We know that logic loses against rage, blind faith, hatred, a loaded gun, a sword, a bullwhip, a lynch mob and so forth. Still, let us apply a small bit of basic logic to the claim that highly organized left-wing extremists have any motive to turn peaceful protests against an unbroken pattern of legalized lynchings into headline- grabbing, senseless violence.
We apply what Martha Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court justice’s mother, a judge, famously taught her son: use common sense. Does it smell right or does it smell bad? Who stands to gain? Who has the motive to break the law or lie?
The nation witnesses a slow suffocation murder by police over the course of almost nine agonizing minutes. Witness videos show a police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed man who is on the ground. The New York Times might write that the “arrested man died after being placed in police restraint,” but few who watch that video would use that convoluted passive voice to describe the cold-blooded killing we can all watch for ourselves. A cop, acting with depraved indifference (at best), had his knee on a handcuffed man’s neck (his neck!) for almost three minutes after the man was unconscious. With the active assistance of three police colleagues.
It took about a week, and massive nationwide protests during a pandemic, but eventually all four of the officers who killed the handcuffed man were arrested and charged in his murder. We note that all four killer cops were immediately fired by their police department. Not suspended with pay or placed on administrative leave pending hearings, fired outright. Very unusual, unprecedented, maybe.
There has been tremendous mass outrage, rightfully so, and protests in all fifty states as well as in cities around the world. In some places there has been looting, stores ransacked and set on fire, police cars and police stations set ablaze. This is beyond dispute. The city I live in has an 8 pm curfew because of looting. The mayhem is a terrible thing, and it also detracts from the power of the peaceful, legal protests using protected expression to demand an end to unaccountable deadly violence by police against unarmed civilians.
Now comes the Martha Kavanaugh test of common sense and basic logic:
Who stands to gain by shifting the conversation from the righteous demand that police be held accountable when they kill an unarmed person (usually black) to the question of rioting, lawlessness, violent anarchy and direct, tangible, terrifying threats to our civilized American way of life?
Attorney General Barr had an immediate and forceful answer: lawless, organized left-wing extremists and violent anarchist agitators who, in a concerted national strategy, crossed state lines to incite violence in protest after protest turned riot. These dangerous criminals, he promised, will be prosecuted and jailed under anti-terrorism laws. Trump tweeted about designating Antifa as a terrorist organization for purposes of using all the tools of counter-terrorism to wipe them out.
Who stands to gain by turning peaceful mass protests into violent events that require police violence to contain?
Antifa (short for anti-fascist), an umbrella term for groups without any central leadership, is modeled on the armed groups who fought Nazi thugs and other violent fascist gangs in the streets of nations faced with an imminent fascist future. Public violence is a well-known tactic of the right, and of fascists in particular. Fascism glorifies masculine strength and the imposition of will by violence. Fascists like nothing more than bloodying the faces of their hated enemies. Picture political demonstrations in any pre-fascist nation, you see blood.
Whenever the left held a rally in Weimar Germany, it would be broken up by squads of violent Nazis, breaking heads. Without men on the left, willing to slug it out with Nazis, there is only Nazi violence and the rule of terror. Antifa groups attended the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville a few years back, were among the “very fine people on both sides” with the alt-klan, the alt-Nazis and the various other alt-right white nationalist groups. A group of angry young white men surrounded the outspoken professor Cornell West at one point. West was rescued by a group of Antifa fighters who intervened to get him out of danger. He expresses gratitude to them to this day.
People who come to peaceful mass protests armed with bats, wearing helmets, and masks, with molotov cocktails, may have varying motives. It’s impossible to tell members of one group from the other without catching them and investigating who they are.
But strictly as a matter of logic — why would a group whose aim is to counter fascism, particularly in this perilous moment in human history when the USA is ruled by a rigidly authoritarian president who admires and emulates strongmen like that murderous clown in the Philippines, like his lover in North Korea, his close authoritarian ally in Brazil — conspire to turn widespread peaceful protests against authoritarian unaccountability into riots?
The only purpose of turning a peaceful assembly into a looting mob is to make them look like dangerous criminals on the news and give the authorities every excuse to break the heads of black people, and whites of conscience, who are assembling and marching with them. Tear gas, flash-bangs, rubber bullets, beatings with truncheons, are the least these wild animals deserve.
The simple answer is that Antifa and “left-wing extremists” and “violent anarchists” have no motive whatsoever to incite violence at these peaceful demonstrations. It would be counter to their mission of fighting fascism. The “plan” to create a massive law enforcement emergency requiring the national guard and all the weapons of counter-insurgency would be an absurd one, advancing no left-wing, anarchist or antifascist purpose. Fomenting violence and creating a public perception of peaceful protesters as enraged, out-of-control lawbreakers, can only have the opposite effect, as you realize thinking about it for even half a minute.
The only people with a motive to encourage crowds to smash store windows, throw incendiary devices and overturn police cars are the other “very fine people” — the hardcore, gun-toting core of our mad, pathetic president’s hellbent white nationalist base.
We also note here that al-Qaeida means “the base” in Arabic —
Not for nuttin’.