‘Deplorable NYU Professor’ Slams Peers’ Embrace of Antifa Violence
Rectenwald says drive 'to silence and even destroy' opposing voices a natural outgrowth of political correctness
An outspoken college professor is sounding the alarm on much of academia’s nascent embrace of Antifa. Professors across the country are defending or promoting the militant left-wing group’s use of violence to silence political opponents, aided by an indifferent or even friendly mainstream media.
The most blatant example was an op-ed written by Mark Bray, a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College, and published in The Washington Post, which defended Antifa violence on the grounds that it is “self-defense.” Other professors went so far as to launch their own campus “anti-fascist” networks.
One college professor, however, is slamming his peers’ embrace of political violence, but says that such an embrace of violence is the inevitable consequence of the fundamentally totalitarian, intensely politically correct brand of “social justice” that for years has been a normal feature on most college campuses.
“Mark Bray and other orthodox academic leftists equate ‘Left’ with ‘good’ and thus exonerate all activity undertaken on the Left’s behalf as morally worthy and naturally defensible,” Michael Rectenwald, a professor of liberal studies at New York University, told LifeZette. “This represents a reprehensible and utterly disingenuous or otherwise naïve historical myopia, so common among the Left in the western world.”
“As a bevy of evidence makes clear, including its own propaganda, Antifa arrogates to itself absolute authority over the expression and assembly of others,” Rectenwald continued. “It deems itself the sole arbiter of rights and makes absolutely no bones about its belief in its authority. Antifa is an authoritarian, embryonic, totalitarian intimidation gang, which, if it managed to gain state power, would proceed to execute all those with the ‘wrong’ ideology. This is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union and Communist China.”
It should come as no surprise that the Left is beginning to embrace such violence, according to Rectenwald, who is extensively familiar with its totalitarian impulses and utter disregard for the freedom of those with whom they disagree.
“All of this only became possible and is an almost inevitable result of an educational system that teaches only the evils of politics based on ‘racial’ bigotry while failing to study the evils perpetrated by leftist regimes based on extreme ideological bigotry,” said Rectenwald. “Antifa and “the Left that supports them is made possible by an educational indoctrination that excludes all of the horrors that have come with left[ist] authoritarianism, such as in China under Maoism and in the Soviet Union under Stalinism.”
Rectenwald continued: “Mass murder, political imprisonment, and other atrocities are excused entirely or glossed over when it comes to those committed by regimes whose ideology resembles their own. More people have been mass-murdered by regimes under the banner of ‘equality’ than under that of ‘supremacy.’ I say this as a person who comes not from the right wing but who spent at least 20 years as a communist.”
It was this intellectually dishonest, totalitarian milieu that motivated Rectenwald to abandon the Left entirely.
The professor became a minor political celebrity — and target of the politically correct culture on campus — during the 2016 election, when he was outed as the owner of the @antipcnyuprof Twitter account, which satirized the anti-Trump hysteria and general anti-free-speech climate on college campuses.
“Under the now-notorious Twitter name ‘Deplorable NYU Prof’ and the handle @antipcnyuprof, I launched a satirical, sometimes over-the-top, yet ultimately serious critique of PC policing and social-justice activism in academia and the broader culture,” said Rectenwald.
“An anonymous NYU professor, I critiqued higher education for adopting and enforcing social-justice ideology and its coercive mechanisms — bias-reporting hotlines, safe spaces, trigger warnings, the ‘no-platforming’ of certain speakers, and so on,” he said.
“After I was outed in an interview with the Washington Square News, NYU’s official student newspaper, my overall critique was savaged by a few colleagues and several administrators in an open letter from ‘the Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group,’ whose Orwellian title matched the doublespeak of its pronouncements,” he said. “After denouncing me for ‘the structure of [my] thinking,’ the committee flayed me for straying from accepted liberal PC orthodoxy, and literally declared me ‘guilty’ of expressing the wrong kinds of thoughts.”
Rectenwald says his experience shows how far the modern Left will go to silence dissent, even if it comes from those who broadly agree with it on many issues.
“For most observers, it was almost inconceivable that an anti-PC critic could come from another political quarter. Unsurprisingly, then, the majority of people who discovered my case, including some reporters, simply assumed that I was a conservative. As one Twitter troll put it: ‘You’re anti-PC? You must be a right-wing nut-job,'” he said.
“But as I explained in numerous interviews and essays, I was not a Trump supporter; I was never a right-winger, or an alt-right-winger; I was never a conservative of any variety. Hell, I wasn’t even a classical John Stuart Mill liberal,” Rectenwald said. “In fact, for several years, I had identified as a left or libertarian communist. That is, my politics were to the Left (and considerably critical of the authoritarianism) of Bolshevism!”
He added: “I published essays in socialist journals on several topics, including analyses of identity politics, intersectionality theory, political economy, and the prospects for socialism in the context of transhumanism. I became a well-respected Marxist thinker and essayist. I had flirted with a Trotskyist sect, and later became affiliated with a loosely organized Left or libertarian communist group.”
But none of this mattered once Rectenwald began to criticize the prevailing PC social-justice culture.
“Behind the violence of PC authoritarianism is a firm conviction of absolute and complete moral and political superiority, even infallibility,” Rectenwald explained. “They embrace violence because they believe that they are utterly right and that their opposition must be silenced, even destroyed.”
“They believe that the average Republican and even classical liberals represent political criminals,” he continued. “They believe they have been endowed with some extraordinary virtue, and that this virtue gives them the perfect right to undertake ‘whatever methods necessary’ to silence and even destroy their opponents. They have no idea that they are authoritarian and that such impulses become totalitarian if or when they achieve the slightest modicum of power.”
“I will not make moral comparisons, but politically, Antifa resembles the Red Guard of the Cultural Revolution under Maoism much more than the Alt-Right and fellow travelers resemble Hitler’s brownshirt in Nazi Germany,” said Rectenwald. “Authoritarianism and embryonic totalitarianism under whatever ideological and political banner is an enemy to democracy, equality and, of course, liberty. Those defending Antifa from some supposed moral high ground are historically and politically illiterate.”
(photo credit, homepage image: Ben Schumin; photo credit, article image: Colin Ashe)