In his life so far, Arnold Schwarzenegger has logged an extraordinary, eclectic mix of accomplishments. Most notably, he is a former Governor of California, a movie star, and five time winner of the Mr. Universe title. If it weren’t for his status as an immigrant, which by law prohibits him from running, there’s a good chance that by now he could have been elected U.S. president.
Schwarzenegger’s greatest political strength, apart from being a likable, accomplished man, is that he is a political centrist. This has earned him the enmity, some of it deserved, of conservative populists, but that is the price of trying to be part of a moderate centrist coalition.
However, Arnold Schwarzenegger recently made a huge mistake.
On January 10, Schwarzenegger released a video entitled “My message to my fellow Americans and friends around the world.” In this seven minute video, Schwarzenegger discusses his upbringing in post-war Austria and explains how in that time and place, events leading up to World War II were fresh in everyone’s memories.
In particular, Schwarzenegger brings up one of the pivotal moments in the Nazi regime’s transition to absolute tyranny in Germany, the “Kristallnacht” which took place in November 1938. Although the Nazis had already been in power since 1933, the events on Kristallnacht (rough translation is “night of broken glass”) served notice to any Germans still wondering: They were no longer free. To Germany’s Jews, whose homes and businesses were specifically targeted, the message was much worse: You are enemies and we are coming for you.
Schwarzenegger goes on to claim that Kristallnacht was carried out “by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys,” and that the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was America’s “Kristallnacht.” He accuses President Trump of provoking the mob, trying to engineer a coup, and calls for any politicians who have supported Trump to be “held accountable.” He concludes by reminding us how strong our democracy is, “like a tempered sword,” and how it is important to support president-elect Biden “in defense of our democracy and those who would threaten it.”
This video, despite Schwarzenegger’s likely good intentions, will only cause further polarization. It reinforces the same one-sided narrative that has for years infuriated at least half the nation. It is yet another salvo of a biased, offensive narrative that is one of the reasons Trump got elected, and one of the reasons why the movement he catalyzed is not going to go away.
Reminding people of the double standard applied by the media to events of the past year and in prior years has become almost insipid. We’ve heard this story over and over. But when someone with the stature and influence of Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to compare the events of January 6, 2020 to the Kristallnacht, and wants to compare the Proud Boys to the German Nazis of the 1930s, it’s time to go down double standard lane, yet again.
Schwarzenegger is invited to review the video files, readily available, showing formations of militant Antifa cadres marching through the streets of every city in America, chanting violent slogans, carrying clubs and shields, wearing helmets and body armor, all dressed in black. Schwarzenegger is invited to view video clips showing these dangerous militants beating the hell out of unarmed, outnumbered victims that dared to wear a MAGA hat or carry an American flag. Schwarzenegger is encouraged to review the pitched battles that have been fought by Antifa militants for months on end in cities across America. He should take note of the burning buildings and the broken glass.
These videos of Antifa in action are terrifying. They reveal a growing movement with tens of thousands of members that is well trained and well organized, and committed to sustained violence and intimidation against anyone that doesn’t support them. If anyone in the United States today should be compared to the black shirted fascist Nazis that terrorized Germany in the 1930s, it is Antifa.
A good source for Schwarzenegger to find these video segments would be the Twitter account of Andy Ngo, a journalist who has been a victim of Antifa violence. Ngo gets almost no press coverage and when he does, this gay, Asian, immigrant journalist is accused of having ties to “right wing extremists.” Not only is this accusation a flagrant lie, but even if it were true, Ngo’s videos aren’t doctored. The videos don’t lie. Antifa has served notice to local political candidates and politicians in cities all over the country: Don’t defy us.
As another exercise in contrary facts so obvious it feels insipid to bring them up, Schwarzenegger ought to review the plentiful examples of prominent Democrats and news commentators encouraging the leftist violence that gripped the nation throughout 2020. Pointing out double standards isn’t “deflection.” It’s justice.
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger makes another video, he might consider what’s really happening on the streets of America.
It is true that some Trump supporters have become militant, or have succumbed to the momentum of the mob. Nonetheless, if any mass demonstrations could accurately be described as “mostly peaceful” over the past year, it would be those held by Trump supporters, including the massive rally and march on January 6. A minute fraction of that massive crowd got out of hand. It is a self-serving lie, defying all observational data to claim that Trump’s supporters are usually the aggressors. Events over the past year contradict this claim.
Whenever Trump supporters held a rally or a march, or even whenever GOP candidates held a meeting or a convention, it was Antifa that would show up to provoke violence. After Trump supporters hold events, Antifa gangs stalk the streets, looking for stragglers to beat up. This pattern is well documented on videos posted online, but the news media either ignores it, or attempts to present the confrontations in a manner that makes the Trump supporters appear to be the instigators.
Ultimately, by going down this well worn path of one-sided condemnation, Schwarzenegger is enabling further violence. Everything the establishment is doing, from escalating online censorship to presenting outrageously slanted news and analysis, to conducting mass arrests, plays into the hands of extremist provocateurs. Where was the censorship, the news spotlight, or the mass arrests last year, during months of orchestrated violence and vandalism coming from the Left?
What escalates violence in any nation is when people lose hope. The nihilistic passion that drives Antifa cadres to call for the overthrow of the American government is because young Americans do not have the opportunities they had a generation ago. The irony here is deep. It is the marriage of big business and socialist government – also known as economic fascism – that has dried up opportunities and elevated the cost-of-living in America, with Schwarzenegger’s adopted state of California as ground zero for this disaster.
If he were willing to work as hard on his next video as he once worked on his biceps back in his body building days, Schwarzenegger could articulate a centrist vision that steers clear of blaming either wing of disaffected Americans for their anger and militancy, and instead offers hope.
That could be hope in the form of deregulating the housing market, standing up to the extreme environmentalists, reviving the timber industry to thin the forests and end catastrophic wildfires, spending more money on freeways to make room for all those electric cars, keeping Diablo Canyon open and commissioning another nuclear power plant in California, investing in water storage projects and desalination plants, breaking the power of the teachers’ union monopoly on public education, and restoring law and order to California’s cities while moving the homeless – fast – into supervised tent encampments instead of spending billions to build them free housing on the beach.
To the extent these solutions are controversial is thanks to the special interests that control California. If anyone understands the nature of these special interests, Schwarzenegger does. But he is operating out of their playbook, and just adding his voice to a one-sided divisive chorus, instead of doing the hard work of fighting for policies that offer hope.
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