Dear Daily Californian,
For an editorial that attempts to stray from simple “dichotomies”, April 18th’s take on the Antifa (Antifascist) presence does little to impart any complexity into the recent riots in Berkeley. For all its early wholesome message that, “Kids, there’s no clear right and wrong here,” the Antifa are swiftly named the heroes for their brave efforts to “protect” minority communities.
Amusingly, the dissenting opinion shows more clarity than the former, that this fight after fight has not wavered anyone’s ideological commitments, and that polarization further perpetuates this violence because we continue to fail to understand the violence itself. I mean, what is there to understand when you self-righteously embolden yourself as the acolytes of free speech or the saviors of minorities against the encroaching threat of fascism? Alternatively, the majority opinion does little to affirm any skepticism in a movement named after “Antifascist” yet rather eager to brutalize dissenters with U-locks, and then attempts to argues that the presence of neo-Nazis and white nationalists within the protests should conclude any remaining speech advocacy amongst onlookers. Was it not the American Civil Liberties Union that asserted, after their defense of groups such as NAMBLA and Neo-Nazists, that the “defense of freedom of speech is most critical when the message is one most people find repulsive”? Instead of this courageous slant against the violence, the Daily Cal editorial board doubles down, confident that the Antifa as a reactionary response to incendiary speech absolves it from its actions.
A more presumptuous conclusion is that not only should the Antifa be disassociated from its actions (not similar to when the Editorial rightfully associated Yiannopoulos to a history of “incendiary, useless harassment”), but that the “net consequences of its actions were that neo-Nazis and white-supremacist groups with violent rhetoric were denied a platform to speak in the city of Berkeley”. While this seems all dandy at first glance, it somehow insinuates that the incident happily results in the safety of minority communities; though I have yet to see how the feats of violence in Berkeley will defend immigrants from ICE, stall the present consideration of police practices that eventually fall under racial profiling, or the transgender communities in any way? Furthermore, in an earlier article by the Daily Cal, Sakura Cannestra reports that according to a campuswide email, the “damage inflicted upon campus property” during the Milo protest was, by no means, a small fee and “was estimated to cost $100,000”; the payment for this security enforcement on the behalf of the Antifa was not simply the refusal to allow speech, however repulsive it may be. There are clear, material costs to the violent protests; costs that don’t take into consideration the average students’ payments and loans, the average Californian taxpayer’s contributions, or the federal funds we are using. If Yiannopoulos is to be considered not a “productive member of society” nor belongs here with his rhetoric, by the standards of February’s editorial opinion, then how do we go about Antifa-ing the Antifa?
A movement that splashed eggs on bystanders, including yours truly? A movement so brave in its protection of the communities that an alleged member of the Stein and Sanders camp was not only hounded for being on the “wrong side” but had his keys stolen and/or shattered on the floor whilst others cackled? A movement that has become conflated with ideologies such as communism and anarchism, which is amusing given the extraordinary amount of WWII rhetoric that few followers tend to interject? In short, what does anyone expect to “protect” when these security forces are massively decentralized to a fault, have little to say for the casual violence that falls upon bystanders or neutral parties, and then plays the role of the “valiant hero” or “downtrodden victim” when the protest concludes with substantial damage costs, not including our valued reputation?
And if there’s ever an oversimplification, these are the heroes of the Bay Area? And all of this because a now jobless provocateur amongst others decided to hurt a few people’s feelings or march for their cause? Because that’s what it is. Hurtful speech. I don’t know what’s worse; having faith in the machinations of a group so devoted to the art of violent protest that their name seems no longer level-headed with their mission, or that minorities such as myself are considered so sensitive to the provocations that we have endured for centuries that we simply cannot function nor advance without crippling our liberal democracy in the process.