Videos of the woman shot dead in the Capitol

January 7, 2021 • 11:30 am

These videos are disturbing, and the second one a bit gory, so watch them at your discretion. They purport to be videos of the woman who was shot dead at the Capitol yesterday. You’ll have to watch the first one on YouTube but the link will take you there.

It look as though she was shot for trying to break through a window. Did she deserve to die for that? Was she even armed?

You be the judge. As usual, we should wait for more information before coming to a final decision, and that information will surely be forthcoming. There must surely be an investigation.

Here’s another view, from a different angle. I am just presenting this as another view; I neither agree nor disagree with the tweet’s caption.

The riots redux

June 1, 2020 • 9:45 am

Yesterday’s post, “When both sides are wrong: George Floyd’s death and the violent responses,” seems to have inspired a lot of discussion, which is good, though I disagree with a fair few of the comments. I’ll reiterate my main points:

1.) The death of George Floyd was, according to the tapes that show it, absolutely unconscionable.  I felt the first time that I watched the video that the cop should be charged with murder, and the other cops, who did nothing to stop the strangulation posture, should be charged with whatever crimes are relevant.

2.) In light of Floyd’s death, and that of the shooting of other unarmed African-Americans, as well as apparent differential treatment of blacks and whites by police in many areas, protest is not only laudatory, but necessary.

3.) Those protests should be peaceful ones, lacking violence, looting, arson, or physical assault (the latter goes for cops, too, who in many cases have appeared to show unrestrained aggression).

4.) Civil disobedience is okay as well, as with the Chicago protestors who blocked Lake Shore Drive last evening. But the disobedience must be “civil”, involving peaceful breaking of the law, and the protestors must be prepared to take the consequences (arrest). Protests should obey curfews, which the Chicago protests did not.

5.) Insofar as the demonstrations involved violence, that was unconscionable. There is no excuse for arson, looting, vandalism, or torching of cars. Those who do that and those who instigate it should be punished.

6.) Violence in these protests plays into the hands of right-wingers and authoritarians like Trump, who could use it to tar the peaceful protestors and weaken the moral suasion of a mass, peaceful movement. See Isaac Chotiner’s interview of Omar Wasow (link below) to see evidence that violence on the part of protestors can push moderates into a law-and-order right wing stance.

7.) The mainstream and Leftist media, while covering the demonstrations, have been loath to condemn the violence associated with them. Indeed, some people have tried to justify the violence, saying that violence is the only recourse when oppression is sufficiently strong and persistent. I disagreed, saying that violence calls the wrong kind of attention to a cause, empowering those opposed to that cause, and that, at any rate, the problems faced by African-Americans in the South in the Sixties were far stronger and more oppressive than they face now. After all, it was a time when blacks were murdered with impunity, with the perpetrators not even being tried, or being let off easily when they were, and, especially, when segregation was structural—embodied in the law. Yet Dr. King stepped forward with a message, taken from Gandhi, that was powerful yet peaceful. We don’t have a Dr. King now, and are the poorer for it, but protestors should heed his message, which still resonates.

To me this seemed a reasonable take, but there was considerable opposition to it, which I want to discuss briefly.

First, to those who said that I didn’t emphasize Floyd’s death enough, and therefore my coverage was unbalanced. My response: Floyd’s death was widely covered in the media and condemned by everyone. I condemn it strongly—so strongly that I was one of the first calling for murder indictments. But, as always, my penchant is for saying what has been said less often: calling out the excesses of the Left.

To those who said that the media did amply highlight the demonstrations, I say that yes, I agree, and never said otherwise. Rather, I emphasized the lack of condemnation of the violence, not the lack of coverage. Why has Dr. King’s message suddenly been swept under the rug? Is it really justifiable to loot, burn, and attack others now when it wasn’t before?

To those who said that the violence is justifiable, I say that it is understandable in light of the tensions building in African-American communities, which are like a watch spring wound too tightly, ready to uncoil in an instant. And the pandemic has penned up, frustrated, and angered many.  But, as far as I can see, none of this justifies violence. Some say that violence is better than nonviolence because it draws attention to the problem of racism more strongly. I respond that it draws the wrong kind of attention to the cause: more opposition than sympathy. Omar Wasow gives evidence for that below. But I cannot see how looting, for instance, which I saw on both local and national news last night, can help a cause.

