Blanket opposition to Antifa violence is naive

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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The op-ed by Mitchell Zimmerman contained obtuse statements in support of the author’s rant against Antifa. As someone who also lived through the ’60s , I was offended by Zimmerman’s op-ed.

First, the author claimed that the Weathermen (an offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society) undermined broader participation in the civil rights and anti-war movements and that they helped elect Richard Nixon. But massive demonstrations were held in opposition to the Vietnam War until the draft was ended in 1973, when the United States and North Vietnam reached a peace accord; the Weathermen began to break up at this point. As to the elections of Nixon — in 1968, the Democratic Party nominated Hubert Humphrey, who also supported the Vietnam War. If the Democratic Party had nominated an anti-war candidate, it almost certainly would have won the White House. Many people who were strongly opposed to the Vietnam War refused to vote for Humphrey, and that’s what helped elect Nixon. In 1972, the Democratic Party nominated George McGovern, who was an actual progressive like Bernie Sanders. The party establishment was so upset with this nomination and was so opposed to McGovern’s progressive positions that it totally abandoned him in the election, resulting in a landslide victory for Nixon.

Moreover, while the author implies that the anti-war movement was a nonviolent one, this is not strictly true, nor was nonviolence always the most effective tactic. During the Vietnam War, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tried to convince President Nixon to drop nuclear weapons on North Vietnam. Nixon, however, feared that if he did so, his physical safety would be endangered by the masses of anti-war demonstrators; the threat of violence possibly prevented massive harm to Vietnam and probably saved millions of lives.

Second, Zimmerman claims that Antifa’s “macho warrior posturing provokes violence” at demonstrations. The fact is that white supremacists, Nazis and the KKK who march in the streets commit violence on their own, and that violence is not in any way caused by Antifa. The violence committed by the demonstrators in Charlottesville is proof enough that these violent groups don’t need Antifa to commit violence; they will do so on their own.

None of this is to say that I necessarily support Antifa’s violence at demonstrations, because that violence is often counterproductive. However, groups like white supremacists, Nazis and the KKK have a clear history of violence, and sometimes defensive violence is the only effective way to deal with them. It’s easy for a white person to say that we should peacefully protest these groups, but Black people are actually physically threatened by them marching in the streets. There is no easy or right answer here; this issue requires serious and major discussion. A blanket opposition to nonviolence not only lacks critical thinking, but it is too simple-minded to work for this issue.

Jeff Hoffman is a resident of the city of Berkeley.

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  • BlackConservative

    A blanket opposition to nonviolence not only lacks critical thinking

    Have you watched any videos or been to any of these rallies? You should.

  • BlackConservative

    This article does not explain why it is naive to have blanket opposition to Anit-FA. They need to change their name because they are being hypocrites and look like idiots to normal folk.

  • SecludedCompoundTTYS

    It appears teh white people aren’t allowed to peaceful protest. Do you just make up reality? God, Berkeley must just push out some of dumbest smart people in the world that have the smallest world view and think they have a large one. It’s hilarious. LOOK IN A MIRROR!

  • zzz

    This is positively idiotic, the establishment and the fringe right used violence to assault unpopular speech in the 60’s, the author is now sorta OK with that sort of behavior when it works out for him.

    It’s comical when the radicals become what they were opposed to, mindless flunkies for the establishment and rationalizers for the worst of society. Next the author will be calling for a HUAC hearing on campus republicans.

  • Man with Axe

    You wrote: “The violence committed by the demonstrators in Charlottesville is proof enough that these violent groups don’t need Antifa to commit violence; they will do so on their own.”

    People have the right to protect themselves from imminent physical attack, but that is not what Antifa is about. They are out there spoiling for a fight, armed with clubs, bats, bike locks in bags, mace, and knives (I’ve seen these myself). When actual white supremacists are engaged in a legal march Antifa physically blocks them, knowing that violence will ensue. They wear masks because they know they are going to engage in illegality and they want to get away with it. They attack journalists just for recording them. They attack peaceful people, such as ordinary Trump supporters, whom they claim are Nazis, whether they have evidence to support that charge or not, not that it makes any difference to the legality of such attacks. They call every conservative a Nazi. They confront and sometimes attack policemen. They start fires and break windows of establishments they simply don’t like. They are so egotistical that they believe that their political goals justify all this violence.

    Their goal, it seems to me, is to start a civil war.

    • FreedomFan

      Be careful what you wish for, comrades.

  • thompson_richard

    Was Jeff Hoffman a resident of the City of Berkeley at the time the Democratic Party nominated George McGovern? The candidate was an heroic B-24 pilot in the Second World War. He was a senator from a state with a small population. He selected a running mate with a history of mental illness. I certainly supported him as an anti-war candidate. But the real heroes were Jane Fonda and Joan Baez — both of whom went to Hanoi and experienced some B-52 bombings. Bernie Saunders was supported by a majority of Berkeley City Council members plus only enough voters in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan to deny those states going for Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College.

  • mogden

    Initiating violence is wrong, period.

  • Killer Marmot

    If Antifa were only violent against “white supremacists, Nazis, and the KKK”, they would still be a bad idea.

    But they have attacked Trump supporters, libertarians, journalists, and people holding American flags. That makes them out-and-out criminals whose actions can not be justified no matter how strong one’s rose-tinted glasses are.

  • Rollie

    “None of this is to say that I necessarily support Antifa’s violence at demonstrations, because that violence is often counterproductive.”

    Great, another half-hearted condemnation of Antifa violence. For you, the transgression isn’t that the Constitution is subverted and blood drawn in the process, it’s that the violence is…”counter-productive.” A tactical error only.

    And your equating speech—speech that you don’t like, that is—with the literal threat of violence, is surprising to hear from someone over college age, sorry to say. I don’t understand how after living through the sixties, when countless examples of genuine political violence were on display, you fail to see how such violence differs from…words.

    An old punchline goes, “If you don’t know the difference between an egg and an elephant, then I’d hate to send you out for eggs.” In your case, if you don’t know the difference between speech and headcrackin’, then I’d hate to send you out to make a speech.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    If you’re being attacked, nobody is going to deny you the right to defend yourself. But in this context, “being attacked” means that a person has initiated physical violence against you. You don’t get to beat people up just because you don’t like what they’re saying or what they stand for.

    • FreedomFan

      Leftists rationalize their criminal acts by claiming “self-defense” from “violent” words.

  • FreedomFan

    Radical leftists routinely perpetrate criminal acts of violence against innocent people, whom they deem to be “nazis & kkk”.

    Moderate Democrats like this author…watch approvingly.

    At Berkeley, there have been no “nazi or kkk” demonstrations. However, Cal must now set up a 6-building security perimeter, and prevent anyone from using the balcony to protect a single Jewish person from physical attacks by the author’s criminal Antifa pals.

    Every day I am thankful for the founding fathers’ wisdom in giving the American people the first and second amendments.