Parse this Carefully:


At least five individuals were attacked [wp]

[A] pepper-spray wielding Trump supporter was smacked to the ground with homemade shields.

perhaps they should have used harsh language? Or hegelian dialectic?

Another was attacked by five black-clad antifas, each windmilling kicks and punches into a man desperately trying to protect himself.

Another … what? White supremacist wielding pepper spray? Another aggressor saying 1/3 of the people should stand by while another 1/3 of the people kill the other 1/3?

 

I’m sad to see Noam Chomsky quoted all over as “Antifa is a gift to the right” – sorry, Noam, game theory says that an unpredictable unlimited downside works better than a predictable reward in a long-term strategy. “Tit for tat” game theory scenarios are predicated on the house making the rules, and they don’t take into account catastrophically disproportionate outcomes. Oddly, catastrophically disproportionate outcomes have been the table stakes for a long time; the house has set up ‘tales I win, heads you lose’. When white supremacists learn they can pepper spray people and cops will stand watching, they’ll do it again and again. If they learn they can drive cars into people, they’ll do it again and again. They need to learn that “sometimes, that really really blows up in your face in the most horrible possible way.”

“At least 5 individuals” – were the ‘individuals’ in a group? If they were in a group, they’re not ‘individuals’ they’re members of a group. You know: “at an incident at Cannae (216BC), about 60,000 individuals were killed during the course of a day marked by unusually severe accidents.”

Why is the fact that the antifa were “black-clad” relevant? Were the fascisti dressed like Teddy Boys? [wikipedia] During the course of the Notting Hill race riots, snappily-dressed Teddy Boys attacked their fellow citizens who happened to be brown. Does the clothing matter? Would it have mattered if they were wearing Hugo Boss-designed Gestapo uniforms?

It sounds to me like whoever wrote that piece just barely snatched their fingers off their keyboard before they wrote “hoodie-wearing black-clad anarchist thugs.”

I am not saying the media should show no bias. Anyone who is alive today ought to know that the media is biased, and factor that in whenever they read an account of an event. What bothers me is that the media’s writing pretends to be objective, which means it’s passive and it cowers behind its typewriter. Right or wrong, people are out there making a stand, and giving and taking lumps. This isn’t bad weather that just sort of happened.

“We’re just puzzled as to why people consider violence a valid tactic,”

1/3 of the country wants to oppress another 1/3 of the country, and the remaining 1/3 of the country wants to stand around and ask “why people consider violence a valid tactic.” Because asking fascists to be nice doesn’t seem to be working and their end-goal is some muddy combination of increasing oppression against black and hispanic people, LGBT, immigrants, and jews – or maybe killing them or deporting them. The neo-fascists’ goals, their desired end-state, is only achievable through violence. Their marching, their rallies, are shows of force; the violence is implicit.

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I hate the way that some media write about stories: “individuals were attacked.” The implication is that they were passive, perhaps just minding their own business. I think I would rewrite the first sentence as: “Protesters wielding shields clashed with protesters brandishing pepper spray.” They’re reporting it so that it sounds so neutral – I don’t think that’s appropriate: both sides were spoiling for a fight and they got one. I don’t think you can say someone who showed up at a fight was “desperately trying to protect them self” – I protect myself by not going to protests wearing armor or carrying pepper spray; someone desperately trying to protect them self stays at home and posts on the internet from thousands of miles away. The same applies for the cops – they can’t say they’re there expecting peace and orderly behavior when they’re toting military weaponry and shields of their own.

Whenever I hear about shield-bearing fascist protesters, I find myself daydreaming about back in the day at Pennsic, when I saw a troop bearing red shields with gold eagles, wearing red capes, and lorica segmenta, marching in formation, and suddenly I was all choked up with the beauty of the thing. Except for that it’d make the cops start shooting people, it sure would be fun to show up at one of the protests with a wing of properly armored folks who know how to use shields. Noam Chomsky’d definitely say that was a “gift to the right.”