Finally, to those who claim that marchers protesting the death of George Floyd were all peaceful people, and that the violence was instigated by “outsiders” like people from out of state or Antifa—people who want anarchy or a race war—I say, “I don’t agree.” Yes, there were right-wingers trying to incite or even kill protestors (one guy was shooting arrows at them!), but the videos I saw did not appear to show that all or even most of those who did the looting and vandalism were Antifa-ites or “outside agents”. Arrest records from Minneapolis, ground zero for the protests, show that most of those arrested for lawbreaking during demonstrations were from Minnesota, not out of state.  I suspect this will be true for other places as well, except, perhaps, Washington, D.C., easily accessible from at least two states. Certainly some came to the demonstration simply to cause trouble, but I suspect others with righteous intentions got caught up in an atmosphere of violence.

People have pointed out to me that some of the violence was committed by white people, not African-Americans. My response: I don’t care what color they were. After all, whites like me can sympathize with the cause, decry Floyd’s death, and demonstrate. I am decrying violence in general here, not violence committed by African-Americans. The tapes I’ve seen certainly show that people of both races were involved in both the demonstrations and the attendant violence and vandalism.

The assertion then becomes “the demonstrators were not involved, but just people who wanted to steal things and just let go with pent-up anger.” My response is, let those who adhere to the cause of opposing police racism help curb those who are violent, and certainly themselves refrain from participating in the violence.” There’s no doubt that in some cases, though, those who came to demonstrate then participated in looting or vandalism. In response, people argued “they were instigated by outsiders to commit violence.” My response is to say, “Well, we shall see, but even those instigated to commit violence, looting, or vandalism were breaking the law and should be arrested. It does not mitigate your own robbery of, say, shoes and jewelry when you see others doing so.”

To those who say that “the police acted brutally”, my response is, “Yes, they did in quite a few cases. I’ve seen the videos.” The police need to behave in a restrained manner and not beat the hell out of people, tase then, knock them over for no reason, or use dangerous holds on them. The police are in a double bind in this one, as their charge is to stop the violence and robbery, but do so in a restrained manner. That’s not so easy, but I have seen videos of the cops going way overboard, pushing people to the ground who were simply in the way.

This is all by way of clarification, and I’m pretty much done. I still believe that violence cannot be justified in this situation, that it is counterproductive, and will ultimately redound to discrediting the cause. And I call for others to condemn violence to people and destruction of others’ property. That, of course, also goes for police officers who behave like they are thugs or even murderers.

I finish with a comment from reader Historian that appeared below my earlier post. I sometimes disagree with him/her on issues, but Historian is always thoughtful, and here’s a comment with which I agree.

Of course, protests against the murder of George Floyd were well warranted. Yet, within a short time these protests morphed into much more that, almost bordering on a nationwide insurrection. The murder illustrates that a single event can be a spark that sets off a conflagration. This situation reminds me of how the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 set off World War I. The protestors worked themselves into a frenzy over something more than police racism. It was over racism in general, overt and systemic, that has been a major characteristic of America since 1619, which to me, gives credence to the major arguments of the 1619 project (yes, I know, many disagree with me). I was heartened that the protestors were of many races, particularly the many young, white people in the crowd. It is premature to make any grand pronouncements, but perhaps we are seeing the centuries long overdue change in racial attitudes.

Still, we must consider the violence that accompanied the protests in many cities. Some of the violence was undoubtedly inspired by the frustration created by the incident, a pandemic, and economic collapse. The violence should not have been unexpected. It provided a golden opportunity for people with ideological agendas to create chaos as well as those who saw how easy it was to loot. There are rumors that the chaos was instigated by extreme right groups. It will be some time before we will know the role of outside agitators. The violence was sometimes anarchistic. I saw a news clip of a white guy, acting alone in Chicago, breaking the glass of a bus stop with his skateboard. What could possibly be the motive of doing that? Trump blames Antifa for the violence, so we can be almost certain that it was not involved.

Clearly, the violence must be suppressed. The police are in an untenable position. If they use force and protestors are killed, an even greater conflagration will be set off. Moreover, the violence is counterproductive. At the New Yorker site, Isaac Chotiner has interviewed a political scientist, who has studied the riots of 1968 – the year Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were killed and where the Democratic Convention was held in Chicago. His conclusion is that the violence then hurt the Democratic chances. The situation may be the same now. I fear many voters on the fence may swing to Trump because of the violence. All in all, the country is in its most perilous moment since at least World War II.

And here’s a quote from the interviewed person, Omar Wasow, a professor of politics at Princeton (I recommend reading Chotiner’s interview):

The interesting thing to me that came out of this research was that civil-rights leaders were picking Birmingham and Selma specifically because they had police chiefs with hair-trigger tendencies toward violence. So there was this strategic use of violence by the civil-rights movement, but it was to be the object of violence, not the instigators of violence. At the same time, what was very hard about, with that strategy, is that you had images of people observing their kinfolk being brutalized on television, and that helped fire up a more militant wing of the civil-rights movement, which endorsed violence in self-defense and was much less committed to tactics of nonviolence. When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition.

