“I knew some anarchists resisting in the Black Bloc, who never seem to set foot on any black blocks.” – hip hop artist Son of Nun in his song, “Southpaw”.
I actually know some anarchists who do set foot on black blocks, but Son of Nun’s general point is well taken. The behavior of some anarchists today reveals glaring inconsistencies that bring into question their intellectual honesty.
(Note: The term “anarchists” will be used here as a general expression referring to today’s self-described anti-fascists in the United States, not to infer that anarchists are monolithic.)
Free speech for me but not for thee
Today’s anarchists believe they have the moral authority to tell Americans who can and cannot speak. If an anarchist labels you a “white supremacist”, “fascist” or a “racist” they believe they have the right to prevent you from speaking in public. Same holds true for anyone who is accused of partaking in “hate speech”, which anarchists believe can only be defined by them. Anarchists don’t require proof to support their accusations, instead they simply assert that they alone have the final say in who is allowed to speak in public.
This is peculiar given anarchists traditionally don’t like to be told what to do. Yet today they have no problem telling others what to do – and they have no problem physically imposing their belief set on others, all the while claiming the moral high ground. If you are a conservative, centrist or someone who does not follow the unofficial anarchist tribal doctrine, you could be a target of anarchist’s vigilante violence if you try to speak in public.
Given that anarchists believe in “no gods, no masters” and have a strong distaste for authority and laws, how is it that they have put themselves in the position of determining what another person can say? And how can they be willing to use police-like tactics to do so? Shutting down free speech is generally agreed upon to be one of the tenets of fascism, yet the self-described anti-fascists do not see their hypocrisy.
One tactic widely used by anarchists today is dehumanization. They dehumanize Republicans, police officers and pretty much anyone who does not share their precise world view. Dehumanizing someone is the default technique used by those who want to create a justification for whatever is needed to be done to the person being demonized. I wonder if anarchists stole this tactic from the U.S. foreign policy playbook on to how to dehumanize leaders around the world who do not bow to U.S demands (Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, Hugo Chavez, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, etc.)?
Over-simplification and hype
Anarchists would be taken more seriously if they did not partake in so much gross over-generalization and exaggeration. One such example occurred in April when “anti-fascists” demanded that the tenth annual Rose Parade in Portland be shut down because a local Republican party was marching in the parade. “We will not give one inch to groups who… espouse hatred toward LGBT, immigrants, people of color…”, was the claim, without offering any proof that the accused Multnomah County Republican Party actually espoused any of those beliefs. (Organizers decided to cancel the parade anyway.)
And then there was the attack on the Patriot Prayer group’s event in Berkeley earlier this month. Anarchists physically assaulted the group’s members using the rationale that the event was to promote white supremacy and Nazism. In reality, the event organizer, Joey Gibson, has denounced white supremacists and identified himself as half-Asian, and the event was labelled the “Peaceful Portland Freedom March” where Mr. Gibson’s message was one of “freedom and love.” You can watch this interview with Mr. Gibson to determine for yourself if Patriot Prayer is a white supremacist group, as anarchists claim.
Another example occurred in Charlottesville last month at the Unite the Right rally, which was labeled a white supremacist rally by the establishment media and anarchists alike. But the event actually was not a white supremacist rally as claimed – it was a rally to oppose the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville. It’s true that some neo-Nazis and white supremacists were among the Unite the Right attendees, but to label all those who participated as such is hyperbole, at best, collective punishment at worst.
Similarly, anarchists are quick to judge a person by the worst thing they that they have done, while neglecting to look at the person as a whole. For example, anarchists believe people who fly the Confederate flag are racists. What they fail to consider is that some people (including many that I know) fly the flag because it represents their Southern heritage and things like being a gentleman, respecting your elders, being a good neighbor, preferring a slower lifestyle, enjoying Southern food, putting family ahead of career, etc. I have never talked to one person who flies the Confederate flag because they believe slavery was a good thing. Certainly, there are people who defend the Confederate flag and monuments from the Civil War era who are racist, but that doesn’t mean many, most or all are of those who fly the flag are racist.
Further, anarchists (and their college campus companions) apply a double-standard when it comes to the issue of erasing the past. While they call for Robert E. Lee statues to be removed because of Lee’s position on slavery, they are predictably silent regarding other historic figures who supported slavery; people like the Prophet Muhammad, Plato, Aristotle, the Aztecs, and Simon Bolivar.
Since anarchists are so quick to judge people for their worst transgression, what about Martin Luther King Jr. who committed adultery? Will anarchists start vandalizing, and calling for the removal of all the MLK monuments, street names, etc. around the country? If not, is it because, in the anarchists’ mind, adultery is not as repulsive as racism? To be clear, I don’t want MLK to be erased from our history because of his adultery – I look at his entire life’s work, and as Tucker Carlson said, “if we are going to reduce a person’s life to the single worst thing he ever participated in, we had better be prepared for the consequences of that.”
