In recent months, violent alt-righters and their militant counterparts on the antifa left have tried to push Americans to choose a side. They pretend that their intra-familial rivalry is the only game in town, and that anybody disdaining them both is refusing to take a stance. That’s a favorite game of violent thugs, and I addressed it in my latest column: “Choose Sides? You Bet. But Antifa and Fascism Are the Same Side.”
We do have to pick a side. But we already have one. Despite our many differences over specific policies, most Americans have traditionally supported the side of liberty, tolerance, free speech, and peaceful political change, within broad parameters. That side is in opposition to the violent, authoritarian thugs of the right and of the left. If we regain our faith in what we already have, there’s no reason to choose between rival siblings competing to rule over the ruins of everything that’s worthwhile on behalf of their illiberal family.
My responses since then, from both alt-righters and antifa lefties, have been a flood arguments about why their violence is good and necessary. Below is a sample, along with my rebuttal.
Mr. Tuccille,In your article about Antifa for Reason, you include a paragraph that seems somewhat out of place in the flow of your argument: “‘Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain,’ notes Peter Beinart in The Atlantic.”I found the inclusion of this basic fact, and the lack of any analysis of it, interesting because in the rest of your piece you insist that you should not have to choose between fascists and those fighting them. It seems by that including that line, you are implying that if you were around in the 1920s and 30s you would have held the same, neutral position. Is that the case?If it is, you should really take a close look at your moral values and take a stand to actively and forcefully oppose naziism.
Mr. X,You’re doing exactly what I pointed out in my column, which is pretending that the only two sides are those of the dysfunctional totalitarian siblings, and that everybody must choose one or the other. It’s an effort to build support by pretending that other stances don’t exist. But the militant leftist and Nazi brands of illiberal scumbaggery are both evil. There’s nothing to choose between them. That’s especially true if you have any faith in the liberal tradition of tolerance, limited government, free speech, and peaceful political discourse. Then you already have a better side and there’s no reason to abandon it. If more Europeans had stuck with the right side rather than picking one or another rival factions of the same illiberal side, the horrors of the 20th century might have been avoided.I’m sure that anybody who has examined their moral values could see the truth of that point.yours,J.D. Tuccille
I guess it’s not surprising that you use the cloak of “illiberalism” to cover both naziism and those who fight against it. For all the faith I have in free speech and tolerance, I have no confidence that our government, nor fence sitters like you, will do anything effective to stop the rise of political movements that would send me to my death without hesitation.
It’s nice to say that if only people had been different, we could have avoided bad things. But in the past of the reality we live in there were many chances to stop the rise of fascism, but those chances were missed. And of course were aided and abetted by those who claimed to support conservative values. I hope that every time white supremacists come out to protest they are vastly outnumbered by forceful opposition and that they go home embarrassed, jobless, and in tears. I doubt that I’ll see you on the streets, I’m sure you’ll be safely at home, writing about horseshoe theory, knowing that no matter what happens you’ll be fine.
The rest of us choose to say never again.
And again, you pretend that the only choices are between two tribes of thugs, and there’s no liberal side to oppose both. You emphasize the deadly toll taken by one of the illiberal tribes, and conveniently ignore that inflicted by the other. Your argument is simply dishonest.Choose between Auschwitz and the Gulag? Never again.
The most violent political force in the Republican zone were the anarchists, who fought against Franco but also opposed the Republic. Beyond the reach of the government, and bountifully armed, they were all but impossible to control. They ran the most murderous of the checas, including one squad that decorated their murder van with skulls and their uniforms with death’s heads. They burned corpses to avoid investigation and identification; they burned churches and convents on principle.
HenrySeptember 20, 2017 at 5:09 pm
“Despite our many differences over specific policies, most Americans have traditionally supported the side of liberty, tolerance, free speech, and peaceful political change, within broad parameters.”
More truthfully… Americans have traditionally given LIP SERVICE to liberty, tolerance, free speech, and peaceful political change, while throwing their actual support behind whatever perversions of these things are championed by their choice of political or social celebrities.
I mainly agree with your premise. I don’t think America has “already chosen a side.” The bulk of Americans tack wildly, under the illusion they are on a straight line course.
J.D. TuccilleSeptember 20, 2017 at 6:59 pm
I think you’re right that most Americans “tack wildly,” but they’ve generally done so within fairly tolerant boundaries–we don’t have a strong history of political violence and assassination to rival Italy’s years of lead, let alone Europe’s interwar years. But past experience is no guarantee of future performance, and to see an active lobby for that sort of street fighting is disturbing at best.