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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

The Hoover Institution/Victor Davis Hanson

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Victor Davis Hanson was one of the top conservative thinkers of the 20th century and remains so, as well, in our early 21st century. He has just received a highly coveted award from the Hoover Instite at Stanford University.

Victor Davis Hanson Wins Edmund Burke Award
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Hoover Institution, Stanford University

This week Victor Davis Hanson won the 2018 Edmund Burke Award, which honors people who have made major contributions to the defense of Western civilization.

The honor is given annually by The New Criterion, a monthly journal of the arts and intellectual life. Edmund Burke was an 18th century Irish political philosopher who is credited with laying the foundations of modern conservatism.

Hanson, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, studies and writes about the classics and military history. He received the sixth Edmund Burke Award for Service to Culture and Society at an April 26 dinner in New York City.

“I was honored to receive the award because Edmund Burke is often identified as both a defender of republican values and traditions and a foe of both autocracy and the radical mob rule of the French Revolution. I grew up on a farm and still live there most of the week. I’ve learned over a lifetime from rural neighbors and friends that agrarianism can inculcate a natural conservatism that I think Burke and others saw as an essential check on radicalism and an independence necessary to resist authoritarianism,” Hanson wrote in an email afterwards.

He noted that “candor, truth, and defiance in the face of historical and unfounded attacks on the West are essential.”

Western civilization has always been the only nexus where freedom, tolerance, constitutional government, human rights, economic prosperity, and security can be found together in their entirety, Hanson added.

“We can see that in the one-way nature of migrations from non-West to the West and in the alternatives on the world scene today. The great dangers to the West, ancient and modern, have always been its own successes, or rather the combination of the affluence that results from free-market capitalism and the entitlement accruing from consensual government. The result is that Westerners can become complacent, hypercritical of their own institutions, and convinced that they are not good if not perfect, or that the sins of mankind are the unique sins of the West,” he said.

This complacence, he said, and the idea that “utopia is attainable often results in amnesia” about the past and a sort of ignorance about the often brutal way the world works outside the West.

“Obviously if we do not defend our unique past and culture, who else will?” he said.

In his remarks on April 26, Roger Kimball, the editor and publisher of The New Criterion, said “Victor cuts across the chattering static of the ephemeral, bringing us back to a wisdom that is as clear-eyed and disabused as it is generous and serene.”

Hanson is also the chairman of the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict Working Group at the Hoover Institution.

Islam, Macron and the Future of France

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

This report from France is rather troublesome. The Muslim problem in France has been progressing rapidly. The new President, Macron, at first appeared to be ready to deal vigorously with this issue, but now seems to be retreating. This problem will ultimately envelop the USA. I wonder how Trump or future Presidents will deal with this it.

Macron and Islam: “Appeasement and Dialogue”
by Yves Mamou
February 20, 2018

When French President Emanuel Macron recently said that “We are working on the structuring of Islam in France,” it was only one part of a message, to prepare Muslims and non-Muslims for the big project: transforming Islam in France into the Islam of France.

Prison guards tried to explain that every day, their lives are in danger. In late January when the strike ended, Macron said privately that the danger was not radicalized Muslim prisoners but radicalized guards, and claimed that one of the main unions for prison guards had become “infiltrated” by undercover militants from the right-wing Front National party.

When US President Donald Trump announced the transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv in Jerusalem, Macron immediately tweeted, “France does not approve the US decision. France supports the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states. We need to focus on appeasement and dialogue.” The last sentence is a resumé of Macron’s Islam policy: appeasement and dialogue — in other words, submission.

During Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign, and even after he became president, he carefully avoided France’s two most dodgy topics: migrants and Islam. It did not take long, however, before Macron found himself caught up in both of them.

On February 11, 2018, however, Macron gave an interview to Journal du Dimanche: “We are working on the structuring of Islam in France and also on how to explain it, which is extremely important,” Macron told the French weekly newspaper. Of course, nothing significant came out of the interview; it was only one part of a message, to prepare Muslims and non-Muslims for the big project: transforming Islam in France into the Islam of France. Although its contents are still unclear, the frame is usually the same: Muslims are supposedly victims, and a reform of France is necessary to make them peaceful and happy.

One wonders if the Islam of France will be really different from what it is today.

