Katherine Revello Rebutting “In Defence of Antifa”
Katherine Revello (Classical Liberalism)
Mike Stuchbery (Liberalism)
The author’s stated desire to stand with Antifa in an effort to “mitigate and slow the progress of nihilistic hate and violence” contains within it a statement of moral judgment.
The right to conscience is fundamental to any political order respective of its people. But while this right includes the ability of individuals to act in a manner that proactively advances their values, it does not include the ability to infringe on another’s rights to do the same.
Antifa’s aggressive actions are not, as the author classifies, a tactic necessary to prevent the normalization of discriminatory government policies. They
are, in fact, discriminatory policies against which the author claims to stand.
The essence of despotism in government’s discriminatory actions, particularly when directed against specific identity groups, is in the impact those actions have on agency. Certain stereotypes—such as historic categorizations of Jews as greedy and grasping or of blacks as lazy and unintelligent—take identifying characteristics of a group and read them into their individual members. Government creates discriminatory laws, rooted in false notions about traits endemic to certain identifying features, which alter the conditions in which members of these groups can interact, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: it’s impossible for the individual to rise above stereotypes by virtue or his or her personal merits without the freedom to act or define oneself outside stereotypes imposed from above.
Taking away the autonomy to define oneself for oneself is an act of suppression. Yet, it is exactly what Antifa does by painting with a broad-brush members of the right as fascists. Not only does Antifa slap this label upon its political enemies, in shutting down speeches and debates that feature right-wing speakers, but it takes away from those so labelled any ability to defend or rebut themselves against the charges made against them.
Antifa wraps itself in a mantle of moral superiority: it justifies its controversial tactics as a necessary foil to the power imbalance created by its opponents. Those with power use it irresponsibly; they deny those they oppress access to platforms which they might use to defend themselves.
Yet, in robbing its opponents of the ability to defend themselves, Antifa manifests precisely those behaviors it deems immoral. Antifa denies others the same rights the author wishes the lay claim to - the right to protest against the injustice one perceives in society. And that in itself is unjust. In taking away from the individuals it names fascist the ability to defend or explain themselves, Antifa seizes their agency from them. It alone lays claim to the ability to characterize them. By extending the label of fascist anyone who rises to their defense, it takes away from others the ability to make moral judgments for themselves. By targeting anyone who stands with those it has labelled fascist, Antifa infringes upon an integral component of the right of conscience: the ability to take actions that support one’s moral conclusions.
Antifa cannot credibly claim to be an instrument of justice when its behaviors and tactics mimic those of the entities it calls immoral.