Antifa: a handicap for the Left

Antifa, the loosely-organized network of “antifascists” that comprises largely anarchists and socialists, has never appealed to me.  The problem is that while I like some of its aims: to oppose the Trump administration, to demonstrate against racism, to provide counterspeech in the face of odious speech, and so on, I nevertheless decry Antifa’s methods. Those include the use of physical violence against what they consider “hate-speech violence” (I detest physical violence unless it’s in self defense); the willy-nilly destruction of property and breaking of windows to demonstrate their hatred of capitalism; the wearing of masks to disguise their identity, many times to avoid recognition by the police; and their general hatred of police, who have in fact tried to protect them.

But many members don’t want to be protected, and come to demonstrations armed with sticks, brass knuckles, knives, and even guns. (In my usual but now unnecessary disclaimer, I’ll add that white supremacists, with their open display of weapons, are even more intimidating, and their views totally reprehensible. In terms of general ideology—save anarchism and violence—I’m very close to Antifa and not at all to their opponents).

Overall, though, I disapprove of Antifa and see them as one contributor to violence in these clashes. If they eschewed attacks on other people, their masks, and their wanton destruction of property, I’d be on their side, but I see them as damaging the Left, for any group that engages in violence loses some sympathy from the public. Antifa’s actions may even gain some sympathy for the white supremacists they oppose, though as long as that side also uses violence and carries guns, they’re not going to get any of sympathy.

CNN, which is not a right-wing venue, has a good article on the group, “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement,” which includes a rare live interview (video at the top of the article) with some Portland members. (Portland, Oregon seems to be its unofficial headquarters.) The members, being cowardly, are of course masked. They do argue that the masks aren’t to hide their identity from the cops, but from “Nazis”:

In New York’s Union Square on May Day, a masked member of the Antifa group Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council told CNN why he wore black bloc and waved a black flag.

“We cover our face because the Nazis will try to find out who we are. And that is a very bad thing because they harass people,” he said. “We’re trying to stop them from organizing. … When they organize, they kill people, they hurt people, they fight people. And we’re the ones who are fighting back.”

It’s a position taken by many Antifa activists: “This is self-defense.”

I think that’s not quite honest, for has there really been a campaign by “Nazis” to out Antifa members? Their real worry is, I suspect, that they’ll be identified by the cops when they break the law, something they admit they do all the time (my emphasis below):

Antifa activists often don’t hesitate to destroy property, which many see as the incarnation of unfair wealth distribution.

“Violence against windows — there’s no such thing as violence against windows,” a masked Antifa member in Union Square told CNN. “Windows don’t have — they’re not persons. And even when they are persons, the people we fight back against, they are evil. They are the living embodiment, they are the second coming of Hitler.”

Crow [Scott Crow, former member of the movement] explained the ideology this way: “Don’t confuse legality and morality. Laws are made of governments, not of men,” echoing the words of John Adams.

“Each of us breaks the law every day. It’s just that we make the conscious choice to do that,” he said.

Antifa members also sometimes launch attacks against people who aren’t physically attacking them. The movement, Crow said, sees alt-right hate speech as violent, and for that, its activists have opted to meet violence with violence.

This is a mantra we’re going to hear increasingly often: since “hate speech” is violence, it should be either banned or met with counter-violence—of the physical type. It distresses me to see many on the Left reassessing their view that “hate speech” is still free speech, and trying to find a way to stifle it. Antifa wants to shut it down by physically hurting those who utter it. Even the ACLU is pondering the issue, though I think they’ll come down on the right side. (I’m not overly concerned with their recent declaration that they won’t defend groups who openly carry guns.) The problem, as always, is this: who is to define and then censor “hate speech”?  Surely we don’t want the government to do that, for that would, as a principle, give the Trump administration the right to make such judgments. I still favor the courts’ present interpretation of the First Amendment.

The Antifa group interviewed in the CNN video

If you don’t think Antifa comes to rallies expecting and wanting a fight, here’s what happened during the June 4 clash in Portland between the alt-right and Antifa:

Before the June event, “we saw on social media that there was a lot of threats being put back and forth that gave us a lot of concern about physical violence,” Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said.

Hoping to keep June 4 from becoming another May Day, police created a human barricade. Officers stood shoulder to shoulder between two city squares — one filled with alt-right groups, the other with Antifa activists.

After a few hours, it seemed peace had won the day. But then police caught whispers that Antifa members were planning to push past police into the alt-right rally square.

