The False Equivalence of Violence on Both Sides

I speak a lot about US politics because when you get to it, discussing US politics is discussing world politics. There’s also a pragmatic side to this, mind you—according to my site statistics, even when I was still talking about general subjects, the majority of my audience is from the United States.

So, first of all, thanks for that. It does mean a lot to me to have you here. However, speaking a lot about American politics might make me sound like I hate America, or at least that I purposely take a stance against it—but that couldn’t be further from the truth.Your culture is loud and projected and colourful in a way you have to admire. When I talk about these issues, I’m really angry about the political and economic power structures I hate, that the United States has taken to with its usual excess.

One thing that’s been talked a lot, especially by the President himself, is that there’s ‘violence on both sides’. Violence on both sides implying some sort of equivalent, or parity. Below is an internet-famous man using it to justify his sincere belief that Anita Sarkeesian led to the Charlottesville attacks.

Is this true? Is there violence on both sides? Personally, I think framing it like that implies the two sides are equivalent. But researching this kind of thing takes time and effort, and picking up random examples of violence on the left is quick and easy. So there’s a vague sense of… ‘well, obviously that’s bullshit’, but it’ never easy to actually discuss this.

So let’s be thorough. I’ve taken the time for you to compare the instances of politically motivated violence I can find on both sides. Let’s compare these incidents of extreme political violence.

What this largely avoids is the various rallies and marches and scuffles that are a more regular occurrence these days, or something as mundane as punching Richard Spencer in the jaw. This isn’t to ignore that those occur.

What we’re looking at here is extreme violence. Something that did, or could have ended with, death. Politically motivated murder attempts. When we narrow it down to that criteria, we see that one side has a unique monopoly on those incidents.

On the left:

June 14, 2017

A Republican congressional baseball game is shot up by left-wing activist James Hodgkinson. Six are injured, the fortunately the only casualty from the ensuing shootout with police was Hodgkinson himself. The main target was Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, but the game was also attended by Rand Paul, Jeff Flake, Chuck Fleischmann and other notable Republican officials.

April 15th, 2017

Perhaps the most famous talking point at the moment: Eric Clanton attacks people around the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley with a bike lock, cracking skulls during the Patriot’s Day rally. No one is killed, and he faces trial for ten years in prison.

This entire rally is often used as an example of “violence on both sides”, so let’s talk about that a bit more in-depth.

Clanton is held as a poster child of Antifa, short for Anti-fascist Action, which isn’t a formal organization. It’s a group of friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, united by the double-flag symbol of the 1930s German Antifaschistische Aktion. These groups show up to alt-right public events to counter-protest. Most of their operation is actually intelligence gathering, leading to articles like this one by Patrik Hermansson. An activist I asked about this said that the prime reason is that if far-right protests run unopposed, usually a few of them get bold enough to start picking off minorities. The presence of Antifa at an event gives a more distinct, and prepared, target for the violence they see as inevitable.

As the Rolling Stone reports, Antifa and a coalition of far-right groups had a war in the streets. So, yes, there was violence on both sides: Antifa deployed tear gas and grenades, and apparently a bike lock on the far-right free speech rally. Peaceful free speech, right? That’s what the riot cops were here to protect.

Rolling Stone reports that the first strike was by antifa against a far-right protestor in a gladiator helmet. Let’s give them that one and say that, in this instance, the left did start it.

Let’s focus on this line too:

The victim was a 20-year-old college student, Sean Stiles, who had made the trip to Berkeley from his home in Santa Cruz. Though Stiles had been consorting with the men from Rise Above, the bike-lock attack was unprovoked.

So who are Rise Above, the men that Clanton and Antifa attacked unprovoked? Noting, at this point, the police withdrew from the area.

Rise Above Movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre:

The “Rise Above Movement,” which claims to have about 50 members, is an overtly racist, violent right-wing fight club that attends rallies around the country to do open combat with counter-protesters.

It’s absolutely true that Clanton attacked the person he did in that group unprovoked. But a common tactic of R.A.M, used by similar groups, is to wait for provocation or goad it, so they can aggressively defend themselves.

