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A public policy blog from AEI
In an open letter to incoming freshmen, a group of professors from Princeton, Harvard, and Yale offer some salient advice on how to succeed in college and in life: “Think for yourself.” They write:
Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry. Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word “bigot” is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.
By this definition, there is no better example of an opponent of open-minded inquiry and robust debate than Mark Bray, a Dartmouth lecturer who has become the country’s leading academic apologist for antifa — a neo-Marxist movement that attacks peaceful protesters and uses violence to shut down free speech. Bray recently published a pro-antifa book, “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” (and to make his allegiance clear, he’s donating part of the proceeds to antifa groups). He openly defends antifa’s violent tactics, which he calls “both ethically justifiable and strategically effective.”
When Bray recently appeared on Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd told him “You seem to be a very small minority here who is defending the idea of violence,” Bray did not deny it. Instead, he replied:
Well, first I would contest the notion that I’m not that small of a minority. I think that a lot of people recognize that, when pushed, self-defense is a legitimate response to white supremacy and neo-Nazi violence. And you know we’ve tried ignoring neo-Nazis in the past. We’ve seen how that turned out in 20s and 30s and the lesson of history is you need to take it with the utmost seriousness before it’s too late.
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (itself a far-left group that defines many mainstream conservative organizations as “hate groups”) was having none of it:
You know it’s not an issue of defending yourself. It’s an issue of trying to silence other people. No one is saying that, you know, if you’re slugged in the face that you have to sit there and take it. If the question here is when white nationalists want to walk down the street, should people stop them. And that’s a very different issue. It’s a very peculiar notion of self-defense to say you can censor people.
To which Bray responded: “[T]he real enemies of free speech are fascist. We’ve seen that historically . . . [F]ascism cannot be defeated through speech.”
This is simply Orwellian. In Bray’s telling, antifa is defending free speech by shutting down free speech. This is antithetical to the idea of a free society — something with which Bray does not disagree. He and antifa simply don’t care. Bray admits antifa are “revolutionary leftists” who are not “concerned with free speech or other liberal democratic values” and “have no allegiance to liberal democracy.”
Bray’s argument that antifa is simply engaged in self-defense is equally absurd. In Berkeley a week ago, antifa attacked peaceful protesters at an anti-Marxism rally organized by a transgender Trump supporter. Were the antifa goons who beat this protester in Berkeley engaged in “self-defense”?
Antifa beat down apparent alt-righter. pic.twitter.com/WVdDJqLKmA
— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) August 27, 2017
How about these antifa thugs who broke store windows, terrorizing the patrons inside, during Donald Trump’s inauguration?
Or how about the antifa arsonists who set this limousine on fire?
The owner of that vehicle was a Muslim businessman who says he did not even vote for Donald Trump. The driver, Luis Villarroel, was a Hispanic American who was sent to the hospital with cuts on his hands and arms thanks to antifa. None of them were “fascists.” Attacking them was not self-defense.
There are countless other examples of unprovoked antifa violence against innocent people, including College Republicans, Trump supporters, conservative speakers on college campuses, and innocent bystanders. See here, here, here, here, here, and here.
This is not anti-fascism; it is fascism. Their entire movement is built on a lie.
The fact is antifa is a domestic terrorist movement. According to the Oxford dictionary, terrorism is defined as “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Antifa, which uses unlawful violence to intimidate those who disagree with their totalitarian worldview and force them into silence, fits this definition.
Don’t take my word for it. The US government has designated them as such. Politico reports “the Department of Homeland Security formally classified [antifa’s] activities as ‘domestic terrorist violence’. . . . A senior state law enforcement official said, ‘A whole bunch of them’ have been deemed dangerous enough to be placed on US terrorism watch lists.”
By using his platform as a member of the Dartmouth faculty to endorse this violence, Bray is giving a veneer of intellectual credibility to domestic terrorists. In so doing, he is serving the same function as radical clerics in Middle Eastern universities who offer religious and intellectual justifications explaining why it is morally acceptable for terrorists to attack the innocent.
To his credit, Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon has issued a clear and unambiguous statement disavowing Bray after his appearance on Meet the Press. “Recent statements made by Lecturer in History Mark Bray supporting violent protest do not represent the views of Dartmouth,” Hanlon said. “As an institution, we condemn anything but civil discourse in the exchange of opinions and ideas . . . the endorsement of violence in any form is contrary to Dartmouth values.”
Amazingly, over 100 Dartmouth faculty protested — not Bray’s endorsement of violence, but their president’s criticism of it — signing a letter calling on the Hanlon to retract the statement and apologize to Bray:
We have watched with gratitude as our junior colleague Mark Bray, on the strength of his historical scholarship, has become the national expert on a subject that is suddenly, terribly urgent: the twentieth-century history of fascism and anti-fascism, in Europe and, more recently, the United States. This is, of course, the kind of public recognition of Dartmouth scholarship that is celebrated in most situations. Instead, in this case, Professor Bray has been disavowed by Dartmouth at the request of a right-wing organization. . . .”
It is pathetic that the faculty of one of America’s leading universities can’t seem to grasp the fact that a university’s very purpose is to serve as a sanctuary for free speech and open inquiry — and that it is outrageous for one of their own to publicly advocate shutting down free speech through terrorist violence.
Bray describes his book as “an unabashedly partisan call to arms.” He means it literally, not metaphorically. He may not care about liberal democratic values, but it is because others do that he has the right to express his abhorrent views, which would be a better fit at the Pyongyang University than at Dartmouth.
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