That, too, is my fear. We cannot afford to have another four years of Trump.


Dramatic video: North Korean soldier defects to the South

November 24, 2017 • 2:30 pm

As you surely have heard, eleven days ago a North Korean soldier defected to the south, driving a jeep up to the DMZ between North and South Korea, jumping out when it ran into a ditch, and then sprinting for the South, successfully crossing the border but also getting shot five times by DPRK soldiers. Those soldiers violated the North/South agreements by shooting at someone who was actually in South Korea, and by one DPRK soldier actually crossing the line. I thought the defector was surely killed, but two South Korean soldiers, at severe risk to their own lives, crawled up to the defector and dragged his body away. After operations and medical care, he’s now expected to live. It was also reported that he was severely infected with worms, probably due to infected food or water (if soldiers are, then many North Koreans must be, too). He also had hepatitis B.

As the Washington Post reports (video below):

In the dramatic footage, the soldier’s vehicle is seen driving along a road in North Korea and across what is known as the “72-hour Bridge” before barreling through the Joint Security Area, the only part of the DMZ where North and South Korean soldiers face each other.

However, the jeep got stuck in a ditch and the soldier jumped out and started running toward the South. Four other North Korean soldiers are seen running toward him and stopping to shoot at him.

One of the North Korean soldiers briefly crosses the military demarcation line that runs through the DMZ, marking the border, before returning to the north side of the security area. This constitutes a violation of the armistice agreement that the two sides signed when fighting ended in the Korean War in 1953.

The North Korean man can then be seen in a pile of leaves against a building on the southern side of the line, and then three South Korean soldiers can be seen going in to rescue him.

After that, the North Korean was flownd in a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter to Anjou Hospital south of Seoul, known for having one of the best trauma centers in South Korea.

Here is dramatic video released by the UN. The defector hightails it for the border past checkpoints, while the DPRK soldiers muster to intercept him (“KPA” is the North Korean Army). At about 2:58 he ditches the jeep and runs for it while his pursuers start firing at him, one actually crossing the line in pursuit.  “ROK JSA” troops are South Korean soldiers who monitor the Joint Security Area (JSA), the only place where North Korean and South Korean soldiers are within a few feet of each other.

The ROK troops, shown by thermal imaging, crawl toward the wounded man (a light horizontal line on the ground) and drat him away at about 6:10. They are brave men, because even though they’re in the South, they could still be shot.

This is ineffably sad. First, there’s an entire people walled in, as were the East Germans, and their own soldiers trying to kill them when they try to escape. (If they didn’t, the pursuers would be punished, and I’ve already heard they’ve been “relieved”.) A lifetime of indoctrination would have given the DPRK soldiers no compunction about killing one of their own.

What’s equally sad is that we know for sure that if this escapee had any family remaining in North Korea, they’d be rounded up and sent to prison camps, where they’d almost certainly die. The choice that any escapee has to make is whether to stay in the horrible conditions of the North or flee, with the certainty that if he survives, his family will all die, including his parents, kids, and grandparents (that’s the DPRK’s “three generation” rule).

Without a doubt North Korea is the most horrible nation on Earth, and this video demonstrates that. I’m glad the soldier survived, but imagine the mental anguish he’ll have knowing that, if he had parents or kids or a wife, they’d all be sent to the death camps.

If you want to see the perils of fleeing the DPRK, here’s an informative video of “10 ways to escape North Korea”. None of them are easy.

New UC Berkeley Chancellor and new Berkeley mayor clash over “Free Speech Week”

August 29, 2017 • 12:00 pm

As I predicted, things are shaping up for a big confrontation at the University of California at Berkeley between three invited speakers on the one hand and on the other Antifa-inspired protestors who, I suspect, are going to create a melee when those speakers show up. As I mentioned recently, groups at the University have invited three Demons of the Right—Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Ben Shapiro—to give talks this fall. At least one of those, Yiannopoulos’s, will take place during “Free Speech Week”, September 24-27.

New UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ made a statement emphasizing the importance of free speech at her school, even if that speech is offensive, and pointedly said that anyone committing violent acts “would be held accountable for it.” Good for her.  But I suspect that violence is indeed in the offing—not from the speakers themselves or their supporters, but from the Antifa thugs and their running dogs who will turn out to disrupt matters, and, in all likelihood, run amok, breaking windows and destroying property. One reason to think this will happen is the violence and attacks perpetrated by the anti-fascist groups two days ago, when an alt-right demonstration was canceled, but the hepped-up Antifa types still attacked the occasional Trump supporter and even some journalists.