Comments

  1. colinday says

    ‘tales I win, heads you lose’

    Would that be Aesop vs. the Brothers Grimm? Hey, you said to parse it carefully.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    I’m going to go with Chomsky on this one.

    game theory says that an unpredictable unlimited downside works better than a predictable reward in a long-term strategy

    Where’s the downside for them in this? Is getting beaten up a downside? Was getting beaten up a downside for the Freedom Riders, or MLK’s marchers, who went through far worse than what these fascists are going through? Obviously their goals are complete opposites, but their leaders are starting to realize that if they want to win hearts and minds, they should imitate successful PR campaigns like the civil rights movement, and figure out a way to portray themselves as victims, no matter how dishonestly.

    Why are the fascists holding rallies in liberal bastions like Berkeley and Charlottesville, rather than blue-collar places like Skokie Illinois? It’s because they were hoping and praying to Odin that something exactly like this would happen. It didn’t work in Charlottesville, because too many of them showed up, and they were too well armed, and some of their followers decided to act on their rhetoric. But Berkeley has now given them the perfect optics to illustrate their Fuhrer’s assertion that “both sides are just as bad,” and D’nesh D’souza’s cry that “the left are the real violent fascists.”

    I’m sure that what their leaders are really hoping is that one of their followers actually gets killed, so that their side will have a martyr to counter Heather Heyer with.

    The neo-fascists’ goals, their desired end-state, is only achievable through violence. Their marching, their rallies, are shows of force; the violence is implicit.

    I’ll agree with this; I’m not saying the fascists don’t deserve to be punched. I’m talking about tactics. You left out some steps here — their goal is to finish the job that Trump began of legitimizing their previously fringe beliefs in the eyes of a public which is vaguely racist, but is desperate to label its racism something else like “law and order.” Their hope is that, through his leadership and the acquiescent racism of his supporters, they can gain control of state-controlled violence — THEN they will try to achieve their desired end-state.

  3. says

    The neo-fascists’ goals, their desired end-state, is only achievable through violence. Their marching, their rallies, are shows of force; the violence is implicit.

    I would have preferred if antifa left their violence implicit as well. My understanding was that there were 10s of protestors, 1000s of counter-protestors, and 100s of black bloc protestors. The sheer numerical difference was plenty threat already. The violence–although there was not much of it–makes the right-wing protestors look like underdogs. Like, I’m not sure if Berkeley antifa is bad at managing image or if they just don’t care.

    sorry, Noam, game theory says that an unpredictable unlimited downside works better than a predictable reward in a long-term strategy.

    It’s hard to tell what point you are making about game theory. Could you elaborate?

  4. jrkrideau says

    @2 brucegee1962
    Where’s the downside for them in this?
    Just how many of those scum really expect to get hurt? From what little I saw in the Charlottesville films those were not oppressed and downtrodden people. They were a bunch of nasty and privileged white asses who thought they could frighten people. I am rather of the opinion that none of the rank and file ever thought someone would dare raise a hand to these clean-cut middle class white boys.

    MLK’s marchers knew very well what could happen, they had been on the receiving end of racial discrimination and violence their entire lives. I have no idea who the Freedom Riders were but I expect the same thing holds.

    And in some cases a bit of judicious force may help http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/the-43-story-of-how-uk-jews-fought-a-wave-of-post-war-anti-semitism-to-be-subject-of-new-tv-series-a6677751.html

  5. brucegee1962 says

    See #3. The leaders of this movement want positive PR, and Charlottesville was disastrous for that. I think they learned their lesson — they scheduled their rally so that thousands of counterdemonstraters would be there, then showed up with a bare minimum of people. They were hoping to look like victims, and antifa obliged them.

  6. says

    Siggy@#3:
    It’s hard to tell what point you are making about game theory. Could you elaborate?

    Sorry; I sort of went haring off into obscurity there…

    In game theory “tit for tat” strategies work pretty well in some constructions of the prisoners’ dilemma or similar zero-sum games. In a sense the violence at rallies is becoming a sort of “tit for tat” mutual escalation, but the problem I see is that it’s not zero-sum; there’s unlimited downside for the people who get killed – either way: if the white supremacists have their way and get to go ethnic cleansing the country, or if either side starts killing the other. It’s why I think mutual escalation is a bad idea – but that train of thought leads right into scary cold-war first strike models, and overwhelming force, and I don’t like that a whole lot either.

