Who Is That Masked Man?

I was reading through a thread in social media the other day.  One of the writers questioned the tactic of using masks when showing up to political events.  Why, she wondered, are the masks necessary?  It was a question I’ve asked several times…it’s why the thread caught my eye.

A little background.  There’s a group known as “Antifa.”  Apparently, that’s shorthand for anti-fascists.  (Really?  A special group to oppose fascism?  Sign me up!)  Word is, they support violence as a primary technique of disrupting “the opposition.”  (Crap, violence?  I’m out…)

I’ve always been bothered by the masks.  It seems they promise ill-intent.  But in response to the question “why the masks”, another writer suggested the masks were to protect the wearer’s identity to prevent “doxxing.”  That one got me.  At first blush, it makes sense.

“Doxxing” is the practice of searching out and publishing on the web identifying information about some person.  Names, phone numbers, addresses, employers, that kind of thing.  It’s often done with malicious intent – the idea is to open up a given individual to ongoing harassment.  It allows “your” group to intimidate and punish a member of “the other” group for not believing the way you think they should believe…

It wasn’t always about punishment.  There was a time, for example, when Paul Ryan got into some scrape with Americans about some thing and people wanted to deliver a petition of protest to him.  So, he bravely locked all his office doors so people couldn’t get in and unplugged his phones so people couldn’t complain and hid under his desk – you know, to show his connection with the people.  Since Ryan had taken such a bold stance at his office, some clever sod out there encouraged people to send postcards to Ryan, instead – and published Ryan’s home address in the hope that the postcards would be sent there.

I have to confess: I kind of liked that early bit of doxxing.  At the time, I thought that if Paul Ryan wouldn’t do his job at his job, he could do his job at home.  In truth, I hadn’t given enough thought to the reality that people surely sent more than postcards on the subject and, of course, made Ryan and his family subject to some of our more…unhinged elements.  (What can I say?  Sometimes it takes awhile to fully get one’s arms around new developments…)

So, when I read the suggestion that these Antifa individuals were simply trying to avoid doxxing, I thought that kind of made sense.  I thought that, perhaps, it had put a hitch in my giddy-up about the masks.  Maybe there WAS a legitimate reason to protect one’s identity.  As I said, on first blush, it made some sense…but not for long.

The idea that a person showing up at a political rally wearing masks to protect their identity in order to avoid doxxing is what I call a philosophical argument.  If you don’t think about it too much, it seems to make sense – but there is no practical application.

See, they aren’t JUST wearing masks.  They’re also wearing body protection of various kinds.  As often as not, they’re packing SOME kind of weapon.  To my mind, the most salient part of the question of showing up armored for – and, often armed for – battle is the “battle” part.  People don’t come to rallies like that ready to engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas.  They’ve come for the violence.  They’ve come to initiate the violence.

You can tell the difference by the people on BOTH sides of any issue who are NOT covered head to toe in protective gear and still managing to wave placards and banners and shout their various beliefs and who intend, after the event, to go home quietly and make jokes about how foolish the opposition is…and so are not worried about doxxing.  Why would they be?  Oh, I got caught out standing up against hatred?  Well, I’m standing tall…

But it turns out, if violence is your first response, I WANT you doxxed.  If violence is your first response, you clearly do not know how to live in a society and the society in which you dwell has a right, perhaps an obligation, to protect itself.  The society needs to know who you are so we can, as a group, try to correct your behavior.

As a bonus, we could all find out who you really are.  ARE you a far left nut ball trying to advance the cause of peace through violence?  Are you a far RIGHT nut ball pretending to be a far left nut ball?  Perhaps you’re just some apolitical individual on somebody’s payroll.  I’ll tell you this: whichever it is, I condemn your violent tactics and I WANT you unmasked…

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