I thought that I would share the unedited back and forth and then go from there. This is actually a polyglot of two or three separate conversations so my apologies if it is hard to follow. And long. And maybe boring for you. But I offer it up if you are bored and need something tedious to read.
He: A few thoughts: Antifa is all about violent protest. Choosing a name that indicates opposition to another violent group does not change that. Their presence at an event is intended as a threat. Nazis would still be Nazis if they called themselves anti-Bolsheviks. Trying to rank them by the level of bloodshed, while understandable, misses the point that their willingness to use and threaten violence should delegitimize them as an ally. As a supporter of the entire constitution, I don't believe that brandishing weapons is part of any protected form of protest. Any weapon. It should be illegal and should be enforced. Once you bring a weapon, you are not a protestor but a terrorist. In the truest sense of the word. I do not think that the labels of right and left serve any purpose in truth-seeking political discourse. Nor do liberal and conservative. Like all generalizations, they are always wrong. So let's discuss issues like the purpose and appropriate level of taxation. Or the best way to regulate immigration. Or the role that race-based policies and prejudice play in it society. Let's find the best solutions and work together to implement them. While I understand the desire to discuss false equivalency, I don't see how it moves us forward. It is typically a symptom of a failed conversation to exchange equivalencies, false or otherwise.
Me: I agree with most of your original comment.
"Nazis would still be Nazis if they called themselves anti-Bolsheviks. Trying to rank them by the level of bloodshed, while understandable, misses the point that their willingness to use and threaten violence should delegitimize them as an ally."
But I don't think ranking them by level of violence misses the point, I think it is essential. It is like trying to equate someone who steals a pack of cigarettes with a mass murderer. Scale is important here, at least in my way of thinking as is the fact that they are trying to defend rather than attack. Please also note that I repeatedly said that I did not agree with political violence in any form. But if a skinhead attacks an old person or a black on a bus I am glad that there are people around to defend them, as has happened occasionally up in Portland the last couple years.
Me: I was just on a walk and thinking about something you wrote in a comment. My faulty equivalence post was picked up by Crooks and Liars today and is being read by many hundreds of people if not more and it brought it back to the fore of my brain.
You said that talking about equivalences and false equivalences doesn't take us forward. Not sure I understand you. And that is what I disagree with in the context of this specific incident. People standing around with large assault weapons, automatic or not, are spreading terror. They certainly terrorize me. And I think we have a duty to publicly condemn assholes and asshole behavior. Before we sinners can move forward and seek redemption, there must first be acknowledgment and genuine contrition. I think calling people on their shit serves a vital societal purpose.
I don't see antifa out there in the present circumstances on the capitol steps with ar-15's. If I ever do, I will surely condemn them. So I personally do think illustrating false equivalence moves us forward. Why should these people get a pass?
Me: I guess I don't have anything against vigilante militias, at least ones like in the warsaw uprising or the french resistance. There are fuckers in this world and there are good people and everybody susses them out differently.
He: 1. I never said that anyone should get a pass. Just the opposite. Antifa should not get a pass either when and where they show up with weapons. I said clearly that everyone who threatens violence by carrying weapons at a demonstration should be condemned. Even if they just carry baseball bats. That is why I called them terrorists.
2. It is absolutely ok to have a debate about whether brandishing of weapons at demonstrations is appropriate or not. I don't believe it is, I don't think it is protected by the first or second amendment. But the debate should be about what that does to society, to political discourse, etc. As soon as the debate switches to why my group's brandished weapon is not as bad as your group's brandished weapon, we are no longer working on the original issue. We are just exchanging blows, in german that is called a "Schlagabtauschdebatte".
3. You brought up people defending themselves from attack in the Warsaw ghetto in your last email when we were bringing weapons to demonstrations. Now there is a great example of a false equivalence.
He: No. I wasn't at all. Maybe I need to re-read my comment if you got that out of it. Nobody "has it coming to them". That is just a way to justify one's own willingness to dehumanize the other and therefore permit oneself to violate one's own ethics versus another human being. We should all treat each other with respect. Especially when we are trying to convince someone that they should listen to our opinion.
Me: Who is calling antifa an ally? I specifically condemned all acts of political violence, from any quarter. I just think it is a canard when you look at their actual record, to equate them with nazi skinhead killers and the like. I try to call things as fairly as I can. The focus on antifa by some is a sleight of hand. Take a look at the hate map and see where the numbers lie:
He: So then what do you have against militias or vigilantes? They will be the first to tell you they are just there to defend people. Why are you against people packing guns on the bus? It's just for defending themselves and others from those skinheads.
The skinheads will tell you that they are only armed to defend themselves against Antifa. The red coats only defended themselves against the colonial terrorists. The Palestinians only defend themselves against the Israeli occupation. You like my array of false equivalencies?
IMNSHO, none of that excuses weapons at a demonstration. When you go armed to a demonstration, you want to be violent. No one cares who threw the first punch.
Me: No, to your last point, I merely am saying that there are times when violent resistance is necessary. Did I not also mention the French resistance? But I still emphatically maintain that scale is important. There are wolves and there are sheep and then there are sheepdogs. If I am a black getting my ass beat on the subway in Portland, I am glad that there are sheepdogs.
I do think that both the concept of scale and self defense are important. I was reading this article today, about the two people stabbed and killed in Portland when defending two young black women on an Oregon commuter train from a skinhead.
A man accused of fatally stabbing two people who prosecutors said tried to stop his racist tirade against two young black women on an Oregon commuter train was convicted of murder on Friday, after an emotional trial that featured testimony from both women and the sole survivor of the attack nearly three years ago.
Jurors found Jeremy Christian, 37, guilty of the deaths of Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best.
Christian also was convicted of attempted murder for stabbing survivor Micah Fletcher and assault and menacing for shouting slurs and throwing a bottle at a black woman on another light rail train the day before the stabbings on 26 May 2017.
Taliesin and Ricky both violently sought to stop the attacker, unfortunately unsuccessfully. Are they equally culpable? Was Jeremy Christian's defense of the White Fatherland a case of legitimate self defense? I think not. Is it ethically responsible to feign moral equivalence here? Is it really so hard to properly assign guilt? Or is it shared equally? I think it is an interesting argument, from my partisan perspective, the answer looks easy.