Officers moved in with rubber bullets, pepper spray and smoke bombs. They pushed the masked Antifa activists into a corner and detained them. Many shed their black clothing and left it on the streets as police decided whom to arrest.

“We did seize a large number of weapons or things that could be used as weapons,” Simpson said. “Everything from knives to brass knuckles to poles and sticks and bricks and bottles and road flares and chains. One hundred percent, they came geared up to fight if it would be allowed.”

Here’s Antifa on the cops, who, I think, are unfairly demonized (remember when they were called “pigs” in the Sixties?); many cops are good people, they have a dangerous job, and without them society would fall apart, as it did during the Montreal police strike of 1969. Who will maintain law and order if we get rid of the police? Antifa? Here’s what many members think of the cops:

Activists don black bloc [the name for their black clothing and masks], Crow said, as a means to an end.

“People put on the masks so that we can all become anonymous, right? And then, therefore, we are able to move more freely and do what we need to do, whether it is illegal or not,” he said.

And that means avoiding police, whom many Antifa members see as an enemy, as well as skirting the scrutiny Antifa activists often get from alt-right trolls on the Internet. Black bloc, one member told us, also unites the movement.

For the time being, until they renounce violence and eschew their weapons, I’m giving these thugs a pass. In fact, even Noam Chomsky dislikes Antifa, calling them a “major gift to the right”. As The Independent reports,

Noam Chomsky has launched into an attack on the anti-fascist movement and argued its actions are wrong in principle and it is a “major gift to the right”.

The eminent intellectual, who is described as the father of modern linguistics, argued the movement was self-destructive and constituted a tiny faction on the periphery of the left.

. . . . Chomsky, a leading voice on the left who is famed for his critique of US foreign policy, neoliberalism and the mainstream media, has now criticised Antifa.

“What they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive,” the 88-year-old told the conservative paper.

He added: “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is. That’s quite apart from the opportunity costs – the loss of the opportunity for education, organising, and serious and constructive activism.”

Unfortunately, some have criticized Chomsky for this view, saying, mistakenly, that it comes close to Trump’s “both-sides-are-responsible” speech that tellingly failed to decry the bigotry of the alt-right. But Chomsky didn’t mean anything like what Trump meant: he’s simply abjuring violence as a useful or effective weapon. So I think Eleanor Penny, quoted below, is misguided:

Eleanor Penny, who has written extensively on fascism and the far-right, told The Independent: “Chomsky treats the battle against fascism as a battle for moral purity than can be won when the left remain respectful, polite, and deferent.”

She added: “But fascists have no interest in winning that battle. They don’t care about respecting free speech or the right to a fair trial; they’ve openly declared their murderous intent towards people of colour (and other undesirables) and they’ll pursue that goal by any means necessary. In this context, physical resistance is a duty, an act of self-defence, not an unsightly outpost of leftist moral decline.”

Here she’s actually endorsing unilateral violence against fascists—on the grounds that their ideology is hateful.  And by “physical resistance” she clearly means “attack.”

But that won’t work. This is a battle of ideas and it will be won not by violence or weapons, but by better ideas. White supremacy is on the wane in America, despite the visibility of some of its supporters. Even most Republicans publicly decry bigotry. The arc of history is indeed bending toward justice, and, in my view, the best way to deal with white supremacists (I go back and forth on this daily) is to ignore them or, better yet, show up and mock them, as one guy did who marched next to them, drowning out their slogans by playing a loud tuba. Surely mockery is a better weapon than violence!

When you’ve lost Chomsky, you’ve lost the far Left.

89 Comments

  1. Danny Kodicek
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I agree with much of what you say here. But “has there really been a campaign by “Nazis” to out Antifa members?” – yes, I believe there has. For example, just today this came up on my Twitter feed:
    https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/antifa-today-honeypot-alt-right/

    • Danny Kodicek
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      (Just to be clear, I’m not taking this particular example at face value, it could be paranoia, but it’s an example of a thing that does happen at least sometimes)

    • BJ
      Posted August 24, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      Turnabout is fair play, I guess” Antifa has been doing this to people they don’t like simply for expressing views unapproved by Antifa, going so far as harassing them and their workplaces.

  2. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Yes, people go to these things looking for a fight. A possible solution? Don’t have counter-protests. That’s this person’s provocative solution, and I think he may be correct:

    “A Strong Opinion: Stop Counter-Protesting —
    Even if the protesters are the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis: http://www.alternet.org/activism/counter-protesting-doesnt-work

    • Craw
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      That’s always been my inclination. Protest things, not protesters.

