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Late afternoon, Yosemite Valley

Friday, April 24, 2020

Wolves, sheep and sheepdogs

I wrote about the false concept of moral equivalence recently and afterwards got into an interesting argument with a friend. He made a reasonable and well considered defense that I still disagree with.

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.

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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?

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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. 

Me: Just making sure but you aren't suggesting that the bolsheviks had it coming from the national socialists are you? You are of course entitled to your opinion but I thought the idea of taking over Europe and killing all those "other" people was a definite case of overkill.

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 on Portland, I am glad that there are sheepdogs.

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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.

15 comments:

Kerr A. Lott said...


There is very little moral equivalence between Neo-Nazis and ANTIFA.

Far-right extremists are far more dangerous than ANTIFA. A report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point found that from 1990 to 2012, far-right extremists were responsible for 670 fatalities, 3,053 injuries and 4,420 violent attacks in the United States.

No such data exist for ANTIFA. In the three decades of ANTIFA’s organized existence in America, only one known fatality caused by a member of an ANTIFA group has been recorded, when in 1993 a multiracial skinhead shot a Nazi skinhead during a fight at a gas station in Portland and was convicted of manslaughter.

Here's a more current article titled 'All of the extremist killings in the US in 2018 had links to right-wing extremism, according to new report'.

https://www.businessinsider.com/extremist-killings-links-right-wing-extremism-report-2019-1

"A mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, has reignited a nationwide conversation on white nationalism and right-wing violence.

"A January 2019 report shows all the extremist killings in the US in 2018 had links to right-wing extremism.

"The report's findings are consistent with other fairly recent studies on extremism in the US, which have shown right-wing extremism and violence are on the rise.

"There were at least 50 extremist-related killings in 2018, according to the report, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970."

Let's not forget about the worst U.S. incident of violence, the Oklahoma City bombing committed by right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was inspired by American Nazi William Pierce's book 'The Turner Diaries'.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/oklahoma-city-bombing-anniversary-victims-trump-2020-election-right-wing-a9471651.html

As for militia members not being terrorists, in Charlottesville the armed militia members were there - according to them - to defend the Neo-Confederates and Neo-Nazis from ANTIFA, so clearly the militia guys are allied with the other extreme right wingers.

Militia members were undoubtedly among the tiki-torch marchers chanting Jews will not replace us.

James Alex Fields, the Neo-Nazi who ran over and killed Heather Heyer may not have been an official militia member but he was photographed marching around holding a Vanguard America militia's black and white 'shield'.

aferda said...

He: I think that defending oneself or others from attack is completely legitimate. On the bus, in the home, at work, etc. I was speaking of something completely different (see: false equivalence). I was addressing the issue of people who brandish weapons at demonstrations. In my opinion, those who do this in such a setting intentionally communicate their willingness even desire to seek violent conflict and their intent to ingender fear (and that they are wolves). A police officer doing the same thing at the same demonstration would (hopefully) be a sheepdog. People using armed resistance to prevent their families from being dragged from their homes to be sent to the gas chambers are not the same as antifa or nazis looking for violent conflict with each other during a demonstration. Maybe this has to do with trust. If you trust the person with the weapon and believe them to be motivated to protect you, you think of them as sheepdogs. So the same police officer at the same demonstration could be thought a sheepdog by one and a wolf by another. Baaah.

Jon Harwood said...

The biggest problem with using Antifa as an equivalent for the anti lockdown protests is that Antifa looks pretty darned insignificant these days. They faded along with the more overt Nazi types on the right. These days the anti lockdown crew is trying to look more respectable and they aren't toting around so many guns and tiki torches, so they don't attract antifa like flies..

Blue Heron said...

Agree with you Kerr, still think a stick is a lot different than a gun Aferda, I see lots of guns at these protests Jon.

Jon Harwood said...

Yeah, I am probably being a bit of a Pollyanna. I have trouble accepting how nasty the political process is these days. My inner Rodney King keeps saying "Why can't we just get along." I know from bitter experience how useless that can be.

Kerr A. Lott said...

Alferda,

Reading your previous comments I got the impression you think ANTIFA and American Nazis are 'morally equivalent' that one group is no better than the other.

I disagree with you completely.

Neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer and right-wing morons like the Proud Boys and militia members (who are also Nazis basically) stage rallies, hoping to provoke left wing types like ANTIFA so they can kick some ass and bust some heads. They are big dumb dudes - never females - who like to fight, they show up wearing helmets and carrying sticks, ready to rumble.

ANTIFA folks, are usually skinny yippies, scrappy punk rockers, anarchists. They show up to Nazi rallies ready to resist the red neck idiots, to make a point that American Nazis are unacceptable. Many of them are female.

ANTIFA are the good guys, Nazis (and militia members, KKKers, neo-confederates, etc.) are the bad guys. Any rational person can see this, it's so obvious. There is zero moral equivalence between racist Nazis and anti-racist ANTIFA. To equate ANTIFA with Neo-Nazis, something that Herr Trump does, is irrational propaganda.

Anonymous said...

all evil, leave guns at home till there comes a real time to use them, you will know and the way america is going I hope would be a ways off, but it seem that it's more divided than I have ever seen. At that time its lock and load for real. never show a gun unless you are going to use it.

Kent said...

Armed protesters of any persuasion terrifies me. I condemn it. Moral equivalence is in the eye of the beholder and a fools errand. Clearly there’s greater evil and goodness and statistics matter.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the violent Kerr a Lott can explain why then, his violent ANTIFA bretheren beat down women and children. By his hilarious body type and gender casting, women don't exist in the group that the noble ANTIFA must 'resist' so to 'make a point'. What group then, do the women and children beaten down by ANTIFA belong? Irrational propaganda are the two words that belong as the title for Kerr Lott's ridiculous argument. Whataboutism Mr. Blue Heron guy. Lots and lots of it in your blog. How about lets get a little less of that and a little more intellectual integrity. It becomes hard to differentiate between your logic and that of your embarrassingly stupid sycophants.

Blue Heron said...

I am not sure why I printed your comment anonymous but here goes. I don't know about antifa beating women and children and if they have, it is wrong. But beating and murdering people are entirely different things. And right wing terrorists engage in the latter far too often Do you reserve any of your famous rage for them? If you are not going to print your name, don't comment.

Kerr A. Lott said...

Anonymous,

You must have misread my comments to think I am violent. The violent ones are the Nazis, the Proud Boys, those guys. I am not ANTIFA nor violent in any way, unless I'm forced to be.

I know nothing about ANTIFA beating down women and children. If that happened, which I doubt, it just goes to show that even good movements can attract assholes.

Thing is Nazis and other right wing groups actively recruit assholes. The Proud Boys, KKK weirdos and other racist gangs would shrivel up and die without assholes.

Body type and gender casting ? Was it my comment that Nazis and other right wing types are often big ol' boys, and there are never any women around at their rallies ? Didn't mean to type cast but ....

Again with the women and children. Who were they ? Why were they beaten by ANTIFA ? When ? Googled and couldn't find anything like that.

Iiculous argument ? I was just responding to ideas I disagree with. I find typical right wing rhetoric to be irrational, I prefer reality.

Ad hominum bullshit like calling me stupid is weak.

Kerr A. Lott said...


I found out what Mr. Anonymous was talking about, the ANTIFA beating women thing.

It's here at the bottom of the Wikipedia article below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifa_(United_States)

August 2017 "#PunchWhiteWomen" photo hoax campaign spread by fake antifa Twitter accounts.

It's a hoax, fake.

Blue Heron said...

Now why does that not surprise me? Whole thing is a concocted strawman, so that they can provide cover for their fringe right.

Wilbur Norman said...

Thanks for pulling up the Wikipedia article on the, YES... Fake News about ANTIFA beating up bystanders. Some folks never do their own research to verify 'news' if it conforms to their own biases.

I do have a short comment about police officers being the 'sheepdogs'. I think if one were to do a study to see what actions the police have taken during the demonstrations of 'progressive' movements in the U.S. during the period 1950-2020 one would see that the police often fall outside the 'sheepdog' category and more into the siding with the 'racists/Nazi-sympathizer' category. Any wonder why white folks are quick to call their local police during a disturbance and black folks are just as quick to NOT call them!

Blue Heron said...

You are absolutely right on that point. I felt the same thing but didn't want to bring it up. Enablers in most instances, expert at shielding white supremacists from harm.