Antifa has been a much talked about group as of late – 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 both sides were to blame for the violence and unrest. Both sides were wrong, both sides were morally reprehensible, equally so, etc. etc.
And, after the recent violence in Berkeley, even “progressive” 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 discussion, Antifa is associated with the “left,” and Nazis are (as they always have been) associated with the “right.”
This is the first problem: This should not be the way the discussion is framed. It is not about “sides” as much as the president and his followers (and liberals in general as well) would like it to be. As 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, and has rightly condemned the worst form of authoritarian government rule in the modern world.
This – at one point – went without saying, even coming to define much of pop culture in the United States and abroad –
Is Antifa a slightly more menacing and erratic, and perhaps less well-dressed, version of Indiana Jones? He too was known for punching Nazis.
We’ve discussed the power of ideology in Don’t Kill Hitler and The Persistent Appeal of Fascism. The point is here is not praise the approach that Antifa and other groups have taken to combat the recent rise in visible Nazism and support for Fascist rhetoric and action as the pure and simple the “right” course – or necessarily the course of action that will help solve the problem in the long term –
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.
But – again – it is not about “sides,” or who is “right” or “wrong” in a situation like this. When Far Right values rise to the surface and take hold – if there is a revolution going on in the United States it is one, sadly, fueled by right-wing ideology where it should be one of humanist socialism – the only course of action is to fight against them.
The discussion is not an easy one
But yes, violence is not > discourse. And it never will be. What has somehow gotten lost in (primarily 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, unspeakable ways. And ideology that supported (and continues to support) the ridiculous and antiquated notion that birthplace, skin color, religion, and/or culture could somehow dictate human worth and ability.
On the other, a group that believes standing up to it is better than sitting idly by, that it is better to fight Nazism than let it run rampant in the streets, and that a few well-placed punches against those who believe the supremacist logic of Nazis, the racist legacy of the Confederates, and the iron-fisted and regressive authoritarianism of Fascists might be warranted.
It is a fairly simple concept: Antifa didn’t show up until the Nazis did. Antifascism doesn’t exist without the increasingly prevalence of Fascism. This has been the case throughout history.
This is saying that we can question 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 everything, especially popular and mainstream narratives – 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.
Saying, simply, that Antifa =/= Nazis.
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