''Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.''
- An old children's line
They call themselves Antifa, meaning “antifascists.” George Orwell would have been the first to point out that the anti-fascists are, in fact, a modern offshoot of the brown shirts one associates with Hitler, violent fascists pledged to break the bones of those who disagree with them so that by means of force their intellectual opponents may be silenced. A broken bone is a very convincing argument, as any thug well knows.
Naming is a process of attaching words to events in such a way that the general public may apprehend the events as they had occurred in real time through the assigned words. This process also is open to perversion. But as a general rule, the process breaks no bones and is constitutionally allowed, even when the resulting descriptions violate what we may loosely call the truth.
Naming bears no arms. But fascism, the antifas movement, Nazism and its modern evocations, KluKluxery, the White Separatist movement, are all fully armed and pledged to violent means. All use ideologically neutral populations to accomplish their chief aim, perfectly described by Karl Marx in his "Theses On Feuerbach'': “Hitherto, philosophers have sought to understand the world; the point, however, is to change it.” In the hands of thugs well concealed behind the veil of First Amendment rights, violence is an effective change agent, and violence is the Alpha and Omega of all the above mentioned groups.
What we all witnessed in Charlottesville over the weekend was the success of violence as an instrument of social change. The violent and murderous events in Charlottesville were, everyone can agree, preeminently a failure of crowd control. And what a crowd it was.
On the fringes were professional violent agitators, as usual beating plowshares into swords. Possibly more than 80 percent those arrested, after Antifa thugs and anarchists and Klu-Kluzers and White Separatists were brought together on the streets of Charlotte, were from somewhere else. Two groups – peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and a group protesting the eradication of Southern history – were used as masks by Antifa, anarchists, KluKluzers and racist separatist groups to accomplish their violent ends.
Violent agitators who march under false flags to commit criminal acts should instantly be denounced by men and women of good will everywhere – including President Trump, who is not a racist, a KluKluxer or a white separatist. How difficult can it be to publicly denounce the Klu Klux Klan, an anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic hate-group that dates from the late 1860s?
Not too difficult, apparently, because 48 hours after Charlottesville police, told to stand down, failed to suppress rioting in the streets, Trump issued the following lucid and unambiguous denunciation: “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans.”
This pronouncement will be too little, too late to satisfy the partisan hounds intent upon deposing Trump for the unpardonable crime of defeating Hillary Clinton in a presidential election -- whether by lawsuits or by inflaming the national media against him; not a difficulty chore, since Trump already has alienated most of the nation’s left-of-center media. Belaboring the media and pointing out their sometimes embarrassing hypocrisies, pro-Trumpeters insist, is part of Trump’s politically eccentric charm.
Among repugnant hate groups, one may count with some confidence violence- prone anti-fascist fascists, loudly baying Trump-deposers with knives in their brains, and a left-of-center media that prints with relish rhetorical pot-boilers from, say, Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, among other Democrats inflamed by national ambitions.
Trump, Murphy said, had incited peace-loving anarchists and members of the national antifa movement to commit acts of violence against hateful groups that even Mother Teresa would consider disreputable. Moreover, those who fail to agree with Murphy’s sentiments and do not vigorously denounce Trump are themselves co-conspirators: “Silence or weak condemnation will be rightly read as complicity with this newly emboldened racist movement.”
This is a giant step-up from guilt by association, otherwise known as McCarthyism. The failure to assent vigorously to Murphy’s views is itself proof of complicity. Disagree with Murphy and you are racist, anti-Jewish and homophobic. Only an anarchist could seriously buy into such wild denunciations.
Is Murphy a fascist because he did not instantly denounce antifa and anarchists, which deployed fascist methods to shutdown free speech in Berkley, the home of the Free Speech Movement in 1964? Of course not.
How would one know, Dwight McDonald once asked, if the world were moving into a new Dark Age? One possible answer: cults, separated from the broad way of Western civilization, will be everywhere.
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist whose work often appears in New England Diary.