Scott Adams errs badly in excusing Antifa on the grounds that it’s just risk-craving young men having fun committing non-lethal violence against bad guys.
When Scott Adams first heard about the way Antifa brutally attacked gay Vietnamese-American journalist Andy Ngo, he was as outraged as any decent person would be. (Leftists, by celebrating the attack or, in Jim Acosta’s case, ignoring it despite an entire book about journalists — i.e., Jim Acosta — being under siege, have shown themselves to be indecent people.) A problem arose, though, when Adams, who rightly prides himself on being logical and thinking out of the box, watched a video that made him do a 180: suddenly, he has no problem with Antifa. All I can say is that this bright man had a short in his logic circuit.
Adams watched a video in which an Antifa member claimed that it wasn’t really a political group at all. It was just young men finding an outlet for their natural craving for risk and a way to prove their manhood. Pounding on neo-Nazis in non-fatal ways, he explained, is a fun proving ground.
Adams found that argument so compelling that he says we should ignore Antifa and just let its members and the neo-Nazi groups pound away at each other. He didn’t say so, but I think his theory is a combination of “boys will be boys” and “it would be great if both sides lost this war.” If we view Antifa this way, says Adams, its political powers goes away and it just becomes a gangster group. (I think he’s envisioning a kind of Wanderers versus Ducky Boys fight scene.)
By taking this position, Adams proves that, while he isn’t often wrong (indeed, I think he’s mostly right about things or at least thinking about them creatively), when he does go wrong, he’s really wrong.
First, regarding a young man’s urge to engage in risky activity, I agree that both Adams and the Antifa guy he listened to have a point. Many young men do feel the need to prove themselves through dangerous displays. As a mother, I worry every time my son goes off skiing or doing some other activity in which, through showing off, he can really hurt himself. I never have that worry with my daughter. However, the biological push to prove oneself through dangerous activity is not a justification for crime.
If young men want to prove themselves let them walk down to a military recruiting station and enlist. They’ll find more than enough in the military to challenge themselves. Or they could do extreme sports. Or they could travel to dangerous parts of the world to help poor people or face down dictators. What a civilized society forbids them to do is commit violent assault against those they perceive as their enemies or against anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the cross fire. If young men are allowed to run in packs violently assaulting citizens, you have turned your back on thousands of years of Western civilization
At the bottom of this linked article, you’ll see graphic photos of a man caught in the crossfire while attempting to help a gay man in a dress who also found himself in Antifa’s way. What happened to him wasn’t young men sowing their risk-taking wild oats; it was thuggery, pure and simple.
If these young men were really sowing their wild oats, they’d be doing it Fight Club style. Or maybe they’d be having high risk car races a la Grease. But that’s not what they’re doing. Instead, they’re taking over public streets, intimidating ordinary people (e.g., redirecting traffic), and moving as a single masked pack. Remember that it wasn’t some strutting mano a mano fight that took Ngo out. Instead, it was a pack of armed, masked predators who violently, and with intent to do serious harm, attacked a single, small, unarmed man:
What you’re seeing there isn’t cute male proving. It is, instead, a violent, politically motivated mob deliberately targeting a person who threatened because he exposed their activities to a wider audience. How could Adams miss that fact?
Second, it’s no defense to say that the activity isn’t political; it’s just fun. If the fact that the attackers are having fun makes the violence socially acceptable, we need to go back in time and reverse Damian Williams’ conviction.
If the name doesn’t sound familiar to you, you’re probably too young to remember the Los Angeles riots. Those took place after a jury acquitted the cops accused of beating Rodney King. Reginald Denny was an ordinary man — a construction worker — delivering a truck load of sand to a plant in L.A. What he didn’t realize was that his route would take him through a brewing riot in L.A. When his truck was at the Florence and Normandie intersection in L.A., rioters surrounded him, pulled him from the truck’s cab, and beat the living daylights out of him — which was all caught on camera. Denny sustained serious, permanent brain damage and required years of rehabilitation.
