“The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.” — from the movie Fight Club
Both the conservatives and the progressives have a secret that must be kept. Each has a violent wing that has been encouraged by some of their own members. Like Fight Club, it is a dirty little secret that is to be shared with no one. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that, among some on each side, there is a secret thrill of pleasure at the thought that people who agree with them are out on the streets fighting the good fight. There is also a long tradition, in this country and some others, of plausible deniability. That is, the ability to talk as though you are publicly not-supporting the activities of your violent wing while secretly wishing them well. One of the organizations that was best able to use this type of approach in a more formal way was the Irish Republican Army and the political party known as Sinn Féin. Though always formally two separate organizations with two separate approaches to the independization of Northern Ireland, there has always been a strong suspicion that at root they were fairly well-connected. But, as I quoted earlier, the first rule of fight club is that there is no such thing.
Both the right and the left have their secret Fight Clubs. On the right, we have the alt-Right, Nazi, KKK, and other groups that have been encouraged by the code-talk of the Republican Party over the last few decades. They are the chickens coming home to roost after decades of welfare queen claims that always showed black women, crime claims that always showed black men, voter registration frauds that always featured either blacks or (even better) illegal immigrants, and diatribes against racial quotas that never mentioned that without the quotas various minorities would have continued to be kept out from education, government, and high-paying jobs (neither did they mention that despite those “quotas” that the minorities are all still underrepresented in various venues of power). And, let us not forget Muslims, who were going to destroy our country by imposing Sharia law in our neighborhoods. The code talk always involved some minority or other who were the ones really causing many of our problems. The implication was that if we would only vote white, and control these people, by taking away social programs, by heavy criminal penalties, by building walls, by having special bans, then we could get our country back. As many of us targeted folk asked, but were never answered, get it back from whom? I should note that regardless of how often the claims were shown to be untrue, nevertheless, their constant repetition made them enter into the lexicon of what is believed as true. That this would lead to the emergence of a violent backlash movement is not acknowledged by conservatives despite warnings by various people. The emergence of the whole cottage industry of fake news makes it possible for them to deny any discouraging word. Now they are in the same position as Sinn Féin had, that of having to condemn the results of their talk.
On the left, we have Antifa, and the growing set of movements associated with them. They are the chickens coming home to roost after decades of the repression of speech on campus, and the growing use of the tactic of “being offended,” and the development of definitions of microaggression, cultural appropriation, and many other code phrases that also provided ways to silence their opponents. Many campus lectures, discussions, and even groups, have been either cancelled, or even violently stopped, based on nothing more than that some group on campus used the offensive and/or aggression label to commit an even worse aggression against the group or even an individual student. Outside campuses, on the left, it is only necessary to add the suffix “-phobe” to almost any concept to end an argument without having to have a rational basis for anything the progressive is saying. Equally common is the perjurious use of the word “racist” even when there is no provable racism present. It should be noted in this respect that “The Daily Show” did various incredibly humorous skits between Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore on using the “race card,” various of which were pointed against the left because of the increasing misuse of it. Finally via cultural appropriation, restaurants owned by whites were called out for having the nerve to make non-white food. As verbal and physical violence began to increase on the left, the more progressive wing of the Democrats did engage in some obligatory statements, which appeared to say little more than that, “kids will be kids,” while ignoring the violation of free speech right, not simply to conservative groups, but also to many religious groups. In the more public arena, there was an overwhelming silence to some of the extreme claims of cultural appropriation and microaggression, and the havoc they wrought on public discourse.
Finally Charlottesville has shown us both the alt-Right and Antifa on the same stage. Both groups came with helmets, sticks, tear gas, etc. Antifa has both openly said and practiced a policy of using violence as necessary to stop anyone they see as fascist. Their definition is as broad as one might expect from an extremist group. The alt-Right groups have been preaching violence for decades. And, we have seen violence on our streets.
The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. I have just violated that rule. I am about to violate it some more. First, I am going to clearly state that both the Right and the Left have toyed with their more violent sides and have neglected to speak out as strongly as they should have about the violent actions of their extreme wings. Second, I am going to clearly state that both extremes need to be condemned, stopped, and are wrong. Third, the two sides are not equal. The fascism and racial terrorism of the alt-Right, KKK, etc., is significantly worse and more repugnant than the Antifa extremism. There is no moral equivalency between the two groups. One really is worse. But, both must be rejected.