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A pox on both the racist Right and the violent antifa Left

The two movements are lawless, bullying, violent, hateful, anarchist, destructive, ideologically-insane sides of the same secular, godless coin.

People gather near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 10. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

In my editorial of a week ago, I had this quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, from his 1943 book Philosophies at War: “Their conflict is not one of ideologies, for Communism and Naziism are both destructive of human freedom.” While plenty of attention has been given in the mainstream press and even Catholic press to the “alt-Right”, there has been much less focus on the “antifa” movement. Having now lived in western Oregon since 1991, I have seen several radical groups and movements of both the Left and Right at work—riots, rallies, gatherings, promotion, etc.—and have concluded many times over that, at the end of the day, they are lawless, bullying, violent, hateful, anarchist, destructive, ideologically-insane sides of the same secular, godless coin.

For example, the Torch Antifa website states that “We don’t rely on the cops or courts to do our work for us. This doesn’t mean we never go to court, but the cops uphold white supremacy and the status quo. They attack us and everyone who resists oppression. We must rely on ourselves to protect ourselves and stop the fascists.” That is anarchy; it is rule by mob; it is insanity. More:

We oppose all forms of oppression and exploitation. We intend to do the hard work necessary to build a broad, strong movement of oppressed people centered on the working class against racism, sexism, nativism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people. We support abortion rights and reproductive freedom. We want a classless, free society. We intend to win! … We hold ourselves accountable personally and collectively to live up to our ideals and values.

That, in sum, is a 21st-century form of socialist totalitarianism masked in utopian, maniacal nonsense.

Plenty of other examples could be given. But I recommend you read an article by Peter Beinart in the September issue of The Atlantic, titled “The Rise of the Violent Left”. Beinart’s liberal credentials are as solid as they come: he is the former editor of The New Republic, he has written for Time, The New York Times, and other lefty publications, and he is the author of several books, including The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror. But Beinart, to his credit, doesn’t flinch (unlike far too many in the mainstream left) from calling out the antifa movement for the semi-literate, nihilist thuggery it really is:

 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.” …

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.” …

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.

Over at NRO, Ben Shapiro summarizes the situation very well:

And so here we stand: On the one side, a racist, identity-politics Left dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate beneficiaries of privilege and therefore must be excised from political power; on the other side, a reactionary, racist, identity-politics alt-right dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate victims of the social-justice class and therefore must regain political power through race-group solidarity.

None of this is new, of course. The Left has engaged in identity politics since the 1960s and engaged in heavy violence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The white-supremacist movement has been with us since the founding of the republic. But both movements had been steadily shrinking until the last few years.

Now they’re growing. And they’re largely growing in opposition to one another. In fact, the growth of each side reinforces the growth of the other: The mainstream Left, convinced that the enemies of social-justice warriors are all alt-right Nazis, winks and nods at left-wing violence; the right, convinced that its SJW enemies are focused on racial polarization, embraces the alt-right as a form of resistance. Antifa becomes merely a radical adjunct to traditional Democratic-party politics; the alt-right becomes merely a useful tool for scurrilous Republican politicians and media figures.

Rod Dreher, at The American Conservative, asks the pressing question: “Where are the restraining forces against radicalization on both the Left and the Right?” For much of this country’s history, the center was held together by a general form of Protestant Christianity; there were plenty of disagreements about the details but there existed a vague and overarching awareness of God—or “America’s God”, as historian Mark A. Noll titled his 2002 study (Oxford University Press) of religious belief from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. As Noll observes, in that first century or so of its existence, the unity of the U.S.—which of course was nearly destroyed in the Civil War—was situated on “commonsense moral reasoning, narratives of republican liberation, and the Bible.” Needless to say, those ships have not only sailed, they haven’t been seen in quite some time.

As Sheen noted many decades ago, “politics denies its divine foundation. Politics is today the supreme and absolute science. We once lived in the age of the Theological Man; then came the age of the Economic Man; now we are in the age of the Political Man.” But perhaps it is even worse now, as it’s clear both of these extreme movements are not interested in the political process—in fact, both view the current system with disdain and even hatred—but in raw power. Christianity is either co-opted (and perverted), ignored, or attacked. As Ross Douthat observes: “The decline of institutional Christianity means that we have no religious center apart from Oprah and Joel Osteen, the metaphysical gap between the secularist wing of liberalism and religious traditionalists is far wider than the intra-Christian divisions of the past, and on the fringes you can see hints of a fully post-Christian and post-liberal right and left.”

The way forward is difficult and murky, to put it mildly. But it cannot be down the path of the racist Right or the violent antifa Left, a path that is singular, hell-bent, and inhuman.

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Oh yes, this is right on target. I hope many people read this and understand it.

    Perhaps what can be done of it is to use their own tactics in separating the radicals from each ends of the spectrum. Republicans/conservatives need to shun and distance themselves from their racist groups and all radical groups by not giving them the time of day and expressing the reasons. Democrats/progressives must do the same to their radical groups. Since the progressives like to congregate into rallies, leaders must make it clear that their own haters are not welcome, and those liberals who do not want to support such groups should state why they will not be supporting any rally that includes them.

    If people will notice, the extreme on both sides use topics and labels in such a way it entices people who care about those issues to support them. It’s always free speech and states rights, or freedom from government on the right which people support because those topics speak to everyone. However, below the surface the free speech is to spew racism and hate, states rights is about enacting laws that benefit a few at devastating effects on others, and freedom from government is actually a cloaked way to push a new manifest destiny.

