Violence From the American Left Is Always a Stupid Idea

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Violence From the American Left Is Always a Stupid Idea

Tucker Carlson is an oozing infection of a human being who dedicates his life to spreading rage among the brainwashed American right. In many cases, his Fox News content—which is always littered with lies—leads to direct threats to the safety of liberal figures, as W. Kamau Bell can tell you:

In a just world, he’d have no influence, but in this country, in 2018, he’s one of the braying propagandists who contributes directly to grievance conservatism and the dual rise of fascism and far-right nationalist mania. If your grandparents or parents suck now, Tucker Carlson may be the reason why. If he never appeared on television again, the world would be a better place.

You know why I’m saying all this—you intuitively know the rhythms of a piece like this. I’m telling you who I am as a precursor to an opinion that, by online leftist standards, is not quite doctrinaire. I’m laying the groundwork for this argument:

It’s just beyond appalling that while Carlson was preparing to spew his latest hateful sermon on Fox News Wednesday night, a few members of an anti-fascist group in D.C. terrorized his wife at their home. One of them threw his body against the front door so hard that it nearly broke, and Carlson’s wife had to lock herself in the pantry.

I don’t know the first thing about Carlson’s wife. I bet I wouldn’t like her—who the hell, in good conscience, could marry someone like Tucker Carlson?—but she didn’t deserve this. The couple has four kids, and while none of them were at home at the time, the protestors surely didn’t know that. And those kids certainly didn’t deserve it.

Meanwhile, what’s the net effect? It’s briefly made Tucker Carlson more sympathetic than he has any right to be—it’s his victims, and the victims of all Republicans, who deserve our sympathy—and all but forced liberal figures like Stephen Colbert publicly defend him while allowing soulless opportunists like Megyn Kelly to turn on the sanctimony. Carlson himself is an opportunist, and he’ll undoubtedly spout off in righteous anger in ways that might temporarily disguise his innate toxicity. On a deeper level, it also adds weight to the idiotic false equivalencies Republicans love to promote. You know the ones—they’re all about how the left is just as violent as the right. Finally, incidents like these could easily inspire the next burst of right-wing violence. That’s not hyperbole—it’s probable.

And for what? What did Antifa mean to accomplish here? What was the best-case scenario?

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There are a lot of people on the left who don’t want to admit this, and I was one of them for a long time, but we might as well come to terms with the facts: The American left will succeed by virtue of democratic activism, or it will fail. If we can’t win non-violently, we’re not going to win at all.

The right in this country is more prone to committing political violence, and to condoning it from our leaders. They have more guns, by far, and they are more willing to use them. As we’ve seen in protest after protest, they have law enforcement on their side, and in fact even the FBI admits that far-right ideologies have infiltrated police forces across the country. The military, if push came to shove, would undoubtedly side with the right over the left. And if the left ever managed to start anything like an actual revolution, Donald Trump would gleefully use their opening forays as an excuse to strike back with impunity and ramp up reactionary fascism to Pinochet levels. This is a guy who wants his soldiers to fire at a caravan of desperate immigrants—he’ll do the same for you.

This is the truth. They know it, which is why they constantly push things toward confrontation. It’s why Trump is forever appealing to the right’s violent instincts. The minute this situation in America turns into an actual fight, the left is toast. The right would love if things came to that point.

We know it too, deep down. There is no possibility of an American Che Guevara. Antifa is a group of children doing cosplay, and while they’re capable of real violence, it pales in comparison to what the right can muster. Every violent or quasi-violent action they take comes with no benefit to the cause of progressive politics in this country, and in fact often yields the opposite—retaliation from the right, false equivalencies that bolster the both-sides brain worm burrowing into our heads, and justifications for all manner of terrifying escalations.

It’s like poking a stick at a dangerous animal—the stick can’t do any damage, but the animal certainly can.

I get that it’s fun to play leftist tough guy—it’s probably therapeutic, in a way, to feel less hopeless for a while, to feel less cowed by a burgeoning nationalist movement that seeks to intimidate—but at some point it’s going to stop being fun. If things get violent, they’re going to win.

That said, it doesn’t take violence to show courage. Sometimes, getting your ass kicked is the courageous thing to do. Ask any civil rights activist from the ‘60s about that—ask the freedom riders, ask John Lewis. There is so much, good, peaceful, and even non-violent confrontational activism to be done. There are marches, and #DAPL occupations, and even caustic speeches to be made on the grand scale, and on the small scale there are endless opportunities for local activism that can help people immediately.

There are raging debates about whether Antifa-like actions give oxygen to fascist right-wing groups, and I know a lot of people will disagree with me here. Some say that it’s good for fascists to feel afraid, and I agree insofar as they’re afraid of mockery and humiliation and non-violent life consequences—lost jobs, doxxing, shunning, etc. But I believe violence has the opposite effect, hardening their resolve and lending them undue sympathy that inevitably swells their ranks. There are others who believe that unchecked aggression from the right will inevitably spread—that it’s not good enough to oppose them non-violently, and that you must, in effect, beat them into submission. Today, in America, I disagree. I think a majority of Americans are adamantly opposed to national fascism, even if that majority is slimmer than we’d like.

But let’s ignore that argument for a moment—let’s ask the other question: What good have Antifa-type groups done when they escalate to violence (as opposed to doxing and non-violent activism)? You might get a visceral thrill from watching them beat the hell out of a right-winger, and I won’t pretend I’m any better than you in that regard. But does anything positive actually come from it? Or are they, generally, making things harder? And let’s say the truly horrifying future comes to pass, in which violent resistance is the last option. I don’t believe we’ll reach that point, but if we do, is there anything Antifa can do now to stop it? The answer is no—if institutional fascism is coming down the pipeline, violence from the left will only hasten the process.

Intimidating Tucker Carlson’s wife is plainly stupid from a strategic standpoint—we’re coming dangerously close to setting our own Reichstag fires—but I’d argue that fighting the Proud Boys, or Patriot Prayer, is equally pointless and counterproductive. At best, the reaction from mainstream America will be “look at these maniacs fighting each other,” and it will hand-feed conservative media their favorite bullshit narrative. At worst, it will accelerate the fascists into a harmful, possibly fatal reaction on either the individual or systemic level.

By all means, turn up in numbers and shout these people down; show that we’re more numerous and equally passionate. But remember that Antifa, in its violent incarnation, is not your ally. Don’t put your faith in some kid wearing a helmet and wielding an iron pipe—he may say he’s on your side, and he may attack your enemy, but he won’t be there for you when the nightmare he helps provoke finds its way to your doorstep.