Antifa has been a much talked about group lately. The discussion started in earnest when they clashed with white supremacists, Nazis, and Confederate sympathizers in Charlottesville a few weeks back during the “Unite the Right” rally.
President Trump struggled with the comparison, saying that both sides were at fault. Both sides were wrong. Both sides were morally reprehensible. Equally so. But after the recent violence in Berkeley, even Daily Show host Trevor Noah came out against Antifa’s more aggressive tendencies when battling Fascism (Antifa = Anti + Fascist).
The role of Antifa, then and now
In general jargon, Antifa became associated with the left, and Nazis became (though, really, they always have been) associated with the right.
But that shouldn’t be the discussion – it isn’t about “sides” as much as the president would like it to be. Nazism/Fascism is something that history has already thrown in the trash regardless of what the America political spectrum looks like today. It was defeated, both as a mantra/philosophy and as political movement. It has been soundly condemned as something awful and never to be repeated. Rightfully so.
This goes without saying.
Is Antifa a slightly more menacing and erratic, and perhaps less well-dressed, version of Indiana Jones? He punched Nazis too. Because they were Nazis.
We’ve discussed the power of ideology (Don’t Kill Hitler), and we won’t say/we aren’t here to say that the approach that Antifa and other groups have taken to combat the recent rise in visible Nazism is pure and simple the “right” course – or necessarily the course of action that will help solve the problem in the long term.
It’s not, and it won’t.
As Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin said after the recent clashes on the streets of his city, “Fighting hate with hate does not work and only makes each side more entrenched in their ideological camps.”
He called for Antifa to be classified as a gang, though not long after it was reported he was part of a Facebook group linked to Antifa.
Politics sure is a messy business.
The discussion is not an easy one
But yes, violence is not > discourse. And it never will be. What has somehow gotten lost in (mostly internet) discourse is that hate speech and that ideologies that support eradication of certain peoples/races/cultures is not something that is supported by the First Amendment.
Alt-Right chat logs discussing use of violence on chat platform Discord, first released by Unicorn Riot:
(Read a more in-depth look from Wired: Violent Alt-Right Chats Could Be Key to Charlottesville Lawsuits)
And, simply because we are for some reason discussing (in 2017!) whether or not there should be sympathy or support for Nazis or white supremacists, we must remind once again that we as a (unified) country fought against Fascism. And that we’ve made huge strides in this country and across the world to come together in support of one another (community is humanity’s greatest achievement), and that this sort of rhetoric is, pure and simple, moving backwards.
This is the point:
On the one hand there’s a group dedicated to an ideology of literal, tangible hate. A group dedicated to an ideology that wiped millions of people (entire lineages of people) from the face of the earth and in terrible ways. That supported (supports) the ridiculous and antiquated notion that birthplace, skin color, religion, and/or culture could somehow dictate human worth and ability.
And on the other, a group that might (erroneously, sure) believe that a few well-placed punches will stop this sort of thinking in its tracks. That standing up to it is better than sitting idly by. That it is better to fight Nazism than let it run free in the streets.
It’s a fairly simple concept. Antifa didn’t, doesn’t show up, until the Nazis do.
This is saying that we can condemn violence at protests and rallies and still remember that opposition is necessary. This is saying that, even if the tactics used are questionable (and by all means question, always, and don’t stop), Antifa is fighting against the return of one of the single most terrible movements in human history.
This is saying that punching a white supremacist is not as bad as actually being one.
This is saying, simply, that Antifa =/= Nazis.
Read this article next: A festering past, unacknowledged wrongs, and our role at present