Leone’s Chronicle: The extremism we don’t talk about

I remember hearing about the Charlottesville protests long before it happened. I made sure I remembered the dates so that I could watched a livestream of the protest from a local Charlottesville news organization, not because I agreed with the protesters at all, but to see what was going on there.

I was, of course, disgusted by the ideas conveyed in the protest, and by members of the racist, hateful “alt-right.” But what surprised me even more was that I was equally disgusted by members of the “alt-left” countering the protest with riots.

I watched an ‘“anti-fascist” group counter this protest. They called themselves Antifa, short for anti-fascist, and were completely black-clothed and carried clubs, bats and other weapons. And their ideology is what political experts such as Mark Bray call the “Hard left” — violent responders to corporations, fascists and white supremacists.

The group is monolithic, without a strong central leadership, but it has local riot organizers who spread the word of protest. The main political demographic of the group are those who reject classic American values of free market capitalism — anarchists, socialists and communists.

What surprised me was how they fought “fascism.” I watched in Charlottesville as they traveled in a large pack and attacked the white supremacists with clubs and bats. Real fascist dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler were known to suppress other ideas by using sheer force of violence, similar to the way Antifa itself handles protests which they don’t agree with.

Two weeks ago, a group of late-night comedians, “Louder With Crowder,” infiltrated Utah Antifa and exposed its tactics to shut down right-wing speaker Ben Shapiro at the University of Utah. Organizers of the Utah Antifa demonstration distributed ice picks and knives and instructed the members to stab the attendees. The group mentioned how they had “two [AK-47s] for backup.” It was fairly obvious the guns were not for self-defense because when discussing a combat knife the leader possessed, the leader mentioned how “it’s really tiny, so you have to really stab them.” Video was then turned into the police and several arrests were made.

Furthermore, Antifa showed up and wreaked havoc on the University of California Berkeley campus earlier this year in response to the presentation of far-right provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos. Members set fires, smashed windows and pepper sprayed audience members, including moderates and liberals interested in Yiannopoulos’ speech. The group cost UC Berkeley $100,000 from damages.

These types of violent tactics conveying a political message are not new to America. In the post-Reconstruction era of America, KKK members would burn down houses, injure and even kill supporters of the Republican Party. They used fear tactics against southerners to influence them to vote Democrat.

Antifa’s tactics are just as similar. When conservative speaker Ben Shapiro spoke last month at the University of California, Berkeley, numerous people, including myself, reported feeling unsafe to go to the event due to Antifa’s violence despite the large sum of money Berkeley allocated to protecting free speech week. Their fear tactics are working, just as the KKK’s tactics allowed the south to consistently vote democrat post reconstruction.

One could easily compare the Kristallnacht, a night which Nazis destroyed businesses and homes owned by Jews, to Antifa riots, targeting businesses which are owned by conservatives and support capitalism.

On the alt-right, neo-Nazis, White Supremacist and KKK members are just as bad. Groups like these unfortunately still exist in American society today. They reject American values of equal opportunity endowed by our creator, as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Alt-right organizations have been known to use tactics similar to Antifa: violence to convey their message. It just disgusts me to see those in the Charlottesville protest who criticize Antifa but continue to advocate for violence against minorities.

Watching numerous Antifa riots, I noticed the group kept screaming about punching Nazis. The Oxford Dictionary describes a Nazi as a member of the National German Socialist Party. Yet still, Antifa continuously targets Ben Shapiro, a strict Orthodox Jew and an advocator against large government, who I can assure you does not identify as a Nazi.

On inauguration day last year, about 500 to 600 antifa members were present to riot across Washington. They were shouting anti-capitalist chants and screaming about how capitalism hurts minorities. What I found most ironic was that they set a limo ablaze in a demonstration of wealth rejection. The burden of the $70,000 car repair bill was put on Muhammad Ashraf, a Muslim-American immigrant who owned a small chauffeur service.

This is yet another problem with the group. They choose targets completely counterintuitively, often jumping to conclusions of violence to demonstrate their ideology, ignoring someone’s identity.

This idea that Antifa has to fight fire with fire only serves to increase tensions on both sides of the ideological spectrum.

So the issue that I have with this group is their usage of violence to convey their message. Using fear tactics to influence voters is the exact same method with which Hitler, Mussolini, Vargas, and the KKK took power. The group jumps to conclusions and selects arbitrary targets to attack and riot against. If the group was really antifascist, they would use peaceful methods to stop the spread of ideological fascism.

Leone’s Chronicle: The decay of the freedom of speech

What happened to the freedom to express ourselves? Freedom of expression is a natural right. Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” We as humans are born with the ability to express ourselves. This ability is not granted by the Bill of Rights, but protected by it.

Freedom of speech plays a fundamental role in American society. Our democracy relies on the ability for the minority group to advocate their viewpoints to the majority. Unfortunately, our democracy, has turned away from freedom of speech for what many believe is a new right: the right to feel comfortable.

College campuses are by far the worst offenders. They claim they have done an excellent job at ensuring diversity through race, gender and sexual orientation; however they fail to have diversity of thought.

As we have seen through the nearby Berkeley riots and protests on other college campuses, students and faculty members push for and demand the removal of those they consider “controversial” speakers, such as Ben Shapiro and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Note that these protesters have full right to express their demands. What I see here is the hypocrisy of protesters utilizing their freedom of speech to prevent other students from executing theirs.

The issue here is that the word “controversial” is unique to each individual. While a group of people might believe a speaker is provocative for example, another group may not

A study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) claims about 54 percent of public universities have adopted speech codes, policies that prohibit forms of expression that would be protected by the First Amendment. Unfortunately, new Department of Education guidelines might have all universities adopt these speech codes.

Speech codes have a far greater impact than preventing freedom of expression. Under these strict codes, major voices of satire, commentary and public criticism would be silenced. Students would begin to feel they have a right to always feel comfortable and induce a feeling of self-censorship, preventing our society from changing.

How has freedom of speech allowed for our society to change? In the past, freedom of speech has directly led to the emancipation of millions of slaves through the abolitionist movement, the ability for women to vote through the female suffrage movement, and for civil rights to be installed in American values.

A nation which does not educate in freedom will crumble. We have seen this theory take effect with the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and other totalitarian dictatorships around the world. Our society thrives off of candor, as it always has. Once we as Americans have given up our freedom of speech for the feeling of comfort, then that is the time when we have lost our country.