Some good can be reported from the Unite the Right II gathering in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
No one died this time. You will recall that a year ago Sunday, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was struck and killed in Charlottesville, Va., when a self-identified Nazi allegedly drove into a crowd of counterprotesters as they were dispersing. That same day, two Virginia state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash on the way back from having monitored the protests. (All three deaths became the subject of multiple conspiracy theories, of course.)
It was also relatively peaceful, with only one arrest at the protest, according to D.C. police, someone accused of pepper-spraying another man about the time the Unite the Right rally (which only drew about 30 people) broke up. The man also reportedly had a slingshot and shards of glass and other projectiles in his possession.
And for those who enjoy painting everyone with a broad brush and who do a happy dance any time those evil people on the other side screw up, it meant that, yet again, Antifa managed to smear the entire left, just as the alt-right (white nationalists, etc.) often does with the right. (Personally, I tend to reserve my happy dances for things like a week without migraines or getting the chance to cuddle adorable furry things ... you know, things that actually make me happy.)
At the risk of repeating myself: Antifa is no more a reflection of the average left-wing adherent than the alt-right is of the average right-winger.
The majority of people, left and right, who participate in mass protests and counterprotests are peaceful and have no desire to use violence to achieve their aims (except maybe for those shifty scientists in the March for Science ... you just know they're all secretly supervillains seeking to rule the world while laughing maniacally ... and that's sarcasm, folks). But there are those who show up spoiling for a fight, whether they're dressed as militia with rifles and other weapons, or as part-time ninjas with slingshots, rocks and glass. And when the objects of their scorn aren't there, they're more than ready to attack anyone around. Those people can't claim to be advocating peaceful protest; you don't need weapons for that.
Yet to the other side, they become symbolic of the entire opposition, regardless of the fact that they're only a minuscule portion of those participating. In researching this column, I found a list purporting to be the names of all the Antifa members present (supposedly around 650) at Charlottesville last year. While Heather Heyer wasn't on the list (surprising, considering she was wearing black ... for her job at a bar), the three friends she was with were on the list. Not one of them was a member of Antifa, and, according to the Washington Post, the group changed direction every time they came upon skirmishes breaking out. But as far as the broad-brushers are concerned, they are the violent enemy.
Until we can see the differences, we're going to keep going around in circles, accusing each other of being the greatest evil that's ever lived. And we'll keep doing a Gish gallop every time someone confronts us with anything with which we don't agree.
A Gish gallop, for those who don't know, is a debate tactic that relies less on facts than drowning opponents in a flood of questionable statements. If the opponent doesn't disprove every single point (even if there are 100), the galloper will claim victory, for what that's worth.
Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education coined the phrase in "honor" of late creationist Duane Gish, who was notorious for the tactic, which she called "spewing forth torrents of error that the evolutionist hasn't a prayer of refuting in the format of a debate."
Making things up off the top of your head is much easier than doing research. Research is boring.
In the instance of Antifa and other such groups, opponents will often selectively list wrongs and assign them to an entire side of the political spectrum without acknowledging that there's a huge difference between the extreme far-right or far-left and the center, and that extremist groups are pretty much all guilty of such things. Damage left at Standing Rock? What about the Malheur standoff damage? Kathy Griffin? What about Ted Nugent? We could go on for hours.
But I really don't want to. I have better things to do with my time. My Flutter forest demands my attention.
Extremists like Antifa and the alt-right have the tendency to leave destruction in their wakes, while those in the center ... well, not so much. Extremists are called that because they are extreme, and it's unfair to everyone in the center to tar all with the same brush.
To me, so many of the extremists at both ends remind me of a toddler screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" I suppose that without attention, they, like toddlers, might eventually give up or tone down their tactics ... or just fall asleep after throwing a tantrum.
And if that doesn't work, I hear the dollar store has a special on pacifiers.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 08/15/2018
Print Headline: Put brush away