Thursday, August 31, 2017

Antifa, Communists, and Dopey Moral Equations

This week, The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Republican, and former George W. Bush speechwriter, Marc Thiessen arguing that antifa are:
" different from neo-Nazis. Neo-Nazis are the violent advocates of a murderous ideology that killed 25 million people last century. Antifa members are the violent advocates of a murderous ideology that, according to “The Black Book of Communism,” killed between 85 million and 100 million people last century. Both practice violence and preach hate. They are morally indistinguishable. There is no difference between those who beat innocent people in the name of the ideology that gave us Hitler and Himmler and those who beat innocent people in the name of the ideology that gave us Stalin and Dzerzhinsky."
A few main points I want to make here.

While I've certain had annoying run-ins with Internet far leftist poseurs and still encounter some naive fetishization of violent communist revolution, I can still think of several important differences between antifa and Neo-Nazis in the US right now, a big one of which is that many Neo-Nazis see the current US president as the "god emperor" for their abhorrent views and he actively courts them. That is to say, Neo-Nazis have the establishment power of the state behind their violence and worldview. Antifa do not. From there, and for those concerned about "civility," I think we can reasonably conclude which of these "sides" poses more of a danger to our collective morals and safety.

Two, Theissen engges in a lot of dopey equivocation. Let's follow the odd chain of logic as he demands that those across the political spectrum denounce violence on the many sides of these political skirmishes between people who are Neo-Nazis and people are not Neo-Nazis. Specifically, he states that those on "the left" have a duty to call out the violence of antifa and then wonders why more "leading Democrats" haven't done so. His logic seems to be:
  • Antifa are advocates of communism
  • Communism is a leftist movement
  • Democrats are the left
  • Therefore, Democrats are responsible for "calling out" antifa
Again, the oddness here is that while Neo-Nazis wear Trump costumes and MAGA hats at rallies and explicitly view him as their leader, many antifa reject establishment politics altogether, including Democrat politicians. In my experience there are very few, if any, Nancy Pelosi antifa cosplayers or those who, say, view Chuck Schumer as their stand-in in the government. And, in my experience, not a small portion of antifa would find it insulting to be equated with "the Dems" or have a major political party speak for them.

That is to say, antifa are not to the Democratic Party what Neo-Nazis are to the Republican Party. It would be a strategic mistake for the Democrats to condemn antifa. Republicans protect "their" extremists, or those who are perceived as Republican extremists. Democrats, too, often internalize Republican criticism, apologize for it, and based their behavior not on what their base wants, but on what jackass white male Republicans say Democrats should say and do.

In other, but related, news, I've also been observing that some of those on the far left who are finding themselves being morally equated with Neo-Nazis also spent the past two years equating Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump.

It's almost like there might be a larger life lesson in that.

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