There’s a puzzling disconnect in Quillette journalist Andy Ngo’s account of the brutal attack he suffered at the hands of Antifa last weekend. As protesters beat him into a daze, they continued to chant “No hate!” Common sense tells us that’s absurd—but the radical left isn’t exactly abiding by the rules of common sense these days. Here’s part of Ngo’s harrowing recollection of the incident in the Wall Street Journal:
“‘No hate! No fear!’ chanted the left-wing crowd as they marched downtown Saturday. I walked to the front of the line to record the protesters with my new GoPro camera when I was suddenly slammed on the back of my head with something hard. Dazed and still hearing faint chants of ‘no hate,’ I was then punched and kicked by perhaps a dozen masked people in black. At an Antifa event meant to resist ‘fascist violence,’ I—a gay journalist of color—was beaten so badly that I was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage.”
It’s important to address this disconnect precisely because it seems so absurd. How can people marching explicitly against violence, against hate and fear, justify beating an outsider into the hospital?
Daniella Greenbaum Davis answered this question in what I think is the most important contribution to the conversation about Ngo. She wrote:
“If we agree that, as a general rule, violence is a tool like any other that can, and sometimes should, be wielded in an attempt to quell further violence, then once the Antifa activists determined that Ngo’s speech is violent, it is both logical and consistent that they would use violence to thwart him. This is bad news for just about everyone.”
This is a consequence of the leftist effort to expand the boundaries of what constitutes violence. Words inform actions. If you haven’t spent time on a college campus in the past decade, the notion that any opposition to progressive dogma—an argument, a debate, a speaker, a song lyric, a journalist’s mere presence—can constitute actual violence probably sounds bizarre and impossibly stupid. Too stupid to catch traction. And yet it has. (This happened to me.)
Antifa still exists on the fringes of society, but this belief increasingly does not. Ngo’s chilling account of being brutalized by people marching against violence asks us to square a circle, and lends itself to an important lesson. Left to creep into the mainstream, the expanded (and incorrect) definition of violence will have dangerous consequences. We ought to stop that process before it takes root.