The Roots of Left-Wing Violence

The Roots of Left-Wing Violence

A vague and dangerous ideology

There is currently, on the streets, smashing storefronts and setting things on fire, a group called “Antifa,” for “anti-fascist.” Antifa are not a new phenomenon; they surfaced during the Occupy movement, and during the anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Antifa movements began in early-20th-century Europe, when fascism was a concrete and urgent concern, and they remain active on the Continent. Lately, Antifa have emerged as the militant fringe of #TheResistance against Donald Trump — who, they maintain, is a fascist, ushering into power a fascist regime.

In Washington, D.C., Antifa spent the morning of Inauguration Day lighting trash cans on fire, throwing rocks and bottles at police officers, setting ablaze a limousine, and tossing chunks of pavement through the windows of several businesses. On February 1, Antifa set fires and stormed buildings at the University of California–Berkeley to prevent an appearance by Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. (They succeeded.) In April, they threatened violence if Ann Coulter spoke on the campus; when the university and local law enforcement refused to find a secure location for her to speak, she withdrew, saying the situation was too dangerous. These and similar episodes call to mind Woody Allen’s character’s observation in the 1979 film Manhattan: “A satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point of it.” All politics is, at some level, a vocabulary contest, and it happens that American politics is currently engaged in a fierce fight over, and about, words.

The central word at issue is “fascist,” but there are others: “racist,” “sexist,” and the like. A great many people are currently involved in a turf war, aiming to stake out conceptual territory for these charged words: What is fascism? What isn’t it? An illustration: In April, Heather Mac Donald was physically blocked from an auditorium at Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, Calif., where she was scheduled to speak. Mac Donald is a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, a prominent right-of-center think tank. She is a noted expert on law enforcement, especially the complex relationship between law enforcement and minority communities. She was among the first to theorize that anti-police protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and elsewhere have facilitated an increase in urban crime; the so-called Ferguson Effect is now a matter of consensus among experts on both the left and the right. National Review readers will be well acquainted with Mac Donald; she publishes in these pages regularly. A group of students from Pomona College, part of the consortium of Claremont schools, penned a letter to Pomona president David Oxtoby, affirming the protest at their sister institution. Mac Donald, they wrote, should not be permitted to speak; she is “a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live.”

Mac Donald was not offering any material for substantive intellectual discussion; she was, they claimed, challenging “the right of Black people to exist.” The last is, to those who are familiar with Mac Donald’s work, an odd charge. Among her central claims is that the reluctance of law enforcement to police minority communities has disproportionately affected those same communities; more young black men are being killed by St. Louis PD’s hands-off approach than were being killed by “proactive policing.” Mac Donald does not oppose “the right of Black people to exist”; she maintains that it is being threatened by militant anti-police sentiment. But substantiating accusations that Mac Donald is a “fascist, a white supremacist,” etc., is not the point. The point is finding charged language to signify that Mac Donald ought to be persona non grata, without needing to prove the case.

The outraged undergraduates of Pomona College and Antifa are different in only one regard, albeit an important one: Antifa are willing to employ muscle to achieve their ends. The purpose of words is, the philosopher Josef Pieper suggested, “to convey reality.” But it is clear that, for Antifa, the purpose is to cloak reality. Antifa’s reason for describing something or someone as “fascist” is not that it is actually fascist (although perhaps on occasion they do stumble onto the genuine item), but that describing it that way is politically advantageous. Likewise with any number of other slurs. Antifa are in effect claiming to oppose everything that is bad — and, of course, it is Antifa who decide what is bad. Hence the organizers of the Inauguration Day protests could write, as their mission statement, that “#DisruptJ20 rejects all forms of domination and oppression.”

That is a good monopoly if you can get it.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/448275/antifa-protest-movement-roots-left-wing-political-violence

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