Wednesday, August 23, 2017

ANITIFA and vigilantism against individuals as well as groups; a very slippery slope endangering free speech. liberalism and law-and -order

Salon has run a disturbing report or cover story by Michelle Goldberg on “The Public Face of Antifa”, link . Goldberg provides the subtext, “Daryle Jenkins has stepped up to explain this group’s violent attacks to a wary world. It’s not easy.”   A Facebook friend messaged this link to me at around 3 AM, Donald Trump's favorite time of the night. 

An important part of the group’s “mission”, she explains, goes beyond physical confrontation and hitting back. The group wants to warn individuals (perhaps through direct intimidation) about the possible direct consequences of becoming personally involved supporting “racist” groups, either in physical rallies (as with Charlottesville) or even online, perhaps. 

I do understand the point that non-white people may feel physically threatened by a gathering of certain groups, include the KKK and neo-Nazis, and get (with some Second Amendment irony) that they may insist on moral justification for the right to fight back. I had not been aware until recently of accounts that most urban Confederate statues had been put up in the early 20th Century specifically to intimidate blacks, so I am rather shocked sometimes at those who demand that others join them. 

But this still sounds like a slippery slope.  It is impossible to say that the KKK is worse than ISIS, for example (the latter may be more dangerous to me).  It is true, it is customary for the US government to label certain groups as terrorist-connected.  But outside that zone, for an independent group to threaten private individuals for their associations or online expressions sounds like something that could spread to many areas, well beyond race or even gender and sexuality issues as we normally see them now.  We could decide that some person is somehow underserving and must be driven into exile.  Personally combative vigilantism, whether from the domestic Left or from radical Islam, has already sometimes forced some people to disappear and live underground, ranging from Darren Wilson (the Michael Brown incident) to Molly Norris (the cartoon controversy).  With very much of this, the whole liberal idea of law and order dissolves, and life becomes a matter of fitting in to other people’s power structures, like in most of the third world today.

I’ve mentioned Cloudflare’s Matthew Prince before, but today he has a column in the Wall Street Journal, “Was I right to pull the plug on a Nazi website? “   He adds a subtext, “A handful of private companies control whether speech can appear online.  That’s reason to worry.”  Prince adds to earlier comments where he says He writes “The reality of today’s Internet is that if you are publishing anything remotely controversial, your side will get cyberattacked”  (Well, maybe.) “Without a massive global network like Cloudflare’s, it is nearly impossible to withstand the barrage.”  What counts as “remotely controversial?”  Something like gender fluidity?   Or sheltering undocumented immigrants?  Or talking about radical Islam or North Korea?   I did have an experience with a discussion about 9/11 and nuclear threats getting hacked way back in early 2002 on an old legacy site. I can imagine how this could go, as I noted in a few postings back in 2013, with attempts to frame people for child pornography or sex trafficking (Section 230 again) for stepping out of line of somebody else's group political goals. 
No wonder one-sided non-profits can send out emails begging for money claiming only “they” can speak for you and protect you.  How insulting.  

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