From the Blog

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Yesterday, a New York Times Op-Ed highlighted a few points about the sometimes grim reality of street protests. The piece, entitled ‘Waiting for a Perfect Protest?‘ was written by a group of clergy men and women. In it they explain a popular myth that all of the civil rights protests were nonviolent.

The truth is that nonviolence was an ideal among protesters fighting for civil rights and even though they pursued an education on how to do it, street protests were not always peaceful.

The reality — which is under-discussed but essential to an understanding of our current situation — is that the civil rights work of Dr. King and other leaders was loudly opposed by overt racists and quietly sabotaged by cautious moderates.

They go on:

The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait.

Each time they reveal a little more of the reality of street protests and gently refer to ‘the other’ those who were and still are on the sidelines. Those more moderate or conservative Americans who are critical of the efforts of those battling against the real evils of our society: Bigotry, and the injustice and inequality it has perpetuated.

During my time protesting the Iraq War, and organizing during the Occupy movement, I may not have agreed with the people who drove by in pickup trucks and yelled at us to ‘get a job, ‘ but I was not surprised by their sentiments.

Considering myself well beyond surprise, I have been shocked yet captivated by the hypocrisy and shamefulness of the latest rounds of contempt and derision. Even conservative members of the Jewish faith, caught in the meat grinder of arguing against the strategy and tactics of the side fighting against literal Nazis or taking the side of social justice and equality, can’t seem to get it right.

Cue my friend Scott, who just can’t miss another opportunity to further the narrative that it’s more important to call out the violence of Antifa than it is to call out the violence of the Right Wing Extremists. In this round, he mocks the clergy for reminding us there is a grim reality to the history of our country which continues to this day.

There is one dilemma facing progressive calls for action. They can’t grasp that their jargonistic hysteria isn’t the least bit convincing to anyone but them. They argue the point they care passionately about as if to persuade no one who isn’t already desperately on their team, and can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see the world their way. It is, indeed, naive, not to mention unpersuasive, and yet they keep banging their head against the same wall over and over, expecting a different result. You know what that’s the definition of, right?

Yeah, well, nobody told me life was going to be easy.

Unpacking the Southern Strategy

Due to constant dissembling and claims to the contrary, most people today don’t understand the history of the modern Republican Party and the Southern Strategy. From Wikipedia:

In American politics, the southern strategy was a Republican Party electoral strategy to increase political support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans. As the Civil Rights Movement and dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the 1950s and 1960s visibly deepened existing racial tensions in much of the Southern United States, Republican politicians such as presidential candidate Richard Nixon and Senator Barry Goldwater developed strategies that successfully contributed to the political realignment of many white, conservative voters in the South to the Republican Party that had traditionally supported the Democratic Party. It also helped push the Republican Party much more to the right.

The fuel for the Southern Strategy engine is as it always has been: racism. While today it is politically challenging to be overtly racist, it’s fair to say conservatives have not exactly embraced minorities, their culture, and all the beautiful gifts diversity and immigration have given our society in America. Racism, and the current strain of nationalism are warm companions. They were also the virulent ideological roots of the NSDAP, also known as Nazi Germany.

What we have seen recently in Charlottesville and cities around the country is the horrible, terrifying legacy of the Southern Strategy laid bare. Young, white men and women, dressed in black armor, emblazoned with white power and Nazi symbols or khakis and white button down shirts (the uniform of America’s well paid, upper-middle class, mostly white office and technology workers). As they marched with torches, as well as Nazi, and Confederate flags, they chanted Nazi slogans and shouted vile, outdated maxims about white supremacy.

What’s a good Conservative leader to do in this situation? Well, what most average Americans don’t know is it would be political suicide for Conservative leaders to finally admit the guys on the side of social justice, fighting bigotry are not only 100% in the right, but that their cause is worthy of the inevitable violence that will ensue when it comes to it. Nazism didn’t go down without a fight last time and showing up to ‘free speech’ marches today armed and armored doesn’t bode well for a peaceful resolution in this century.

And real violence did come. In what was just the next in a long line of domestic terrorism committed by Right Wing Extremists in America, a self-proclaimed Nazi weaponized a car and used it to murder one Antifa protester and injure dozens of others in Charlottesville. One would think, if there was any criticism for violence, a 5 year old could figure out which way it should be pointed.

I honestly don’t think my friend Scott is woefully misinformed (he’s a lot smarter than I am, to be sure) or a shill for the conservative cause. He argues that any violence is wrong, a point upon which we agree. But I am a realist, and I know that violence is also inevitable in a cultural war that has been raging for thousands of years.

However, I also genuinely believe Scott hasn’t thoroughly considered the credibility his thoughtful and nuanced position gives the real shills or the moral peril of normalizing acts of right wing terrorism by criticizing the vanguard of opposing forces.

Some suggest it is the responsibility of the government to stamp out right-wing extremism. However, anyone with more than a casual understanding of the US constitution and out system of justice will know this is not possible. It is the responsibility of everyday citizens to go out there and let the forces of evil know we will not let them rise again. For the sake of morale, those of us who are too old and feeble to fight evil should just root for the good guys.