    I know it’s a statement of the obvious, but this is not a zero-sum game; it’s worse.

  7. says

    Marcus Ranum @6,
    So tell me if I understood this correctly. You are arguing against “tit for tat” because it could lead to escalation, and the downside of escalation is really bad. And what the black bloc protestors did is not “tit for tat” because… ? Or maybe you were just saying it’s complicated and it’s not obvious what the correct strategy is?

  8. says

    Siggy@#7:
    I’m saying it’s complicated; game theory doesn’t work when the outcomes are unknown.

    I don’t think that the violence is “tit for tat” either, though it sort of feels like it. Obviously, it isn’t because antifa aren’t driving cars into crowds of white supremacists. Or something.

  9. John Morales says

    I am not saying the media should show no bias. Anyone who is alive today ought to know that the media is biased, and factor that in whenever they read an account of an event. What bothers me is that the media’s writing pretends to be objective, which means it’s passive and it cowers behind its typewriter. Right or wrong, people are out there making a stand, and giving and taking lumps. This isn’t bad weather that just sort of happened.

    But there’s no monolithic entity — I can see the very different slant from the very same sources from different publications, particularly when the “reporting” is basically an opinion piece.

  10. cartomancer says

    Pedant attack!

    It’s “lorica segmentata”. “Segmenta” just means segments – you need the -atus/-ata/-atum adjectival ending for it to make sense. Although the term is actually an early modern archaeological one – the Romans themselves, as far as we know, never called it a lorica segmentata.

    My recommendation would be to forego traditional shields and bring heavy medieval siege mantlets instead. No jumped-up Goebbels wannabe is getting through those easily.

  11. says

    You know: “at an incident at Cannae (216BC), about 60,000 individuals were killed during the course of a day marked by unusually severe accidents.”

    This was hilarious. And, unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw something like this written by an actual “objective” journalist.

    I don’t think you can say someone who showed up at a fight was “desperately trying to protect them self” – I protect myself by not going to protests wearing armor or carrying pepper spray; someone desperately trying to protect them self stays at home and posts on the internet from thousands of miles away.

    Knowing that this is USA, a country with a notoriously bad track record, yeah, I sort of agree. But when it comes to the rest of the world, I disagree. Protecting yourself by not going to protests is not a solution. Historically there have been countless protests for good causes, and protests often worked and helped to improve things. And in other countries protests usually remain peaceful even when there are two groups with opposite opinions present.

    The same applies for the cops – they can’t say they’re there expecting peace and orderly behavior when they’re toting military weaponry and shields of their own.

    Again, this is true only for USA.

    I have participated in a protest exactly once. It was an LBGTQ pride. I went there knowing that there will be two groups with opposite opinions (LGBTQ people and their supporters on one side; homophobes and transphobes on the other side). I also expected to see a lot of cops with all their cool gear. And I went there expecting this to be a peaceful event. My expectations were that the worst thing that could possibly happen would be some rotten tomatoes thrown around. Fist fights or uses of pepper spray were not part of my expectations. And it really turned out peaceful. There was a huge amount of police officers with cool gear. There were so many that in some places police officers were literally forming a living wall between both hostile groups of protesters. And nobody among protesters tried starting a fight knowing that cops would stop that and arrest them immediately. When cops are held on a leash knowing that they have a job to do and they can’t get away with “accidentally” shooting or injuring somebody, then police officers are capable of actually doing a decent job. And I do think that maintaining peace during a protest is a legitimate job for police officers. And cops do need some tools (like shield and non lethal weapons) to do this job.

    By the way, my photos from then are here – https://www.flickr.com/photos/avestra/albums/72157654413367199

    My opinion about cops in riot gear is a lot more positive than yours, because in other countries they are held accountable and actually manage to do a good job ensuring everybody’s safety. The way how cops behave in USA is not normal. And it shouldn’t be seen as normal or unavoidable.