The police captured the men responsible for the Denny beating, which was accomplished by feet, fists, and hitting him with hard and heavy objections. No guns or knives were involved (which is a point I’ll get to in a minute).
The reason I bring up the attack on Reginald Denny is because I’ve never forgotten the defense Damian Williams’ offered for himself at the time (emphasis mine):
In an interview with the Wave Newspaper Group, a newspaper chain that mainly serves a black readership, Mr. Williams said of the riots, “People were just out of control like a pack of rats running after cheese.” He added, “I was just caught up in the rapture.”
Speaking in 2017, Williams, who was later sentenced to 46 years in prison for a drug-related murder, said that he felt no remorse because, while Denny wasn’t necessarily guilty of doing wrong, he was white and that really, kind of, sort of, pretty much had it coming in a larger race war:
Q: So how do you feel about Reginald Denny. Do you feel remorse about your participation in what happened with him?
A: I wouldn’t believe remorse is the appropriate word. … Do I feel what occurred to Mr. Denny was justified? No.
Q: Can you say more?
A: It’s really not more to say and that’s just my humble opinion on that topic. Because if I was to say more, than we would go into a different part of this conversation — talking about going back into my history. It’s a lot of things that happened to my people by the hands of Mr. Denny’s nationality. But can I blame Mr. Denny for what happened to my people? No. Will I look to them and ask them for remorse, no. How can we heal from this process? How can we heal from that situation?
Q: So he was like a casualty of war?
A: There were many people that were a casualty. Mr. Denny just stands out. It was many people hurt and died in that 1992 situation. But those people are not spoken about. Only things that’s spoken about is Florence and Normandie [the intersection in which Denny was beaten]. But people died, people were killed in the ’92 riots. Why are their names not being mentioned? Why is nobody not speaking about them? Because don’t nobody care about that. Because in the world that we live in, if it bleeds it sells.
If Antifa members are vibrant young men having fun and proving themselves by attacking societal enemies, then Damian Williams shouldn’t have been convicted. But if Damian Williams was a dangerous predator who enjoyed beating up someone merely for existing in a way that offended him, and was properly convicted on those grounds, every Antifa member who committed an act of violence needs to be convicted as well. You can’t have it both ways — and Adams’ argument doesn’t convince me otherwise.
For other examples of young men having fun spontaneously beating up victims they believe have committed societal wrongs, be sure to check out stories and photographs of Hitler Youth and Hitler’s Brownshirts. Those were two groups that fully enjoyed beating up Jews and whomever else they deemed an enemy of their pal Adolf.
Third, my reference to Hitler Youth and Brownshirts takes me to my next point, which is Adams’ contention that there’s nothing political about Antifa.
For starters, why is Adams disbelieving what these people say of themselves? If someone says he’s marching under a political banner, I believe him. I believe him when he’s a Hitler Youth in that natty faux Alpine uniform; I believe him when he’s a Brownshirt in that eponymous brown uniform; I believe him when he’s an Islamist with a kuffiyah and a Koran; and I believe him when he’s Antifa, clad entirely in black, masked, and carrying jury-rigged weapons.
The fact that all these young men in their different times and places choose or once chose to express their ideology through violence that they personally enjoy doesn’t mean the ideology doesn’t exist. Some people, such as Martin Luther King and Gandhi espoused non-violence to expose their enemies; these young men have chosen the opposite.
Moreover, Antifa’s lineage is a politically violent one. True, the original Antifa was arrayed against the Nazis, which makes them sound like the good guys. They were not.
When fascism started rising up, its biggest enemy was communism. This was not because they were antithetical ideologies. It was because they were sister totalitarian ideologies, both arising out of socialism, and both appealing for the same mass market. The Antifa of the 1920s and 1930s in Germany, therefore, wasn’t a peaceful democratic movement seeking to stand against all forms of totalitarian socialism; it was, instead, a violent communist group engaged in bloody internecine warfare with Hitler’s fascists.
Here’s original Antifa logo:
And here’s the American Antifa logo, which claims direct lineage from its violent communist forebearers:
You can’t dress up like an early era of violent communist thugs, claim to be attacking the same people (i.e., “fascists”) as the prior communist thugs, and use the logo of the violent communist thugs . . . and then insist you have nothing to do with the ideology of those same thugs. That’s a bird that won’t fly.
