Defining What’s Right

Members of Antifa gather to protest during the Mother of All Rallies demonstration on the National Mall, September 16, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Writing from Britain nearly two years ago (after the murder of Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville and the troubles that preceded it), Reaction’s Toby Guise noted how “[t]he narrative of America’s unreconstructed Neo-Fascists is crude but clear.”


That of Antifa is more subtle. At its heart is the equivalence between ‘psychological violence’ – namely the holding or articulating of offensive beliefs – with physical violence. From this flows the claim that psychological violence can be met with physical violence, and therefore that Antifa’s violence is actually defensive (not pre-emptive, note; as the threat of physical violence is not required to take action). Antifa also reserves the right to define psychological violence unilaterally.

This may be too charitable. Often, I suspect, this supposed belief that “psychological” violence (as defined) is the same as the real thing is nothing more than yet another excuse for the thugs of the hard left to impose their beliefs on others — and as violently as possible. The violence is an essential part of the process, part of the fun for the enforcers, a necessary punishment for the offenders.

And such violence is more likely than not (at least until it is put to a halt) to get worse. Mainly because it has been allowed to work, but also, as Dominic Green noted in The Spectator USA over the weekend:

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Intensification is in the nature of political violence, for it is sacrificial in logic, and ever higher levels of violence are required to sustain the buzz.

The violence is also, of course, a demonstration of power. Guise is right to stress how “Antifa . . . reserves the right to define psychological violence unilaterally”, an assumption of authority that it extends by attempting to control the streets, regardless of what the law may (if its guardians can be bothered) say.


The mainstream take comfort from the idea that only Neo-Nazis are at risk. But the accusation of psychological violence does not stop at Neo-Nazis. In the Antifa stronghold of Portland [As a reminder, Guise was writing in 2017], followers threatened forcibly to remove from a civic parade any of the town’s Republican voters. The idea has further become embedded that the very idea of free speech – let alone its practice – is psychologically violent and therefore deserving of extra-legal force….

Two years on, that idea is, quite clearly, still on the march.

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