Additionally, one group present with Antifa in Charlottesville to oppose the Unite the Right rally, was a group called “Redneck Revolt” who believe in “the total liberation of all working people, regardless of skin color, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, or any other division that bosses and politicians have used to fragment movements for social, political, and economic freedom.” All of that sounds good, but the group also offers training manuals on “kidnapping”, “executions”, and “terrorism”. Their website states, “Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never relinquish”. Just as many of those in the Unite the Right group brought weapons, including guns to the rally, so did Redneck Revolt. Why is it necessary to bring guns to a counter-protest? To protect Americans from the words of the ‘alt-Right’? (It should be noted that I am not a pacifist, and I defend myself against physical violence – but using violence against a person because of their words or beliefs is not self-defense.)
Of course, anarchists try to perversely justify their use of guns by claiming that they are just standing up to armed Nazis, but it is the anarchists’ violence that is behind much of the mayhem at protests today. (In fairness to Redneck Revolt, most news accounts report that it was Antifa – not Redneck Revolt – who were the aggressors on the left in Charlottesville.)
As preposterous, and seemingly self-defeating the behavior of anarchists is, their mentality and tactics are being mimicked by many on the left, including college professors and students (visit here for a complete list of the violent, anti-free speech, racist and hysterical behavior of the left). For instance, when Charles Murray spoke at Middlebury College in March, students shouted him down and physically assaulted a colleague, sending her to the hospital. The students did so because they believe Murray is a white supremacist. This is based on Murray’s research which roughly states that the average IQ of African Americans was lower than that of White Americans. What Murray’s critics fail to mention is that Murray has also stated that the average IQ of Asian Americans was higher than White Americans, and that Ashkenazi Jews of European origins had the highest IQ. So, if Murray is a white-supremacist, what does that make him for saying Asians and Jews are smarter than White people?
Mock white guilt
A segment of today’s anarchism is rooted in white guilt – that is, the white guilt that Shelby Steele described:
“White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities … White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah … White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret … It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption … Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is … When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy … From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.”
Anarchists claim to be fighting racism, but they themselves are being racist. Racism is not a one-way street, by definition, but Antifa, Black Lives Matter, many liberals/progressives today don’t believe that discriminating against someone simply because they are white is racism. I understand this to the extent that I believe racism in America began with the subjugation of black people by white people. But the way to fight racism is not by being racist. Actually, anarchists who claim that all people of color are victimized by American white people is itself racist towards the people they are purportedly trying to assist. Telling a person of color that they are victims in the U.S. essentially boils that person down to one attribute – the color of their skin. This gets to the point made by Shelby Steele above.
To be a wealthy, attractive, black lesbian in America today is better than being a poor, unattractive, white heterosexual man, generally speaking. This just points out that a person’s plight is much more complex than their race and sexual preference. But because anarchists lack objectivity, depth and are self-righteous, they fail to recognize that they are playing right into the hands of the identity politics trap set by the ruling class they abhor. The same could be said about anarchists on the issues of tolerance, free speech and open-mindedness, all of which anarchists theoretically stand for, but practically work against.
The oppressed become oppressors
This calls into question the sincerity of today’s anarchists in the U.S. Do they really oppose oppression? If so, why are they acting in such an oppressive manner? Do they really want equality, or do they just want revenge against those people who have historically had the upper hand? Personally, I oppose oppression, violence, curtailing of free speech and domination by one group over another, regardless of who is perpetrating the act. For instance, I support Palestinians who are being occupied by Israel. But if the tables were turned, and Palestinians became the oppressors, I’d support Israelis. I don’t get the sense from anarchists that they would do the same.
Why do anarchists – and others who are stopping conservative figures from speaking in public – assume that Americans, particularly college students, are not smart enough to make up their own minds when they listen to a white supremacist or a conservative? Is it because anarchists believe they are smarter than everyone else, and therefore it’s their duty to prevent the less intelligent from hearing differing points of view? If people like Richard Spencer or Ben Shapiro are as off-base as anarchists believe, why not let them speak and make fools of themselves? It appears to be because anarchists are just trying to protect those who are less mentally and morally advanced as they. Anarchists’ mock white guilt is only matched by their mock intelligence.
In many ways, it’s as though anarchists are just looking for a fight and for a place to act out – they come across as ambulance chasers, always looking for an event to exploit. And some are professed adrenaline junkies, so maybe they are seeking some excitement in their otherwise banal life.