    • Posted September 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      + 1. (I have also counter-protested, but the fact that I’ve done something does not make it a good idea.)

  3. Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Great read, this is a subject I’ve been meaning to tackle for awhile myself

  4. Randy Bessinger
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    armed Antifa tends to play into Trumps hands and give his supporters talking points. I hate that.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      I can’t find the internet article my son read to me last night about the tactics used by Hitler and the Fascists against the Communists (for example) in the early stages of their takeover. It sounds a great deal like what’s going on here and now. Antifa is playing into the hands of the other side in that the violence has escalated and will continue to do so. At some point local law enforcement and/or the Trumpian government will step in to try to quash it. At a minimum, a lot of tempers are elevated enough that people who wouldn’t ordinarily express violent thoughts or consider acts of violence, are contemplating them.

  5. Rasmo carenna
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with the post.

  6. Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    You can be right in the wrong way. It damages your message and reputation. There are some people who couldn’t recognize a high road of you had it well marked on the map.

  7. Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    To quote Dylan–

    …The Titanic sails at dawn,
    Everybody’s shouting
    “Which side are you on?

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      The iceberg’s?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

        For sure. The iceberg was innocently minding its own business. It didn’t ask some blundering great ship to hit it.

        cr

  8. Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a great read. I agree with almost everything in your post. It was a well written, and very thought out, and balanced piece. My only minor things Id like to bring up is that the Antifa are actually using tactics of the Facist’s and Nazis. One of the main tenets of Facism is the violent suppression of the opposition. I also want to say, we need to be careful of labels, and generalizations. What are the ALT-Left, and the ALT-Right. Who are these people, and are they all extreme. Almost all liberals as well as conservatives I know are good decent people. Hopefully this majority won’t be lumped in with white supremacists, Nazis, Facists, or the Antifa.

  9. Jon
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Slate’s Trumpcast (political podcast) recently cast:
    “Virginia Heffernan chats with Mark Bray, the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, to figure out who the antifa are and where the movement comes from.”

    URL: (sorry if not linked, new to this)

    http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/trumpcast/2017/08/the_roots_of_the_antifa_movement.html

    Provides some additional context, I think.

  10. BobTerrace
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    For the time being, until they renounce violence and eschew their weapons, I’m giving these thugs a pass.

    This is not your best phrasing.
    Giving someone a pass can mean that you look away and I don’t think that is your intent here.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      That’s what giving them a pass means to me, and I’m sure that’s NOT what Jerry intended to say.

      I have no time for Antifa’s tactics, and it disappoints me that so many on the left are prepared to give them a pass just because they agree with their opposition to fascism. In essence, that’s no different to saying there were good people marching with the white supremacists.

      I’ve heard people, including Cornel West several times on CNN, justifying Antifa as being there for defensive purposes, such as outside a church in Charlottesville, but Antifa openly admit they attack first.

      I watch Fox News. I see how many on the right take advantage of Antifa to serve their own ends. They damage the cause. These days, the police can be relied upon to defend peaceful protestors, and that’s who the left should turn to.

      • Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        “I’ve heard people, including Cornel West several times on CNN, justifying Antifa as being there for defensive purposes, such as outside a church in Charlottesville, but Antifa openly admit they attack first.”

        “Sometimes the best defense is a good offense” I’m not what they do is right, I’m just saying that attacking first doesn’t mean their purpose isn’t defense.

        • Ken
          Posted August 23, 2017 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

          As Chomsky says “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is…”. I hear people on the left calling for violence now as I’ve never heard before. It’s a bad strategy. Punching nazis may be satisfying, but escalating violence is much more likely to make the situation worse than better.

        • BJ
          Posted August 24, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

          So, why did they attack a peaceful gathering of free speech advocates in California a few months ago? How about the peaceful Trump supporters around the same time? Was that just “defense”?

      • BJ
        Posted August 24, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        How do people like Cornell West defend Antifa’s previous presence at a peaceful gathering of free speech supporters in California, where they came and beat people? Or at a peaceful Trump rally, where they…wait for it…came and beat people?

        For the first example, there’s a video online of an antifa member hitting someone in the head with a metal bike lock, and it’s horrifying.

        Let’s stop calling these people antifascists, because that gives them justification, at the very least. They are fascists: they want everyone to bend to their will, and if people don’t, they will beat them until they get what they want.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted August 24, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          I agree. Their tactics make them no better than those they oppose. If they never fought unless or until they were attacked I might feel differently, but that’s not the case.

