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First Principles

Antifa Gives Progressives a Tin-Pot Dictator High

Their violence is a feature, not a bug.


- September 4th, 2019
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What are you supposed to do if a mob attacks you? If you have reason to believe that the mob intends to hurt you or could kill you, do you have the right to defend yourself with deadly force? Do you even have the right to say you would? Given proper policing, such questions should not even arise. But if they do, the First and Second Amendments should answer them. Increasingly, that is no longer the case.

Antifa, short for the German word antifashistisch, is a congerie of anarchists, socialists, Communists, liberals, and social democrats who disrupt, break, beat, and make it physically impossible for those whom they deem fascists, capitalists, white supremacists, etc. to carry on their activities. Antifa’s slogan is “abolish capitalism, antifascist action, smash fascism.” Their members dress in black, wear masks, and fight under black and red banners. Footage of their violence is readily available online.

In recent years, similarly violent groups have “occupied” Wall Street, shut down freeways in Chicago and Oakland, California, disrupted Trump’s campaign rallies, trashed Washington, D.C. during the 2017 presidential inaugural, and chased conservative speakers from college campuses.

The most interesting thing about this left-wing violence is that it happens almost exclusively in places where the police power is in the hands of progressives—whether mayors or university administrators—whose police stand aside as the violent ones do their work, and who have not prosecuted them. Moreover, since the persons whom these groups attack physically are the very ones whom the media and the Democratic Party attack verbally, it is not surprising that the media tries to put the best face on the violence.

Hence it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the violent groups merely do the dirty work of progressives—indeed that violence in society is essential to progressives’ quest for power. The progressive powers’ constraint of the victims’ right to self-defense caps the conclusion.

Antifa is not a problem in and of itself, any more than any mob would be. Where they lack officials’ protection, Antifa’s numbers and their capacity for mayhem are no match for ordinary police forces—nor for armed citizens.

The most clamorous example comes from Oregon, which happens to be among the first jurisdictions to adopt a “red flag law.” Such laws allow authorities to disarm and deprive of liberty any person accused of being a would-be murderer. Conservatives have tended to oppose such laws, which the Left tout as necessary to forestall mass shootings. Red flag laws make it possible to penalize people without trial or conviction. Conservatives know too well that progressives would use such unaccountable power to besmirch and otherwise hurt their political enemies.

Portland’s progressive city fathers have let Antifa rule the streets, and have held back the police as they beat and intimidate conservatives. Despite videos showing the criminals in flagrante, Portland police have arrested no one. Conservatives have protested: defend us against Antifa, or we will have to defend ourselves.

In the course of a protest, one Shane Kohfield, an ex-Marine with two tours in Iraq, publicly said: “If Antifa gets to the point where they start killing us, I’m going to kill them next. I’d slaughter them and I have a detailed plan on how I would wipe out Antifa.” For this statement, a judge ordered that his guns be confiscated and that he be committed to a hospital for observation for 20 days. No crime, no charges, no trial, no conviction. A partisan judge used the “red flag” law effectively to deprive Kohfield of liberty, to convict him of being a likely public danger and probably to wreck his employment, as well as to deprive him of his guns.

Not incidentally, Kohfeld had spoken while wearing a MAGA hat, and with his concealed carry permit pinned to his shirt. These signs of “deplorable” identity evidently were the “red flags” that enraged Portland’s authorities quite as much as they enrage Antifa. The synergy between progressives and violent revolutionary groups is natural because conservatives are their common target.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have declared that persons holding certain views have no place in their jurisdictions. Countless college administrators also have similar intentions toward the same people. But they have no lawful means of expelling, silencing, or intimidating those they consider “deplorable.”

How convenient that Antifa should suddenly become such a visible, vocal presence. Antifa can do the harsh name-calling, intimidating, and beating. Should the conservatives resist or counterdemonstrate, how more deliciously convenient it is for progressives to use the recalcitrance of conservatives as confirmation of their own charges of fascism and white supremacy leveled against them.

Antifa is not a problem in and of itself, any more than any mob would be. Where they are bereft of officials’ protection, Antifa’s numbers and their capacity for mayhem are no match for ordinary police forces—nor for armed citizens. Antifa is a serious problem only insofar as cadres of black-clad thugs offer to progressive officials the addictive pleasure of acting like the tinpot dictators they admire and yearn to be.

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