Saturday, October 13, 2018

BAIT, TAKEN (updated)

I'm leaving this post up, but I think my analysis of these events was wrongheaded.

In the state of New York, the Republican Party hasn't really been a culture-war party. Its sacrificial-lamb candidate for governor this year, Marc Molinaro, "doesn't consider himself a hard-right Republican," according to Newsday, and says he didn't vote for Donald Trump in 2016. (He wrote in the name of Chris Gibson, a former GOP congressman from New York.) Molinaro voted against same-sex marriage but now says he supports it, and he's received "A" ratings from the NRA but now won't take campaign contributions from the group. In New York, that's how Republicans run in statewide races -- they try to straddle the line and please everyone. They act the way Democrats do in red states, with about the same level of success.

So it's odd that that a Republican club in New York City scheduled this event:
[The] Metropolitan Republican Club of New York City ... invite[d] Gavin McInnes, who founded a far-right group which regularly engages in street brawls and violence, to join them at a lecture Friday evening....

McInnes, who was also one of the co-founders of VICE, founded the Proud Boys in 2016, a group which bills itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the Western world.”

... McInnes’ group regularly engages in political brawls with counter-protesters, with some members seeming to delight in the violence. The group has been a regular staple at far-right rallies in Portland and the Pacific Northwest, where they clash, often violently, with counter-protesters. McInnes himself has also said that “fighting solves everything.”
... [McInnes's] past comments include suggesting Muslims are “more violent” due to inbreeding, referring to Asians as “slopes,” and defending the use of the N-word. He’s written for, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a "White Nationalist" hate group, and was recently banned by Twitter for violating the platform's policy on "violent extremist groups." Members of the Proud Boys were present at the white supremacist #UniteTheRight rally in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer was killed.
Oh, what am I saying? It's not odd at all. The Metropolitan Republican Club was trying to bait the left, and certain elements of the left eagerly took the bait, as the Daily Caller breathlessly reports:
The Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was vandalized Thursday night with broken windows, spray-painted anarchy signs, and a threatening message that the “attack is merely a beginning.”

... “Last night the Metropolitan Republican Club was vandalized by the leftist hate group Antifa, who also left a note promising ‘this is just the beginning’ and threatening more violence,” the Met Club said in a statement on Twitter. “Republicans are a minority party in NYC by a wide margin, and while most city residents are respectful of our activities, our grassroots actions are often met with hostility. Last night’s shameful attack by Antifa cowards represents a tragic new low.”
And then, after the event:
Clashes broke out on the streets of Manhattan allegedly involving the Proud Boys after the Metropolitan Republican Club of New York invited its founder Gavin McInnes to speak. Videos spread quickly on Twitter showing fights in the streets. Who instigated the violence was a matter of heated dispute on social media; Proud Boys opponents said the Proud Boys acted violently, and Proud Boys supporters on Twitter blamed Antifa....

Some people on Twitter labeled what they saw on the streets a “mob assault” or the Proud Boys instigating violence. One observer wrote, “This is one of those nights where things seem even more f*cked up when editing/reviewing my photos. It wasn’t until I wanna editing that I realized how many fights were happening at once.”

... However, others painted it very differently. Christopher Wright shared a Facebook Live video and wrote, “Leaving the Gavin McInnes event at the Metropolitan Republican club in Manhattan. Which was a very peaceful gathering by the way. Than approximately about 50 ANTIFA were waiting outside when we left!? They followed us for a block than jumped us. Let’s just say it didn’t turn out to good for the Beta Liberals 🤷🏾‍♂️ #ProudBoys #BeerForKavanaugh🍺”
I don't know when this invitation was issued. It was probably long before the start of the GOP's new campaign to smear Democrats with the word "mob" in advance of the midterms (though perhaps the smear campaign was in the works long before it was unveiled). In any case, the invitation was clearly issued in the hope that there'd be an overreaction from Antifa or some other part of the left. The club was looking for a moment like the ones that occur on campuses where Milo Yiannopoulos or Ben Shapiro events are scheduled.

And good old Antifa gave Republicans exactly what they wanted.

In a better world, Democrats and non-violent liberals would have challenged the GOP on the issuance of the invitation: How can Republicans demand civility of Democrats when they're palling around with the proudly racist leader of a goon squad? The mere fact of the invitation should have been a scandal, a multi-day story that would have ended with the invitation withdrawn, or with the understanding that the hypocritical GOP tone-polices Democrats while consorting with demagogic racist thugs.

A large non-violent protest against McInnes's appearance might have been effective, along with TV or online ads defining the Republican Party as the party of people like McInnes.

But peaceful Democrats and progressives didn't respond -- and Antifa did. Great work, guys.

I don't want to hear the usual "Hey, we killed Nazis in World War II, so what's wrong with beating them up now?" The Proud Boys are not building a Fourth Reich. They're not even a paramilitary unit acting on the orders of the government (yet). Effective policing ought to be enough to contain them. Anarchist lefties who engage them in violence are doing it for one reason: because it feels good. It's personally satisfying and it makes the anarchists feel like historically significant warriors.

The reality is that fighting this way has zero deterrence effect on President Trump, the Republican Party, or the fascists themselves. Footage of Antifa violence is useful for them. It's a recruiting tool, the way drone strikes that inflict civilian casualties in the Middle East are a recruiting tool for jihadist groups.

This event was a huge success for the right, because liberals and anti-fascists handled it exactly the wrong way.


UPDATE: Well, the coverage of this has changed.

But Democrats are unlikely to ask why the GOP welcomed the man who inspired this because Republicans will bring up the vandalism.

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