The Corner

Politics & Policy

Mobs That Beat Up Demonstrators Should Be Prosecuted and Put in Jail

Yesterday, someone tweeted out a video purportedly of a random guy being beaten into a “coma” by antifa goons who mistook him for a “Nazi.” It read, “Man walking to grocery store in Berkeley mistaken for being a Nazi is beaten into a coma.” That tweet has since been deleted, but you can see the screen cap below.

I tweeted that the goons in the video deserved jail sentences. Later, it became clear that the original “coma” tweet was inaccurate or incomplete and that the video had been clipped from a longer video shot by Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer. Over the course of the day, I tweeted several times that I thought the coma thing was hyperbole and unverified. I tweeted out a link to an account from the man who heroically threw himself on the man being beaten. Later in the day, Bauer and others demanded I delete the tweet because it pushes “fake news.” He’s now going after Joe Scarborough for retweeting my tweet.

That’s not how it works. First of all, it seems pretty obvious that antifa’s definition of “fascist” is remarkably elastic, including defenders of free speech and mainstream conservatism. I for one refuse to defer to masked vigilantes as the arbiter of who is or is not a fascist.

More to the point, the victim may indeed be a member of the alt-right, or even just a provocative ass. I don’t know. (This guy claims he was the one being beaten, but I have no idea if that’s true.) Unless there’s some evidence the victim initiated violence, there’s no excuse for antifa’s behavior in that video. And even if he did initiate violence (there’s no evidence he did), trying to stomp a man to death is unjustifiable. It is a sign of the sickness of our times that this needs to be explained to anyone.

I have been among the most outspoken critics among conservatives of the alt-right, but this is an easy call. Mobs that gang up on peaceful demonstrators, even asinine or provocative ones, and beat them should be prosecuted and put in jail. I would say the exact same thing if alt-right goons beat up non-violent antifa protestors. This is not complicated.

The grocery store and coma details are easy for me to “retract.” I hereby retract them! — even though retweets aren’t endorsements blah blah blah. They’re easy to retract because they have no bearing on the underlying principle. They’d be relevant in the sentencing phase to be sure, but that’s about it.

I understand that Bauer is pissed someone ripped off his video, and I apologize for not using his video instead (which I did not know existed at the time).

Bauer claims to have no opinion about what the video shows because he’s just a reporter. I’ll take him at his word, even if I find that somewhat odd for a Mother Jones correspondent. But I do think it’s remarkable how many of the lefties coming after me seem to think that if the victim were an alt-righter, then the beating would be justifiable. In other words, beating a random bystander would be bad, but stomping someone they disagree with would be totally understandable. That’s grotesque and idiotic.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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