On Wednesday’s “MTP Daily,” author and Dartmouth University lecturer Mark Bray expressed support for Antifa’s confrontation tactics by arguing that Nazism had to be stopped by force and self-defense is necessary in today’s context.
Bray said that the modern Antifa movement comes out of movements against Nazism and fascism in the 30s and movements in the 70s and 80s in Germany and the UK where immigrants, leftists, and punk rockers had to physically defend themselves against neo-Nazis. He added that their main perspective “is essentially that, rather than simply waiting for the threat to materialize, you stop it from the beginning. You say, ‘No platform for fascism.’ And that’s what we’re seeing with the attempts in Charlottesville and elsewhere.”
When asked if he supported this kind of confrontation, he answered, “Yes, I am.”
Bray further argued that far-right movements grow “by becoming normalized, by not being confronted, by being able to present themselves as family-friendly and respectable. So, part of the reason why the alt-right called themselves ‘alt-right’ is to present that mainstream image. And the opposition that people showed in Charlottesville really marred and tainted that. So, I think that by showing up and confronting it, it prevents the ability of being able to be presented as mainstream, and connected to that, I think, really, you need to be able to prevent them from being able to organize. People who are involved in politics know that for movements to expand, they need to be able to organize and grow, and if you stop that, it prevents it. Historically, we can see that Nazism and fascism was not stopped by polite dialogue and reasoned debate. It had to stopped by force, and unfortunately, self-defense is necessitated in the context that we’re seeing today.”
The show’s other guest, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen, disagreed. Cohen argued that “fighting fire with fire” would just lead to more violence like the kind that took place in Charlottesville.
Cohen also argued, “[W]e have the police. We have law enforcement. And if — you know, if the neo-Nazis act violently, we can depend upon them to shut them down. These people have a right to espouse their ideas. No one — hate is not illegal in this country. Hurting people is illegal, and we have First Amendment rights, and we can’t squelch them by having people show up at rallies with clubs.”
Bray responded that no one praises the Weimar Republic for letting Nazis assemble, rather, “We’re looking back and saying, ‘Isn’t it unfortunate that this threat was not taken seriously earlier and stamped out before millions of people could be killed?’ That’s the historical argument that I make. And I’d rather have people confronting them than sitting idly by.”
When asked about concerns that violence would simply create more violence, Bray answered, “Self-defense is important. I’m more concerned — I mean, look at Cornel West. He said that the anti-fascists defended them from being run over and attacked. So I think the notion that people are seeing the self-defense as being counterproductive is not entirely true, and I think self-defense is important. Fascism shows it is violence incarnate. It will come after us and we need to defend ourselves.”
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