Friday, April 8, 2022

A Slap at NAP

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.


  1. I agree with Walter that the slapper should be punished. Both the slap and the insult are unacceptable behavior. Two wrongs don't make a right. Even though the insult is unacceptable, the slap is an unacceptable response. It's uncivilized, and shouldn't be tolerated, even if we can understand the reason.

    1. Should the slapper be punished if the slappee does not want to punish him? This is quite contrary to the NAP.

      So why reject one apparent violation and accept the other violation?

    2. Yes, I do, bionic. For the same reasons that Walter articulated in his article. Society should not condone public displays of violence against other people, even if those victims don't want to persue retribution. As Walter says, what kind of message does that send to young people who might be tempted to think that it is acceptable to use violence to settle disputes?

    3. Jonathan Pageau speaks often about the necessity to leave room at the margins - a concept taken directly from the Bible. Otherwise we are faced with a totalizing system, where all must accept the entire system or be excluded totally from society.

      I wonder if the concept can be applied to things like the slap. In other words, an absolute line against the initiation of force leaves no relief valve until the pressure reaches explosive levels.

      Anyway, I understand yours and Walter's point. I just don't know that such an approach is the best for maintaining a peaceful society.

    4. That is a great point, but I think it is acceptable to have the law in place that all initiated violence is unjustified. The application of the law in frivolous cases could be mitigated in a few ways.

      1. Punishments should be proportionate to the crime in a just society, so a slap, which does only small damage (if any at all), should require only a small recompense.

      2. A healthy masculine culture should prevent a lot of incidents like this, and those of much greater severity, from ever reaching the legal system. For instance, you insult a man's wife -> he's challenges you to a fight -> you accept -> the fight occurs -> bloodied noses, busted knuckles, and black eyes are dished out by either party -> and you both go home and tend to your bruised bodies and/or egos -> the end.

      3. In cases like Will's, where the hit or slap is a cheap shot, perhaps a cultural rule could be established where the offender must buy the other guy a beer or two after he has regained his emotional composure.

      Pageau is one of my favorite thinkers. I often get great insights from him, and sometimes, I can tell, the insights I get from him are sort of tangential offhand points that he makes in loose relation to the main point he is making.

    5. ATL, I am with you on all of this. Yes, a law should be in place, and yes the application of the law and punishment of violations should leave room for proportional means for reconciliation or recompense.

      I would have to think the "buy you beers" method would be a good one in this case, although the more I have heard of the struggles Smith is having in his marriage, the more I think he might need a different kind of conversation with someone with a different skill set.

  2. I think that if the slap didn't happen, I would never have known the Oscars had taken place. I actually had quite a bit of fun hearing people's take on it. My original take, was something like, "well, that's what happens when you insult a man's wife."

    Maybe the slap isn't justified, but you run that risk anyway. And in a libertarian world, Chris would certainly have the right to not press charges; this was a crime committed against him, personally, and not the state or some governing agency.

    After having mulled it over, and listened to the arguments of others, however, I was convinced that the slap was wrong given that Chris Rock is a comedian and everyone at that event knew that jokes were going to be slung at them.

    Also, if Will Smith had slapped him, and then sat back down cool and collected, that might have been a different story. But Will was clearly emotionally affected by the whole incident.

    1. You are probably right about the slap. Yet, I see it as kind of a pressure relief valve - leaving room for minor conflicts reduces the chances for major ones.

      Hence, a better chance at a more peaceful society. Which means a better chance for proper objective of liberty (as opposed to having the less-than-ideal objective be the purity of the NAP in application).

    2. The slap was wrong, but Chris had the right, which he exercised, to not press charges. One instance of the natural law percolating through the modern morass of legislated law.

      A sort of guy code, with a healthy masculine culture, could avoid these sorts of frivolous legal issues. I have to say that Chris took it like a man. In a potentially very emasculating situation, he came out looking like more of the man than Will. He took the slap with a smile and regained composure. He then refused to press charges, realizing that either he deserved the slap or that he didn't want to further punish Will who clearly is an emotionally tortured man, as any man would be who has to share his wife with other men, and very publicly. Will of course is not a helpless victim in all this. I'll bet he brought a lot of this on himself.

      The manly thing to do in Will's shoes, in my opinion, if he was truly upset by Chris's comment, would have been to challenge Chris to a fair fight after the show, rather than just taking a cheap shot when Chris clearly had his defenses down.

      Or taking it a step further... a celebrity death match! Miss that show. But in lieu of Thunderdome, they could have settled it on "Street Beefs". Lol

  3. I agree that with Walter that Will Smith is in the wrong. Chris Rock wasn't merely insulting Jada. He was a comedian making a joke. It was offensive, sure. Offensive jokes during an entertainment show about a celebrity is completely within limits.

