Monday night, CNN host Chris Cuomo offered his opinion at length about the morality of Antifa and why they may be legally wrong but not morally wrong. From the Hill:
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo said late Monday that Antifa should not be equated with white supremacists, arguing that “in a clash between hate and those who oppose it, those who oppose it are on the side of right” even if they resort to “petty violence.”
“You attack cops, you slap the media, you are in the wrong, period,” Cuomo said in a commentary on “Cuomo Prime Time.” “But I argue to you tonight all punches are not equal, morally.”
“In the eyes of the law, yes. But in the eyes of good and evil, here’s the argument: If you’re a punk who comes to start trouble in a mask and hurt people, you’re not about any virtuous cause,” he continued. “You’re just somebody that’s going to be held to the standard of doing something wrong.”
But when someone comes to call out bigots and it gets hot, even physical, are they equally wrong as the bigot they’re fighting? I argue no. … Fighting matters, too, there’s no question about that. But drawing a moral equivalency between those espousing hate and those fighting it, because they both resort to violence emboldens hate, legitimizes hateful belief and elevates what should be stamped out.”
“Antifa or whomever … or malcontent or misguided, they are also wrong to hit, but fighting hate is right,” Cuomo said later. “And in a clash between hate and those who oppose it, those who oppose it are on the side of right.”
This may be the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard from a news host. What Cuomo is saying here isn’t moral and isn’t right and you can tell that even he doesn’t quite believe the BS he’s shoveling because he cheats.
Let’s start with “all punches are not equal.” That’s often true as a matter of law. A punch or even a bullet fired in self-defense is not the same as one fired in an assault. The law tends to treat the aggressor more harshly for violating the peace in the first place and to respect the right of the victim to defend him or her self from the other person’s blows with reasonable force.
And here’s where Cuomo is cheating. He asks “when someone comes to call out bigots and it gets hot, even physical, are they equally wrong as the bigot they’re fighting?” In his scenario, both sides are fighting and no one is really responsible. So his answer is that the racist people are more wrong in a moral sense. My answer to the same question is: It depends on who actually started the fight. The person who threw the first punch is the person who turned a protest into a riot. And if that person was from Antifa, then they are in the wrong.
That doesn’t mean the Nazi’s on the other side are good people. They’re not. I’m not defending racists except in this narrow sense: In America, everyone has the right to speak without being punched. And because that’s the line, it matters who crossed the line to violence first.
The problem with defending Antifa is that they openly admit they intend to cross that line as a guiding principle of their activity. It’s not something that just happens when things get hot as Cuomo frames it. Antifa are not showing up for protest and possible self-defense. They are striking first in order to silence people. That’s wrong and it’s dangerous to suggest that maybe it’s not wrong because the people getting punched probably had it coming.
In any case, this has nothing to do with what happened this weekend in Charlottesville or Washington, DC. Antifa members were getting physical with reporters, not Nazis. They did this with zero provocation except that some reporters were filming them. Chris Cuomo should know this but he apparently does not: Antifa consider photos and video grounds for violence too, because those things endanger the anonymity that gives them the freedom to break the law in other ways. It’s not just petty bad behavior, the harassment of the media is part of their whole modus operandi. They rough up reporters so that they can punch Nazis (and set fires and all the other things they do). Their treatment of reporters and their hatred for the police is part of the package you’ve just labeled as being the side of good, Chris Cuomo.
Again, I’m not denying the racists are moral scum. But if the racists march (and make fools of themselves) without getting violent, that’s legal. If Antifa shows up to attack them and the police defending them and the reporters covering them, that’s both illegal and immoral. The fact that Antifa hate bad people doesn’t make up for that.
Cuomo’s defense of the morality of Antifa comes dangerously close to the Harvey Weinstein defense. Weinstein seems to have genuinely believed that being on the right side of history (the left side) regarding women’s rights and other issues balanced out the rape or coercion of particular women he allegedly engaged in. But that’s not how this works. The fact that Weinstein was woke on women’s issues doesn’t excuse sexual abuse. Similarly, the fact that Antifa hates Nazis doesn’t excuse punching people in the street without provocation or setting fires or roughing up journalists or throwing rocks and fireworks at police. Those things are wrong in and of themselves and anyone who defends this behavior as morally justified is either deeply confused or equally bad.
Here’s the clip:
Update: I almost forgot about this. I’d say there’s a 50% chance Cuomo’s entire rant was about defending this dopey tweet he put out last August comparing Antifa to American soldiers on D-Day.
— Wired Sources (@WiredSources) June 6, 2018
Update: I revised my headline a bit. I think the current version better reflects what I wanted to say without making this too personal. Needless to say, I still think Chris Cuomo is terribly wrong on this issue and I hope he’ll revisit it at some point.