September 29, 2017

Niccolo Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

Niccolo Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

Philly Antifa, on its website here in the City of Brotherly Love, states that it is

in direct conflict with Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and all the various other flavors of Fascism.

Philly Antifa are anti-authoritarians and anti-nationalist. We do not work with the state or any groups/individuals who seek to “reign us in” or otherwise control us.

That Philly Antifa won’t be reined in or controlled by law and order was shown on the evening of President Trump’s inauguration, when its members, their faces hidden as usual behind black bandannas, smashed the windows of two banks and twelve storefronts on South Street. Like its website, Philly Antifa’s Twitter account declares: “We monitor and confront fascism, racism, and oppression of all kinds in Philadelphia and around the world.” Here, then, are our new self-appointed monitors and authorities, taking it upon themselves to “confront” those whom they deem insufficiently progressive. Besides the ones listed, there are “various other flavors of fascism.” This is the language of the zealous paranoid ideologue, a person who can’t buy a pack of gum without encountering a “microaggression.”

Antifa, of course, is the product of the corrupt American academy. A proud collection of generic dunces, liars, and frauds, American colleges and universities are characterized by figures like George Ciccariello-Maher, a Drexel University professor who—having written such academic tripe as Decolonizing Dialectics—considers himself a political theorist and, of course, an activist, too. “All I want for Christmas is white genocide,” the happy half-man tweeted on Christmas Eve. Perhaps inspired by the 5,000 signatures of support he received on, in March Ciccariello-Maher (Maher being, I am told, the last name of his hairy-backed feminist wife) once again used Twitter to show all the world the emetic character of his mind: “Some guy gave up his first-class seat for a uniformed soldier. People are thanking him. I’m trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul.”

“For Machiavelli, the statesman’s closest friends—in fact, the only reliable friends—are severity and fear.”

Perhaps only the professor’s sycophantic graduate students have the brains to determine which is the greater testament to his theoretical eminence: his tweets or his belief that the police and ICE should be abolished. In any case, we must doubt that Boy George Ciccariello-Maher would ever have the spine to yell at any soldier, for, looking at photos of the righteous Twitterer, we see a distinctly weak, petty, low, resentment-driven nature; in other words, a typical academic in 2017. To a soldier, the professor’s poodle-like yelping would be of no more consequence than his unheard-of writing.

As in Philly, Antifa has been a menace throughout the United States this year. The so-called antiauthoritarians and allied leftists have shown themselves to be authoritarian indeed in regard to those who dare to disagree with them, diligently trying to stop universities from practicing the sins of free speech and independent thought. In August, during the “Rally Against Hate” in Berkeley, Antifa attacked a crowd of peaceful right-wing demonstrators. Antifa has injured or tried to injure police officers across the country, from Boston to St. Louis, Berkeley to Portland. Not only a force in so-called higher education, Antifa is now a presence in our secondary schools as well. American cities and institutions of learning are spending vast sums of money to contain these hypocrites, who are themselves the problem for which they pretend to be the solution.

Is there a better way? To answer this question, it is instructive to turn to Machiavelli, a great though controversial teacher. “When it is absolutely a question of the safety of one’s country,” he says in his Discourses on Livy (1531), “there must be no consideration of just or unjust, of merciful or cruel, of praiseworthy or disgraceful; instead, setting aside every scruple, one must follow to the utmost any plan that will save her life and keep her liberty.” Men and women of the world readily understand the special value of these words. By contrast, today most intellectuals are apt to be merely troubled by them and find them outrageous, scandalous, immoral, and so on. After all, Machiavelli has long been synonymous with villainy in part because his mind—like that of Hobbes, de Maistre, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, or Schmitt—is simply too penetrating for most to accept. Anyway, the Machiavellian justification for dispensing with ethical considerations is like that which justifies murder on grounds of self-defense: Both amount to protection at any cost, and with respect to the state, that is utterly necessary since providing protection is the state’s primary duty, for it is the condition of all other goods; without it, there are none, and no state itself.

Now Antifa, in both its language and its actions, has shown that it is an enemy of the state, one that claims to operate outside the law. Thus the so-called anti-fascists are themselves fascists and, as it were, enemies from within. And the problem is that although the courts may mete out the appropriate jail sentences for Antifa’s crimes, such measures do not send the necessary psychological message to Antifa as a whole. That message is this: “If you attack this state of which you are a citizen, you shall be punished swiftly and severely, and your painful regret will show you, if nothing else does, the foolishness of your conduct.” Of course, to the liberal mind, it is strange, indeed cruel, to say that Antifa essentially needs to have a lesson beaten into them, since the liberal tends to take his own pleasing sentiments and unperceived bias for the very summit of human wisdom. Nevertheless, there is a deep value in this approach, for it conveys moral fear, and to be sure, my concern here is statecraft, not winning fans. For Machiavelli, the statesman’s closest friends—in fact, the only reliable friends—are severity and fear. The reason is that because human nature is essentially wicked, in time liberal generosity and tolerance—idols to our sentimental era—inspire nothing so much as insolence and a deeper propensity to rebellion and transgression. Nor does a legal system that makes criminals pay an illusory debt to “society” (that is, an empty abstraction representing people who have no connection to the wrong itself) and that seeks to “reform” them constitute a vital psychological check against these destructive urges: Deterrence is not served by what comes after the fact.

But though the principal purpose of justice is not reform but maintaining law and order, nevertheless, however counterintuitive it may seem, subjecting criminals to physical violence would probably do more for reforming their bad inclinations and habits than incarceration. For this, precisely because it is so painful and immediate, might at least prompt an improvement in the character; on the other hand, when it comes to such reform—the ostensible goal of the liberal’s conception of justice—it’s quite unclear how anything good might result from mere incarceration.


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