In a recent discussion about President Trump’s condemnation of “violence on many sides” in Charlottesville, a liberal friend attested that he had never heard of Antifa. Perhaps this is a sign of how narrowly informed we have become in our selection of news sources; perhaps the denial was a debating ploy. Let’s be optimists and assume that people of good will on the left, center, and right want to understand what is going on in this period of heightened rhetoric and confrontation.
A quick reprise of Charlottesville: a protest led by a local white nationalist about a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee became a magnet for a who’s who of the fringe right – David Duke and Richard Spencer, the KKK and neo-Nazis, the League of the South, and a gaggle of hitherto unknown groups with Civil War or German and Norse names and insgnia, many who came armed with shields, helmets, truncheons, and a few firearms. There was an equal group of counter-demonstrators led by traditional church activists, anti-capitalists, and anarchists under the banner of Solidarity Cville. Blending with this group were Black Lives Matter, Red Neck Revolt, and Antifa agitators who came armed and motivated similar to the KKK folks. Importantly, the local and state police did nothing to separate the groups, instead allowing hours of small conflicts and beatings before a KKK-type ran a car into a group of counter-demonstrators marching toward the largely-abandoned park which had been the focal point of the demonstration.
KKK bad! Nazi’s bad! Racists bad! Slavery bad! Peaceful demonstrations and counterdemonstration good! Got it – at least 98% of the public does. What is new, and is only starting to get proper attention is what the liberal Atlantic magazine calls “The Rise of the Violent Left” and what the American Conservative calls “Antifa: The Other Evil Political Force.” These are the folks who wear black masks, who come to demonstrations prepared for battle, who view offensive speech as equal to violence, and who proudly announce that they will silence opponents “by any means necessary”. In Charlottesville they found a good foil and a sympathetic media which was focused on criticism of President Trump; in Berkeley, Middlebury, and Portland they preemptively destroyed property and shut down conservative speakers. Since Charlottesville, there is a national agenda on both sides.
Unlike past eras, in 2017 we have the Internet where 15,000 agitated souls can sign up for the New York Antifa newsletter, and agitators on both sides can easily move their street theater from coast to coast. With disappointment that the election of a Black president did not bring Nirvana, the state and national success of conservatives, the election of Donald Trump, the absence of Democratic leadership, and an overtly partisan media it is perhaps inevitable that we see a shadow of the 60’s when the draft, the Vietnam War, and the assasination of John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy,and Dr. Martin Luther King put extreme stress on our politidcal system.
We’ve been in far worse situations and survived. The existence of a small number of overt racists and fascists is not a problem. What is concerning is the failure to acknowledge, identify, and condemn the rising tide of authoritarinism on the Left which conflates conservatives with racists, and advocates violence to silence opposing thought. This is perhaps a natural outgrowth of a failed Democratic strategy of division on ethnic and gender lines, but it has reached the boundaries of America’s tradition of tolerance and common sense. Violence on the political Left and Right are to be equally condemned – as was clearly indicated by President Trump. .
What you can do:
If you are a city official, do not allow the threat of leftist violence shut down political demonstrations, as in Berkeley or Portland.
If you are a college administrator, do not let the threat of leftist violence limit the breadth of opinions offered on campus, as in Berkeley and Middlebury.
For the rest of us, read or watch something out of your comfort zone, at least to see an articulate presentation of opposing views on important subjects. Politics should be more than entertainment. For people on the Left I would recommend Steve Bannon’s Breitbart, which is usuallyfalsely presented as a racist caricature by other media. For people on the Right, I would recommend the New York Times, which has the liberal bias, but without placing the objective of destroying Trump at the center of every article, as do the Washington Post and CNN.
www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 8/25/17