‘Both Sides’ Arguments Reinforce Right Wing Violence
by Derek Scarlino / Love and Rage
The tactic of escalation in accordance with civil disobedience, even the nonviolent kind, is predicated on dehumanization. The goal of direct action such as sit-ins, strikes, occupations, and other tactics, is highlighting the disregard that an oppressor holds for those under its direct subjugation.
The limit that the aggressor can pursue attempts at domination and violence is set by the tolerances of a given society. The break between public consent and the legitimacy of the aggressor’s action comes at the point wherein the aggressor’s tactics become so widely condemned that they cease.
A key factor in exposing the willingness to commit violence rests in both sides being well-defined. In today’s climate of equating opposing sides in place of recognizing the existing nuances that define them, creates a space where perception of reprehensible acts of violence committed by one side are mitigated by a dishonest horseshoe comparison.
When those who argue that “both sides are equal” or that there is a “cycle of hate”, they are attempting to place themselves outside of the conflict by condemning both, even if there is an otherwise clear and present aggressor.
Although, when you have an identified aggressor, like US far-right/fascist groups, which seek violence against vulnerable populations and opposing ideologies, because that’s what the theory of their ideas espouses, targeted populations are already on the defensive. It works the same with the state. If the state’s apparatus of securing consent and legitimacy is predicated on violence, then the strategy would be to force it to escalate to a point that challenges the conscience of society and can no longer be tolerated.
It should not be seen as unreasonable that violence breaks out in defense of a group or community — the question goes back to the beginning: Why was the initial violence of the aggressor tolerated to begin with? In the case of the current state of the fascist movement in the US, the warning signs, most prominently seen during the 2016 election, were clearly not a deterrent to people. It did not trouble people enough that fascist and white supremacist groups found a massive opportunity to exploit in the language of their candidate of choice’s campaign. It didn’t come without warning, but that warning by no means assumes that Hillary Clinton was the answer, either. This debate between the left on one side, and liberals and Democrats on another, goes back well before the election.
On community defense that which can be identified as violence, the Civil Rights Era, for example, was not explicitly nonviolent. Martin Luther King, Jr., by the time of his passing, was largely ignored. And there were very well-noted defenders of violent resistance from SNCC, to Angela Davis, to the Black Panthers, because they understood that the innate nature of the state itself is violent. It’s the same position taken throughout the history of anarchist and far-left theory. King, too, understood this. But outside of the debate between members fighting for the same thing via different means, there was condemnation from both of that middle ground which chose not to see the aggression, and in effect, to not see victims or potential victims. The Civil Rights Era is important in this case due to the fetishization and watering down of nonviolence by liberals since, as it is seen as the modus operandi of the left which leads to easy and widespread condemnation of direct action consistent with leftist theory.
Another factor of the fascist movement today in the States is that the state is, and has been, reluctant to escalate in some cases over others. This harkens back to the 1990s, with events like Ruby Ridge and Waco that resulted in a lot of blowback against the government, and as recently as occupations of government land in the American West, where right wingers were allowed to so much as point loaded firearms in the direction of law enforcement without reprisal. At events when antifa gets involved, they usually face the most police repression. The same can be said about protests in the wake of fatal police shootings of Black people. There is a disproportionate response which leads to the questioning of the ability of the state to provide security for people. So community self-defense is undertaken, but risks its legitimacy due to the uncompromising rhetoric of middle-grounders who focus on things like property destruction and equate them to murder or extrajudicial killings.
If the police aren’t there to provide protection, if the state is failing in its primary role, then public attention and pressure becomes the goal. How far this goes, how dirty it has to get, is ultimately up to society. The more people who choose to ignore it, or equate the sides as equals, prolongs the sought after reaction needed to produce the change needed to prevent this sort of thing in the future.