There are times when protesting is very necessary. Perhaps when something that is morally wrong has taken place and is supported by many or seems to have a growing number of supporters; it should be met with some form of thoughtful opposition. Again, thoughtfulness should be the essential aspect of any dissension that takes place at any time or anywhere. Emotional responses may be included obviously, but even it should be under-girded by rational thinking in approaching a destructive set of ideas.
One (or many) should not proceed into following others that are ardent believers in a violent form of accomplishing goals without thinking through what they believe and what they see as right or wrong. Herd mentality does a great disservice to any genuine march or rally that is held to contradict possibly misguided and harmful creeds.
So, it is slightly shocking to hear of someone, especially a scholar, referring to Antifa activists’ actions as being done in self-defense. Professor Mark Bray, in a conversation with Chuck Todd (host of Meet the Press), stated that: “I think a lot of people recognize that when pushed self-defense is a legitimate response to white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence.” Well, that may be the case if Antifa activists had been actually pushed. But the problem is they are not being attacked or pushed in the growing number of appearances made by them. In some cases, they are even the ones that incite violence, even while others, who may be of a more conservative persuasion and pro-free speech, have been demonstrating peacefully. So, how can someone, let alone one who is referred to as a scholar, call the aggressive nature and behavior acted out by Antifa persons legitimate? Violence (in the form of self-defense) is not just legitimate because it seems right in the face of the hateful antics of others, but it should be right when another less physical and more civil approach cannot be taken as a course of action.
Besides, actual self-defense is usually displayed when one has been actually attacked by another person or thing and when they accept that they literally have no other option in protecting themselves from further harm or danger. These far-left extremists cannot claim this as the truth for themselves.
Bray also speaks about actual fascists being the ones to shut down free speech and being enemies of free speech. However, what has been revealed in Boston and Berkeley (yet again) is that Antifa (supposedly short for Anti-fascists) are actually more fascist than those they enjoy fighting against. If a portion of the political philosophy that is fascism is the forcible suppression of the opposition, then Antifa, whether they actually desire to be or not, are more in line with fascism than they say.
Free speech is the name of the game in today’s debate over political ideas. There are those who argue for free speech no matter how hateful the words may come. Then, there are those, specifically Antifa activists, that are against the free speech if it is not in complete agreement with what they see as the truth. Otherwise, they believe in limiting the speech of others and not by seeking help or laws from the government either. It works best (for them) when they are able to shut down conservative (or alt-right) writers, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, when such persons are given the space or platform to speak about what they believe to be true. Again, I wonder how Bray thinks of Antifa has having any kind of legitimacy in their approach to dealing with others they see as their enemy. Yiannopoulos is quite controversial and enjoys instigating things as he does, but he is hardly a white supremacist as far as we know and have seen. Therefore, would the Dartmouth scholar still consider Antifa protests in Berkeley back in February causing Yiannopoulos as permissible?
Maybe Bray should encourage the Antifa to try other options, like scheduling a time and place to meet up with actual neo-Nazis and have at it as Eli Lake wrote, instead of trying to legitimize their violent behavior. It is rather odd that the group, whom he believes are doing things that seem sensible to him, cannot even take their masks off when they beat on people. Why hide behind a black mask if truth is on your side? I doubt that they go up to each and every individual to make sure that the person is actually a fascist or a racist before they decide to pummel them in the street or chase them down and pepper spray them.
The question that was being discussed on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Prof. Bray, and Richard Cohen, President of The Southern Poverty Law Center, was: “Is Violence Ever Acceptable in the Face of Hate Groups?” This question, as with many things, could be debated until the cows come home to roost. However, maybe another question should be discussed: “How much does violence really accomplish?” Then, while that one is being thought about, let’s add another one: “At what point and time is violence best utilized?”
It seems to me that Antifa activists would make better use of their time thinking through these issues than trying to force others into accepting their disorganized position.
Originally published on The Daily Nerv – August 16, 2017