    Plus, Will Smith didn't slap Chris Rock because Rock said something that was unacceptable. Will was laughing at the joke. But he is a broken man. He wife has destroyed his manlihood. Will slapped Chris because his oppressor gave him a look that said, "if you don't hurt Chris I will eff in public again."

    Jada is a disgusting women. Will has Biblical grounds to divorce her. Jada doesn't submit to Will in the appropriate Biblical way. She shames him publicly by having sex with other men with no shame.

    Jada deserves ridicule. Her stupid hair. Her bad acting. Her sexual immorality. Fair game. She is the kind of person that needs to be shamed in public. Will needs to explain to her how much of a sinner she is. He either needs to hold her accountable for her sin and explain to her what marriage is all about. Or he needs to divorce her. He should not be defending her from a joke.

    I probably don't agree with all explanations Block uses, but Jada shouldn't be defended. She should be ridiculed. Her example is destructive to society.

    1. See, this is why I avoid writing about topics of immediate news - and especially modern culture...and yet I cross this line on occasions such as this.

      Given your description of his wife, imagine the vitriol that would be aimed at the slapper if, instead of slapping the jokester, he acted properly toward such a wife?

      Then again, what of the slapper's personal life? No, I am not curious, but it would have to be introduced if one is looking at the wife's life.

      Which seems to come down to...none of us know why their relationship is the way it is, yet the slapper chooses to remain in it.

  4. In the event the entire incident wasn't staged, perhaps a reconsideration of dueling is in order. Because, ... more entertainment. Peggy

    1. Yes, this is my point. But you raise it to a better level. The slapper should have challenged the slappee to a fair contest. If the slappee accepts, the slapper would have a chance to properly defend his wife's honor (albeit given what RMB says above, I am now speaking hypothetically).

      If the slappee does not accept, then an apology should be demanded.

      But all of this instead of a slap. Yes, a duel. A formal challenge.

    2. Choose your pelagic - king or spanish mackerel?

    3. Oh, the things in the internet - fish slapping.

      I was thinking if Veggie Tales:

      And then, there are so much out there on fish slapping. I kid you not.

      Monty Python has a sketch:

      Here is a guide in fish slapping etiquette:

  5. Block stating that the state has a role. Who would have thunk?
    The Academy (whatever the actual name) and the management of the venue do have a say. The Academy because Smith is a member and it seems the Academy has behavior codes. The management because the have a duty to maintain safety in their premises under its control.

    1. The Academy has spoken. Smith has been banned from the Oscars and any other Academy event for ten years. This seems to me to be a suitable punishment, all without dragging in the State to dispense its own version of "justice".

      This is literally an example of a voluntary community policing itself. There is no good reason to bring in an outside entity to administer forceful compliance. The Amish live like this all the time and it works just fine for them. Why wouldn't it be the same for another close-knit, like-minded group, even if it exists in the unreality of Hollywood?

      Besides, Chris Rock can always sue Smith in a non-criminal action for damages and would probably win. That would negate his statement of forgiveness, though.

    2. Who would have thought we would find a better example of the NAP in action by the Academy than via Walter Block!

      I believe the world is now spinning in the opposite direction!

  6. "Millions of people watched these goings on at the Academy Award Ceremonies, including impressionable youngsters. If no repercussions are visited on Will Smith, the implication taken away by them will likely be that such behavior is justified, acceptable; is, even, to be applauded." -- Walter Block

    Millions of people, including impressionable youngsters, watch these people in movies every day as they slap, punch, kick, shoot, stab, and assault others in every way possible. Are we supposed to believe that these impressionable youngsters are capable of understanding that violence in movies is OK, but that it should not spill over into real life? What about violent video games which may or may not contribute to "juvenile delinquency"? Where do we draw the line? Can we pooh-pooh the violence in movies and games and then become virtuously horrified when it happens in real life as if there is no connection between the two? Is there a connection?

    America is a violent society. We have built a government which is the most violent institution on Earth. We thrive on it. Live it. Love it. Yet we are supposed to be offended when one Big Shot slaps another Big Shot in polite society because his wife is insulted?

    Will Smith should have used a fish instead of his hand. He could then point to Veggie Tales as justification for his action. Except that Veggie Tales teaches that aggressive violence is always wrong, contrasted with Hollywood which glorifies and worships it.

    Why should the chickens not come home to roost?

    1. Really good point. I will add another: peacefully rioting and looting and beating it praised; a basically harmless slap results in outrage.