Over the past few days, I've been asking when prominent Democrats will feel pressure to roundly denounce Antifa, the way that Republicans were pressured to reject the racist Alt-Right. In too many cases, liberal politicians have been given a free pass to ignore, or even indulge, the left-wing militia-style group, in spite of its criminality and violence. But with the tide starting to turn in the media, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi finally felt compelled to draw a rhetorical line in the sand. Leah wrote up the San Francisco Democrat's formal statement this morning:
“Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts. The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted. In California, as across all of our great nation, we have deep reverence for the Constitutional right to peaceful dissent and free speech. Non-violence is fundamental to that right. Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate, and to remember the values of peace, openness and justice that represent the best of America.”
This is a welcome development, for which Pelosi deserves some credit. I'm always annoyed when people call for a public figure to disavow or apologize for X, then seize on that public figure...disavowing or apologizing for X in order to further attack him or her. Pelosi did the right thing here, even if belatedly (and for the record, I've previously praised Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for calling out the 'End of Discussion' mob's speech suppression in Berkeley). That being said, Pelosi has more to answer for on this front. Her unfair smear of the 'Patriot Prayer' rally as a white nationalist event directly contributed to its cancellation. Worse, she specifically called for the gathering to be banned, relying on an embarrassingly ignorant reading of the constitution to justify her authoritarian impulse. In other words, the former House Speaker slandered a peaceful protest group and advocated using the power of the state to stomp on core First Amendment rights, effectively bear-hugging the dangerous and un-American "heckler's veto."
Her decision to blast Antifa's violence is a good start, but journalists should hold her feet to the fire over her role in fueling the events of last weekend in her own backyard. Also, as a follow up: Pelosi assigned "unequivocal condemnation" to the actions of Antifa. Does she also condemn Antifa itself? You know, these people? Meanwhile, Berkeley's Mayor appears to be singing a slightly different tune today, at least compared to his disgraceful anti-speech comments earlier in the week. Maybe Democratic politicians are slowly realizing that 'black bloc' (another term for Antifa) thuggery isn't playing well with average Americans. Conservatives, of course, have been loudly making that case for quite some time. In addition to Rich Lowry's strong column yesterday imploring people on the Left to cease making excuses for Antifa, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen has heard enough of the "no moral equivalency" preening that some liberals have employed to deflect criticism and discussion of left-wing political violence:
The antifa movement [operates] with jackboots and clubs — because their definition of “fascist” includes not just neo-Nazis but also anyone who opposes their totalitarian worldview. And let’s be clear: Totalitarian is precisely what they are. Mark Bray, a Dartmouth lecturer who has defended antifa’s violent tactics, recently explained in The Post, “Its adherents are predominantly communists, socialists and anarchists” who believe that physical violence “is both ethically justifiable and strategically effective.” In other words, they are no different from neo-Nazis. Neo-Nazis are the violent advocates of a murderous ideology that killed 25 million people last century. Antifa members are the violent advocates of a murderous ideology that, according to “The Black Book of Communism,” killed between 85 million and 100 million people last century. Both practice violence and preach hate. They are morally indistinguishable. There is no difference between those who beat innocent people in the name of the ideology that gave us Hitler and Himmler and those who beat innocent people in the name of the ideology that gave us Stalin and Dzerzhinsky.
In the immediate wake of the appalling and tragic Charlottesville episode, I practically begged Americans to remember that Alt-Right white supremacists and Alt-Left goons do not represent the mainstream Right or Left, respectively. Tarring either major political movement in America with the worst sins of its most extreme elements is unjust and feeds a culture of polarization. On that score, please take a moment to appreciate the actions of the African-American gentleman (wearing a red shirt) in this disturbing video from Sunday's Berkeley riot:
Antifa beat down apparent alt-righter. pic.twitter.com/WVdDJqLKmA— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) August 27, 2017
This is who he is, and why he did what he did, in his own words -- via the Washington Times:
A black journalist who was filmed protecting a white man from being beaten by antifa activists in Berkeley, California, over the weekend is explaining his decision after receiving criticism from some on the left. Now-viral video footage showed the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Al Letson shielding a man, who later identified himself as a President Trump supporter and vlogger, from a group of violent “anti-fascist” activists during clashes in Berkeley on Sunday. Videos showed masked, black-clad activists hitting the man with poles and punching and kicking him repeatedly as he laid on the ground. Mr. Letson then draped himself over the man and repeatedly screamed “Stop!” until the attackers relented. “I was scared they were going to kill him,” said Mr. Letson, who hosts the center’s Reveal podcast. “So the only thing I could think was I wanted to get on top of him to protect him.”...Mr. Letson took to Twitter on Tuesday to explain his position, saying he had no idea who Mr. Campbell was but felt a duty to act. “I wasn’t there to save anyone. I was there to cover the protest which was largely peaceful. I’m no saint, savior, or some great peacemaker, I’m just a man. I wasn’t taking sides btw the protestors. I am a journalist,” Mr. Letson wrote in a series of tweets. “The last thing I wanted was to be apart of the story. I don’t want the focus on me. But of all the things I am, I am a human first. I didn’t know who the man was, I didn’t care, he was in trouble and I reacted. I’m not making political statements about who did what and why. I just acted when I saw someone in need. That’s it,” he wrote. “If you have a problem with it, that’s your issue not mine. If saving someone who’s a white supremacist makes me less a black man for you @Plantsmantx again, that’s your problem not mine."
Very well said. The fact that he's received any criticism at all for interceding to stop a brutal assault (the victim was treated for bruised ribs and kidneys) reflects horribly on his soulless critics. Mr. Letson acted bravely and correctly. The black-clad attackers -- and their defenders -- are wrong. Period. Good for him; shame on them.