Aug
29

flags

A few weeks back America witnessed terrible anger and violence at a rally in Charlottesville, VA. The event was ostensibly organized in protest of the removal of civil war statue/support of free speech rights. Much has been written about this event, so I won’t go over every detail. Most know, after a few street skirmishes, a right-wing extremist drove his car down a crowded Charlottesville street killing one and wounding many others. It has also since emerged that another right-wing extremist fired a sidearm into a crowd of leftist counter-protesters.

Since then, the president of the United States and many other right-wing pundits have gone to great lengths to prevaricate their condemnation of the right-wing extremists at this event and create a false equivalency between the actions and motives of the parties on either side of the ensuing street battles. As one of the majority of Americans who disapproves of the performance of the president and questions his mental fitness to serve, I have little concern for the rubbish that comes out of his mouth. I’m also not surprised when those who get paid to take a side take a side.

However, I do become deeply concerned when I learn thoughtful, intelligent individuals who I count as friends are more concerned with criticizing the actions of the counter-protesters at Charlottesville and other events organized by right wing extremists.

That brings me to my friend Scott, and his recent thoughts on this subject, most notably in his post and the comments around “The Antifa, Reinvented” where he attempts to connect the Antifa on the ground in Charlottesville with those who have protested the presence of right-wing extremists on college campuses:

While it doesn’t exactly say so, the New York Times op-ed by Columbia journalism and sociology prof Todd Gitlin gives the clear impression that the Antifa arose to deal with the Naxos in Charlottesville. There is no mention of them existing before, and every reference relates to their fight against the fascism of white supremacy.

Were they not the same Antifa that trashed Berkeley last February to prevent Milo from speaking, pepper-sprayed a female Trump supporter, hit a guy on the head with a bike lock? Not if one reads Gitlin’s description.

So far no argument. In fact, I recognize the history of Antifa as extending all the way to their historical roots, fighting Nazism in World War II. However, it seems Scott disagrees with me there.

Cite? No matter. If it’s in the newspaper, it must be true, as is the rationale comparing the Antifa with the forces opposing the rise of the Third Reich. So what if stories in the old Grey Lady about the Antifa appeared long before anyone talked about Charlottesville or the Naxos. (Editors note: Scott is reticent to name the extremists marching with Nazi flags and chanting Nazi slogans Nazis, so instead, I believe, he uses the name of an island in Greece.)

He then goes on to criticize the New York Times author and editors for attempting to create a mythological, sanitized version of Antifa, apparently to fool us into thinking they are not individually capable of violence.

Will one op-ed be sufficient to cleanse the Antifa of its pre-Naxos violence? Will it be enough to distance progressives from the false equivalence? By providing the real estate to create this new myth, the New York Times is giving it a shot, even if it means ignoring its own stories. But then, the cause is so important that it’s worthy of being accomplished by any means necessary. Even reinventing the Antifa.

Scott’s entire post strikes me as intellectually dishonest. First, if you are allowed to extend the actions of individuals at Charlottesville to a criticism of the intent of the group across all events in recent history, then certainly you should also be allowed to extend the history of Antifa to include its origin. I believe this is true because Antifa’s stated intent and enemies have not changed.

Second, it is further disingenuine to assert that individual members of Antifa do not have the right to defend themselves if violence breaks out at a street protest. Or that the extemporaneous violence of people in a protest somehow taint the mission of an entire movement. I also think Scott’s gertruding a bit. Nobody in Antifa has come out to deny that they are ready for violence if it breaks out. Quite to the contrary, they marched into Charlottesville with sticks and mace, just as their sometimes armored adversaries marched in with clubs and guns and then weaponized a car with tragic, deadly results.

Yeah, but what about the flags?

If this post was a conversation, it would be fair of an interlocutor to point out I keep using the terms ‘right-wing extremist/extremism’ and ask me to defend that. If not, I will anyway. As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between groups A, B, and C if they all believe white people are superior to non-white people and America belongs to white people. This is a right-wing, extremist ideology and beyond my thoughts or feelings about the matter, right-wing, radical extremists are objectively dangerous, domestic terrorists.

Whether any of us like it or not, the United States of America declared a war on terror. Therefore, if you’re marching around an American street under the color of terrorists, you’re a terrorist. You’re the enemy. Yet, when it comes to white terrorists, our country seems quite disinterested in taking the battle to the enemy.

Finally, we get to my most important point, on which I believe Scott and I roundly disagree: White wing extremists are a clear and present danger to the safety of all minorities, LGBTQ, and they represent the vilest, leading edge of a much larger societal problem which I view as an existential threat to the American experiment. If law enforcement and the federal government are unwilling or unable to smash them into the ground, far be it from me to criticize those willing to put their bodies on the line to defeat hatred and bigotry.

While Antifa, on the other hand, are only a threat to fascist, white-wing extremists.

To me, hatred of hate is the only remaining, acceptable bigotry. Is this a paradox? Maybe. When in war, one must pick a side. I know which side I’m on.