  11. Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    The violent aspects of the antifa movement is essentially an emotional and not well thought out reaction; an expression of frustration against the lately highly visible far right.
    But the violent actions of the antifa against the right and against property will. not. work, and more it is counterproductive since it strengthens and lends street cred to the neo nazis and others whose heads are bloodied. It only gives the right strong talking points that play well not only with other members on their side, but with the majority of watchers on the sidelines.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Yes. And saying it doesn’t hurt people is wrong too. Wanton property damage, and the prospect of more in the area in the future, increases the cost of insurance. Most businesses damaged are small and can’t afford that. It also reduces custom and, worst of all, it simply scares people.

      • Posted September 26, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        I think it is their aim to scare people.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      And Antifa has shown up at protests that were not fascist (Example: Women’s March in Portland earlier this year) that were peaceful until Antifa arrived.

  12. Derec Avery
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Interesting to note that the CNN article’s original title was:

    “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists seek peace through violence” (1)

    But of course antifa didn’t like that one bit and claimed they weren’t responsible for the violence and the article was updated to “clarify” that claim and the title was changed to simply:

    “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement” (2)

    Though at least CNN was honest enough to put an “Editor’s Note” at the top of the article indicating they’ve changed the title and edited the article.

    And the last incarnation of this article now puts the “Editor’s Note” at the _end_ of the piece where it isn’t likely to be seen by anyone who doesn’t read the whole article. (3)

    Just thought people should know.

    (1) https://web.archive.org/web/20170819002721/http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/unmasking-antifa-anti-fascists-hard-left/index.html

    (2)https://web.archive.org/web/20170820032727/http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/unmasking-antifa-anti-fascists-hard-left/index.html

    (3)http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/unmasking-antifa-anti-fascists-hard-left/index.html

    • Travis
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      I heard about this and was genuinely surprised that they properly noted it (albeit it at the bottom)

      Very strange to change the title based on what some antifa whiners say. Would they be willing to change a title regarding white nationalists as violent if enough of them complained?

  13. C. Morano
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Beautifully put.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    These people suffer from delusions of grandeur. They’re dangerous and a detriment to their cause.

  15. Stephen
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Here at a demonstration against a rightwing group called La Meute, the Antifa group attacked the police. They were finally dispersed and the rightwing march took place in silence making them look like they were reasonnable people and not extremist. http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/far-right-and-anti-racism-groups-clash-in-quebec-city-1.4255337 and http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-far-right-protest-1.4255420

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    … (remember when they were called “pigs” in the Sixties?) …

    I lived in a town back then where the local cops had a football squad that played against the teams of other police departments from the region in the Police Athletic League. They’d play their championship game in the local college stadium. That game was known far and wide — including among the cops themselves — as “the Pig Bowl.” Those were the days.

  17. Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I had thought of a non-violent alternative for the antifa people. There are problems with this idea too, but it would be an improvement.
    Why not use various humilations against the neo-nazis? Spray them with silly string, throw cream pies in their face, or spray them with dyes from super soakers?
    It would be hard to demonstrate fealty to the Third Reich against that! One would not want to march, knowing that soon you will have silly string glued to your hair (its hard to get out), and your fancy ‘uniform’ with badges and swatches is all pink with dye that won’t wash out.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really know; But I think anything that touches another person could be viewed as very provocative.

      I’d stick to placards and voices.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      That’s still assault. Get a bunch of clowns marching ahead of them playing the tuba.

      • Filippo
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Get down on ones knees and repeatedly raise and lower ones arms, genuflecting to The Dear and Powerful Leaders. Dressing crazily, maybe in thongs and tutus, sporting Hitler masks?

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        There is a popular YouTube video going around of a man playing a tuba at a KKK rally. It is quite funny.

  18. Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    ” I see them as damaging the Left, for any group that engages in violence loses some sympathy from the public. ”

    It seems to me that the world is chock full of exceptions to this:

    * The Palestinian groups (Hamas, the Intifadah, PLO, Hezbollah, etc)
    * The IRA
    * The Founding Fathers
    * Gay Lib
    * American people of color

    … to name a few causes that thrived despite of, or to some degree because of the positive effects of violence.

    Look at Islam, which is becoming more radicalized, more militant, more theocratic, more threatening, more violent – it has never been more popular in modern times.

    And I have to say that, personally, I am somewhat happy to see good people finally willing to risk personal injury for what they believe in, after staring at decades of apathy and a meekness peculiar, it seems to me, to the U.S.

