On February 1, a gang of violent thugs managed to shut down a speech scheduled to take place at the University of California at Berkeley, metaphorically making the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s into that movement’s grave site.
The scheduled speaker, sponsored by the campus’s student Republican group, was “alt-right” clown cum agitator Milo Yiannopoulos.
The gang of rock-throwing arsonists identified themselves as “Antifa” activists. “Antifa” is short for “anti-fascist,” but the actions of those identifying with the Antifa movement falsify the implied claim. Antifa activists tend to show up whenever and wherever they sense an opportunity to use violence to silence speech they disagree with.
Not to fight fascism, to silence speech. Not just fascist speech, but any speech they happen to disagree with or that they just think they might bring attention to themselves by attacking.
They also frequently pretend to be anarchists.
Let’s be very clear about this:
Antifa is not an anti-fascist movement. It is a violent authoritarian movement that creatively brands and markets itself as anti-fascist.
Nor is Antifa an anarchist movement. Violent authoritarianism which attempts to suppress the dissemination of ideas through speech — to rule the minds and mouths of others through force — is not anarchism even if it formally eschews the state as its instrument of coercion.
An anarchist acquaintance of mine considers my free speech fundamentalism to constitute evidence that I’m a “liberal” (in the classical sense, emphasis on civil liberties) rather than a libertarian and, yes, an anarchist. I disagree, but if that’s the case I guess I’ll just have to live with whatever designation my beliefs imply.
To my mind, a free society must necessarily be composed of free people. People who don’t enjoy freedom of thought and speech are not free. No free speech, no free people. No free people, no free society. It’s really just that simple. I’m not a pacifist, mind you. I’ve spent plenty of time in protests and have done at least my share of facing down klansmen and other fascists, not to mention riot police. If it comes down to combat, it does. But I’m not going to be the one to start it. People who are confident that their ideas are better than the other guys’ ideas don’t need to throw the first punch.
If you violently oppose free speech, you’re humanity’s enemy. And humanity should treat you as such.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.