Monday, August 28, 2017

No To Unprovoked Violence By Anybody

And, sorry, but no, simply saying things one does not agree with does not justify in engaging in unprovoked violence.  This is directed at the recent events in Berkeley where it appears that masked and self-identified "anarchists," (not "antifa members" as Hannity called them), engaged in violence that was not in self-defense. I am not all that happy about people shutting others down from simply speaking publicly, but I am completely opposed to doing this by means of unprovoked violence (self defense as happened in Charlottesville is a different matter).  This applies to what happened at Middlebury College as well. 

There is a very fine line here, but progressives must not fall into the pit of saying that unprovoked violence is acceptable because "those people are bad."  Sorry, not acceptable.  Peaceful counterprotesting as we saw in Boston is the way to go.  Period.

Barkley Rosser


ProGrowthLiberal said...

I'm reading the Essential Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King. Some incredible first hand accounts of the nonviolence movement in the 1950's and 1960's. Much of what he wrote over 50 years ago applies to today.

Sandwichman said...

"Unprovoked violence" is an oxymoron. Violence is invariably rationalized as retaliatory or self-defensive. The questions that need to be asked are about the validity of provocation claims, the proportionality of response and the responsiveness of the state, which, after all, has a monopoly on "legitimate" violence.

My objection to the self-appointed street fighters in Berkeley is not that they engage in "unprovoked violence" but that they engage in impotent exhibitionism. The violence I would endorse is a general strike. Some might object that a general strike is nonviolent resistance. That is a matter of semantics. Conservatives instinctively label a general strike against a reactionary regime as violent. Because... property rights are sacrosanct! Let them have their semantic cud to chew on. said...


I agree that general strikes against reactionary regimes are not violent due to their threat to sacredness of private property. As far as I am concerned, justified violence happens when another party is either actually attacking or very clearly in the process of doing so, with some openness to debate regarding the boundary line in the latter case, and we know that such things have been manipulated often. After all, today is the 78th anniversary of Germany invading Poland, with this supposedly an anticipatory "self-defense" move by Germany against that awful and threatening Polish war machine.

Peter Dorman said...

There is so much wrong with the leftier-than-thou attacks on the alt-right, I don't know where to begin. A short list:

1. This is tactically stupid. Why muddy the moral clarity of the fight against authoritarianism?

2. It is lost in a miasma of symbolism. Anti-fascist street fighters think they are deploying violence to suppress racists, but they have no clue what forms actual violence can and does take in the modern world. If they succeed in provoking an armed response (please god no), they will see real violence, and they will not be the winners.

3. It is based on a faulty understanding of fascism and its threat. Fascist street gangs will not become enforcers of state power unless there is a significant faction of the capitalist class that so fears democratic freedom that it is willing to resort to these ultimate weapons. That isn't remotely the case today (as it was at the time of Mussolini and Hitler). If you want to worry about militarized repression, worry about the police and military.

4. It is often justified by a terrible, absurd notion of what makes something violent. Stripped down, it goes like this: well-being is primarily about having positive emotions. Actions that prevent people from having positive emotions (that upset them in some way) constitute "violence" and should be suppressed, especially of the sufferers are from marginalized identities. If what you say makes me feel bad/uncomfortable/stigmatized/etc. you are committing violence against me, and I have a right to commit violence (including physical force) against you. To say this out loud is to see immediately how absurd it is, but it has become a central canon on parts of the left.

Did I leave anything out?

Sandwichman said...

"Did I leave anything out?"

Yes. You left out the part where this is fundamentally a narrative being hyped by the alt-right themselves, their infowars, russian-bot and cambridge analytica enablers and the hand-wringing, concern-troll liberal and neverTrump conservative media.

Sure. Assholes happen across the political spectrum. But compare the coverage of idiot-left street fighters to, say, the coverage of climate change denial.

Unclutch those pearls.

Anonymous said...

So if the anarchists at Charlottesville had stepped aside and let the MAGA guys kill Cornel West, how long would that have remained in the news cycle? Would it have mattered?