    Europe is full of examples of the people rising up in protest – often with some degree of violence, rioting, etc since WWII. And, in general, their democracies work a heck of a lot better than ours, I would argue, because of it.

    Look at the bald-faced corruption and oligarchic glee with which the Republican Congress, the Presidency, the Koch brothers et al operate. What possible consequence would they fear to make them stop hurting people for their own profit?

    They control the news, the press, the radio spectrum. They control almost all cultural institutions through donations – even PBS. They own the State courts, the Federal courts, now the Supreme Court. They own the election machines, the gerrymandered districts, and most State AG offices which regulate the vote.

    They control the governorships, State legislatures, both houses of Congress and the Oval Office. They control the vast majority of think tanks, corporations and lobbyists.

    The ONLY thing they might fear would be if the public gets angry enough to come after them physically, to break into their gated communities with pitchforks and torches as it were.

    The people who control our country are fascist scoundrels. They are indeed murdering billions of people in super slow motion through the deliberate torpedoing of global warming reform; they are looting our country and the world and leaving all of us in needless pain, misery, disease, penury. Why?
    Because they can.

    So, yes, I will admit it – that a very few people are starting to demonstrate in a not purely nonviolent way actually encourages me.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Well, well, there’s at least one person who advocates violence, and is “encouraged” by it. Well would you go to a white supremacist demonstration with the intent of initiating violence yourself? Or do you just stand on the sidelines encouraging others while approving of their violence?

      I will not have this attitude–the encouragement of violence–on my site. I was, after all, a conscientious objector. I would like you to go elsewhere to continue this discussion. I suggest either the Antifa Facebook page, where you can cheer them on (https://www.facebook.com/antiFaUSA/) or Pharyngula, where they’re very eager to encourage “Nazi punching”.

    • Posted August 24, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      The IRA of the 70’s and 80’s did nothing to enhance their cause by resorting to violence.

      Nor do I remember Gay Lib using violence. Maybe they did in the USA, but they didn’t here in the UK.

      The Palestinian groups use of violence is not helping them either, at least not with anybody that matters i.e. Israel.

      The Founding Fathers did win, but who is to say that life in North America is better today because of that?

  19. Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve said it before, but defending a Antifa over the Nazis on the basis that their ideology is closer to ours makes as much sense as siding with a particular bunch of football hooigans just because they support your favourite team.

    Thugs are thugs. That’s what defines them, not the pretext under which they fight.

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      “I’ve said it before, but defending a Antifa over the Nazis on the basis that their ideology is closer to ours makes as much sense as siding with a particular bunch of football hooigans just because they support your favourite team.”

      The problem with your comparison is that the hooligans on both sides aren’t equal. In the case of antifa vs nazi it would be the equivalent of hooligans on one side that hates, and attacks our fans, while our hooligans are there to oppose, and protect against that hate.

      • Michiel
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        That’s just a tad naive I think. Remember that many Antifa members may also hold anarchist and/or communist ideas. To achieve their ideal world, a lot of people would have to die too.
        Antifa is not the opposite of hate, it’s just hate from the other side. Ok, perhaps not totally on the same plane of hate as nazis but as far as I’m concerned, not far off in being as deluded and dangerous to the general public.

        I find all this talk of preventive violence against Nazis ridiculous. As if nazis are on the verge of taking over the USA, or western society. Sure extreme right wings ideas may be more visible these days than they have been for a while but they still just comprise small fringe groups. There are probably less nazis in the west than there are Muslim extremists, and they certainly have not been causing as much carnage.
        Unlike the leftists, they have very little mainstream support and are best ignored and ridiculed. If they initiate violence, call the police. That’s what they are there for.

      • Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        They may be your hooligans, they are not mine.

        It’s just chance that thugs beating people with baseball bats and bike locks didn’t kill anyone before thugs driving cars.

        As with free speech, the choice isn’t between Left and Right, it’s between liberty and totalitarianism.

        If you are on the side of the hooligans you aren’t on my side. I don’t give a toss which hooligans they are.

        • Travis
          Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

          “It’s just chance that thugs beating people with baseball bats and bike locks didn’t kill anyone before thugs driving cars.”

          This is something I fear most people will gloss over for the next few months assuming no more political “protest” violence doesn’t lead to additional murders. Even ignoring the bike lock, we know simply punching people can lead to death.

    • Travis
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Yup. No need to give one side more credence if the thing you disagree with them on is violence + totalitarianism. Just because you might agree with one side on a few much less important issues, I don’t think anyone should say that they’re somehow better or closer in allegiance with your ideals.

