Originally published August 31, 2017
Here are two excerpts:
One can condemn the means of extralegal violence, and observe that the alt-right, Antifa, and the far-left have all engaged in it on different occasions, without asserting that all extralegal violence is equivalent––murdering someone with a car or shooting a representative is more objectionable than punching with the intent to mildly injure. What’s more, different groups can choose equally objectionable means without becoming equivalent, because assessing any group requires analyzing their ends, not just their means.
For neo-Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, one means, a torch-lit parade meant to intimidate by evoking bygone days of racial terrorism, was deeply objectionable; more importantly, their end, spreading white-supremacist ideology in service of a future where racists can lord power over Jews and people of color, is abhorrent.
Antifa is more complicated.
Some of its members employ the objectionable means of initiating extralegal street violence; but its stated end of resisting fascism is laudable, while its actual end is contested. Is it really just about resisting fascists or does it have a greater, less defensible agenda? Many debates about Antifa that play out on social media would prove less divisive if the parties understood themselves to be agreeing that opposing fascism is laudable while disagreeing about Antifa’s means, or whether its end is really that limited.
A dearth of distinctions has a lot of complicated consequences, but in aggregate, it helps to empower the worst elements in a society, because those elements are unable to attract broad support except by muddying distinctions between themselves and others whose means or ends are defensible to a broader swath of the public. So come to whatever conclusions accord with your reason and conscience. But when expressing them, consider drawing as many distinctions as possible.
The article is here.