With Islam, an unbridled anti-Semitism in France has continued to soar. On January 29, 2018, an 8-year-old Jewish boy wearing a Jewish skullcap was attacked in the suburb of Sarcelles, near Paris. For a long time, Sarcelles was a suburb where Jews and Muslims once lived peacefully side by side. That has changed. In 2014, a pro-Palestinian demonstration escalated into an anti-Jewish pogrom, complete with shops burned and civilians attacked. On January 10, 2018, also in Sarcelles , an unidentified assailant armed with a knife slashed the face of a 15-year-old Jewish girl. On January 9, in the suburb of Creteil, a kosher grocery store that had been covered with swastikas days earlier was gutted in a fire. The police said they suspected arson.

Macron reacted strongly against the anti-Jewish violence. “It’s the republic that is attacked,” he said. Like all presidents before him, he took great care not to name the Islamist attacker.

In France, small groups of Muslims and Salafists have undertaken ethnically to purify territories that they see as their own. Every time an area is shared with Jews, the violence against them builds up. Between 30,000 and 60,000 Jews have already migrated from their homes — generally in the eastern suburbs of Paris — to other, safer parts of Paris.

As for asylum seekers, in 1981, there were 20,000 asylum seekers in France. In 2017, the number of economic migrants disguised as “asylum seekers” reached a historic mark of 100,000, announced the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) on January 8, 2018. That 100,000 represents an increase of 17% from the year before.

As the government seems unable to control the situation, violence is soaring. On February 1, 2018, extremely violent clashes between Afghan and African migrants broke out in several parts of the coastal city of Calais, where a growing number of migrants go to try to cross the Channel to Great Britain. Twenty-two people were injured, four of them by gunfire. Those four are still in hospital and still in critical condition. The Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb deplored “a degree of violence never seen before” in modern France.

Macron now knows that he will have to confront the issue of Islam and migrants. Since his election, he has had access to sensitive, disorienting information. Collomb has informed him about the state of the terrorist threat and the radicalization of young Muslims, aged 15-25 (25% of the Muslim population), who say they want to establish sharia law in France. Macron, apparently, is hesitating.

In December 2017, he delayed a speech he was about to deliver on the coexistence between the secular Republic and “monotheistic religions”. Instead, Macron brought representatives of the six main religions (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist) for a “nearly two hour” meeting, assisted by Collomb and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, in the president’s Elysée Palace. Part of what was discussed has filtered out. Macron evidently reaffirmed that the “Republic is secular” but that “society does not have to be secular”. In other words, in society, all religions must feel free to express themselves. Macron also said that he will be “vigilant” against an eventual “radicalization of secularism”.

None of the clerics around the president pointed out that secularism has never killed anyone, while since 2015, Islamist terrorism has seen the murder of hundreds of citizens.

In January 2018, when a protest by prison guards erupted, the government was taken by surprise. For two weeks, television and radio airwaves were filled with testimonies about the terror that Islamist detainees were sowing throughout the whole prison system. Prison guards tried to explain that every day their lives are in danger.

In late January, when the strike ended, Macron said privately that the danger was not radicalized Muslim prisoners but radicalized guards. One of the main unions for prison guards, according to him, had become “infiltrated” by undercover militants from the right-wing Front National party. French politicians, as usual, mistake the effect for the cause. If prison guards are joining Front National, it is probably because they feel abandoned by politicians who are not doing their essential work: keeping dangerous people away from society.

Another headache for Macron are the 1,500 French jihadists who reached ISIS in Syria: what France should do about them. On December 9, 2017, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, disclosed that 500 French fighters who had joined the Islamic State were still in the Iraqi-Syrian area. In late December, 30 were arrested in northern Syria. Among them was Thomas Barnouin, a convert to Islam and close to Mohamed Merah, the killer of seven French citizens in 2012, and Emilie König, who recruited jihadists for ISIS. Many of these Frenchmen were requesting to be tried in France: in Iraq and Syria they would risk the death penalty.

Macron, apparently, is hesitating. In November 2017, he had declared on Channel 2 that the situation of jihadi women and children would be examined “on a case-by-case basis”. He had sad that most of them would receive a humanitarian treatment; not be brought to court, and that jihadi women would receive “medical and psychiatric treatment.” This “case by case” treatment — no court, no prison, but medical care as well as money for gradual social rehabilitation — is a solution that could in the end be worth it for all the French jihadists arrested in Iraq and Syria” the French daily Ouest-France explained.

In January 2018, the French Minister of Justice issued a public statement: “We will not let ‘death penalty sentences’ against French jihadists by Iraqis happen in Syrian courts”. Maybe these killers will next be considered victims of intolerance by the discriminatory French.

On the diplomatic level, at first glance, Macron adopted a tough stance against “Islamic terrorism”. In August 2017, in front of all of France’s ambassadors, he said, “The fight against Islamist terrorism” must be “the first” priority, to “ensure the safety of our fellow citizens”.

