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"As followers of Christ, we must be very clear about what we teach our children: Racism is evil. It’s a sin and it must be condemned. It divides rather than unites. It defies Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and it denies every person’s God-given human dignity.  

 Bishop Kettler of St. Cloud, MN


I have gone back and forth on if I should comment on Charlottesville and if it is the place of APCL to discuss it on an open forum like this. I came to the decision that it is our responsibility to discuss it and be informed on how to help our parishioners look at this tragedy with a Catholic lens. I know this is late in regards to the news cycle but I wanted a well thought out response that can help us think this through. I am going to start this post with a comparison of the two groups that made the news, the neo-nazi/white supremacists and the Antifa group. They have two very distinct goals I believe that need to be addressed so we can be informed when we hear about them. I will end this with a few responses from a few bishops in this country. 

One of my friends from college posted a question on Facebook. He is making a college level syllabus for his government course and was struck by the recent atrocity in Charlottesville, Va. This is a response to that post. 

The question posed was:
Concept of the week: the fallacy of false equivalency.
Example: equating the far-right (Fascists, White Supremacists, White Nationalists, and Neo-Nazis) with the far-left (Black Lives Matter and Antifa). Note: I don't consider BLM the "far-left," but for the sake of argument...
Can anyone tell me why putting all of this is a false equivalency? Be sure to provide appropriate evidence to strengthen your argument for full credit!

First, let us define the fallacy of false equivalency. It has been awhile since my Introduction to Logic class, but I still remember that a fallacy is faulty logic, meaning there is something in the argument itself that makes it invalid and/or unsound. The Fallacy of False Equivalency is when two arguments appear to be logically equivalent, when in fact they are not. To put it another way, “the fallacy of false equivalence is a logical fallacy where there appears to be a logical equivalence (usually in quantity and quality of evidence) between two opposing arguments, but when in fact there is one side has substantially higher quality and quantity of evidence.”[1] An example that was frequently used when I was brushing up my memory on this fallacy was when certain media debate Climate Change. The scientists on one side backed up by their own research and research of others who study the weather, climate, and the earths ecosystems who argue that based on the mountain of research climate change is real; and on the other side, someone who has not studied the mountain of research and is not even in the field, arguing against climate change. The media display them as equal points, when in fact they are not, one side is clearly stronger than the other. To make another simple argument that maybe less controversial, a simple syllogism:
1.       Gangbangers cover their heads.
2.       Nuns cover their heads.
3.       Therefore, nuns and gangbangers are the same.

This is a false equivalence as well because nuns cover their heads in humility as a sign of their lifestyle of prayer, obedience, and personal poverty whereas gangbangers cover their heads as to not be seen committing a crime, or because of their impoverished state-to keep warm.  Where logic says there is a valid argument (i.e., 1+2=3) reason tells us it is different (x +y=x+y). 
Thank you for participating in this brief philosophy lesson. Now to approach the question at hand: The Alt-Right (defined as neo-nazis, KKK, and white nationalists) is equivalent to the Alt-Left (defined as Black Lives Matter, and Antifa or anti-facists.) 
To prove the equivalence or false equivalence we must, like good academics and philosophers, examine the evidence.

The Alt-right fascists, white supremacy, the Klu Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis are promoting an ideal of one over the other, an "us versus them" mentality. In their specific case it is the so-called “white race” that must dominate and subdue, preferably kill and eliminate, all non-whites. We can take history as an example, the lynchings the KKK was involved in in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Holocaust of the Nazi Third Reich. This type of action is hate and destruction. It is, most importantly against the human dignity of the individual. By their rhetoric, the alt-right claims that those who are not “white” are subhuman, unnatural and undeserving of protection or life. Again history is my evidence, the arrests of Martin Luther King and his companions, the killings of civil rights activists in the 1960s and many more examples are evidence of their horrendous actions.  They are angry against Jew, Catholic, black, yellow, red, Christian, non-Christian, and in my opinion anyone who actually reads the bible. They, as Alfred said of Joker in the Dark Night, just want to watch the world burn. 
               