Wannabees on the same side as neo-cons and neo-liberals
Many anarchists talk a big game, yet they cover their faces when committing acts of repression. If they are so convinced that their beliefs and tactics are virtuous why do they cover up? According to their own words, they should be proud of stopping ‘hate speech’ regardless of the consequences. Some anarchists cover their face because they don’t want to get arrested, as that would take them away from fighting for their cause. Others do so as to not be recognized by an employer or family member who may disagree with their actions. And others do so to be protected from tear gas sprayed by the cops. All of these concerns are legitimate, but the solution is to not partake in violent acts at protests in the first place. And regardless of the reasons anarchists cover up their faces (which are similar to why some KKK members cover their faces) they should not profess to be hardcore activists fighting for other’s rights while doing things to protect their own self-interests. This paints anarchists as disingenuous.
An example of this is a man from Tampa, FL who went to the Trump inauguration in January where he threw rocks and bricks at cops and smashed store windows. He got caught and was convicted of assault on a police officer and inciting a riot, both felony charges. When he appeared in court for sentencing, he begged the judge for mercy, “I stand before you today asking for forgiveness for anyone who was scared, hurt or felt threatened by me on that day,” his voice choking with emotion, according to the Tampa Bay Times. But just days before his sentencing he said, “I want comrades to know that I went to jail with a smile on my face. I want my comrades back in Florida to carry on doing the amazing things we have been doing.”
This duplicity regularly repeats itself amongst anarchists today, and you wonder if they consider the fallout of their tactics, and how their actions may actually be detrimental to their purported cause. Do anarchists believe the way to stop cops from being violent is by using violence against cops? And do they actually believe they are going to do more damage to cops than is done to them? Protesters using violence against cops is doomed to failure, so even if anarchists believe they have the right to do so, they are not going to win. Apparently, the romanticism of being involved in trying to ‘smash the state’ precludes anarchists from fully thinking things through.
And finally, do anarchists – like the man from Tampa – consider that some of the cops they are throwing bricks at may despise Donald Trump, too? Or the business owners whose windows get smashed out may be immigrants, people of color or members of the LGBT community? In fact, a limousine torched by anarchists at the inauguration riots belonged to a Muslim immigrant.
Anarchists today, specifically Antifa, are unknowingly on the same side as neo-cons, neo-liberals, CNN, the Washington Post, and the Democrats (among other establishment entities in which anarchists despise) on many issues. That should be enough to make anarchists take a step back and question what they are doing. In a sense, anarchists are being used by the establishment – essentially, they have become thugs of the establishment, or more accurately, wannabee thugs. During the Obama presidency, had the Tea Party behaved as anarchists are behaving today, can you imagine what mainstream and left-leaning news outlets like MSNBC, the New York Times, Democracy Now! and the HuffPost would have reported? This is why it’s clear that anarchists today are afforded cover by much of the media – the same media anarchists have denounced for years.
Anarchists are nationalists?
The issue of immigration is one in which anarchists mutually agree with the Democratic Party and many corporations (among others who anarchists typically hold in contempt.) The anarchists’ reasons may be different than the others, but their argument is essentially the same: Donald Trump is an anti-immigrant racist (which is another gross misrepresentation of Trump’s actions) and if someone does not believe in open borders they are a xenophobe. But using the anarchists’ logic, every other country in the world is xenophobic as well – even EU countries that have open borders for member countries, but not for non-EU countries. So, why have anarchists, liberals and the establishment singled out Donald Trump as the face of non-open borders? Is Trump any worse than leaders of other countries who believe in legal immigration and not open borders?
And if anarchists believe so strongly in open borders, I wonder if they lock their doors at night, or if they are willing to let anybody into their house to live? Would they let “white supremacists” into their house? If not, then they don’t truly believe in open borders and shouldn’t be so critical of those in the U.S. who believe in legal, but not illegal immigration.
And just like liberals, anarchists regularly fail to mention the root cause of the immigration problems: U.S. wars around the world that have created millions of refugees from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. But I rarely hear them talk about immigration in the context of U.S. foreign policy, it’s always about immigrants who are now in the U.S. What about the people who couldn’t flee a U.S. military intervention and didn’t have the opportunity to emigrate to the U.S.? Why do anarchists, just like liberals, work much harder for immigrants in the U.S. than they do for the hundreds of millions more people in foreign lands who are adversely impacted by U.S. foreign policy? That seems to be somewhat nationalistic. If nothing else, anarchists have obfuscated the immigration issue (and are partnered with liberals) by turning it into one of race and name calling instead of talking about the actual causes of the crisis. This makes me question the integrity of their views.
U.S. support of neo-Nazis in Ukraine
And this brings it to the issue of neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Why do anarchists care so much about the (extremely small) neo-Nazi, white supremacist movement in the U.S. (which has zero chance of becoming mainstream in the U.S.) but they did not take issue with the Obama administration’s support of the (sizable) neo-Nazis in Ukraine who played a role in overthrowing its democratically elected leader? I’m certain it was not because anarchists supported Obama, so why were they (and continue to be) silent about this topic?