  20. Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    “It distresses me to see many on the Left reassessing their view that “hate speech” is still free speech, and trying to find a way to stifle it.”

    I find myself pondering that issue as well, and it distresses me. I heard an antifa leader saying he supports the first amendment, and would never support the government abridging free speech, even “hate speech”. He opposes police protecting him for just that reason. By doing so the government is tacitly supporting Antifa in their effort to silence it. I’m not convinced they are right to do what they do, and I certainly see the propaganda negatives, but I can’t help but respect them for putting their lives, and liberty on the line in opposition to things that are worthy of opposition.

  21. darrelle
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    “Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council”

    ??? Doesn’t make sense to me. Should a good anarchist really be letting some council tell them what to do?

    • Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Anarchism means no leaders, not no organisation. If you look at what happened to them in Spain you’ll see they spent half the time debating what to do while the communists and fascists just followed orders and beat them from both sides.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        I guess I took the word “anarchy” too literally. It literally means a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority. Now, that does sound like the event in Spain.

        My thinking was that a council entails authority figures, but admittedly I know next to nothing about Anarchism the ideology or school of thought, or whatever it is.

  22. Historian
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I do not know if the European model of confronting fascist violence with counter violence has been successful in thwarting the rise of extreme right wing elements over there. But, such tactics certainly won’t work in the United States. The three great progressive victories of the 20th and 21st centuries– women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights – were all achieved through the power of non-violent persuasion. The battle continues to consolidate and extend these victories, but, once again, persuasion is the way to go. Chomsky is right in saying that Antifa is playing into the hands of the right wing.

    I am not one to say that violence is a tool that never should be used. After all, words and peaceful protest did not secure American independence or end slavery. But, since the end of the Civil War, violence has not been used to achieve desirable political and social ends. Currently, we are far away from a point where violence should even be considered. The vast majority of Americans condemn the Nazis and other extreme right-wing groups, even though they make up a small sliver of the Trump coalition. I don’t think these groups represent a significant threat to American democracy at this time, although they can disrupt the system through their actions and those of counter protestors by weakening the ideal of free speech, but vigilance must be eternal and moral suasion is the way to prevent this situation from changing.

    Fortunately, time has revealed that Trump, although a proto-fascist, primarily acts as a whining baby, lamenting how everybody treats poor Donald unfairly. Also, Trump lacks the smarts to effectively lead a mass fascist movement, even if that were possible considering the American political environment. Trump is still highly dangerous, but it is most unlikely we will see goose stepping storm troopers marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.

    • Tom
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Sorry are you joking?
      Europe is where Nazism was born thrived and was eventually driven from power.
      Following WW11 the LAW in Europe prevented the rise of neo Nazism. Nobody left it to street violent left wing thugs to counter neo Nazism or Europe would be no better now than it was in the thirties when the left made its original mistake. You will recall that was when it chose to undermine the LAW and do battle with the Nazis.
      From Europe (the UK) it looks like the Left in the US are going to do it all over again. One hopes your LAW is strong enough to resist both extreme Right and extreme Left

      • Historian
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Apparently, you did not understand my comment or I was not clear. So, to be clearer: I do not know enough about European politics to say whether groups such as Antifa played any role in thwarting fascism in Europe post-World War II. You say they didn’t – glad to hear it. My main point is that in the U.S. such tactics won’t work.

        • Craw
          Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          America is not France. In France mob rule works. In America it loses.

          • Posted August 24, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

            Can you give any examples from France where violent protest has worked?

  23. Mark Reaume
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The urban dictionary has a good definition for anifa:

    Short for (militant) anti-fascists.

    Middle-class champagne socialist/communist/anarchist white boys who don’t like nationalists or fascists. They consider themselves to be rebelling against the establishment, whilst upholding all of its ultra-politically correct views.

    Antifa only dislike racism when its carried out by whites, and do not have the bottle to stand up against anti-white racism; leading to many people on the right to refer to them as ‘traitors’. I’d rather just call them morons.

    Most are teenagers and university students who grow out of the fad when they start paying taxes.
    Antifa is stupid.

  24. jwthomas
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Speculating on the motives of Antifa and prescribing what we or they *should* do is pointless once we realize that there is no libertarian free will. People will do what they do and the violent left and right will continue to do what they do no matter what others are compelled by their particular biases to say. Restraining lawbreakers is the only defense we have.

  25. Dean Reimer
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    At any protest there is bound to be someone there who doesn’t care about the protest but is there with the goal to stir up sh*t. And in a crowd it doesn’t take much provocation to turn otherwise sensible people into a mob. This is how riots start.

