White nationalist Richard Spencer’s popularity on Google exploded in the days after he was punched.
According to Google Trends, we reached Peak Richard Spencer between Jan 22–28. The top related queries were about him getting punched.
No doubt, many of these searches related to schadenfreude at Spencer’s expense.
But if you’d never heard of him and you Googled his name, the second result is a link to his Twitter account. It’s just a hop, skip and a Google from hearing his name to being inundated with unfiltered white supremacy propaganda.
Getting punched may have been the best thing to happen to Richard Spencer, because it gave him his biggest platform yet.
The Internet became obsessed (for awhile) about the ethics of punching a Nazi. The subtext: Is violence acceptable against those who actively try to spread racist views?
I think that ethical debate misses the deeper quandary: When is it ethical to confront, and when is it ethical to ignore?
In other words: Is it unethical to punch a Nazi… if that punch enhances his reach, influence and power?
It’s too late to do anything about Richard Spencer’s post-punch fame/infamy. But it’s not too late for the next social media explosion.
When we give something our attention, we give it power.