It was the Punch Seen Round the World: a black bloc Antifa member sucker punched white nationalist Richard Spencer, in DC for President Trump’s inauguration, as he was giving an interview, gesturing to his Pepe the Frog pin, which only four months earlier had been deemed a hate symbol by then presidential candidate Hilary Clinton.
This was a seminal moment in the fight between the political fringes; the far left, self-dubbed ‘Antifa,’ and the far right, self-dubbed the ‘Alt Right,’ by Spencer himself.
It made political fringes household names and further muddied the waters of the post-election political world, which was shaken by the unprecedented results of the 2016 election.
Spencer and the Alt Right to a less extent were already household names for dedicated news watchers – he and his organization gained notoriety after a highly questionable video of himself and other members appearing to perform Nazi salutes and shouting “Hail Trump!”
Antifa had been known to exist prior to this in everything but name, as protests against Trump, his campaign, and his supporters had become rampant throughout the 2016 election cycle.
But the Punch changed everything.
The fringe ideologies would reach a much larger mainstream audience, and suddenly everyone could name alt right figures like Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos (although the differential between true Alt Right and the less extreme right ‘Alt Lite’ is debated within political groups) and the masked mob of Antifa became synonymous with their respective political sides, despite the fact that they generally disliked their more moderate contemporaries for the exact reason of the moderation and compromisation.
Suddenly the political divide wasn’t between simply liberals and conservatives, it was between the violent and antagonistic Antifa and the racist white supremacist Alt Right; somehow political discourse in this country got worse than it was before. Simple disagreements and berating over the Internet were a thing of the past; now honest violence was occurring at every protest, demonstration, and political talk across the country.
Regardless of your political background, or whether you think it’s warranted, it’s undeniable that it feels like the stakes are getting higher and higher, and it doesn’t seem to be cooling off any time soon. And it’s not just one side; both sides are exasperating the tension by calling this a war.
History is made every day but it’s not decided until later when it gets written down. Only time will tell whether these events led to an actual Civil War, or whether it was a lot of fighting engaged, hot air blown, and space on the Internet wasted chatting about it.