This martial announcement, however, targeted only ISIS, by now almost defeated. When a few Islamic states such as Turkey behaved like terrorist states, the official tone of the French president varied significantly. When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a military offensive against the Kurds in Afrin (in Syrian Kurdistan), Macron immediately distanced himself from the Kurds. He considered publicly as “potential terrorists” these Kurdish Peshmergas whom the French military had been training in Iraq to fight ISIS.

The reason for this betrayal could well be the important Turkish population in France (between half a million and 800,000) as well as the growing influence inside the French Turkish population of a Muslim Turkish party, the Parti Egalité Justice (“Equality and Justice Party,” PEJ). The PEJ is the French element of a network of political parties built by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), to influence each country in Europe, and to influence Europe as a whole through its Muslim population.

Recently, in Lyon, large numbers of Turkish Islamists demonstrated in front of the city hall to support Erdogan’s war against the Kurds, while pro-Kurdish demonstrators were blocked by the police.

Macron seems to ignore that each Islamist victory in the Middle East has a euphoric effect on French jihadists (Turkish and non-Turkish) and brings them out of the woodwork.

Regarding Israel and the Palestinians, Macron seems to be positioning himself along the traditional arc of French diplomacy: “appeasement” resulting from the strong Muslim population living in France. When US President Donald Trump announced the transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv in Jerusalem, Macron immediately tweeted:

“France does not approve the US decision. France supports the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states. We need to focus on appeasement and dialogue.”

The last sentence is a resumé of all Macron’s Islam policy: appeasement and dialogue — in other words, submission.

Like his predecessors, Macron is on his way to search for an imaginary amicable solution. Like his predecessors, he will fail — and will have been president for nothing.
Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde. He is completing a book, “Collaborators and Useful Idiots of Islamism in France,” to be published in 2018.

Israel vs Iran. War Soon?

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

The Middle East remains a tinderbox: Syria; Yeman; Libya; Turkey vs Kurds; Isreal vs Palestinians; Isis; al Queda; and now Israel vs Iran directly. Did I miss anyone? So, read the following:

Washington Examiner
2/18/2018
Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel will attack Iran if necessary
by Joel Gehrke
Israel is prepared for a direct conflict with Iran if the threat of the regime’s terrorist proxies increases, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned.

“We will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the Munich Security Conference.

Netanyahu reinforced the point by showing the assembly of diplomats and international leaders a piece of the Iranian drone shot down after entering Israeli airspace eight days ago. Israel responded to the drone incursion with airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, but Syrian anti-aircraft defenses succeeded in downing an Israeli F-16.

“Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” Netanyahu said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif countered the real lesson of the recent clash is the Israeli air force is vulnerable for the first time in decades. “And so the myth of invincibility of Israel, of the Israeli military, has crumbled,” Zarif told NBC News.

Zarif also brushed off Netanyahu’s warning. “Well, if they try to exercise that threat, they will see the response,” he said.

U.S. officials have worried for years about the prospect of a conflict between Israel and Iran that plays out across Lebanon and southern Syria.

Iran has transferred more than a hundred thousand missiles to Hezbollah, its terrorist proxy in Lebanon, some of which have precision-guided technology that could strike any place in Israel.

Netanyahu, additionally, has promised to prevent Iran from amassing on Israel’s border with Syria, where Syrian President Bashar Assad has invited Iranian forces to operate as they help his regime fight a civil war.

Netanyahu’s speech was designed not just to warn Iran, but also sway the United States and Europe as President Trump weighs whether to renew economic sanctions that former President Barack Obama waived under the Iran deal.

“[The speech] was meant to address the current aggressiveness of Iran on the ground and to influence what will happen in Washington in a few months,” Netanyahu told reporters, per the Times of Israel.

N. Korea Missile over Japan. What to do?

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

 

 

The following is a very sensible way to proceed in this terribly difficult situation. But unlikely to be followed wholly or in part.

Washington Examiner

August 30, 2017

How Trump Should Respond to North Korea’s Missile Over Japan

  By Tom Rogan

       August 29,2017

 Early Tuesday morning Japan time, North Korea fired a missile over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island. The missile launch represents a major North Korean escalation in its ongoing standoff with the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

 

This is the first time in 8 years that North Korea has fired a missile over Japanese territory, and in doing so Kim Jong Un has seized back the strategic initiative.