    Antifa gives such degenerates a perfect cover. It also makes a great target for provocateurs from the other side. This is my concern with antifa, because it can and will be used to discredit the left to an even greater extent than they are managing on their own.

    • Rita
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      +1

  26. Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    It occurred to me on the weekend while discussing Antifa with some friends that they are a lot like Anonymous. (Have we heard from them lately?) I.e., they are both pseudo-vigilante groups with (one might say) plausible goals and no structure other than the name.

  27. Filippo
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    A NY Times op-ed a few days ago advocated non-violent protesting a la the 60’s civil rights movement, non-violent to the extent that one did not retaliate even in self-defense. The authors said that it is a “discipline.” I.e., one has to discipline oneself to refrain from retaliating, being willing to sustain significant injury, broken bones, etc. In the authors’ view, to do otherwise apparently significantly muddies public perception of who is on the right side.

    Is the public THAT obtuse?

    It’s very easy to advocate this modus operandi from a distance. I trust that the authors are prepared to walk that talk, especially if they have minor children depending on them. I myself am not inclined to stand there and allow someone to fracture my skull at their convenience.

    • Posted August 24, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I’d advocate that too, but would understand and forgive those who cannot bring themselves to do it. (Including myself.)

  28. Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    This post confirms my belief that Trump was misrepresented in his comments on Charlottesville.

    To be clear I think Trump is incompetent and a national disgrace but I don’t think he endorsed the alt-right. I think I have an idea of what was running through his head after the riots. He knew criticizing the white nationalists was a no-brainer but he thought he’d take the ‘high road’ by criticizing violence in general. He was probably aware of the calls to violence by ANTIFA and thought a general denouncement of violence was an almost Obamaesque way of unifying the country around high ideals.

    So he was foolish and incompetent. But MSNBC, which I watch pretty much exclusively immediately made the leap the denouncing all violence is the same as saying that leftists and Nazis are equivalent, which then became an endorsement of the white nationalists.

    • Travis
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

      Denouncing all violence IS the high road, especially in a situation like Charlottesville where more than just the nazies/alt-right/white nationalists were violent.

      I fear some people like Dr. Coyne hate trump so much that they can’t take an intelligent, MORE NUANCED statement (rather than “nazis are bad”) as endorsing nazis or failing to denounce them. WHAT?

      • Ken
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        Right, Trump is just being nuanced and I have a bridge you might be interested in!

  29. Jesus Figueroa
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Long Life to ATIFA. This liberals anti ANTIFA will be the first ones who are going to be taken to the Fascist Concentration Camps if they(liberals) want to go hogtied to the concentration camps that’s your problem. Thank you ANTIFA in drawing the line and I do feel save with ANTIFA.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Do you approve of Antifa types indiscriminately breaking shop windows, just because they happen to be walking by them? What if I happen to be standing there, and tell them that I respectfully and cheerfully disagree with that? Is it OK for them to hit me in response?

    • Taz
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Overblown fear-mongering is not constructive. I’m not buying it.

  30. Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    This post confirms my belief that Trump was misrepresented in his comments on Charlottesville.

    To be clear I think Trump is incompetent and a national disgrace but I don’t think he endorsed the alt-right. I think I have an idea of what was running through his head after the riots. He knew criticizing the white nationalists was a no-brainer but he thought he’d take the ‘high road’ by criticizing violence in general. He was probably aware of the calls to violence by ANTIFA and thought a general denouncement of violence was an almost Obamaesque way of unifying the country around high ideals.

    So he was foolish and incompetent. But MSNBC, which I watch pretty much exclusively immediately made the leap that denouncing all violence is the same as saying that leftists and Nazis are equivalent, which then quickly became the claim that Trump was endorsing the white nationalists.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      I trust that it would not be a sin to desire that MSNBC and its ilk clearly state whether or not they approves of ANTIFA-initiated violence.

    • Michiel
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      I think you might be giving Trump too much credit in wanting to come over as “Obamaesque” or taking the high road to the public. All he cares about is doing the opposite of what the press wants him to do, and doing exactly that which he thinks Obama and the “fake media” would NOT have done. I think he just thought “no-one in the media ever so much as mentions the violence perpetrated by leftist Antifa and their like, and I’m not gonna dance to that tune!” Which is fair enough I’d say. The only problem was that one person killed another from the other side which made it pretty stupid to continue to present the “both sides” argument in this case, certainly from a PR point of view.

