William Larsen: Antifa does not represent the Democratic Party
It’s a scarier world than I could have imagined.
No, no, not the hurricanes, nuclear threat or global warming.
I’m talking about the horrifying experience of finding myself agreeing with one comment — and only one — voiced by a certain Republican ex-supervisor in The Union recently.
He had attended two demonstrations in Berkeley, and witnessed “left-wing” antifa “thugs” causing violence and general havoc. Not much liberal outage from that one, he pointed out. Correctly, I thought (since verified accounts of these attacks have been well documented). Hmmm … what’s going on here?
For openers, the writer is dead wrong in his assertion that these antifa jerks represent the “left wing” of the Democratic Party. They don’t. By their own admission, the antifa movement is based on anarchism, which exists outside the political mainstream of conservative vs. liberal. They are at war with government itself, and are unaligned with the Democratic Party.
In terms of separating out “fake news” from real news, this is an essential distinction.
This writer, and others expressing a similar view, is also wrong in the implication that there is a moral equivalency between the white nationalist marchers and those demonstrating on behalf of racial tolerance and democratic values. As Donald Trump asserted (and I find it even more astonishing to agree with this — and only this — assertion by the president), there may have been some “fine people” marching with the Nazis in Charlottesville. But they were misguided and deluded individuals who allowed themselves to be co-opted into supporting despicable anti-American organizations and values in the name of “free speech.”
Regardless of the actions of specific individuals, the “free speech” marchers in Charlottesville marched behind a banner of anti-American fascism, hatred and intolerance, while the counter-demonstrators (who were made up of many different political persuasions) demonstrated in defense of the democratic values and people the far right would oppress. From both an ethical and ideological standpoint, there is no comparison.
What seems clear at this point is that the progressive left needs to come down unequivocally against the violence of the antifa movement, and do all in its power to prevent their attacks on right-wing demonstrators. We must educate the public that the antifas do not represent an extremist arm of Democratic party, but exist outside the political mainstream and are toxic to the democratic process. Not doing so creates the false — and dangerous — impression that the fascist Nazi element is morally equivalent to its democratic counterpart. Creating such a false equivalency in the media is the ultimate example of fake news, and this malicious manipulation of factual reality sabotages the ideal of a democratic government.
As Andy Warhol famously stated, “It’s not what you are that counts, but what they think you are.”
And here’s a sobering fact we all need to consider: people have a constitutional right to believe in and espouse white supremacy (regardless of how abhorrent this belief might be). White supremacy is simply an idea, and the free expression of ideas are protected under our Constitution. Of course, they do not have the right to promote violence, coercion or lawlessness. But then, neither does anyone. As odious as it may seem, it is our duty as citizens in a supposedly free society to protect the nonviolent expression of even these beliefs.
How to handle the Confederate monuments is a tremendously loaded issue. A united society both talking and listening to one another could probably find ways to negotiate the matter with less acrimony. Gaining a more nuanced understanding of the needs of all sides would perhaps enable us to create out-of-the-box non-coercive solutions to this culturally divisive issue (e.g. establishing a timeline for the removal of Confederate monuments, putting anti-slavery plaques on existing statues, etc.). Doing so would require that we have a dialogic process underway that was dedicated to finding mutually satisfactory solutions, rather than imposing power-based demands.
But, of course, this is not the America we are presently living in, so force and counter-force continues to be the order of the day.
William Larsen lives in Nevada City.
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