  12. says

    cartomancer@#10:
    It’s “lorica segmentata”. “Segmenta” just means segments – you need the -atus/-ata/-atum adjectival ending for it to make sense. Although the term is actually an early modern archaeological one – the Romans themselves, as far as we know, never called it a lorica segmentata.

    My memory is getting worse and worse. I’m not sure if it’s mid 50s and a midlife partying catching up to me, or what. I dread not being able to rely on myself; I’m not sure if it’s just that blogging really holds a mirror up to my thoughts and highlights my errors, or if it’s that I’m working the edges of my comfort zone, or that my memory is blurring. Corrections are always appreciated, though.

    My recommendation would be to forego traditional shields and bring heavy medieval siege mantlets instead. No jumped-up Goebbels wannabe is getting through those easily.

    Ah, yes, the original medieval armored car.

    I still like the Roman idea because totalitarians seem to dig Romans, and seeing a bunch of them getting stomped flat by legionnaires tickles my sense of surrealism.

  13. says

    John Morales@#9:
    But there’s no monolithic entity — I can see the very different slant from the very same sources from different publications, particularly when the “reporting” is basically an opinion piece.

    You’re right – I was overgeneralizing/stereotyping.

  14. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#11:
    Protecting yourself by not going to protests is not a solution. Historically there have been countless protests for good causes, and protests often worked and helped to improve things. And in other countries protests usually remain peaceful even when there are two groups with opposite opinions present.

    I rode my dad’s shoulders through some of the big Vietnam War protests in NYC; those were massive events but were fairly safe because the opposition did not appear in force.

    There was a huge amount of police officers with cool gear. There were so many that in some places police officers were literally forming a living wall between both hostile groups of protesters. And nobody among protesters tried starting a fight knowing that cops would stop that and arrest them immediately. When cops are held on a leash knowing that they have a job to do and they can’t get away with “accidentally” shooting or injuring somebody, then police officers are capable of actually doing a decent job.

    Agreed. When the cops are led well and managed effectively, they are able to help save lives and prevent worse problems. In the US, however, the cops appear to have decided they are a political power of their own, (they’ve acted that way for a very long time) and that’s going to complicate things because nobody can tell whether the cops are there to serve peace, or the establishment, or the people, or the union, or … what?

    And I do think that maintaining peace during a protest is a legitimate job for police officers. And cops do need some tools (like shield and non lethal weapons) to do this job.

    The cops have an unfortunate problem that, if things get violent, they need to be able to keep themselves from being overpowered. In the US that translates to militarizing the police, which will eventually translate to the citizens using insurgency tactics.

    Re: protest pictures – looks like a bunch of calm people enjoying a beautiful day in the park, carrying signs!

  15. cartomancer says

    The ultimate in ironic anti-fascist violence would, of course, be to bring along bundles of rods and axes with great solemnity and ceremony, then beat them up with those.

  16. Siobhan says

    Little surprised at the number of skeptics accepting the Beltway’s angle on Berkeley. Y’all should know that the Beltway’s perspective is terribly warped and out of touch.

    Berkeley professor provides her coverage of the event: https://twitter.com/schradie/status/902295142400368640

    Picture of the “militant anarchist demo” shows exactly nothing happening: https://twitter.com/DarwinBondGraha/status/901908500644749312

    Police were arming up to fire teargas next to peaceful protesters (notice how no one is even confronting them?): https://twitter.com/caseytolan/status/901901605393522688

    The black bloc put themselves between police and peaceful protesters, had hands up, shouted at police to not fire: https://twitter.com/pjpodesta/status/901906888299655168

    Here’s the “unruly mob” that “forced” the police to stand down: https://www.facebook.com/deb.r.avery/videos/vb.599576912/10155697065911913/?type=2&theater

    There was one pepper-spray assault I’ve been able to find and one assault and battery in a protest of 4,000 people.

    Seriously. Please remember your grains of salt. :/

  17. says

    Shiv@#16:
    Yep.