    Conversely, the topics the left uses such as civil rights, anti-racism, peace and love are not really those words either. Civil rights is not about living in an equitable society, but is about allowing anyone to do whatever they please without morality and often times without ethics. Anti-racism which everyone can get behind is not about fighting hate and prejudice, but has turned into blame game where guilt by race is put forth without regard to personal attitude/beliefs and actions. Where MLK lifted up looking to merge two racial groups into an equal society, today it strives to tear down in order to lift up. Then we have peace and love which, forgive me, is masturbatory in that it is only the left that loves themselves and the like minded and cannot extend that love and peace to those they not only disagree with, but vehemently despise. This hatred is extended to anyone who is not 100% supportive of what ever theory, narrative they want to put forth.

    I hope our society can take a few steps back from the ledge, or it will just get worse from here.

  2. Antifa is no different than the Nazis. The Nazis had a lame excuse for their violence, and Antifa has a lame excuse for their violence. The really disgusting people in this drama are the very sick media, who portray Antifa as heroes. They continually lie about them, merely stating that there were Nazis on one side, and people who oppose racism on the other.

    The Antifa live in a self created fantasy world to justify their violence, just like the Nazis did. They spin a ludicrous fantasy about their oppression (Cue the communist internationale) and then use that to justify their innate child like propensity to violence.

  3. Nonsense. Turning the other cheek against fascist neo-Nazis and Klansmen will only get your head bashed in. Fascists assume that Christians or good citizens will not fight for their rights. Hitler took advantage of democratic principles established in Germany after WWI. Once he and the Nazis won a few elections, he declared himself dictator and eliminated free speech and democratic elections. At the Charlottesville rally there were Nazi flags and Confederate flags prominently displayed. The Neo-Nazis staged their rally at the park with the statue of Robert E. Lee because Lee stood for slavery. Hitler believed in the supremacy of the Aryan, white, master race. Over 300 thousand American soldiers and many more British and French soldiers died fighting Nazism. Cities were devastated and many civilians were killed. Millions of Jews were massacred by Hitler and the Nazis. And we are supposed to allow Neo-Nazis and Confederate racists to parade on our streets, proudly displaying their odious flags, without challenging them? Catholic and Protestant moral ambiguity will cause many good people to abandon Christian churches which no longer follow the teachings of Jesus (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) or the basic principle of American democracy: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.” The Alt-Right and the Alt-Left are not morally equivalent.

    • ” And we are supposed to allow Neo-Nazis and Confederate racists to parade on our streets, proudly displaying their odious flags, without challenging them? ”

      Did you read the post? Just curious.

      • He does not care one bit about your well written post.
        You are unsupportive of his mob.
        His friends will come for CWR’s head in their own good time.
        And by then the USCCB will be wetting their pants. Bet on it.

  4. God’s providence, and His judgment of nations, are perfect. Society itself may very well now experience the lethal chaos we have allowed the most helpless among us to experience.

    From the perspective of the child in the womb, brutal, lethal anarchy was unleashed upon America when murdering them was declared “legal.” “But the child in the womb has no perspective,” one might say. Neither does a born baby, but it remains illegal to kill them. Why? Because born babies are not yet the victims of contemporary bigotry; we look at things from their perspective FOR them. Because everybody knows that a human being is a human being is a human being.

    Blacks victimized by American slavery were human beings. Jews gassed by the Nazis were human beings. The 1.7 billion (according to Human Life International) babies, world-wide, who have been murdered by “legal” abortion in the last forty years were human beings.

    God finally judged America for slavery via a bloody civil war the carnage of which was unprecedented (see Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address). God got America’s attention, and we ended slavery and outlawed taking the life of the child in the womb shortly thereafter also. A human being is a human being is a human being.

    Just as both North and South were chastised for American slavery, the chastisement for lethal, godless, racist, eugenics-based Nazi ideology went far beyond Germany’s borders (as did its adherents). Hitler was the first to take this ideology to its extreme, logical conclusions; the chastisement for its “legal” murder fell upon the whole world, with three percent of the 1940 world population killed, and there were countless non-lethally injured casualties of WWII. God again got our attention as the judgement and condemnation of this evil ideology was proclaimed at Nuremberg. We were reminded again that a human being is a human being is a human being, yet this time we shortly thereafter abandoned the child in the womb.

    And what will the chastisement be for 1.7 billion babies murdered while lethal anarchy reigned from their perspective? Maybe it has begun already. Should we be surprised if we begin to experience the lethal anarchy we allowed others to experience for so long? Before God, a human being is a human being is a human being — baby, Black, Jew and whoever “just doesn’t count” according to the bigotry currently established by the prince of this world. Our failure to see things from the perspective of these, the least of the brethren of Christ, does not go unpunished.

  5. A minor note. The racist right has been a shadow of its former self for the past forty years when governments finally bestirred themselves to do something about them. The Antifa is a bunch of descendants of leftover 60s radicals who are doing the exact same thing and should be treated in the same way. A few long jail terms by some judges with spine would have a remarkably curative effect.

  6. Who, exactly, are these “racist right” of whom you speak – and on what basis do you declare them “racist” or “right” ? Looks like a backhanded way to support political violence by the left without owning up to that support – kind of like, “I am personally opposed to abortion” while voting to use taxpayers’ money to fund abortions.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A pox on both the racist Right and the violent antifa Left - Catholic Crossing
  2. A pox on both the racist Right and the violent antifa Left - Catholic Daily
  4. Does Modern Secularism Have a Memory Problem? – Saint Charles Victory Park

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