Brian Vincent’s recent letter to the editor, “Whether from the left or right, violence is not the answer,” [published Jan. 7], is an uninformed attempt to show that the violence by “right-wing extremists” is matched by the “equally troubling violence from the far-left.”
Notice his wording, “equally troubling violence.”
Common to most false equivalences, his argument is an assemblage of glaring omissions and poorly-researched claims. Also called “gas-lighting” or “whataboutism,” these are related rhetorical techniques too often repeated over the past two weeks by far-right supporters.
(One excellent, and timely, response to this particular false equivalence about political violence, is an article in ABC News, False equivalency between Black Lives Matter and Capitol siege: experts, advocates.)
In Vincent’s case, he is ready to name names on the political left: Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) — and instances of Antifa and BLM violence.
One of his examples is the Portland anti-racism protests and its ties to Antifa, an assertion also stated by Donald Trump, but not shared by U.S. federal prosecutors who arrested dozens during the protests. Vincent’s other examples are either misleading, or accusations that require careful context. (See some of that context in the ABC News article above.)
The lesson? Text without context is pretext.
It’s alarming that while Vincent mentions Antifa and BLM four times in his letter — including, quite bizarrely, anti-racist protesters in Squamish — he fails to name the most prominent groups on the far-right, made up of insurrectionists who recently rioted and stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Sure, Vincent “condemns” this latest violence on the far-right. But that’s not really the point. What matters is that the right-wing groups, making up the worst of the worst of this violence, escape his actual mention.
Let’s just review the list of organizations provided by CNN: Neo-Nazis; White Supremacists; Proud Boys; Three Percenters; and prominent followers of the conspiracy theory, QAnon. Rioters carrying Confederate flags - all energized and encouraged by their leader-in-chief, Trump, now impeached for inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The point is, if you are attempting a moral equivalence between two sorts of protestors, at least name those on both sides.
Once we actually identify the various groups in our comparison, we note some obvious differences. And it’s quickly apparent Vincent also has no real understanding of Antifa.
Antifa, like BLM, is a movement, not an organization. It isn’t about “what they support, but what they oppose: Fascism, nationalism, far-right ideologies, white supremacy, authoritarianism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia.” BLM was born out of a systemic violence against minorities — most recently by a police officer’s knee across a Black man’s throat.
(Not to mention the contrast between how BLM and Antifa demonstrators are treated by police, compared to the, mostly white, insurrectionists at the Capitol.)
The motivation behind BLM and Antifa (and by the way, Squamish, anti-racist protestors), is fundamentally different from the violence of Neo-Nazis, the ultranationalist street gang Proud Boys, and the white supremacist hatred for anything not white. Groups whose very nature is intrinsically embedded in violence — and whose very existence depends on violence against others.
More than ever, we need to be sober about the truth.
It’s about the survival of democracy and keeping tyranny at bay.
Whatever equivalence Vincent or others see out in the real world, we have a moral obligation to tether our bold assertions to the real world of facts.