There Is No Valid Counterpart to Right-Wing Violence (OpEd)

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HELP ENLIGHTEN YOUR FELLOWS. BE SURE TO PASS THIS ON. SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT.

Sonali Kolhatkar, Truthdig

Demonstrators prepare to enter Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 17, hoisting Nazi, Confederate and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. (Anthony Crider)(CC-BY)

Fifty years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in a speech he gave at Riverside Church in New York that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is “my own government.” Under the leadership of Donald Trump, that statement is perhaps truer today than ever before. The president has signaled time and again that he accepts the use of violence as a tool on the individual, departmental, state and international levels. Worse, media outlets and politicians, including some liberal ones, are helping to distort the narrative regarding which side of the political spectrum actively promotes violence.

The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and other mainstream media outlets homed in on some videotaped instances of black-clad antifa (anti-fascist) protesters beating and chasing off right-wing activists in Berkeley, Calif., last weekend. Trump retweeted the words of notorious right-winger Dinesh D’Souza, who lauded that specific piece in the Post because, D’Souza said, it “admits the truth about where the violence is coming from.” And then, as if to ensure she would not be left out of the chorus of denunciations of anti-fascists, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi jumped on the bandwagon, proclaiming that the “violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.”

But Shane Bauer, the reporter who videotaped and witnessed the incidents in Berkeley, wrote in Mother Jones that media outlets took his video out of context and that the reporter who wrote the Washington Post story was not even present in Berkeley that day. Indeed, many confrontations between anti-fascist activists and the white supremacists ended without violence, but most media outlets reduced the counterprotest coverage to the rare instances of “antifa” activists baring their teeth, ignoring the broader context of the event—including actual instances of fascist protesters pepper-spraying crowds of people.

There was nowhere near the same level of reporting and denunciations of violence from politicians when right-wing extremists invaded Berkeley earlier this year. While the Los Angeles Times did report on the clashes in April, it did not attribute violence directly to the fascists, choosing to dub the entire rally “violent” rather than singling out one side or another. The report also attempted to equate left- and right-wing violence, even though it was the right-wingers that went on the offensive.

The Washington Post also published a piece in April about how a white supremacist was caught punching a woman in the face at the earlier Berkeley rally. But the paper decided to give the man in question the benefit of the doubt by headlining the article, “A white supremacist is accused of punching a protester.” However, when anti-fascists were seen as the perpetrators, the paper decided against nuance in its headline and became a propaganda tool in the hands of D’Souza and Trump.

Editor’s Note: The issue of violence in tumultuous times is always a contentious one, with liberals usually favoring an absolutistic ban on any “violence” on the left, as if the left was looking for ways to pick a fight with the establishment and its goon allies, so we do not claim to have the answers to that, except that self defence is both individually and politically legitimate in the presence of imminent threats to life and property. This piece by Sonali tries to lay down a clearer perspective, and we appreciate her effort, although at times both her tone and witnesses are too much of a liberaloid muzak to our ears, like quoting the despicable Joshua Holland as a man with some moral capital to pass judgment on these issues. We live in troubled and confused times. Hope this article helps, however limitedly. Read with caution. Let us just remember here that it is always the right that—through its endless abuses, injustices, stubborn ignorance, brutality, and hypocrisy— creates the left.—PG

The debate over who is really violent ought not to be a debate at all. Trump, the GOP and the American right promote and glorify violence and weapons to such an extreme degree that there ought to be no question. But in this age of Orwellian “fake news,” it bears reiterating who is truly guilty of violence.

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly celebrated violent behavior, even offering to pay the legal fees of those who beat up protesters at his rallies. He has continued this behavior as president, most prominently when he reposted a video on Twitter showing him beating up on a wrestler who had CNN’s logo superimposed over his face. And, of course, his initial silence over the fascist brutality in Charlottesville, followed by multiple attempts to downplay the white supremacy on display or equate it with the behavior of the counterprotests, spoke volumes.

It was the president’s fans and allies who viciously beat Deandre Harris and killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. A post-election spike in hate crimesagainst Muslims was attributed to Trump supporters. And now one of the president’s prominent boosters, televangelist Jim Bakker, has gone on recordsaying there will be a “civil war” if Trump is impeached. Given how many firearms members of the far right have stockpiled, there is every reason to believe him. As Joshua Holland pointed out in The Nation, “[T]he overwhelming majority of serious political violence—not counting vandalism or punches thrown at protests, but violence with lethal intent—has come from the fringes of the right.”

