In the Atlantic, in an article that was published before the white Nationalists came to Charlottesville to protest the town’s decision to remove the statue of General Robert E Lee, the very liberal Peter Beinart was prophetic. He was talking about “antifa” and he said this: (remember, Charlottesville had not happened yet, but various violent fights between left and right had):
…progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights.
From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.
Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.
That is a harsh thing to say. But he illustrates:
Since 1907, Portland, Oregon, has hosted an annual Rose Festival. Since 2007, the festival had included a parade down 82nd Avenue. Since 2013, the Republican Party of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, had taken part. This April, all of that changed.
In the days leading up to the planned parade, a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.” The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.” A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”
I remember when Trump was elected, that one of my more liberal relatives was worried that Adolf Hitler had just been elected president of the United States. If you believe something like that, then it is a small step to believe that Trump’s supporters know he is Adolf, and support Adolf’s philosophy. So then any Republican march becomes a Nazi march. And that may be the justification, for “Direct Action Alliance” threatening violence.
There has been a trend, in recent years, to shut down speech from anyone who doesn’t agree with the general zeitgeist. Just witness what happened to Heather McDonald when she tried to argue that the Black Lives Matter movement is incorrect in claiming that white police are systematically racist :
A throng of angry protesters converged at Claremont McKenna College on Thursday and effectively shut down a pro-police speech as they surrounded the building, forcing the speaker to give the talk via livestream to a near-empty room as they yelled “F*ck the police” and “Black Lives Matter” and banged on windows.
Heather Mac Donald, a Manhattan Institute scholar and author of the 2016 book “The War on Cops,” even gave her talk earlier than originally planned at the preppy and private Southern California campus because of the rowdy crowd estimated at more than 250 protesters, she told The College Fix via email Thursday.
Thirty minutes into the speech, police officers told her to cut it short, and she was given a four-officer escort through a side door and safely through some surprised protesters who had flanked that exit, Mac Donald said.
A danger here is that if you define anyone you disagree with as a Nazi, you will end up not only unprepared for the danger of real Nazis, (like the murderer of Heather Heyer) but you will reduce the willingness of moderates on either side to tolerate each other.
It was surprising to see the signs and hear the slogans of the white supremacists in Charlottesville. Slogans such as “You will not replace us!” and “The Goyim know!”. But when I took a look at the David Duke website (don’t look at it in your browser, safeweb.norton.com has 3 users that say it has malware), I saw some of the beliefs that inspire them.
For instance Duke says this:
those who have promoted massive non-European immigration into Europe and America are responsible for a horrendous increase of victims of crime, including rape, robbery, assault and murder.
And of course he thinks the Jews are responsible. Its an odd feature of anti-Semites to see a monolithic Jewish entity, that is behind the various bad things that happen. The slogan “You will not replace us”, probably means something like: “you Jews will not succeed in replacing the white majority with a anti-white majority.” This thought process does not occur just in American supremacists. Take Poland:
–To understand the following, you should know that George Soros, who is a Jewish billionaire, donates much money to the NGO’s that ferry immigrants to Europe. George Soros also donates money to outfits that dislike Israel, but the point is —
A new national study conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw (Poland) notes that a sharp rise in Islamophobia has been accompanied by a distancing from other ethnic groups, including Jews. “The more people are anti-Muslim, the more they’re anti-Semitic,” said Michal Bilewicz, the Center’s director. “They portray George Soros as the embodiment of the Jewish conspiracy that’s helping to finance the influx of Muslims that poses a threat to Christian civilization in Europe.”
That’s just one example.
I think people of good will in the country have to be careful to not let themselves get stampeded by violent extremists into a corner. And we also have to be suspicious of people who say some things we agree with, but have a deeper, more radical agenda than we would knowingly embrace. In fact, various groups who might have protested the removal of the statue stayed away when they realized the makeup of the march.
Conversely, you might want to protest racism, but if you are part of a crowd that has some violent elements that are beating White Nationalists as they are led out of a park, you should at least make an effort to stop the beatings. It is hard to defend free speech for people who want you dead, or at least expelled, but consider:
Noam Chomsky, who is a hero to the left, recently said about Antifa “It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.” Chomsky also said that preventing the speakers from speaking was wrong in principle.
Chomsky is probably right about the reaction of the radical racists. If you want to destroy the existing system, violence is your friend.
But as far as conservatives, they sound quite alarmed.
Here’s a quote by one conservative, Derek Hunter:
What’s throwing a few bags of urine and feces at someone “on the other side?” Especially if you don’t see where it lands or no one sees you throw it?
Bags become fists, fists become bricks, bricks become…
Democrats need to stand up to these radicals. Most of this violence is done in their name, and they’re silent on it.
President Donald Trump needs to stop equivocating and condemn the concept of violence. Trying to deny the KKK and neo-Nazis were dominant in their ridiculous Tiki torch march was stupid, really stupid. It’s just like if you don’t leave when the bricks or the racist or anti-Semitic chants start flying, you’re just as guilty.
There have to be adults on all sides willing to stand up against all these monsters, no matter how they’re labeled. Nazis, Communists, Antifa, whatever – they’re not different. And they’re heading toward something that will be awful if it isn’t stopped.
…It’s contagious. It’s dangerous.
If this doesn’t end soon, this won’t end well.
And he is just one example of people being very worried about violence as a political tactic. The white supremacists will stage more rallies. Antifa will be there. So will moderate types. What do you think is going to happen?
Martin Luther King said this:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.