    Meanwhile, the news is just getting around to reporting about the guy who was firing live rounds near protesters in Charlottesville. And the police: they just stood there.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/us/charlottesville-protest-police.html

    As demonstrators clashed near a downtown park here two weeks ago, a white nationalist protester in a bulletproof vest turned, pointed a pistol toward the crowd and fired a single shot at the ground, in the direction of a black man wielding an improvised torch.

    To make his escape, a video recording shows, the armed protester strolled past a line of about a dozen state police troopers who were safely positioned about 10 feet away behind two metal barricades. None of them budged.

  18. Siobhan says

    I’m pretty sure the white supremacists who assaulted Deandre half to death still haven’t been arrested.

  19. says

    Shiv@#18:
    I’m pretty sure the white supremacists who assaulted Deandre half to death still haven’t been arrested.

    I guess the assailants weren’t black-clad.

  20. says

    My memory is getting worse and worse. I’m not sure if it’s mid 50s and a midlife partying catching up to me, or what. I dread not being able to rely on myself; I’m not sure if it’s just that blogging really holds a mirror up to my thoughts and highlights my errors, or if it’s that I’m working the edges of my comfort zone, or that my memory is blurring.

    Are you certain that your memory used to be better? Personally I wouldn’t even think about publishing any texts without fact checking. I even fact check my online comments. And while checking my facts I occasionally find out that what I thought I remember is, in fact, not correct. The good news is that I can tell whether I’m absolutely certain that I remember a fact correctly or whether I just think that I probably remember it. This means that I don’t have to check every fact.

    During conversations people tend to slip a lot of incorrect facts. When I’m speaking I say what I think I remember. And the person listening to me isn’t pulling out their smartphone in the middle of a conversation just to check whether I got all my facts correctly. As a result nobody notices that there was a mistake. Things get a lot different with written texts. I’m already in front of a computer, therefore, while reading a blog post, I can open another tab and check anything that seems suspicious. Moreover, the fact that you have dozens (if not hundreds) of readers also means that, statistically, there is a lot higher chance that somebody will notice the error. If I was your only reader, you could make any Latin mistakes and I wouldn’t have a clue (by now I have mostly forgotten what little Latin I learned in the university), therefore you would never get feedback about your mistake. But having many readers means that somebody else will know Latin and notice the mistake.

    Incidentally, even though I try to check facts before submitting a text for publication, I have had situations where a mistake slipped past both me and my editor. My suspicion is that somebody would need to have above average memory to pull off blogging from memory. I know I couldn’t do that and I wouldn’t even dare to try.

    nobody can tell whether the cops are there to serve peace, or the establishment, or the people, or the union, or … what?

    Or their personal interests. A white cop happens to be a racist and is given a gun while knowing that he can get away with hurting black people… You don’t even need organized bad behavior for shit to happen.

    Re: protest pictures – looks like a bunch of calm people enjoying a beautiful day in the park, carrying signs!

    Yep, but only as long as photos are taken in a certain spot from a certain angle. https://lv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Att%C4%93ls:Europride_2015-2.JPG this is another photo taken a few minutes after my pictures. There were a lot of homophobic protestors, but all of them were forced to stand on the other side of a (literal) cop wall. The first LGBTQ pride in Latvia (that was in 2005) turned out to be literally messy. There was a bit of violence and a lot of eggs and feces thrown around. Afterwards police learned from their mistake and just put a wall between both groups of protestors. And it worked — nobody was crazy enough to attempt to throw anything over cops’ heads.

  21. lanir says

    Little late, but I don’t think violence is ever “tit for tat”. No matter who’s doing it, it almost always aims for the softest thing you can still identify as a target. When it doesn’t, it’s because there’s a huge imbalance in available force and the aggressor can afford to do whatever they want. That’s why it’s a lousy strategy for getting public support unless you can use it to make your opposition disappear.

    The only interesting conversation I can think of to have around this would be definitions of targets. That seems like something that’s rather revealing and interesting for understanding various sides in a violent conflict.

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