All told, there are very few degrees of separation between the ideology of violent hate groups and current and former members of Trump’s Cabinet. As documented by John Nichols, Stephen Miller, Kris Kobach—and to an extent, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who are no longer formally associated with the president but who will likely continue to operate from the outside to bolster his power—all advocate white supremacist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views.

In addition to these obvious sources of violence on the right are those we tend to take for granted, such as how the right actively promotes state violence against communities of color. Trump came into the presidency embracing law enforcement, essentially claiming the pro-police mantra of “Blue Lives Matter,” when he eulogized slain officers earlier this year, declaring that “[e]very drop of blood spilled from our heroes in blue is a wound inflicted upon the whole country”—while making no mention of the many African-Americans and others who have been killed by police. That proof of how much more he values the police over ordinary Americans has been highlighted by his Justice Department’s moves to pull back investigations of police departments that were under federal consent decrees to fix racial biases in policing, as well as by Trump’s order this week to resume gifting police with surplus military equipment and weapons. Essentially Trump and his supporters want police to have a free hand to brutalize and kill, and they are arming them to the teeth to do it.

The president and his Republican and extremist right-wing supporters have engaged in violent rhetoric and actions aimed at undocumented immigrants to a degree we have not seen in a long time in America. Trump’s Homeland Security Department has overseen a whopping 40 percent jump in arrests of undocumented immigrants this year compared to last year, making it clear there is no distinction anymore between violent felons and ordinary hard-working immigrants who may have strong family ties to the U.S. He appears to be inching toward dismantling DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which would leave hundreds of thousands of young immigrants raised in the U.S. vulnerable to the cruelty of the immigration enforcement apparatus. Trump relishes the violence of the arrests, raids, detentions, swift deportations and wrenching apart of families, offering it up as red meat for his anti-immigrant supporters.

Trump has expanded his penchant for violence to the international realm, promising an open-ended war in Afghanistan. Refusing to specify how many more troops would be sent there or what conditions would have to be met in order to declare the war over, Trump has essentially turned over the war plan to the Pentagon, and already we are witnessing the results: At least 11 civilians were killed by U.S. air strikes in southeastern Afghanistan this week. Trump has also sent U.S. military advisers and launched lethal air strikes on Somalia, and of course he has continued the wars in Iraq and Syria, supported Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen, given a green light to the Israeli government to continue oppressing Palestinians and engaged in a dangerous war of words with North Korea. U.S. military violence, which is usually promoted by leaders of both major parties, has now been ratcheted up significantly by Trump.

And then we have the violence of climate change unfolding before our eyes this week with the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Global warming deniers have taken over our federal government, unshackling fossil fuel companies from the meager restrictions they faced under the previous administration. Trump is essentially enabling future deadly hurricanes and other forms of violent, extreme weather that climate change is bringing. He has been dismantling government programs like the flood risk management standard and wants to defund disaster preparedness agencies while handing over power to oil and gas interests through direct appointments to his Cabinet, such as naming Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon CEO, as his secretary of state. While Trump does not bear sole responsibility for the violence of climate change, as president he is doing everything he can to ensure that climate change accelerates—to the detriment of us all. And his supporters and party are cheering him along the way.

It is a shame that these assaults on the public need to be spelled out, given the evidence all around us. True, the right does not have a monopoly on violence, but it engages in violent rhetoric, embraces violent policies and commits violent actions to such a great extent that there is no comparison to how the rest of us, including those on the left, behave, speak and act. There is no equivalence between right-wing and left-wing violence. There is only a perception of equivalence that many on the right (and sadly, some on the liberal left) seem intent on advancing. 


About the Author
 Sonali Kolhatkar is a columnist for Truthdig. She also is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV (Dish Network, DirecTV). 


The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and other mainstream media outlets homed in on some videotaped instances of black-clad antifa (anti-fascist) protesters beating and chasing off right-wing activists in Berkeley, Calif., last weekend. Trump retweeted the words of notorious right-winger Dinesh D’Souza, who lauded that specific piece in the Post because, D’Souza said, it “admits the truth about where the violence is coming from.” And then, as if to ensure she would not be left out of the chorus of denunciations of anti-fascists, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi jumped on the bandwagon, proclaiming that the “violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.”


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Parting shot—a word from the editors
The Best Definition of Donald Trump We Have Found

In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone “play-crazy” — acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the “play-crazy” gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain’t Donald Trump — a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a “puppet” and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all. Glen Ford, Editor in Chief, Black Agenda Report 

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