Fourth, Adams seems to excuse Antifa because its members are attacking “neo-Nazis,” such as the Proud Boys or Patriot Prayer. There are lots of problems with this assumption.
To begin with, despite the assertions that the Proud Boys are far-right white supremacists, both groups seem to have fallen down badly on the white supremacist part because they have a lot of minority members. There’s also the problem that the group attaching the “far-right white supremacists” label on Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer is . . . the Southern Poverty Law Center. It’s become clear over the years that SPLC will label as “white supremacist” any group that opposes the Progressive’s political agenda. That’s how conservative Jews end up as so-called “white supremacists.”
The other problem is that it’s not just the SPLC that affixes dishonest labels. Antifa does too and for the same reason. If you’re not with them, you’re a fascist.
Using that standard, Antifa has created a broad universe of people it can justify attacking. Remember that it was only in 2017 that Antifa went marauding down the streets of Berkeley because Milo Yiannopoulos, a half Jewish gay man with a black partner, came to speak on the UC Berkeley campus to pro-Trump people. The same thing happened when conservative Jewish Ben Shapiro came to speak.
“They had it coming” is not a justification for mob rule at the best of times. It’s especially not a justification when the group engaged in mob rule labels everyone who’s not exactly like them as a societal danger justifying violence.
Fifth, what Adams is proposing is an extreme version of the heckler’s veto. Thus, now that he’s accepted that they’re just young men having fun while proving their manhood, he says we should ignore them. Except, as I think I’ve demonstrated above, they’re not just young men having fun while proving their manhood. They’re violent political actors.
Instead, there’s something even more sinister going on here. As events in Berkeley show, Antifa’s goal is to silence all political speech with which it disagrees. Its members aren’t just looking for a rumble with the proud boys; they’re using extreme violence to shut down free speech. But here’s the real kicker:
Antifa is careful to operate only in hard Left cities such as Berkeley and Portland. In those cities, the mayors have explicitly told their police forces to stand down. This means that the mayors are treating treat Antifa as a Progressive paramilitary organization that uses violence to suspend citizens’ First Amendment rights to free speech. Is this really what Adams wants?
Sixth, Adams points out that Antifa members avoid using “dangerous weapons,” by which I assume he means knives and guns. Instead, as I noted in connection with Damian Williams, who also eschewed knives or guns during the attack on Denny, they use feet, fists, clubs, bicycle locks in socks, toxic chemicals in milkshakes, etc.
Adams must have led a very sheltered life if he doesn’t realize that all of those things are also dangerous weapons. Ngo is having cognitive problems from the brain bleed he sustained, but he got off lightly. Lots of people die from brain bleeds. My Mom almost did, twice. Both times, she came within thirty minutes of dying but for timely surgical intervention.
According to the FBI, in 2017 alone 2,556 people were murdered with weapons other than knives or guns, including being beaten or kicked to death. We all make jokes about the fact that Navy SEALS can take out an enemy squadron with a Bic pen, but the reality is that large numbers of objects, when wielded with intent, can cause fatal injuries.
As I look around my hotel room, I can count six things in my immediate line of sight that I could conceivably use to murder someone — make that seven if you include strangling them with the power cord to my computer. It’s therefore no defense of Antifa to say that their instincts aren’t murderous because they eschew knives and guns in favor of cruder, blunt force objects.
In summary, Antifa is not just a collection of boys having a little bit of violent fun against deserving objects. It is a violent communist mob that uses dangerous weapons to intimidate and attack anybody who stands in its way.
Moreover, to the extent that Leftist mayors authorize Antifa’s activities by telling police to stand down, it is functioning as a paramilitary wing of Progressive government in America. In other words, Antifa is to today’s Progressives precisely what the KKK was to the Jim Crow South — and I refuse to believe that Scott Adams would ever countenance the KKK, even if he were told that it was just young men having violent fun against those they deem to be bad actors.