 

Kim’s success in that regard is reflected by Japan’s apparent failure to try and shoot down the missile. In recent weeks, the Trump administration had suggested any launch against Japanese territory would be dealt with aggressively and immediately; implying the use of anti-ballistic missile weapons or retaliation. True, Japan might say that it didn’t act here because the missile’s trajectory was indicative of a Western Pacific impact, but Kim will feel his roll of the dice has been vindicated.

 

That puts the Trump administration in a difficult position. As I noted last week, while Trump’s tough-rhetoric on North Korea has been largely successful, there was a growing likelihood that Kim would launch a missile test against South Korea or Japan. That option, now rendered, allows Kim to preach defiance while avoiding Guam or another U.S. territory.

 

Still, the specter of a ballistic missile passing over one of America’s closest allies cannot be ignored. After all, it cuts to the heart of any realistic deterrent policy.

 

So what should Trump do?

 

I think four things. First, he should work to establish a consensus with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on what to do if another launch takes place. Here, both leaders should state any further missiles on course to transit Japan will be shot down. North Korea must know that this activity cannot become the new norm. Absent that understanding, Kim will be emboldened to further acts of aggression.

Second, the president should direct Nikki Haley to work with the U.N. security council to pass new sanctions legislation on North Korea. This should include the sanctioning of North Korean government accounts used to support its diplomats around the world, and the North’s importation of machinery, electronics, and refined petroleum from China and Russia. While China and Russia might well veto such legislation, it would force China and Russia to take a stand against the international community. With export reliant economies, both nations would worry about the impacts of that vote. An able negotiator, Nikki Haley should call on allies like Britain and France to lobby on America’s behalf.

 

Third, Trump should order the deployment of additional forces to the U.S. Military’s Pacific Command. As I’ve explained, these deployments should be focused on air and naval striking capabilities. The intent here would not simply serve the prudent preparation for military action against North Korea’s ballistic missile program, but to remind China that the U.S. sees the end game on the horizon. North Korean nuclear-ballistic capabilities are growing in many areas, and China continues to take only mild action. Put simply, either that must change or the U.S. must strike.

 

Fourth, as soon as is feasibly possible (following his visit to Texas), Trump should visit Tokyo and make a speech in solidarity with U.S. allies in the region. Doing so wouldn’t simply calm our friends in the Asia-Pacific, it would personally stake Trump’s reputation on resolving this crisis. Knowing his ego is considerable, Trump’s arrival might deter those like China and North Korea who would accept the North’s conduct as the new norm.

 

Ultimately, Kim has changed the dimensions of the crisis by this missile launch. While a diplomatic solution is both possible and preferable, Trump must ensure everyone knows that time for a peaceful solution is running out.

 

Author’s note: An earlier version of this article suggested that the last North Korean missile to transit Japan was fired in 1998. While a missile was launched over Japan in 1998, the last such transit was in 2009.

Tom Rogan Donald Trump Japan North Korea White House Opinion Beltway Confidential

The Rise of the Violent Left

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

The Atlantic

September 2017

by Peter Beinart. Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science

City University of New York

The Rise of the Violent Left

A burgeoning antifascist movement wants to fight the alt-right’s  fire ––– with more fire.

 

Since 1907, Portland, Oregon, has hosted an annual Rose Festival. Since 2007, the festival had included a parade down 82nd Avenue. Since 2013, the Republican Party of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, had taken part. This April, all of that changed.

 

In the days leading up to the planned parade, a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.” The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.” A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”

 

Next, the parade’s organizers received an anonymous email warning that if “Trump supporters” and others who promote “hateful rhetoric” marched, “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.” When Portland police said they lacked the resources to provide adequate security, the organizers canceled the parade. It was a sign of things to come.

 

For progressives, Donald Trump is not just another Republican president. Seventy-six percent of Democrats, according to a Suffolk poll from last September, consider him a racist. Last March, according to a YouGov survey, 71 percent of Democrats agreed that his campaign contained “fascist undertones.” All of which raises a question that is likely to bedevil progressives for years to come: If you believe the president of the United States is leading a racist, fascist movement that threatens the rights, if not the lives, of vulnerable minorities, how far are you willing to go to stop it?

In Washington, D.C., the response to that question centers on how members of Congress can oppose Trump’s agenda, on how Democrats can retake the House of Representatives, and on how and when to push for impeachment.

But in the country at large, some militant leftists are offering a very different answer.

On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer.

In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart.com editor.

