In an August 18 column for Townhall.com, titled “Alt-Right’s Despicability Doesn’t Make ‘Antifa’ the Good Guys,” Jonah Goldberg attempts to “square the circle” in the debate over the warring factions in the recent Charlottesville, Virginia, riots.
Because the leftwing media are so anxious to paint conservatives and Republicans with the most obnoxious labels they can think of… e.g., racist, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, etc… it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get them to wrap their arms around the violent thugs of Antifa, who appear all but indistinguishable from the Red Guards of Chairman Mao’s 1966 Cultural Revolution.
Leftwing demonstrators never show up at pro-abortion or pro-women’s rights rallies armed with lengths of chain, brass knuckles, baseball bats, and clubs with long spikes driven through them, dressed all in black ninja-like costumes and with red and black kerchiefs covering their faces. But those appear to be the weapons and the costumes of choice for the leftist Antifa thugs who vandalize college campuses across the country while assaulting conservative speakers and denying them their First Amendment rights.
Goldberg reminds us of the violent clashes that occurred between Nazis and communists in the streets of Germany during the 1930s. He writes, “The Communist International abandoned its position that socialist and progressive groups that were disloyal to Moscow were “fascist” and instead encouraged communists everywhere to build “popular fronts” against the common enemy of Nazism.
Goldberg points out that the alliances of convenience with liberals, progressives, and other social democrats were a great victory for the communists because they reinforced the myth that communists weren’t so bad after all. They were only members of the leftist coalition that opposed Hitler and his particular brand of bigotry and fascism. They were acceptable as allies.
What was not widely understood or acknowledged was that, whenever communists succeeded in gaining power anywhere in the world, the first people they killed, jailed, or exiled were their former allies on the political left, as they did in Eastern Europe, Cuba, and elsewhere.
Goldberg explains that, “If you haven’t figured it out yet, this seemingly ancient history is relevant today because of the depressingly idiotic argument about whether it’s OK to equate “antifa”… anti-fascist left-wing radicals… with the neo-Nazi and white supremacist rabble that recently descended on Charlottesville, Virginia.
Here Goldberg leaves us in limbo. Is he implying that it is “depressingly idiotic” to condemn Antifa as being just as violent and hateful as the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis? Or is he suggesting just the opposite? How many episodes of violence have we seen in recent years that were the result of aggressive actions by the KKK, neo-Nazis, or white supremacists? They may hold morally repugnant views on race and/or religion, but incidents of violence are few and far between, if they exist at all.
However, episodes of violence on the part of Antifa radicals are numerous. So, which is the morally superior position? Is it better to be non-violent while holding morally repugnant views, or is it okay to regularly engage in violent protests while holding equally repugnant views?
Goldberg seems to imply that, to claim moral relevancy between the violent hate-filled forces of Antifa and the neo-Nazis and white supremacists is “depressingly idiotic.” But is it? If it is morally superior to elevate hate-filled radical leftists who show up at peaceful protests dressed all in black and armed to the teeth with log chains, baseball bats, and brass knuckles, looking for a violent confrontation, it makes no difference whether the targeted protest is organized by the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, or if it is organized by the Salvation Army or the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Goldberg also appears to disagree with President Trump on the question of the makeup of the opposing sides in Charlottesville. He writes, “The president wants to claim that there were ‘very fine people’ on both sides of the protest and that the anti-fascist radicals are equally blameworthy.” The odds are that Trump is absolutely correct, even though he and I may be the only two people who feel that way.
Who were the people who were there to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue? Yes, a few were Klansmen, some were neo-Nazis, and some were white supremacists. But it is almost a dead certainty that, within that group of protestors, there were some “very fine people,” members of old southern families who revere the southern culture and who honor the memory of their ancestors who fought and died in the Civil War. In other words, mainstream Americans who might be our next-door neighbors.
On the other hand, many of those who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Red Guards of Antifa were equally fine people, many of them people who were there for no other reason than to show their silent disagreement with those who opposed the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. They did not arrive at the demonstration with baseball bats or brass knuckles, intent upon physically assaulting those surrounding the statue, but many of their fellow counter-protesters did.
Sadly, many inside and outside the drive-by media have failed to adequately assess the composition of the opposing sides at the Charlottesville riots. When Trump declared in his Saturday remarks that there were some “very fine people” on both sides in Charlottesville, he was stating the absolute truth. Â What is sad is that liberals, progressives, and the mainstream media have convinced some very fine people, including Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed in the melee, that every one of those protesting the removal of the Lee statue were either Klansmen, neo-Nazis, or white supremacists. Ms. Bro paid a high enough price when she lost her daughter. By having her daughter’s death unnecessarily politicized by leftist misinformation, she has been twice victimized.
Controversy, especially violent controversy, often creates strange bedfellows. For example, when the radicals of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, announced plans to picket the funeral of a local serviceman at a Lutheran church in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, the Lutheran pastor managed to inform a local motorcycle club (biker gang?). Dressed in their “leathers,” the bikers lined the route of the funeral procession and the bereaved family was spared the indignity of having their son’s funeral turned into a political sideshow.
And what will happen when the Muslim share of the U.S. population reaches ten percent, or more, and radical Islamists begin to make more aggressive demands that we alter our American culture to accommodate their murderous culture? What will be the reaction of the American people if, on a regular basis, we are forced to endure Islamist atrocities such as the three deadly attacks that occurred in Spain and Finland on Friday, August 18? How will we react when we learn that a young mother pushing a baby carriage in a mall in Indianapolis is stabbed to death by a radical Islamist? When atrocities of that nature become the “new reality” in the United States, as they have in most countries of Europe, how will we react?
When our law enforcement agencies stand aside, afraid to act because they fear the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center more than they fear We the People, will we stop to administer a litmus test before we cheer on those who take up our side of the battle? Will we stop to ask the person next to us, are you a Democrat or a Republican? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you in favor of same-sex marriage, or do you support only traditional male-female unions? Did you love Barack Obama, or did you think he was a complete fool?
As hate-filled as those on the political left might be, I seriously doubt that even they would give a hoot about the politics of the person next to them in the coming battle against radical Islam, a person who is willing to risk his/her life in the battle to defeat the greatest evil the world has ever known.
Goldberg concludes by saying, “The antifa crowd has a very similar agenda with regard to traditional American liberalism. These goons and thugs oppose free speech, celebrate violence, despise dissent and have little use for anything else in the American political tradition. But many liberals, particularly in the media, are victims of the same kind of confusion that vexed so much of American liberalism in the 20th century. Because antifa suddenly has the (alt-)right enemies, they must be the good guys. They’re not.
“And that’s why this debate is so toxically stupid. Fine. Antifa isn’t as bad as the KKK. Who cares? Since when is being less bad than the Klan a major moral accomplishment?
“In these tribal times, the impulse to support anyone who shares your enemies is powerful. But it is a morally stunted reflex. This is America. You’re free to denounce totalitarians wherever you find them, even if they might hate the right people.”
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.