Here’s the new bottom line: we now have a blueprint of what works for the vanguard of the Left. It was simple enough for them to figure out. And powerfully satisfying. (Or, as one organizer put it, “stunningly successful.”) No more plodding through the difficult work of making arguments. Persuasion is merely an irritating waste of time, especially for those who never mastered the skill.
Better just to burn things.
Having studied the videos of the “demonstration” at UC Berkeley last week, I was impressed by the high level of furious, directed, violence. This makes the end game very difficult to control. For example, if people keep beating an opponent who is lying motionless on the asphalt (while a mob screams “Beat his ass!”), they cannot know if he will ever get back up. Blasting pepper spray in a woman’s face (even while she is being interviewed for the TV news) may also have unpredictable consequences, if applied to someone who is particularly vulnerable. The shock troops are not running their protests with the precision of a medical trial, in other words. Likewise, their firebombs are tricky to control in crowded spaces.
For the fascist anti-fascist, it makes no difference. It’s time, they say, to pronounce their righteous judgment: “Racist, Homophobe, Fascist, (fill in your favorite uninformative epithet),” and start swinging.
As I watch this crowd, I begin to understand better how those ISIS guys recruit: “We’re so obviously right, why should we bother making the effort of explaining why our enemies are wrong? Let’s cut to the emotional payoff, where we punish those evil people. Now that we’re in charge, it’s time to stop talking and start meting out our justice. The more public it is, the better.”
Of course, the fascist anti-fascists are unaware of what they share with ISIS. They are feeling pretty good about themselves. They now know with certainty they can shut down anyone who might still have the temerity to disagree with them. But all my good liberal friends carefully miss the point of these events, which have nothing to do with free speech. That fine concept has been dead for many years. It died as soon as progressives decided it was only for their allies, and not their reactionary enemies. If you want to know where university administrators like Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks stand, be sure to watch what they do, not what they say. You might also want to check if some of the most violent protesters turn out to be university leaders themselves.
This is not your father’s ’60s. Those protests mainly aimed to get attention and irritate everyone. Some rioters I saw first-hand in 1972 did attack police, but it was not for their opinions. It was rather because those ‘authority’ figures got in their way. But having ridden that success for 50 years, today’s protesters are going for something deeper. They already wield authority at Berkeley, and most elite higher-ed outposts around the country. Today they are looking to enforce their way. That means punishment. The fascist anti-fascist leagues no longer need words to express their views. They do listen to words, since that helps them identify their enemies—the ones deserving physical punishment. Milo Yiannopoulos’s appearances are perfect for this. He provides a convenient smokescreen for the real goals of overturning election results and removing political opposition.
The actual story from Berkeley and around the country is that violence is working. It is the fascist anti-fascists’ easy path to power, to enforce their will and obtain the demands on their long and growing lists. To my knowledge, it has not failed once. Indeed, using it wins only praise and admiration from the various constituencies (e.g., illiberal liberal academics) they care about. Secret cash payments also may be available. The “protesters” don’t even need courage, since they hide behind black masks. They can freely attack opponents, even with police standing around. All they need is unquestioning eagerness for personal violence. If done swiftly, setting a few examples should be effective.
The only problem is that once it starts, it’s hard to control—even assuming none of the unarmed victims try to fight back.
So here is a clear prediction: the enforcement riots/”protests” will intensify. Anywhere enemies can be found raising their heads, the protesters’ violent responses will build on, and outdo previous successes. This will unintentionally result in the crippling or death of one of the victims.
Berkeley’s “black bloc” militia got lucky this did not happen with them. Sooner or later, though, it is inevitable.