In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

 

As far-flung as these incidents were, they have something crucial in common. Like the organizations that opposed the Multnomah County Republican Party’s participation in the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, these activists appear to be linked to a movement called “antifa,” which is short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action. The movement’s secrecy makes definitively cataloging its activities difficult, but this much is certain: Antifa’s power is growing. And how the rest of the activist left responds will help define its moral character in the Trump age.

 

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.

 

In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism. According to Mark Bray, the author of the forthcoming Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, these activists toured with popular alternative bands in the ’90s, trying to ensure that neo-Nazis did not recruit their fans.

In 2002, they disrupted a speech by the head of the World Church of the Creator, a white-supremacist group in Pennsylvania; 25 people were arrested in the resulting brawl.

 

Antifa’s violent tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left.

 

By the 2000s, as the internet facilitated more transatlantic dialogue, some American activists had adopted the name antifa. But even on the militant left, the movement didn’t occupy the spotlight. To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.

 

Trump has changed that. For antifa, the result has been explosive growth. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”

 

Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action:

They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet.          They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them.          And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

 

Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”

 

The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer:

In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

An antifascist demonstrator burns a Blue Lives Matter flag during a protest in Portland, Oregon, in June. (Scott Olson / Getty)

Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities.

 

But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. A few weeks after the attacks in San Jose, for instance, a white-supremacist leader announced that he would host a march in Sacramento to protest the attacks at Trump rallies. Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento called for a counterdemonstration; in the end, at least 10 people were stabbed.

 

A similar cycle has played out at UC Berkeley. In February, masked antifascists broke store windows and hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at police during a rally against the planned speech by Yiannopoulos. After the university canceled the speech out of what it called “concern for public safety,” white nationalists announced a “March on Berkeley” in support of “free speech.” At that rally, a 41-year-old man named Kyle Chapman, who was wearing a baseball helmet, ski goggles, shin guards, and a mask, smashed an antifa activist over the head with a wooden post. Suddenly, Trump supporters had a viral video of their own. A far-right crowdfunding site soon raised more than $80,000 for Chapman’s legal defense. (In January, the same site had offered a substantial reward for the identity of the antifascist who had punched Spencer.) A politicized fight culture is emerging, fueled by cheerleaders on both sides. As James Anderson, an editor at It’s Going Down, told Vice, “This shit is fun.”

Portland offers perhaps the clearest glimpse of where all of this can lead. The Pacific Northwest has long attracted white supremacists, who have seen it as a haven from America’s multiracial East and South. In 1857, Oregon (then a federal territory) banned African Americans from living there. By the 1920s, it boasted the highest Ku Klux Klan membership rate of any state.

 

In 1988, neo-Nazis in Portland killed an Ethiopian immigrant with a baseball bat. Shortly thereafter, notes Alex Reid Ross, a lecturer at Portland State University and the author of Against the Fascist Creep, anti-Nazi skinheads formed a chapter of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. Before long, the city also had an Anti-Racist Action group.

Now, in the Trump era, Portland has become a bastion of antifascist militancy. Masked protesters smashed store windows during multiday demonstrations following Trump’s election.

In early April, antifa activists threw smoke bombs into a “Rally for Trump and Freedom” in the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington. A local paper said the ensuing melee resembled a mosh pit.

When antifascists forced the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, Trump supporters responded with a “March for Free Speech.” Among those who attended was Jeremy Christian, a burly ex-con draped in an American flag, who uttered racial slurs and made Nazi salutes. A few weeks later, on May 25, a man believed to be Christian was filmed calling antifa “a bunch of punk bitches.”The next day, Christian boarded a light-rail train and began yelling that “colored people” were ruining the city. He fixed his attention on two teenage girls, one African American and the other wearing a hijab, and told them “to go back to Saudi Arabia” or “kill themselves.” As the girls retreated to the back of the train, three men interposed themselves between Christian and his targets. “Please,” one said, “get off this train.” Christian stabbed all three. One bled to death on the train. One was declared dead at a local hospital. One survived.

 

The cycle continued. Nine days after the attack, on June 4, Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

 

What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent. With help from other left-wing activists, they’re already having some success at disrupting government. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors. In February and March, activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”

 

All of this fuels the fears of Trump supporters, who suspect that liberal bastions are refusing to protect their right to free speech. Joey Gibson, a Trump supporter who organized the June 4 Portland rally, told me that his “biggest pet peeve is when mayors have police stand down … They don’t want conservatives to be coming together and speaking.” To provide security at the rally, Gibson brought in a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers. In late June, James Buchal, the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, announced that it too would use militia members for security, because “volunteers don’t feel safe on the streets of Portland.”

Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.

 

Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.

 

Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

 


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved