Dartmouth lecturer Mark Bray at center of controversy after he says he supports the Antifa movementHistorians in the News
tags: Charlottesville, antifa, Mark Bray
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... Following the outbreak of violence on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bray published an analysis piece in The Washington Post on Aug. 16 describing a group of counter-protestors called “Antifa,” who were present in Charlottesville to challenge a rally organized by right-wing extremist groups to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. In the article, Bray described Antifa as a movement with “radical pan-leftist politics of social revolution applied to fighting the far right” whose members “reject turning to the police or the state to halt the advance of white supremacy.”
Having just completed his Ph.D. dissertation on modern political extremism last year, Bray authored a new book this year, “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” which addresses the history of the Antifa movement as well as the ideologies and tactics behind it. This, along with his piece in The Washington Post, placed Bray in high demand for comments in the media following the violence in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a counter-protester.
“It’s been exciting to have my work relevant to contemporary politics,” Bray said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “At the same time, it’s been tragic that part of the reason why it is relevant is someone was murdered.”
On Aug. 20, Bray appeared on “Meet the Press” with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s President Richard Cohen to debate whether radical left-wing movements like Antifa may be justified in using violence to counter right-wing extremist groups. During the segment, Bray appeared to defend Antifa’s tactics, arguing that non-violent resistance to fascism in the past has not been effective.
“A lot of people are under attack, and sometimes they need to be able to defend themselves,” Bray said on the show. “It’s not, you know, it’s a privileged position to be able to say that you never have to defend yourself from these kinds of monsters.”
After his appearance on “Meet the Press,” Bray said he started receiving death threats via email and Twitter. Bray added that he has been in contact with police regarding these threats.
The next day, an article on the conservative website Campus Reform titled “Dartmouth scholar endorses Antifa violence” quoted Bray as arguing on “Meet the Press” that violence is a “legitimate response” to extremist groups, though Bray used that phrase referring to “self-defense.” Sandor Farkas ’17, the author of the Campus Reform article, attributed a passage in Bray’s Washington Post article which read “physical violence against white supremacists is both ethically justifiable and strategically effective” as Bray’s own opinion although in the article the quote is preceded by the phrase “Antifascists argue…” Farkas declined to comment for this story.
The College issued a statement on Aug. 21 saying that “recent statements made by Lecturer in History Mark Bray supporting violent protest do not represent the views of Dartmouth” and that “the endorsement of violence in any form is contrary to Dartmouth values.”
Bray said that he was not contacted by the College before the statement was issued, and that he first heard of the statement through an Internet search.
“Even Campus Reform reached out to me,” Bray said. “I did not respond for comment, but even they reached out to me. You’d think that [College President Phil Hanlon] – he would do the same thing.”
History professor Udi Greenberg said he was concerned with the College’s decision not to contact Bray.
“[The College] should not make a statement about one of its members — whether a student, faculty or staff — without the member of the community having a chance to articulate their ideas and to clarify their positions,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg is one of over 100 Dartmouth faculty members who signed a letter addressed to President Hanlon and dean of faculty Elizabeth Smith criticizing the College’s statement on Bray. The letter, dated Aug. 22, praised Bray’s recent scholarship and public appearances and claimed that his remarks have been misconstrued. The faculty also wrote that Dartmouth’s reputation has been damaged because of the statement, and they urged the College to remove the statement and apologize to Bray. ...
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