This sort of thing can’t be ignored when we talk about the violence ‘of both sides’. If this violence is ideologically motivated, we need to acknowledge that ideology, and not just look at the violence in a vacuum. If Professor Clanton was so motivated to attack R.A.M’s members like this, what was his motivation?

NoCARA reports: The group’s members are directly affiliated with or are themselves members of many factions in the neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, Alt-Right, and Alt-Light movements which include groups such Identity Evropa, Proud Boys, Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman and his ‘Alt-knight’ and ‘helmet-head’ cult following, the Red Elephants media outlet, as well the largest national network of neo-Nazi skinheads in the US known as the Hammerskin Nation.

Antifa is defined by antifascism, an opposition to fascism. The R.A.M may say that as well, but they are ideologically fascist – their end goal is a white ethnostate which would be enforced by violence.

July 7, 2016

Black Lives Matter figure Micah Xavier Johnson ambushes police officers, murdering five and injuring nine others, in response to the police killings of minorities. This incident is part of what led to the drastic drop in public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has fallen somewhat out of prominence.

So let’s see how the other side compares.

On the right:

This has actually grown since I first wrote this, so I’ll be adjusting accordingly. Most notably, the New York Times has had a similar idea, and published this between posting this on Patreon and upload:

Actually think the Times did a decent job on their cover this week.

My list will be far less comprehensive.

This month

15 year old Gregory Ramos murders his mother in a fight over bad grades. Noted here because he had 4chan/pol/ Kekistan flag as his Facebook banner, and describes himself as a “raging conservative with a passion for debate”

This month

Racist, Reagan-loving incel Scott Paul Beierle murdered two people and hurt five others at a yoga studio on the 4th.

“I don’t think a female can ever understand the societal pressure that’s put on an adolescent male to unburden himself of this stigma that society’s put on him,” he said. “This virginity burden.”

According to CNN, his Youtube videos had names like “Plight of the Adolescent Male” and “Dangers of Diversity.”

Also this month

11 murdered, 2 injured by Robert D. Bowers in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th. The Rabbi states that it’s his firm belief that the anti-semitic rhetoric of the Republican party led to this. The same week had Josh Hawley’s senate campaign sign sprayed with a swastika.

Still this month

Hundreds of militia move on the Texas border to fire on refugees and migrants who try to cross the border. To quote the Washington Post:

“I can’t put a number on it,” McGauley said. “My phone’s been ringing nonstop for the last seven days. You got other militias, and husbands and wives, people coming from Oregon, Indiana. We’ve even got two from Canada.”

Asked whether his group planned to deploy with weapons, McGauley laughed. “This is Texas, man,” he said.

This one’s not violent yet, but it remains on this list as a clear incitement of racially motivated violence.

Last month

A 51 year old man named Gregory Bush killed two black people in a Kentucky supermarket. When confronted by a concealed-carry citizen outside, Bush said: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” He was apparently enraged, in part, by Colin Kaepernick refusing to kneel for the national anthem.

Also last month

A school shooting was prevented by a mother reporting racist threats to her children over the internet. Police caught Dylan Jarrell pulling out of his driveway with ‘a firearm’ and 200 rounds of ammunition.

The online comment that caused the mother to call the police:

“There’s no such thing as white privileged… I hope your black children gets hung for you being so stupid. They have all the same rights we have now a days so please you and your monkey children go die.”

Throughout October:

Cesar Sayoc sent pipe bombs to a bunch of people associated with far-right conspiracy theories. This is his van.

Also:

The Proud Boys, a far-right hate group led by Gavin McInnes, marched out of a Republican centre and brutally beat and kicked a bunch of people, with police watching and not intervening. To quote ThinkProgress:

“Fox News responded by only reporting on anti-fascist vandalism that had taken place at the venue, while continuing to portray Democrats as the real angry mobs.”

The police also knew about far-right groups having rifles in weapons caches on rooftops planned for the marches, but did nothing.

