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Sending a useful signal

Dropkick Murphys Al Barr, Ken Casey, and James Lynch performed during the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert rehearsal July 3, 2012. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Punching ONE of your fans is never a good idea. Nonetheless, there was a mitigating circumstance in the case of Dropkick Murphys bassist Ken Casey, who took a swing at a member of the audience at the Boston-based band’s St. Patrick’s Day concert after the fan delivered a “Heil Hitler” salute. After Casey decked the fan, a brief melee ensued; afterward, Casey told the audience, “Nazis are not [expletive] welcome at a Dropkick Murphys show.”

Casey was wrong to punch the fan but right to call him out. Trying to ban speech, even inflammatory gestures like the Nazi salute, is a waste of time, and can become counterproductive by giving hate speech an outlaw allure. The best response instead is peer pressure — sending a clear signal that hate is socially unacceptable. Casey went overboard, but he sent the right message.