These actions naturally created a counterpoint in counter protesters and the rise of what Atlantic writer Peter Beinart calls the “violent left”. These are the groups who overtly use words like fascist and Nazi in reference to the GOP or certain members of the Republican Party. The major group getting attention right now is Antifa and some may equate the Black Lives Matter Movement with them. At the core, they are anti-fascists, (seems pretty self-explanatory) and actively seek out white supremacists to disrupt their lives.  Here is a brief tidbit about Antifa, written by Mr. Beinart in the article The Rise of the Violent Left which appears in the Sept 2017 issue of The Atlantic.

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.
In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism. According to Mark Bray, the author of the forthcoming Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, these activists toured with popular alternative bands in the ’90s, trying to ensure that neo-Nazis did not recruit their fans. In 2002, they disrupted a speech by the head of the World Church of the Creator, a white-supremacist group in Pennsylvania; 25 people were arrested in the resulting brawl.[2]

They were created as a response, a counterpoint, to Fascism and the Nazis with connections to Marxism and anarchism. They are not peace, love-filled hippies, they are a true counterpoint to the neo-Nazis and KKK. It is this reason why they are seen as just as bad or equivalent to the alt right. They however are different in that they are not spreading the subhuman hate that is spread by the alt right. Black Lives Matter is the same, they started as a reaction to something else, namely the lack of accountability of officers who shoot black men. 
              
This is what the research has given me. It is a fallacy to equate the two because the alt left exists as an opposition to the alt right. The alt right exists to spread anger, fear, and hatred that is in essence a destruction of the dignity of the human person. They both use violence and defame the other side and that is a problem. It is the reason I believe people equate them with each other. However, the alt left, in protest against the alt right, do not wave communist banners and hand out pamphlets on why Stalin and Lenin were right, as the alt right does with Nazi flags and Hitler. They are, at least in this context, just exposing the alt right for its methods and spread of hate. The alt left spread its hate only in the direction of the alt right (or who they perceive that to be).  This takes us back to our syllogism about the nuns and gang bangers or our argument about climate change.
1)The alt-right is hate filled and violent
2) the alt-left is hate filled and violent
3) therefore they are equal.

We have a point and counterpoint or two things being compared that are not equal. Violence and intimidation are the only things that unite them. The hate of the alt-right has led the alt-left to hate the alt-right. 

How can we as Catholics interpret and make respond to this? Let us now turn to Catholic Social Teaching. The primary theme and starting point is the dignity of the human person. The dignity of the human person should be respected and protected.  However, the violence needs to stop. Violence only begets more violence and the way to protest hate is to love. Our words matter, and our actions against hate, matter. Here are the words of Cardinal Tobin in response:

Of course, it is not enough simply to denounce such violence, and I called for “a thorough examination of racial bigotry and intolerance in the light of reason and love.” Why? Jesus tells us “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed” (Jn 3:20). Dark words and deeds must be met with light and love.”
The bigotry and hatred that were so visible last Saturday continue to convulse our country. The airwaves and print media have been engulfed by honest and heartfelt words far more eloquent powerful than mine. It is important to speak. It is even more crucial to listen. Words matter. Truth matters.
Today, words matter even more than we otherwise would expect because the collective body of Americans – regardless of our political viewpoints – represent a nation in need of healing, a nation in search of a moral compass.[3].

We have two groups that are causing violence but in different ways and means and understandings. The end result is still violence and the treating of individuals as nonhumans. The Catholic position was well stated by Cardinal Tobin above and in a response by Cardinal DiNardo. We need to support prayer and love against hate. Here is a response to the violence by Bishop Kettler of St. Cloud, MN.  

What I am saying in this long response is that hate is wrong. Racism is wrong. The USCCB is actually beginning an ad hoc committee to discuss how to address this sin of racism. Speaking out against hate is a moral obligation of any Christian, but we need to do it in a way that respects human dignity. I will leave you with a few questions that have come to me in writing this post.

How can we respond to hate groups and defend the rights and dignity of the human person in our parishes? Was this addressed in your parish or is there a plan to address it?

Peace and God Bless.


[1] https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/logical-fallacies/false-equivalence-logical-fallacies/
[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/the-rise-of-the-violent-left/534192/
[3] http://www.northjersey.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/08/17/we-move-past-charlottesville-words-matter/575744001/

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