far-right National Policy Institute, has previously said he rejects the label of white supremacist and instead calls himself an “identitarian”. He supports a white homeland for a “dispossessed white race” and calls for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to put a stop to the “deconstruction” of European culture.
On Saturday, Spencer told the New York Times he was not a Nazi but was simply a member of the "alt-right" which he refers to as “identity politics for white Americans and for Europeans around the world".
He said Nazism was a “historical term” which was not able to "resonate today”.
“German National Socialism is a historic movement of the past. It arose at a very particular time and had particular motives and ideas and policies and styles, and those aren’t mine,” he said.
Spencer sparked outrage when he made a number of allusions to Nazi ideology during a speech at a conference in Washington in November.
“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” he declared, prompting audience members to leap to their feet in applause, with several appearing to make drawn-out Hitler salutes.
Richard Spencer Punched in the Face
Richard Spencer’s Interview is a viral video in which the American white nationalist and alt-right leader is confronted and sucker-punched by a group of masked protesters while participating in a video interview on the Inauguration Day of President Donald trump in January 2017. Upon entering circulation, the raw footage of the interview instantly went viral and spawned many jokes among the critics of the alt-right, as well as a social media debate on the ethics of assaulting a white nationalist.
On January 20th, 2017, the day of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Richard B. Spencer, a leading figure of alt-right and the president of the white supremacist think-tank group National Policy Institute, participated in a street interview with an Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) correspondent and documentary filmmakers at the corner of 14th and K Streets in downtown Washington D.C.
In the middle of the interview, several masked protesters approach Spencer from behind the camera to confront his stance on neo-Nazism, during which he is suddenly punched in the face by a hooded assailant while trying to explain the significance of his Pepe lapel pin. Later that same day, video footage of the incident was uploaded to YouTube by RawStory reporter Sarah Burris and the ABC website.
Within hours of the incident, the video footage quickly went viral for its justice porn appeal, especially among the critics and protesters of Trump’s presidency, racking up nearly a million views and spawning musical remixes on YouTube, Twitter and SoundCloud, including a handful of hip hop remixes (see video gallery) and an original piano ballad song titled “Richard Spencer” by Tim Heidecker.