What to do? Well, a police presence is necessary (though Antifa equates the cops with the Klan), and protestors should at all costs remain peaceful and not try to “shut down” the speakers, attack anyone, or destroy property. But that’s not gonna happen with Antifa around, many of whom aren’t Berkeley students but anarchists from the Bay area. They want violence and have no respect for private property. So, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Berkeley’s new left-wing mayor, Jesse Arreguin, has urged the University to cancel Free Speech week to forestall the violence.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin urged UC Berkeley on Monday to cancel conservatives’ plans for a Free Speech Week next month to avoid making the city the center of more violent unrest.

“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” said Arreguin, whose city has been the site of several showdowns this year between, on the one hand, the left and its fringe anarchist wing, and on the other, supporters of President Trump who at times have included white nationalists.

“I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem,” Arreguin said. “It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.”

By “these groups”, Arreguin certainly means the antifascists and anarchists, as evidenced by his further statements:

“I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc [“black bloc refers to Antifa and the black clothing they wear] to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street,” Arreguin said, referring to militants who have also been called anti-fascists or antifa.

The anti-Yiannopoulos protesters inflicted $100,000 worth of damage to the school’s student union in February before taking to the streets of Berkeley, where several businesses’ windows were smashed. Arreguin said inviting the former Breitbart News editor and other right-wing speakers was setting up a possible repeat of that destruction.

And here’s the inevitable free-speech buttery:

“I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety,” the mayor said. “That is where we have to really be very careful — that while protecting people’s free-speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses.”

Okay, let’s step back and see what’s going on here. Are Yiannopoulos, Shapiro, and Coulter going to encourage violence? I strongly doubt it, as none of them have done that before, and Ben Shapiro abhors violence. The violence is coming from the protestors and Antifa (granted, there are likely to be peaceful protestors, too), and those are the people causing the trouble. You simply can’t blame speakers for violence that is done by people who are simply offended at a speech—a speech that does not call for violence. Those who will be to blame—and should be arrested—are those who are unable to protest peacefully, and begin going on the rampage. Certainly Yiannopoulos and Coulter are provocative (I find Shapiro less so: he’s a strong conservative but has actual arguments to engage with rather than craziness and ad hominem blather), but many speakers are provocative. The courts have long agreed that even speakers calling for violence, but not imminent violence, are protected by the First Amendment, but the speeches by these three aren’t going to do that.

No, the responsibility lies with violent anti-fascists. The Left should, as a group, decry the violence they commit unilaterally, for their actions do nothing to further our cause; indeed, they damage it severely. What’s surprising to me is that some purportedly progressive bloggers are actually urging on the violence, and approving the new trope of “punching Nazis.” If we’re to get power back, and raise our standing in the eyes of Americans, we must absolutely abjure violence. An attack by Antifa during Free Speech Week will signal to everyone that the Left doesn’t really want free speech.

We are now in the curious position of having to issue anti-speech against those who share many of our political views and who themselves are issuing anti-speech (or rather, anti-speech in the form of violence).

And Mayor Arreguin should know better.

h/t: jj, cesar

Peter Singer decries the use of violence against racists

August 24, 2017 • 11:30 am

I’m still horrified that more than one commenter on my site has said (or implied) that “first-strike” violence is justifiable for odious people like white supremacists and Nazis. I simply can’t fathom the desire to hurt another person because of their speech, or think that such tactics could accomplish any worthwhile aims. Yes, white supremacists and Nazis may themselves want to attack blacks, Jews, and the like, but we’re supposed to be better than they. I can live with people criticizing my views on free will, music, and the like, but it’s much harder for me to see violence promulgated or approved of on this site.

With that digression, on to the topic, which is germane. (I almost wrote “German!)

I haven’t disagreed with much that philosopher Peter Singer has said, as he’s a clear-thinking Leftist and an empathic man who’s carefully considered the views he holds. Nor do I disagree with his short piece at The Syndicate: Is violence the way to stop racism?” His answer is “No!”

Singer begins by construing Trump’s remarks about “both sides” being to blame for Charlottesville’s violence more “charitably” than have others. After making a clear statement that there is obvious moral inequality between racists and white supremacists on one side versus anti-racists on the other, Singer gives a possible interpretation of what Trump said:

Rather than putting the racists and anti-racists on the same footing, Trump was saying that both sides were to blame for the violence that broke out. In support of that claim, he said that some on the left “came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs,” and added: “Do they have a problem? I think they do.”

That statement still ignores the fact that a white supremacist used his car as a weapon, with lethal results. Nothing comparable was done by any of the anti-racists.

