The greatest threat to American democracy comes from the right. But the left must reckon with its own radicalization.
This is an important conversation. Political violence does not advance a cause. My personal feeling is if Antifa types had not hijacked the BLM protests over the murder of George Floyd, Biden's margin of victory would have been even larger and perhaps the democrats would not have lost seats in the house.
For the first time, I find myself deeply disappointed by one of these posts. The author in his effort to identify the (real) issue of disorganized violence on the left - as opposed to mass organized and condoned violence on the right - both overstates his thesis, and muddily misrepresents it. He seems to be conflating "random assholes" with the thing we call antifa; then acknowledges that antifa isn't actually an organization or entity, but is "more than an idea"...
If we want to have an honest discussion about leftwing tendencies to violence, let's at least put it in perspective. We can go back to 1999 for an inflection point, and consider "The Battle of Seattle" and the WTO riots, for instance. Has the level of violent action (or the percent of fringe who support it) increased? Decreased? Stayed level?
You can't talk about the current situation on the left without at least some longer view of how we got here. I hope this community and this author are ready for more rigorous thinking on this topic, and a more honest investigation of what is a concerning, but relatively minor and reactionary cultural challenge.
"For nonwhite small-business owners whose livelihoods have been destroyed by looters, violent left-wing protests have not produced a just new world." - What about the white small business owners? Do not all the torched small business owners matter?
And the list of alleged causes of violence . . . "pitiless social pressures online; soaring inequality and the economic malaise that followed the 2008 financial crash; an opioid epidemic; a worsening climate crisis; the acidification of political discourse during the Trump era; and now the pandemic." reminds me of the much believed 'poverty causes violence' trope. If this were true Appalachia would be a leading hotbed of violence.
How about including in the list that Antifa (and other radical groups) provide excitement and a sense of communal purpose, and that climate change et al. is mostly retrograde justification?
These people are anarchists and, as such, reject politics at every level. They seem to draw mainly disaffected college students, aging white hipsters and assorted low-lifes. Undoubtedly, a number of these self-proclaimed anti-fascists are free-lance or paid (by law enforcement) agents provocateurs. A more sophisticated BLM would isolate them from legitimate protesters, call an official pre-dusk end to all protests, dismiss the crowds, and organize volunteers to act as human barriers against night-time looting and burning. Last summer several people were killed in back-to-back BLM demonstrations (Portland and Kenosha). The perpetrators and victims were all white. Any mass movement has to protect itself not just against police raids but against manipulators and instigators within their own ranks.
I’m a little late to the party, but... I see one similarity between agitators on the left and right. Both seem to adhere to the “We are ungovernable!” slogan, refusing to accept established authority. As another reader who resides in the middle of Seattle, I wonder if there are actually rules that can be enforced. (Presumably) Anfifa disrupters continue to block traffic whenever and wherever, gather forces to prevent the city from reclaiming the park at the center of the autonomous zone, break windows and plaster the city with graffiti. I don’t really know why they are allowed to continue.
Ever since WTO, anarchists show up at other people’s protests and taunt police. The ongoing protests of 2020 have led them to develop more organization, but organizing anarchists is always a tricky business, and fractures ensue. As for their demands, I’m sure that if Seattle abolished its police force, we’d face other demands that would keep the protests alive. These folks don’t want to solve anything; they just want to disrupt. Our elected officials come from another world and don’t have strategies for ending this.
It’s disheartening. I tend to agree with the author: Antifa is real. And it’s violent. But I would add that Antifa’s success at being ungovernable is an serious challenge.
As a qualification of any comments I make on Antifa, I'll note that I'm not an expert on what I understand as a loose assemblage of mostly young white men who operate in tandem with progressive protests and counter protests and believe in (some degree of) violence to achieve (what they understand as) anti-fascist goals. If the question is whether college-educated young adults and some rad-progressive university faculty support violence on the part of antifa individuals/groups, the answer is: yes. If the question is whether many recent or current university students and rad-progressive faculty support looting, destruction of (public and/or private) property to achieve what they understand as anti-fascist goals the answer is: yes. This isn't my interpretation of what many say; this is what they say. It's not hard to confirm these conclusions: students and faculty aren't shy if you just ask them what they think about violence, looting, defunding police, abolishing prisons, etc. Indeed, what's become clear in recent years is that the embrace of these means to achieve radical ends has become a kind of litmus test for the acceptability of political views in many spaces, including across humanities disciplines.
Can you define "the right"? Can you offer evidence that there is a threat from "the right"? You seem to include anyone who may be pro-Trump, or anti-Progressive/Socialist ideas. The violence we have seen has been almost completely from the far left, Antifa and BLM, a self-described Marxist organization.
I agree with the author's thesis -- that the Left has to recognize and disavow any violence done in its name -- but don't care for the supporting arguments. Dipping randomly into them, we have:
"The greatest threat to American democracy comes from the right." One hears about many "greatest threats to American democracy" nowadays, and certainly for the past four years. I don't know about any of you, but I still recognize American democracy (despite the many things that urgently need improvement). And although domestic right-wing violence has claimed many more victims than left-wing violence, it's a stretch to call it a "threat to American democracy". (The %15 of the country that excuses one-or-the-other, though, is a problem.)
It's interesting that the ADL says that "most established civil rights organizations criticize Antifa tactics as dangerous and counterproductive" because its "use of violent measures ... against ... adversaries." I would think that the harm done to their victims is the problem with "violent measures", not the way that it's "counterproductive" (which assumes that the ADL and Antifa are on the same side). I'm curious, as well, to know which "civil rights" organizations *don't* criticize Antifa violence.
It seems that a coalition of "progressive, moderate and center-right voters" is "vital to stabilizing American democracy beyond this election". Apparently, far-right voters -- whom I assume are comparable to progressive voters in terms of their distance from the political center -- can be dispensed with. Regardless of how the author defines these categories; he's obviously put his thumb on the scale.
I'm no expert, but it's my impression that violence from the extreme left was a major factor in allowing Hitler's rise to power. On what basis do violent leftists and their supporters imagine that their violence is doing something positive?? The only (admittedly bizarre) scenario in which this seems to make sense is the notion that destabilizing the established order opens the door for the coming (Left, therefore good) revolution.
Interesting. This is one of the poorer researched and articulated pieces, but I nonetheless applaud the author for addressing a large gap for those left of center. Conservatives tend to police their side (e.g. Rep Steve King booted), but one doesn't see this often on the left. Extremes are welcomed and a drift leftward is in seeming constant order. Example: as thousands of rioters burned a Portland courthouse (uhm, why? how is that not shutdown immediately?) and rioted for night after night, we were told from on high - the Anti-Defamation League - that (literally) the only political violence in the US is from those on the right.
But others notice, including independents. We're not blind. Unfortunately, by not reporting hundreds of instances related to Antifa and BLM, the liberal media (and NGOs) have created a (frightening) fact-gap for its readers. This mirrors the fact-gap that the right wing media often creates for its readers.
Encourage folks (including the author of this piece) to seriously consult Tim Poole, Wesley Yang, Andy Ngo, and related folks of the left who do report on left wing violence. If anything, this piece is considerably missing the mark on risks for heightened violence. Additionally, the race of the victim should not be of import and its a bit scary that it is herein emphasized.