Violence is not a conduit for free speech. In response to the emergence of domestic terror activities flooding national headlines, the left has made a subtle shift in rhetoric from “violence is wrong” to “violence is justified, but only when we do it.”
Antifa is an organization that alleges to fight bigotry and the suppression of free speech when, ironically, the said organization uses austere violence to shut down opposing viewpoints. These masked “vigilantes” do not represent me. They do not represent the rational American. They represent the deluded. The left-wing extremists wear a cloak of victimhood and purport to fight an imaginary war against fascism, yet the real war had already been fought over 70 years ago.
This self-endowed right to brandish weapons and threaten others exercising free speech (hate speech or not) sets a dangerous precedent for future conflicts.
There is this idea that the left is an archetype of morality and social justice that must fight the wrongs of simple-minded, Bible-thumping conservatives. I beg to differ. Members of Antifa and extreme leftists fail to see beyond their veil of misgivings and have rationalized violence as a solution to political discord. Even if Richard Spenser were to run in the streets with a white hood on and a burning cross in hand, you still don’t have the right to punch him in the face. Lauding the physical assault of a fellow American is giving a thumbs up to anarchy, bullying, and oppression. Whether Antifa is in the right is another matter. However, giving the green light to punch people means granting them authority that supersedes law enforcement and others’ rights to form peaceful protests.
Since 2016, the Department of Homeland Security formally recognized Antifa activities as “domestic terrorist violence.” Section 2331(5) of the U.S. Penal Code specifies domestic terrorism to involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state. Antifa falls under this category. It deliberately attempts to influence civilians, government policy, and government conduct through its presence in political events and through acts of bodily harm.
To be clear, I don’t have any love for white supremacists. But I find entitled, name-calling, identity-politics-driven zealots just as despicable. This is not to say that I find all leftists bigots. However, many liberal friends get so caught up in the fervor of social justice politics that they forget the constitutional rights granted to all Americans – Richard Spenser included.
“The right to swing my arms in any direction ends where your nose begins.” I had never anticipated that this John Stuart Mill quote would be applied in such a literal sense. Reflecting on these words, I remind my liberal friends: respecting doesn’t necessarily mean you agree. The right to form peaceful protests should not be jeopardized because we find what a handful of people say to be abhorrent. Don’t expect the First Amendment to change to accommodate your feelings.