Yes, definitely pick a side, but Antifa and fascism are the same side:
Partisans of “pick a side” insist that every mention of violence by both right-wing and left-wing thugs is an exercise in “whataboutism.” That is, an attempt to deflect from one’s own sins by invoking the misdeeds of the opposition. In the case of Donald Trump’s hemming and hawing over Charlottesville, that’s likely true. Asked to comment on a terrorist act by a neo-Nazi at a rally of racists and neo-Nazis who have vocally lent the sitting president their support, an invocation of “many sides” sounds an awful lot like whataboutism intended to shift blame from his friends.
But for those of us already calling out the violent bigots flaunting Nazi imagery, it’s not whataboutism to point out that an alleged alternative isn’t actually an alternative at all—it’s just another version of the same thing. As New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg tweeted from Charlottesville, “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” She later, understandably, changed “hate-filled” to “violent,” since actions are clearer and more important than motivations. And CNN’s Jake Tapper commented that “At least two journalists in Charlottesville were assaulted by people protesting the Klan/Nazi/alt-right rally.”
But is it fair to compare the violent far left in our streets to the violent far right opposing them? The left-wing antifa activists claim to be opposing the powers-that-be.
It’s certainly true that the violent right generally supports President Trump. Given that support, his hesitancy about criticizing even the most extreme Nazi imagery and lethal violence (he did call out “racist violence” two days later, then walked it back) creates the impression that, if he isn’t explicitly sympathetic to the marching morons at Charlottesville, he at least enjoys basking in the scented glow of tiki torches. If we’re balancing dangers on the great scale of suckage, that connection to the White House would seem to make the fascist right the more immediate threat.
But that doesn’t mean we have to pick a competing brand of ideological awfulness as a viable alternative to fascism. The thugs on the left have already proved themselves to be violent and intolerant. There’s no reason to favor one illiberal force over another when our country has a long history based on much different, and much better, political principles.