While I didn’t construe Trump’s remarks like that at the time (and I still think he was avoiding indicting bigotry), I still saw both sides as culpable for the violence. Clearly, only one side was culpable for murder, but there were a lot of fights and beatings. And just as clearly, some of the anti-racists were to blame, for it’s now clear that many (not all!) of the counter-protestors came spoiling for a fight, ready to do battle. Yes, perhaps more of the supremacists carried guns than did their opponents, but guns weren’t used. Can we even apportion who is most to blame for the violence? I don’t see how: I wasn’t there and can’t even figure it out from the news I’ve watched.

But that doesn’t matter, nor do both sides have to be equally to blame.  What is clear is that the Left holds some responsibility for initiating violence, and yet many refuse to admit it, pointing to the car murder. To do that is putting your fingers in your ears and saying “nah nah nah nah.” The far Left is becoming more violent, and those closer to the center seem more willing to condone violence or turn their heads to it.

That’s unacceptable.  It’s not only morally unacceptable, since I see no justification for beating up someone for what they say, but, as Singer points out, it’s tactically unacceptable, as he doesn’t see violence achieving anything for the Left. I agree.

Singer (my emphasis):

In interviews, antifa activists explained their position. “You need violence to protect nonviolence,” said Emily Rose Nauert. “That’s what’s very obviously necessary right now. It’s full-on war, basically.” Other antifa activists said that it is not unethical to use violence to stop white supremacists, because they have already, by stirring up hatred against minorities, caused violent attacks on individual members of those groups.

. . . Let’s grant that the antifa activists are right about the irrationality of hard-core racist fanatics. It remains true that in the United States, and other countries where elections are the path to power, the far right can achieve its goals only by winning over middle-of-the-road voters. Even if many of these voters are also not completely rational – few people are – they are not likely to be won over to the anti-racist cause by seeing footage of anti-racists hitting racists with clubs or throwing urine-filled water bottles.

Such images convey, more than anything else, the idea that anti-racists are hooligans looking for a fight. Dignified nonviolent resistance and disciplined civil disobedience are more conducive to demonstrating a sincere ethical commitment to a better, non-racist society than clubbing people and hurling piss at them.

Violent resistance is particularly dangerous in the US because some states allow anyone to carry a firearm. In Charlottesville, a large number of white supremacists paraded through the streets dressed in camouflage and carrying semi-automatic assault rifles. If the antifa activists are going to match the racists in violence, will it be possible to hold the line at clubs? How long will it be before the deadly weapons now openly on display are also used?

I’ve heard justifications for Antifa-style violence based on history: that antifacists fought against Hitler in Germany and pro-Hitler groups in England. But, as several readers have already pointed out, that analogy breaks down, and Singer tells us why:

Some antifa activists trace the origin of the movement to groups that fought against fascists in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. In Germany, in the years before Hitler came to power, the Nazis’ paramilitary Sturmabteilung (Stormtroopers, also known as the “Brownshirts”) beat up, sometimes fatally, Jews and political opponents. In self-defense, the left responded with its own militias: the Communist Party’s Red Front Fighters and the Social Democrats’ Iron Front.

The result was an escalation of street violence, and a sense, among the wider public, that law and order were breaking down. Many came to believe that a firm hand was required to restore order and stability. A firm hand was exactly the image that Hitler was trying to project, and as the violence worsened, the Nazi vote rose. We all know how that tragedy played out.

Is it far-fetched to think that history could repeat itself in this way? To antifa activists who see violence as the answer to the far right, it should not be. They are the ones who are drawing the historical parallels. The Times quotes an antifa activist: “If we just stand back, we are allowing them to build a movement whose end goal is genocide.” If that is the danger, we need to find a better way of combating it than the tactic that so plainly failed in Germany.

Well, I’m not very worried about a new Nazi Party in the U.S., as, like Pinker, I see that as increasingly unacceptable. What worries me more is that Trump will act in a Hitlerian fashion by quashing people’s civil rights. Even the American Civil Liberties Union seems to be reconsidering its position on defending the right to utter “hate speech.”

Now is not the time for the Left to give in—after all, we’ve had white supremacy and the Nazi Party with us for some time, and they haven’t grown despite consistent enforcement of the First Amendment. (Trump has made them more visible rather than swelling their ranks.) Rather, it’s time for us to hold the line on free speech, as Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ did in her statement yesterday.


