Free Speech Aside, We Should Not Lose Sight That Antifa Is Right
As a liberal, it is usually not my place to support violence against speech. Categorical free speech, after all, is an essential human right.
However, we cannot lose sight of what Antifa is fighting against morally and what has occurred in the United States electorate. The stakes for liberalism — most importantly legitimacy — are too great to do so.
At this point in time, it is absolutely vital to see that Antifa is fighting a group that have separated themselves from the shared responsibility of legitimate governance.
These Americans have embraced illegitimacy. They supported the view that separation of powers, a free press, and due process are not guaranteed under our Constitution. They supported the view that rights are not universal and inalienable. And these Americans supported a man that ran his campaign explicitly on deporting individuals, demonizing various minority groups, systemically racist policing, and torture.
And the man these deeply disturbed and misguided individuals supported now runs our state.
The success of this candidate and their state authority poses a question of significant value to those who argue for free speech: If a campaign of direct express illegitimacy wins in the US, should less illegitimate political actions in response to that illegitimacy, namely casting aside free speech, be the focus of sustained liberal critique?
In an ideal world, yes, liberal institutions would be strong enough to stand up to these moral failings. But unfortunately we do not live in that world. Our liberal institutions are weak because liberalism has been weak. It is naive to suggest otherwise.
Specifically — in the United States and abroad — liberal ideology has been so penetrated by pragmatism, wealth, and a nonsensical sense of ‘centrism’ that many so-called liberals fail to understand the principles they must stand for.
Worse, the elite professional class charged with most ardent projecting of liberalism— the Supreme Court, federal courts, and legal system — has fallen victim to poor interpretative theories and technocracy. Originalism has saturated most of our constitutional law and conservative assumptions about contracts, economics, and corporate power are now taught without challenge to young minds eager to please at our nation’s law schools.
Since liberalism is weak in the US, Antifa has come to fill the void to respond to this blatant illegitimacy.
Given this truth, it would be wrong to suggest they are completely misguided by using violence. To do so would overlook the moral conditions of their existence. For now, their actions may be criminal or tortuous, but if the political environment continues to deteriorate without any correction, it will be hard to argue why a liberal should not support their cause or cease critique.
A liberal cannot — after all — support an illegitimate state that aims to harm or dispose people of their rights. Free speech or not, we should not lose sight of that ultimate objective truth and who actually poses the greater threat to universal equality.