August 16, 2017

NOT ACTUALLY WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS:

What Trump Gets Wrong About Antifa (PETER BEINART, 8/16/17, The Atlantic)

The movement traces its roots to the militant leftists who in the 1920s and 1930s brawled with fascists on the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. It revived in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when anti-racist punks in Britain and Germany mobilized to defeat Neo-Nazi skinheads who were infiltrating the music scene. Via punk, groups calling themselves anti-racist action--and later, anti-fascist action or antifa--sprung up in the United States. They have seen explosive growth in the Trump era for an obvious reason: There's more open white supremacism to mobilize against.

As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifa activists generally combat white supremacism not by trying to change government policy but through direct action. They try to publicly identify white supremacists and get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments. And they disrupt white-supremacist rallies, including by force.

As I argued in my essay, some of their tactics are genuinely troubling. They're troubling tactically because conservatives use antifa's violence to justify--or at least distract from--the violence of white supremacists, as Trump did in his press conference. They're troubling strategically because they allow white supremacists to depict themselves as victims being denied the right to freely assemble. And they're troubling morally because antifa activists really do infringe upon that right. By using violence, they reject the moral legacy of the civil-rights movement's fight against white supremacy. And by seeking to deny racists the ability to assemble, they reject the moral legacy of the ACLU, which in 1977 went to the Supreme Court to defend the right of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois.

The Bill of Rights limits what government can do to prevent hate speech, not what the citizenry can do to the speakers.  That's up to a prosecutor and a jury.  One suspects there would be plenty of likely nullifiers in any pool.



Posted by at August 16, 2017 10:53 AM

  

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