There are videos of McInnes himself walking around the streets carrying a samurai sword. This, he said, was to re-enact the “inspiring” killing of the Japanese socialist party leader in 1960.

Photos of McInnes wielding his sword in the streets after would label him as “an antifa member”.

https://youtu.be/-CxnGMcz5os

McInnes is a perfectly normal, emotionally stable individual with no chin.

A photojournalist caught a lot of horrific moments and posted them to Twitter.

The group also chanted, “I like beer!” after attacking someone, a reference to Kavanaugh’s testimony when he denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford.

April:

Benjamin D. Morrow, 28, blows himself up in his Wisconsin apartment manufacturing bombs. The apartment contained White Supremacist literature.

January:

Samuel Woodward stabs Blaze Bernstein 20 times for supposedly coming on to him. His phone screensaver was the insignia of neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, and police have found evidence that one of his hobbies was sending photos of gay murder victims to people he matched over Grindr.

December 2017:

Matthew Riehl ambushes police called to a domestic disturbance called on him, killing one and injuring four more. He was outspokenly anti-police. Newsweek reports:

On his Facebook page, Riehl also posted articles from Breitbart News, which the outlet’s executive chairman, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has called a “platform for the alt-right.”

Riehl also called President Barack Obama a “lying piece of shit” and posted photos of weapons training he received from Colorado’s Kenaz Tactical Group.

A classmate said, as reported by the Denver Post: “That’s his MO, always provoking and maligning. He would try to screw you and see what you would do. He was proactively acting like a victim.”

Also December 2017:

21 year old William Edward Atchison was an active poster in white supremacy websites. He posed as a student of Aztec High School, where he murdered two students before killing himself.

From the linked article:

Online, the 21-year-old New Mexico resident lived a prolific life as a white supremacist, pro-Trump meme peddler who was most known for his obsession with school shooters. For a half-decade, Atchison spent most of his days online, repeatedly posting threats of violence and cries for help.

When users saw posts from Atchison, who went by dozens of names like “Adam Lanza” and “Future Mass Shooter” on both larger platforms like YouTube and racist communities like The Daily Stormer, they would often ask how his manifesto was going.

[…] Atchison spent most of the last half-decade glorifying school shooters on alt-right websites and posting plaintive appeals for help in fixing his life, according to hundreds of posts analyzed by The Daily Beast.

He was also an administrator of Encylopedia Dramatica, who have honoured his death by updating his page on their website:

He was so drained of the will to live or accomplish anything that he attempted to carry out a school shooting like the many he had obsessively worshiped and cataloged in ED articles. His dreams of attaining immortality were tragically shot down by the fact that he was a useless pussy who couldn’t even get past a sofa barricade put up by a elderly woman, just as he had secretly feared all along, which means his article is entertaining in a way he didn’t want but definitely deserved. 

It really does help to have a sense of humour about these things. For instance, I cut some lines from the above quotes, just so I could save it for now:

“It’s a shame he wasn’t on our radar,” San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen told Fox News last week. “I don’t think he had anything so much as a traffic ticket.”

ALSO December 2017:

Nicholas Giampa, 17, shoots and kills his girlfriend’s parents when they tell him to get out of their house for being a neo-Nazi. They’d found his other Twitter account, where he posted such messages as:

“I’ve already talked 1 tranny into suicide and I’m working on another 2 😳”

He shot himself in the head after killing the parents, but failed to kill himself in the process.

July 2017:

James Alex Fields.

1 dead. 19 injured.

Also July 2017:

Lane Davis, 33, former Milo Yionopolis intern, murdered his own father. Stabbed him in the front and back. From the Daily Beast: In a seeming confession, Lane Davis told detectives that the fight had started over “whether toddlers could consent to sex or not,” and his father had called him a Nazi and a racist.

May 2017:

Jeremy Christian, 35, stabs to death two men, and injures another, for defending two muslim teenage girls against his hurled abuse.