  31. Kevin
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    “Punch a Nazi” seems to be motivated by Captain Kirk fist fighting his way to save civilization.

    That’s not how it works and less how it will continue to work. People discuss their differences (except maybe not Trump) but they have a dialogue before they stomp around like children pretending might makes right.

  32. Craw
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Punching bad haircuts. https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/08/22/antifa-stabs-man-neo-nazi-haircut/

  33. Divalent
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    When the left encourages punching Nazis just for being Nazis, is it any surprise that the Nazis show up with weapons at demonstrations when Antifa declared they intend to counter demonstrate?

  34. Posted August 23, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Even though our views on politics and religion are probably lightyears appart (I say probably cause I just browsed over some of your posts), I commend and respect you for denouncing violence.
    One cannot convince others of one’s ideas by beating or by bullying or by mocking them.
    Yes, one can FORCE others to adhere to certain political or religious ideas without caring whether they are convinced of these ideas or not but that’s what the islamic state does, that’s what the nutjob in North Korea does, that’s what Stalin did and yes, that’s what fascists, real fascist do.
    Furthermore, the inflationary use of the terms fascist and racist trivializes the real fascists and racists.
    If everyone is a fascist, the term fascist becomes meaningless.
    One can dislike or even hate Mr. Trump and his politics but to compare him to Hitler is a bad, bad joke.
    I have visited Dachau concentration camp in Germany twice and both visits had a deep and sobering impact on me.
    That’s real fascism and to compare Mr. Trump to the national socialist Hitler not only trivializes Hitler but it is an insult to all the millions of victims that were butchered by Hitler’s national socialist regime.
    If the basis for comparing Mr. Trump with Hitler is some supposedly sexist and racist remarks the former is said to have made then we should also compare Mr. Karl Marx who said some bad things about the Jews and who called Blacks niggers, to Hitler.

  35. Kevin
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like use of violence either, but:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jul/17/italy.g8
    Some of my friends were in Genoa when these things happened and I heard directly accounts from them. Some of the police were using Fascist ringtones. Problem is that the some of the fascists that might be being demonstrated against are actually organised factions of the police force. In Italy the police are never successfully prosecuted for this type of demeanor. If the police do not respect the law, then citizens are not under (moral) obligation to do so either.

    • Craw
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      Fascist ringtones?

      • Kevin
        Posted August 24, 2017 at 4:09 am | Permalink

        Songs from the Italian Fascist period: part of a bash the lefties outing?

    • Posted September 26, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      “If the police do not respect the law, then citizens are not under (moral) obligation to do so either.”

      I do not see why, if the police degenerate into thugs, it is OK for citizens to become thugs as well.

  36. Posted August 23, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    So if you fall on the side of any hate group its antifa? Making a statement you deplore all hate groups no matter the affiliation is just fine to say without a qualification. I was with you til then.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      PCC didn’t say he was ‘on Antifa’s side’. He said his ideology was similar to Antifa’s. He obviously deplores and disagrees entirely with their methods.

      cr

  37. Norbert Francis
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Most people, even many in this discussion, are taking these kooks too seriously. They give new meaning to dust bin of history. Nothing new. We had to deal with their likes during the anti-war movement. What they need is for someone to take away their allowance and to get a good spanking.

  38. Posted August 23, 2017 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    There is a petition on “We the People” to declare AntiFa a terrorist group. It has passed the required number of signatures to be considered further.

    There are similar petitions on change.org for other countries.

  39. BJ
    Posted August 24, 2017 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Two amusing points:

    AntiFa IS fascist. They show up to demonstrations that have nothing to do with white supremacy, the right, or any other such ugly things, and still physically attack people. In Berkeley a few months ago, they showed up to a rally *for free speech* and beat people for supporting the First Amendment. What do you call people who try using violence to take away the rights of others to speak? FASCISTS!

    AntiFa has no found legitimacy from the media because they happened to take on the correct people for once, but they are a fascist, terrorist organization whose sole aim is to force everyone to bend to their will. And they act like cowards while doing it.

    By the way, on CNN News the other day, I heard the newsreader call antifa “the group fighting white supremacy in America.” Yup, that’s how much of mainstream media is describing them now…

  40. Posted August 24, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “…the best way to deal with white supremacists (I go back and forth on this daily) is to ignore them or, better yet, show up and mock them, as one guy did who marched next to them, drowning out their slogans by playing a loud tuba.”

    Or play something like this:

  41. Posted September 1, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Completely agree… and I used to support black bloc. 😟


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