Magazine | February 25, 2019, Issue

Letters

Members of the Great Lakes anti-fascist organization (Antifa) fly flags during a protest against the alt-right outside a hotel in Warren, Mich., March 4, 2018. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

‘We Go Where They Go’

Kevin D. Williamson’s “Whose Streets Indeed?” (December 31, 2018) notes that anti-fascist activity has the potential to be authoritarian itself, a perception buoyed by the chaos of street action featuring much that may be only tangentially related to “crushing the fash.”

It is often assumed that Antifa is naïve to this insight. Yet most earnest Antifa members focus on research and education, not spectacle. If anyone is likely to have more than cursory knowledge of the totalitarian school of fascist scholarship while still confronting the Richard Spencer followers and Aleksandr Duginists of the world, it is they.

The militancy of today’s Antifa springs from pragmatic concerns rather than any gnostic Voegelinian bloodlust. Whatever Antifa’s flaws, and indeed there are many in their methods, they do not massacre worshipers or ram cars into crowds, as neo-Nazis do. Antifa don’t stab do-gooders on community trains, as Patriot Prayer participant Jeremy Christian did here in Portland.

Williamson’s calling Antifa “fascists” seems an extension of his belief that all leftism is Stalinism, even as today’s radical Left is largely about opposition to both capitalism (including the centrist liberal variety) and Bolshevism. He might as well reduce all of Christianity to the Inquisition.

To grasp the real nature of Antifa, Williamson only need pass by the Portland street corner where neo-Nazis fatally beat Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw 20 years ago and ask: Would I have intervened? Would I hesitate to take action?

Binyamin Ha-Adom
Portland, Ore.

Kevin D. Williamson responds: And it wasn’t right-wingers trying to gun down a chunk of Congress during softball practice or conspiring to blow up a bridge in Ohio. Mr. Ha-Adom is welcome to his tedious game of did-not/did-too, but I will take a pass.

Snowplow Statistics

In “Snowplow Politics” (January 28, 2019), Douglas Murray argues that the media are exacerbating and perpetuating a myth about how populist movements (e.g., Brexit and Trump) have increased “hate” crimes. But he fails to use the statistics from the FBI itself, which say that hate crimes increased 17 percent in 2017, led by anti-Semitic crimes. So I’m unclear how this is a “narrative”; it looks like facts to me.

Jodi Detjen
Via e-mail

Douglas Murray responds: There are two especially good reasons to be skeptical about statistics involving “hate crime.” Firstly, the element of “bias” that turns something from a “crime” into a “hate crime” is to a very significant extent in the eye of the beholder. The second reason is that there are many explanations for a rise in these statistics apart from some upsurge of bigotry. Law enforcement openly encourages people to report cases of “hate crime.” Awareness of such a thing can never have been higher, and when awareness of a category rises, the reported incidents will rise too. I know personally of a number of cases in which law enforcement encouraged people to report crimes as hate crimes, the better to meet their targets. This is not to say that all such reports are bogus. But there are strong reasons to treat the statistics in this particular area with special caution.

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In This Issue

Articles

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Books, Arts & Manners

Books

Law and Disorder

Amy L. Wax reviews Misdemeanorland: Criminal Courts and Social Control in an Age of Broken Windows Policing, by Issa Kohler-Hausmann.

Sections

Letters

Letters

Readers write in to address Kevin D. WIlliamson’s essay on Antifa and Douglas Murray’s recent comments on hate crimes.
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