Celebrating violence against Nazis and other fascists has been a proud American tradition for the better part of a century now. Be it government propaganda, kids comic books, or Hollywood films, Americans get a kick out of seeing Nazis getting their asses handed to them. It’s puzzling, then, that a simple question has proven so controversial of late in the Land of the Free. It’s remarkable even that it’s had to come up at all:
Is it ok to punch a Nazi?
Cheap Perfume–a feminist punk act–says the answer is pretty simple: Yes, it’s ok to punch Nazis. Their latest single drives the point home:
“These are neo-Nazis,” said Jane No, the band’s guitarist and song-writer. “They’re espousing the exact same viewpoints and ideology as they were [during World War II]. When you wear a swastika you’re saying you advocate for genocide–the extermination of an entire group of people. Why are we upset about punching them?”
The so called alt-right–a ragtag collab of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, and other white nationalist types–has come to prominence in the nation under the stewardship of President Donald Trump. Millions of Americans blissed out watching alt-right uber-statesman Richard Spencer get socked in the face back in January, and millions more watched in horror as his minions took to the streets of Charlottesville, VA, rocking everything but hoods in a KKK-style neo-Nazi terror event that took the life of an American woman.
The presence of alt-right protesters and counter-protesters at events in Colorado Springs has caused some of the band’s gay and trans friends to fear for their safety. One bought a gun.
“The scariness of it is that these people are coming to rallies and coming to public spaces with torches and flagpoles built to hurt people,” said Stephanie Byrne, the band’s frontwoman. “That’s not how you protest.”
The idea for the song came to No after attending a protest against Milo Yiannopoulos–the right wing agitator widely seen as an alt-right superstar. White supremacist protester were cloaking themselves in patriotism, chanting, “USA! USA!”
“My husband was like, ‘Baby, can I punch that Nazi?’ I was like [thinks for a second, puts a finger to her chin], ‘Yes, yes you can.’ It’s ok to punch Nazis.”
“It’s not a literal call to punch Nazis, but also, if you punch a Nazi…awesome.”
Cheap Perfume recorded It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis)–and its video–after Spencer got punched, but before Charlottesville, and the band will be donating all income from sales of the single to the Heather Heyer Foundation–a charity named after the woman killed by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, and founded by her mother. Its mission is “to provide financial assistance to individuals passionate about positive social change.”
When deciding where to donate the proceeds, the band wanted to make sure they put their money to good use, but also had another thing in mind. It had to be “something Nazis would hate,” said Byrne.
But how literal is the band when it comes to punching Nazis? And as a lively debate about violence in the anti-fascist movement lights up the internet, is the band ready for the inevitable blowback?
“Backlash is inevitable,” said Byrne. “I think that we’ll honestly probably not pay much attention to it.”
“It’s not like the song is a direct call for violence,” said No. “It’s more a cheeky way of saying that we don’t accept this, and we’re not going to let white supremacy be normalized. It’s not a literal call to punch Nazis, but also, if you punch a Nazi…awesome.”
Cheap Perfume keeps it intersectional. They’ll be playing Territorio Liberado, a benefit for immigrant sanctuaries at the Lost Lake Lounge in Denver on Sunday, September 10. The official video release party will be at the Triple Nickel Tavern in Colorado Springs on Saturday, September 2.