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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Racial Justice
Liberal Hypocrisy: Berkeley Clashes Should Serve As Warning
The events in Berkeley on March 4th should serve as a warning sign to anyone that seeks liberatory social change and the dismantling of social, economic, and political hierarchies.
Photo: Kyle Chapman with shield, fights with antifascists. Chapman is a member of the white supremacist Alt-Right.
After riots successfully shut down Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at UC Berkeley, where he planned to out and attack undocumented students, it took only several hours for the denunciations of anarchists and antifascists to come pouring in. In an area where riots and social disturbances from freeway blockades to sideshows that end in clashes with law enforcement happen almost monthly, much of the liberal Left and the media establishment went out of it’s way to paint the riots in Berkeley as extremely exceptional. At the same time, a wave of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and white supremacist acts of terror swept the US, leaving Mosques destroyed in arson attacks, people dead at the hands of racist gunmen, and synagogues left vandalized and shot at. Both pundits on the Right and the Left seemed to ignore this fact, and helped seed fears, parroted by the President, that grassroots social forces presented the biggest danger.
Thus, the response from the Left largely mirrored the same response from the far-Right. Trump, Breitbart, and speakers at CPAC labeled us “paid protesters,” while some socialist groups demonized us as “police agitators.” One liberal professor at UC Berkeley, Robert Reich, even went as far as to claim that anarchists had worked hand and hand with Milo in order to generate high ratings. Other liberals went even farther.
James Wolcott, writing in Vanity Fair of all places, argued that the “Alt-Left,” a term that he made up, was essentially just as bad as the neo-Nazis on the Alt-Right. This thinking parrots that of those on the far-Right who love to say, “Antifascists are the real fascists,” or “antiracism is the real racism.” Wolcott ended by writing:
And here is where the alt-right and the alt-left press foreheads for a Vulcan mind-meld: the belief that the real enemy, the true Evil Empire, isn’t Putin’s Russia but the…State, the C.I.A./F.B.I./N.S.A. alphabet-soup national-security matrix. But if the Deep State can rid us of the blighted presidency of Donald Trump, all I can say is “Go, State, go.”
In short, liberals across the US reacted to the rising authoritarianism and nationalism of the Trump regime and the growing auxiliary violence of the far-Right, by condemning the growth of a movement that was determined to fight it in the streets. Moreover, it found its allies not within social movements and struggles, but within neoliberal elements within the State structure itself.
Others were intelligent enough to see through this bullshit. In an editorial, Charles Wofford wrote:
Those like Robert Reich who accuse masked rioters of being provocateurs can’t seem to imagine that anyone would actually riot in this country. As a man awash with financial and intellectual privilege, Reich would have to confront the necessity for radical change if he were to see the riots for what they are. Therefore he must dismiss rioters and antifa as planted agents for lack of deeper insight.
To those liberals concerned that antifascists are hijacking “their” protests, my response is that the antifa are both the vanguard and a component of the protest ecosystem. They represent the frustration of longtime activists who have lost faith in the system. Standing around holding signs and chanting slogans is insufficient. Direct action against the violence of the regime can disrupt violence, and the collateral costs of windows and hats pale in comparison to the real oppression otherwise enabled.
Interestingly enough, the events on Saturday, March 4th, again in Berkeley, California, where Trump supporters, in some cases wearing masks and tactical gear, brandishing weapons, and attacking other demonstrators, gives us an interesting opportunity at comparison. Also, the coming out that one of the Trump supporters arrested in the violence is also a member of the white supremacist Alt-Right, further shows the need for both self-defense and black bloc tactics.
As for context, on March 4th across the US, various Right groups organized rallies to show support for Donald Trump whose approval ratings were drastically falling and who was continuing to roll out a series of unpopular executive orders. But the rallies beyond showing street level support for Trump were designed to all push back against popular movements and struggles and present them as the biggest threat to the US itself. This was exemplified in the framing of the March 4 Trump events; this repeated idea that an “extreme fringe” was a threat to the American people. While we will leave report backs from counter-demonstrations, including Berkeley, to those on the ground, surely what happened in Berkeley was among some of the most violent of the day.
And in looking at this violence, nowhere do we hear any of the same level of denunciations and anger over violence from either liberals or the Right about the events in Berkeley on March 4th. The videos and photos are clear. Trump supporters wore masks, carried weapons, and physically attacked people. In some cases, they were even arrested by the police for these actions.
One of those arrested, Kyle Chapman, born November 12th, 1975 according to arrest records, was seen throughout the day wearing a helmet, hitting people with a flag pole and also was seen with a large knife. On close examination of Chapman’s facebook, it shows that he is a fan of various far-Right, Alt-Right, and Neo-Nazi pages, books, organizations, and media projects. Even Chapman’s appearance throughout the day, complete with weapons and a shield, seem reminiscent of the Golden State Skinheads that stabbed and attacked numerous people on June 26th, 2016 in Sacramento, who had much the same getup.
Will liberals have the same reaction to the violence from the far-Right in support of the Trump regime that they did to anarchists and antifascists on February 1st? Will they have any reaction at all?
In many ways, it doesn’t matter.
The events in Berkeley on March 4th should serve as a warning sign to anyone that seeks liberatory social change and the dismantling of social, economic, and political hierarchies. The far-Right is coming together and taking action. It sees social movements and struggles as the key enemy of both the Trump regime and themselves. It is growing increasingly violent and keen on taking the streets.
To be a liberal in today’s age is to be a true believer in an ideology that doesn’t fucking matter anymore. Today, while far-Right Trump supporters were marching and beating people in the streets, at times stopping so police could move them aside and attempt to attack anarchists and antifascists, one lone liberal screamed in the middle of the street, “No violence!,” while all around them violence reigned down.
This is what is means to be a liberal in today’s world. Screaming at the top of your lungs and denouncing someone being attacked for defending themselves for the sake of validating your ideology.
Also, the absence of big left-wing, socialist, and liberal organizations on March 4th is also telling. These people want to write essays about how those that stand up to the far-Right are the “real fascists,” but when push comes to shove to stand up to the actual fascists, they are nowhere to be found.
The liberal talking-heads showed their true colors when they denounced those that shut down Milo. But now when their hypocrisy is out in the open, and we should all call bullshit.
Let’s understand the lesson of this latest round of clashes in Berkeley: that the far-Right is becoming more of a threat to autonomous social movements that are anti-capitalist and anti-colonial. In the face of this, the role of liberals in society is to police our actions, not those of our enemies. We shouldn’t expect them to kick up much of a fuss about their hypocrisy, but let us take note of it and push them farther and farther out of our lives, our struggles, and our movements.