UPDATE:  this is what happens when violence is “normalized”; you get criminals saying that felony assault is justified against a non-aggressive “neo-Nazi”  (click on screenshot to go to article):

Antifa: a handicap for the Left

August 23, 2017 • 10:00 am

Antifa, the loosely-organized network of “antifascists” that comprises largely anarchists and socialists, has never appealed to me.  The problem is that while I like some of its aims: to oppose the Trump administration, to demonstrate against racism, to provide counterspeech in the face of odious speech, and so on, I nevertheless decry Antifa’s methods. Those include the use of physical violence against what they consider “hate-speech violence” (I detest physical violence unless it’s in self defense); the willy-nilly destruction of property and breaking of windows to demonstrate their hatred of capitalism; the wearing of masks to disguise their identity, many times to avoid recognition by the police; and their general hatred of police, who have in fact tried to protect them.

But many members don’t want to be protected, and come to demonstrations armed with sticks, brass knuckles, knives, and even guns. (In my usual but now unnecessary disclaimer, I’ll add that white supremacists, with their open display of weapons, are even more intimidating, and their views totally reprehensible. In terms of general ideology—save anarchism and violence—I’m very close to Antifa and not at all to their opponents).

Overall, though, I disapprove of Antifa and see them as one contributor to violence in these clashes. If they eschewed attacks on other people, their masks, and their wanton destruction of property, I’d be on their side, but I see them as damaging the Left, for any group that engages in violence loses some sympathy from the public. Antifa’s actions may even gain some sympathy for the white supremacists they oppose, though as long as that side also uses violence and carries guns, they’re not going to get any of sympathy.

CNN, which is not a right-wing venue, has a good article on the group, “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement,” which includes a rare live interview (video at the top of the article) with some Portland members. (Portland, Oregon seems to be its unofficial headquarters.) The members, being cowardly, are of course masked. They do argue that the masks aren’t to hide their identity from the cops, but from “Nazis”:

In New York’s Union Square on May Day, a masked member of the Antifa group Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council told CNN why he wore black bloc and waved a black flag.

“We cover our face because the Nazis will try to find out who we are. And that is a very bad thing because they harass people,” he said. “We’re trying to stop them from organizing. … When they organize, they kill people, they hurt people, they fight people. And we’re the ones who are fighting back.”

It’s a position taken by many Antifa activists: “This is self-defense.”

I think that’s not quite honest, for has there really been a campaign by “Nazis” to out Antifa members? Their real worry is, I suspect, that they’ll be identified by the cops when they break the law, something they admit they do all the time (my emphasis below):

Antifa activists often don’t hesitate to destroy property, which many see as the incarnation of unfair wealth distribution.

“Violence against windows — there’s no such thing as violence against windows,” a masked Antifa member in Union Square told CNN. “Windows don’t have — they’re not persons. And even when they are persons, the people we fight back against, they are evil. They are the living embodiment, they are the second coming of Hitler.”

Crow [Scott Crow, former member of the movement] explained the ideology this way: “Don’t confuse legality and morality. Laws are made of governments, not of men,” echoing the words of John Adams.

“Each of us breaks the law every day. It’s just that we make the conscious choice to do that,” he said.

Antifa members also sometimes launch attacks against people who aren’t physically attacking them. The movement, Crow said, sees alt-right hate speech as violent, and for that, its activists have opted to meet violence with violence.

This is a mantra we’re going to hear increasingly often: since “hate speech” is violence, it should be either banned or met with counter-violence—of the physical type. It distresses me to see many on the Left reassessing their view that “hate speech” is still free speech, and trying to find a way to stifle it. Antifa wants to shut it down by physically hurting those who utter it. Even the ACLU is pondering the issue, though I think they’ll come down on the right side. (I’m not overly concerned with their recent declaration that they won’t defend groups who openly carry guns.) The problem, as always, is this: who is to define and then censor “hate speech”?  Surely we don’t want the government to do that, for that would, as a principle, give the Trump administration the right to make such judgments. I still favor the courts’ present interpretation of the First Amendment.

The Antifa group interviewed in the CNN video

If you don’t think Antifa comes to rallies expecting and wanting a fight, here’s what happened during the June 4 clash in Portland between the alt-right and Antifa:

Before the June event, “we saw on social media that there was a lot of threats being put back and forth that gave us a lot of concern about physical violence,” Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said.

Hoping to keep June 4 from becoming another May Day, police created a human barricade. Officers stood shoulder to shoulder between two city squares — one filled with alt-right groups, the other with Antifa activists.

After a few hours, it seemed peace had won the day. But then police caught whispers that Antifa members were planning to push past police into the alt-right rally square.

Officers moved in with rubber bullets, pepper spray and smoke bombs. They pushed the masked Antifa activists into a corner and detained them. Many shed their black clothing and left it on the streets as police decided whom to arrest.

“We did seize a large number of weapons or things that could be used as weapons,” Simpson said. “Everything from knives to brass knuckles to poles and sticks and bricks and bottles and road flares and chains. One hundred percent, they came geared up to fight if it would be allowed.”

Here’s Antifa on the cops, who, I think, are unfairly demonized (remember when they were called “pigs” in the Sixties?); many cops are good people, they have a dangerous job, and without them society would fall apart, as it did during the Montreal police strike of 1969. Who will maintain law and order if we get rid of the police? Antifa? Here’s what many members think of the cops:

Activists don black bloc [the name for their black clothing and masks], Crow said, as a means to an end.

“People put on the masks so that we can all become anonymous, right? And then, therefore, we are able to move more freely and do what we need to do, whether it is illegal or not,” he said.

And that means avoiding police, whom many Antifa members see as an enemy, as well as skirting the scrutiny Antifa activists often get from alt-right trolls on the Internet. Black bloc, one member told us, also unites the movement.

For the time being, until they renounce violence and eschew their weapons, I’m giving these thugs a pass. In fact, even Noam Chomsky dislikes Antifa, calling them a “major gift to the right”. As The Independent reports,

Noam Chomsky has launched into an attack on the anti-fascist movement and argued its actions are wrong in principle and it is a “major gift to the right”.

The eminent intellectual, who is described as the father of modern linguistics, argued the movement was self-destructive and constituted a tiny faction on the periphery of the left.

. . . . Chomsky, a leading voice on the left who is famed for his critique of US foreign policy, neoliberalism and the mainstream media, has now criticised Antifa.

“What they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive,” the 88-year-old told the conservative paper.

He added: “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is. That’s quite apart from the opportunity costs – the loss of the opportunity for education, organising, and serious and constructive activism.”

Unfortunately, some have criticized Chomsky for this view, saying, mistakenly, that it comes close to Trump’s “both-sides-are-responsible” speech that tellingly failed to decry the bigotry of the alt-right. But Chomsky didn’t mean anything like what Trump meant: he’s simply abjuring violence as a useful or effective weapon. So I think Eleanor Penny, quoted below, is misguided:

Eleanor Penny, who has written extensively on fascism and the far-right, told The Independent: “Chomsky treats the battle against fascism as a battle for moral purity than can be won when the left remain respectful, polite, and deferent.”

She added: “But fascists have no interest in winning that battle. They don’t care about respecting free speech or the right to a fair trial; they’ve openly declared their murderous intent towards people of colour (and other undesirables) and they’ll pursue that goal by any means necessary. In this context, physical resistance is a duty, an act of self-defence, not an unsightly outpost of leftist moral decline.”

Here she’s actually endorsing unilateral violence against fascists—on the grounds that their ideology is hateful.  And by “physical resistance” she clearly means “attack.”

But that won’t work. This is a battle of ideas and it will be won not by violence or weapons, but by better ideas. White supremacy is on the wane in America, despite the visibility of some of its supporters. Even most Republicans publicly decry bigotry. The arc of history is indeed bending toward justice, and, in my view, the best way to deal with white supremacists (I go back and forth on this daily) is to ignore them or, better yet, show up and mock them, as one guy did who marched next to them, drowning out their slogans by playing a loud tuba. Surely mockery is a better weapon than violence!

When you’ve lost Chomsky, you’ve lost the far Left.

Charlottesville 3

August 14, 2017 • 8:30 am

Just an update: The driver of the car that plowed into the anti-racist protestors in Charlottesville, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people, driver James Fields, Jr., has been identified as one of the white supremacist demonstrators. I suspected as much. The Daily News has a photograph of him brandishing a “Vanguard America” shield before the terrorist incident. As the paper notes,

Southern Poverty Law Center spokeswoman Rebecca Sturtevant told the News that the logo — two white axes — is a variation of imagery used by the white supremacists and Fields’ outfit is standard among the hate group’s ranks.

The Anti-Defamation League depicted Vanguard American [sic] as one focused on white identity, but noted that its members have “increasingly demonstrated a neo-Nazi ideology.”

Indeed, Fields’ Facebook page was peppered with similar alt-right and Nazi imagery — such as Hitler’s baby photo; a tourist shot of the Reichstag in Berlin; and a cartoon of Pepe the Frog, the anthropomorphic frog hijacked by right-wing groups — before it was deactivated around 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, gave the page the title “Conscious Ovis Aries,” using the Latin word for sheep. There was also a picture of him posing with the car that authorities say caused so much mayhem in downtown Charlottesville.