Anarchists claim that the nation state is a construct, and that borders are meaningless, so why do they give their attention to the fringe white supremacist movement in the U.S. while sitting back as real neo-Nazis take positions of power in Ukraine? Are they not concerned about what the white nationalist Right Sector, Azov Battalion or the Svoboda Party are doing in Ukraine, in part with U.S. taxpayer money?
Azov Battalion was founded by Andriy Biletsky, who is also head of two neo-Nazi organizations, the Patriot of Ukraine and the Social-National Assembly. Biletsky, who was elected to the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament), wrote in 2010, “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led sub-humans.”
You would think anarchists would give this attention since an openly neo-Nazi is part of the Ukrainian government with the United States’ blessing. Or that anarchists would have protested (as some of us did) when Pentagon officials announced that U.S. troops from the 173rd Airborne would deploy to Ukraine to help build the Ukrainian National Guard, who’s prominent members include the white nationalist Azov Battalion.
But maybe anarchists are more concerned about their neighbors, or their city than they are about people in another country. Maybe the subconscious thinking of American anarchists is, ‘why would I help a victim of neo-Nazis in Ukraine since that won’t score me any points at home with my comrades?’ This is just another indicator suggesting anarchists are acting in a self-gratifying, nationalistic manner.
Or perhaps it’s because anarchists don’t know what the U.S. is doing in Ukraine, which is a distinct possibility given many anarchists are about half-as-smart as they claim to be, particularly when it comes to current events and U.S. foreign policy.
Just as anarchists in the U.S. are tearing down statues of civil war figures, neo-Nazis in Ukraine are tearing down statues of the country’s Communist past. And just as in Ukraine, the question is, who decides which statues are unacceptable, and on what grounds? What gives anarchists in the U.S. (or neo-Nazis in Ukraine) the right to decide such matters? Anarchists’ distaste of authority is something I share, but why are anarchists behaving in an authoritarian manner by determining who gets to say what, and what monuments get to remain?
Regardless, this all fits with the behavior of many anarchists today – they just want to belong, have an identity and pontificate about their virtuousness as a way to feel better about their personal failings, or to gain power, in my opinion. This is exemplified by one anarchist, who after being arrested for resisting arrest, said, “Most people I know love me now…I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve become pretty popular,” typifying the mysticism attached to being an anarchist.
Clearly, doing something about the U.S. support of neo-Nazis in Ukraine doesn’t improve the social standing of an anarchist in the U.S., thus the ignorance and/or silence.
This lack of intellectual honesty suggests that anarchists are ultimately in this for themselves while using the pretext that they are trying to help oppressed people in the U.S. Similar to how the U.S. government told us that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were conducted to bring freedom and democracy to the people in those countries.
Anarchists are on the fringe
To be fair, elected officials, law enforcement and the justice system should accept a significant amount of responsibility for the social crisis in America today; anarchists are not the only ones at fault. If politicians actually listened to everyday people, and if cops didn’t harass and/or arrest peaceful protests, and if the justice system was actually just, I don’t think we’d see the type of ugly behavior by anarchists that we see today.
But that doesn’t let anarchists off the hook, and instead of trying to find common ground with people from all walks of life, anarchists practice something close to tribalism. The idea of watching Fox news objectively, or talking to a Trump supporter, or having a debate with a non-anarchist libertarian is too much for petulant anarchists who prefer to just lump people into the same deplorable box used by Hillary Clinton.
Groups like Antifa will fade away, just as the Occupy movement did. And I’m not overly concerned that the tactics used by anarchists will, in the long-run, become the norm. But in the short-term, their behavior is dangerous, is being normalized, and reflects poorly on the rest of us who believe in peaceful protest and free speech.
And of greater concern is how many liberals and much of the mainstream press are giving anarchists a relatively free pass, something which may allow the anarchist’s views to be dyed into the fabric of America. Once a piece of clothing has been dyed, for instance, it is very difficult to remove the dye. No matter how many times you try to wash something that’s been dyed, there always seems to be remnants of the dye. Similarly, the longer anarchists’ actions are condoned, or at least not condemned by the rest of us, the greater chance we will see damaging effects in the future.
Though I’m not optimistic anarchists will start behaving in a more principled manner anytime soon, I’m hopeful that they will refrain from trying to stop the upcoming “Free Speech Week” events at UC Berkeley, where invited guests include Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon and Anne Coulter, all of whom are despised by anarchists. The establishment media is already mischaracterizing the event as an “alt-right” gathering, the mayor of Berkeley has requested the event be cancelled, some Berkeley professors are calling for a campus-wide boycott, and campus officials are making it very difficult for organizers to obtain the necessary permits, so it is possible that the events may not even take place, which would be another blow to the First Amendment. But if the Free Speech Week events are allowed to proceed, anarchists have an opportunity to help heal America’s wounds instead of trying to rip them apart even more.
Note: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of St. Pete for Peace