My good friend, Walter Block, has taken a crack at the slap. You know what I am talking about, and the details by now seem clear enough to make some general comments – at least comments based on what seem to be the by now accepted details.
A comedian publicly makes a less-than-polite joke at the expense of another man’s wife. The other man decides to slap the comedian. The reaction from the mainstream and culturally-right-side-of-history-woke world is predictable: the husband took away agency from his wife. Don’t hit to solve problems (well, unless you are peacefully rioting and looting). Slappy husband is a bad husband.
Walter’s response is, on the one hand, not surprising as it is consistent with his view that the non-aggression principle (NAP) is the standard by which all actions should be judged. Therefore, to physically slap someone for a verbal insult is not justified.
On the other hand (yes, it takes two slaps to address the one slap), Walter suggests a proper role for the state attorney general to press charges even though the victim has said he will not press charges – effectively forgiving the slapping husband. This seems quite contrary to the NAP. Still, I would say Walter remains, on the whole, 99.44% pure NAP – for better or worse!
But all of this is secondary to my thoughts. Long ago, when I was working through the pros and cons and the ramifications of a world in which the non-aggression principle would be considered the standard by which all actions are judged, I in fact introduced the idea of a husband slapping another man who insulted his wife – that there were positive aspects of such an action toward a more peaceful and civil society.
Now, Walter would say – and it is a reasonable point – “If no repercussions are visited on [the slapping husband], the implication taken away by them will likely be that such behavior is justified, acceptable; is, even, to be applauded.” He would say it, because he said it. Fair enough. Next thing you know, the world would be slap-happy at the merest hint of insult.
But there is another side. By slapping the offending comedian, perhaps the husband sent a message to all of the insensitive humorists and jokesters and boors that such behavior is destructive toward civil society (as it most certainly is). That perhaps what comes out of one’s mouth is more destructive of civil society than the slap which corrects such boorish and degrading behavior. Perhaps the next wanna-be wife-of-another-man insulter will think twice before making jokes at the wife’s expense.
Walter asks, regarding the implications of the slap going unpunished: “Is that really the direction in which people of good will would wish our country to move?” In other words, do we as a society want to leave it assumed that such slappiness is OK? His answer is no.
But then, do we want to send the message that open, public insults are OK? Bringing Twitter from the virtual world into the real world? Sure, there are other, non-violent means of sending such a message. But sometimes a slap is worth a thousand words.