I want to talk about one of his victims though, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche. Stories about him came out from his friends over the next few days, and they really hit me personally. He was my age when he was murdered, and finding out about him made me want to be a better person. He’s why I remember this story. His last words were; “Tell everyone on this train I love them.”

Also May 2017:

Sean Urbanski, 22, a regular poster on Facebook group “Alt-Reich nation”, stabbed Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III to death at a bus stop. Lieutenant Collins was black. The men had never met before, and Urbanski was apparently drunk.

March 2017:

White supremacist James Harris Jackson murders Timothy Caughman, black, with a roman short sword. From the Independent:

Mr Jackson […] told detectives that he was going for “something a bit bigger” calling it a “terrorist attack” and adding that he wanted to “influence the national conversation”. 

January 29, 2017:

Alexandre Bissonnette enters a mosque and guns down praying Muslims, killing six and wounding 19. He’s a known white supremacist who trolled refugees and feminists online.

The news of the shooting came out in real time. Here’s Shaun chronicling how it became a conspiracy theory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb9dXSkZbTY

February 2016:

Three protestors are stabbed at a Ku Klux Klan rally in California. There is a reasonable case to be made for self-defense, as it’s reported that the protestors attacked first. No Ku Klux Klan members died, as they were the only ones using lethal force. I found myself drawn to the police justification as to why they were providing protection to an open Klan rally:

“Even if the vast majority of our community disagrees with a particular group who visits our city we cannot stop them from lawfully gathering to express their opinions,” Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said in a statement. “Violence is not acceptable, and we will arrest anybody who assaults another person or commits any other crime in our city.”

I found it charitable to say that the organized Klan rally was simply there to ‘express their opinions’. The Klan organized a rally they knew would be met with opposition and brought weaponry, like a sharpened flag-pole-spear, in anticipation.

The presence of police was enough to facilitate the rally occurring, but wildly insufficient to deal with the resulting public outcry.

November 2015:

White supremacist counterprotestors shoot five Black Lives Matter protestors. Fortunately, none lethally.

October 2015:

The Oregon Gunman Chris Harper-Mercy, 26, murders nine and injures ten more at Umpqua community college before killing himself. He had white supremacy leanings, though these aren’t widely reported on.

June 2015:

White supremacist Dylann Roof, 21, walks into a black church and guns down praying black people, killing 9 and wounding another. His intentions were to start a race war.

Roof reportedly told friends and neighbors of his plans to kill people, including a plot to attack the College of Charleston, but his claims were not taken seriously.

May 2014:

Elliot Rodger, 22, “the supreme gentleman”, kills seven in California, and injures another 14. I’m only going back so far for this one because Rodger became a folk-hero in Incel circles, and is now used to inspire people like Scott Paul Beierle. Charming.

One thing that was interesting to note here, for me compiling all this, was how often the motivation for doing these attacks seemed to be to trigger a race war, or to start riots. Not only were the acts themselves violent, but they were done with the intention to create more violence and, in some of their minds, eventually lead to a civil war. One which, after, would see the legitimized rise of an ethnostate.

Even when we look at the Congressional Baseball Shooting we see that the shooting itself was limited in its targets directly to law and policy makers. When we see the right wing equivalents we see a lot of innocent people, usually (but not always) minorities, being a victim to these crimes.

This is important. It means that to be the target of far-right violence, you only need to be gay, Jewish, or non-white. If fascists achieved political power, it would inevitably result in these groups being brutalized, exiled or executed. If you’re against race-mixing, you need to enforce segregation with violence, at the bare minimum.

To be the target of leftist violence you need to be implementing far-right violence, you need to be fighting for the above. This is a much narrower category, and the far-right can choose to change their ideology. Racial minorities can’t choose to stop being minorities.

If all the far-right disappeared off the Earth today, antifa would stop existing. If all the far-left disappeared off the Earth today, there would be efforts made to stop minorities from existing.

So while it is true there is violent prevalent on both sides, it’s not true to say that there is violence inherent to both sides. Both are using violent means. Only one has violent ends.

2 thoughts on “The False Equivalence of Violence on Both Sides

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