“Pick A Side”

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.


15 thoughts on ““Pick A Side””

  1. Pick a side?

    I am grateful to Rand for paying for this fine Web site, but my sentiments are with Ken Anthony.

    1. As far as that mini-feud goes, I like to read both perspectives, though not when they descend into personal attacks. Keeps me questioning my own perspective, and questioning your own perspective is the foremost thing any person who aspires to rationality should do.

      The only thing I care about re Trump is, does the man get results that I favor? So far, the answer is yes. The rest, to me, is just the age old battle of style vs. substance.

      I’ve never been much on style. I wouldn’t have any at all if my wife didn’t dress me. Obama had more style than the vast majority of our Presidents. But, he was terrible on substance.

      1. This thread is about calls to “pick a side” between scary white people displaying menacing symbols of historic hatreds and smug white people with an obnoxious air of condescension who shop at Whole Foods.

        You had earlier posted about your feud with regular blog commentator Ken Anthony. On that thread, I offered what I regarded as a humorous remark that this feud was an example of “Kramden”, a term from the National Lampoon’s Doon parody of “Kanly”, the feud conducted according to an aristocratic code-of-honor between House Atriedes and House Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune novel.

        “Kramden” is in turn a reference to the character Ralph Kramden the bus driver on the classic TV series The Honeymooners and later reprised as a sketch on The Jackie Gleason Show. Ralph, a representation of a working class person whose stress dealing with his workplace customers spilled over into his personal life, getting into arguments with his wife and petty feuds with his neighbor and otherwise best friend “Norton.”

        Ralph is “that bus driver” we have all encountered scolding you to move back to make room for passengers, not giving up a front seat for a disabled person, not having your fare ready when you board, eating on the bus and so on. His friend Ed Norton, by contrast, is a much more easy going person, also working class, but his work in the city sewer is a much rougher, dirtier job than driving a bus, but he doesn’t deal with bus passengers who break the rules all the time. On the other hand, Ed doesn’t always “get” what it is that gets Ralph so anxious so much of the time.

        My response to “pick a side” between the skinhead and the hipster thugs was to pick a side in the Rand/Ken feud. Get it, its a joke. I am playing a “straight man” character who confuses the two situations

      2. As another example of the comic non-sequitur, you had posted about efforts to prevent persons who qualify for SNAP (used to be called Food Stamps) being able to purchase “junk food” with the government subsidy. Many of your blog following weighed in on whether the government had a compelling social interest in doing this or whether this was the government being Big Brother to poor people.

        Soon after that you posted about demands for university graduate-student assistants demanding higher pay. These Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants are people who already have college degrees and have qualified for more advanced studies, so in that sense they are not the same as people receiving public assistance of whom we worry whether they are poor because of their lack of education. On the other hand, many TAs and RAs, especially those starting families before they are too old to have kids, have many of the problems affording basic necessities for their families as those who do not choose to be poor to pursue an advanced degree.

        My joke was that we should increase the pay of TAs and RAs, but there should be safeguards to prevent them from “blowing” their stipend increases on “candy and sugared drinks.” Ken Anthony complimented me on his finding that remark to be very funny.

        Those of us who have been graduate students may relate to that remark because a lot of us would indulge in junk food, either because we were too busy in the lab or at our study desk to take a break and eat properly or perhaps to reward ourselves for the long hours spent in mental concentration trying to learn things at the limits of what we are able to understand. At a certain institution of higher learning east of Los Angeles, a bunch of us would often pile into a car at midnight to go to the corner of California and Lake Street to stock up on junk food for just that reason.

  2. I think that years ago Robert A. Heinlein delineated the “sides,” and which side those of us in the pro-freedom camp are in:

    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

  3. 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.

    So the far right Libertarians at Reason agree with Trump but can’t quite bring themselves to admit it because Trump doesn’t have a history of speaking out against KKK type groups.

    I suspect those racist groups only like Trump because of how the media stereotypes him, which is rather different than reality. Trump’s daughter is Jewish. His actual life’s story is at odds with the DNC media narrative. Those far right white supremacists aren’t the brightest bulbs so it isn’t surprising they fall for the narrative but I always thought the far right Reason was more intellectual.

    How would the media frame a rally held by Reason?

  4. As usual, I find the country club Republicans way of dealing with Trump annoying. I saw nothing wrong with Trump’s handling of Charlottesville, and indeed he said exactly the same thing as this author. But the author can’t just say that, he has to distinguish that for him it’s okay but Trump is different.

  5. FTA: “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.”

    Yeah, all 0.007% of the population of them, low income losers all. What a threat. I am quaking, I say quaking, in my boots.

    1. Bart:

      To amplify on your remark, I don’t see the skinheads as a threat. I can see how their symbols and their speech can not only be offensive to members of minority groups but also evoking very bad memories, especially in light of the violent oppression of times past, but I don’t see them as a problem apart from “the Brown Shirts started out small but they grew.”

      I really worry about the Whole Foods crowd. The skinheads are just the tip-of-the-iceberg of whom they want to cow into silence.

    2. The violence from the left over the past year dwarfs any reactionary response to it. Democrats have killed people and hospitalized many many more, not to mention countless assaults and millions in property damage and the media doesn’t seem to care.

      It also can’t be said enough that the young woman in Charlottesville would be alive today if the cops had stopped the group she was a part of from doing combat with the NAZI types.

      1. The woman in Charlottesville would be alive today and the statue removed had the media just let the Nazi’s have their say without the publicity to drum up a counter protest. After they had their pathetic protest, they would have gone home, and the statue would be removed as the local government decided. This became a national story because antifa and the media wanted it be a story against Trump.

  6. I’m old enough to remember when “you’re either with us or against us” was considered a bad thing.

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