The photo with the Daily News‘s caption:

James Alex Fields Jr. (c.) brandished a shield from the Vanguard America group before the Charlottesville attack. (GO NAKAMURA/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

His mug shot:

And, of course, the white supremacists and anti-Semites are praising Trump for his “it’s everybody’s fault” reaction, and his continuing failure to decry the bigotry that infused the Extreme Right’s demonstration:

Who was responsible for the violence? Clearly Fields appears to be guilty of murder (he’s assumed innocent until convicted), but both Left and Right came to the demonstration spoiling for a fight. The white supremacists, however, had their own militia with assault rifles, which, thank Ceiling Cat, were never used. But according to the evening news last night, Leftist protestors also came with sticks, Mace, and other weapons, and after they were separated from the white supremacists, tried to find a way around the police cordons to go after their opponents.  While I doubt that the number of attacks were exactly equal on both sides, clearly the Left—at least those who wanted violence or to “shut down” the supremacists, did engage in violence. Here, from Mediaite, is a video of a “counterprotestor” attacking a woman reporter for The Hill who was simply documenting the car crash. Yes, he punched someone, but it wasn’t a Nazi.

From Mediaite:

One of the four men arrested for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia was reportedly a counter-protestor who punched a female reporter.

Virginia State Police announced last night that 21-year-old Jacob L. Smith of Louisa, Virginia was charged with misdemeanor assault & battery. And now it is known what led to his arrest.

The Hill reporter Taylor Lorenz was live-streaming the counter-protest on her phone when James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into the crowd, that left one dead and 19 injured. While capturing the immediate aftermath of the attack, where she stood only several feet away, Smith approached Lorenz, punched her in the face, and shouted “Stop the f**king recording!” The shirtless counter-protestor can be seen walking into the shot just seconds before the phone was knocked out of her hand.

Left-wing violence will only hurt progressivism and help these racist goons.  Nobody should go to a demonstration with a weapon, or with the desire to punch anyone or “shut down” a demonstration. We have recourse to peaceful protest and counterspeech, and that’s the moral high ground. I reject those who call for punching white supremacists, or even getting them fired by reporting them to employers. After all, even if this speech is reprehensible, it’s free speech and legal under the Constitution. Are we going to try to get every racist fired from their jobs? That is thought policing.

I was surprised to find several readers yesterday saying that the speech of the white supremacist/Nazi sympathizers/nativists should be banned, as some countries do.  If you believe that, then you have to decide which speech constitutes hate speech and should be banned. If there’s a slippery slope, that is one of them.

As John Stuart Mill argued eloquently in On Liberty, there’s a good case to be made for allowing even vile speech to be promulgated, for banning it only drives it underground, while allowing it gives those who hear it a chance to understand it and formulate a response to the other side’s arguments. There’s a reason why, in 1977, the American Civil Liberties Union defended the right of the American Nazi Party to march in Skokie, Illinois, a Jewish community. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled, along with the Illinois Supreme Court, that the Nazis’ display of hatred, including the swastika flag, did not constitute “fighting words”—a prohibited direct incitement of violence. The same is true of the demonstrators in Charlottesville, who basically did the same thing as the Nazis in Skokie.

In truth, I think the best response of the Left would have been to ignore the demonstrators completely. They represent only a small fraction of Americans, are widely reviled, and the counterdemonstrations gave the bigots the publicity they wanted. (Of course the media was there, but I’m not at all sure that an absence of counterdemonstrations would have been a bad thing.) And it would have helped curb the violence.

That violence was also partly due to the Charlottesville Police’s policy of allowing demonstrators to come close to each other, almost guaranteeing a nasty confrontation. Perhaps, after the model of demonstrations at political conventions, the demonstrators should be confined to a well demarcated space well apart from those they are protesting. The advantage of this is that it prevents violence but still allows the media to cover the counter-demonstrations, so the opposing speech does get publicized. The disadvantage is that the demonstrators never see those who oppose them. I think the former trumps the latter, and in future cases—and there will be more—the police need to keep the bigots and the progressives far apart, with no chance to attack each other.

At any rate, now is not the time—in fact it’s never the time—for the Left to start talking about curbing speech or physically hurting those we revile. It’s telling that when the true test of our tolerance for free speech appears—the presence of white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers—many on the Left seem to fold and ask whether we might, after all, consider some censorship. That’s a violation of everything that liberals have stood for, and of course comes with the problems of designating who’s to be The Decider and what, exactly, constitutes “hate speech.” Let’s avoid that debate and stick with the courts’ consistent interpretation of what speech is allowed and what speech constitutes harassment or direct incitement to violence.

From the New York Times, here’s a memorial to 32-year-old Heather Heyer, whom Fields murdered, and the other 19 victims of the car attack:

Edu Bayer for The New York Times

h/t: Grania