Lori Rivas: Tolerate radicalism, yes; normalize it, no


Restaurant owner and employees at Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C., suffered from very real threats and acts of violence propagated by a conspiracy theory that accessed a broad platform to disseminate false information and incite outrage. “Pizzagate,” which happened around this time last year and resulted in lockdown and a shooting in a peaceful neighborhood, is a real-world example of the normalization and dissemination of radical thought.

Do we want to normalize such behavior?

We are all discomfited by nightmares of vigilantes, exacting their own brand of justice, self-defined by unchecked and unregulated thoughts.

Why? Because we are a country of laws, a civil society, and solving disputes via violence is not tolerated – it’s deemed illegal, in fact.

This kind of radical thought, of vigilante justice, is a typical root for paramilitary and guerrilla groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army. The Irish Republican Army. The Lord’s Resistance Army. The Contras. Branch Davidians — all highly militarized groups that violently forced their radical ideas onto the public.

Would you have a casual sit-down, public chit-chat with any of these guerrilla groups and normalize for their platform, Phil Donahue-style? As if their very existence equaled legitimacy?

What kind of message does it send that — if you don’t like a government action — you show up with armed response? What happens to democracy when organized, vigilante nationalist terrorism is heralded as heroic? What happens to society when stock-piling weapons and toddler-temper-tantrum-esque threat of force is an accepted means of protest and action?

Heavily armed insurgencies terrify the public, and for good reason: wholly unregulated, these militarized groups embrace a dangerous lack of transparency and oversight. Self-appointed members are not accountable to any codified standard of behavior. Group vigilante justice is Rorschach on steroids, near-guaranteeing some level of chaos.

The casual broadening and normalizing of paramilitary and guerrilla groups’ platforms not only threaten our lives, but also our very society. And idle, casual, pop culture associations with such are a very real threat to our democracy.

These groups are advocating nothing less than full-blown, bloody, destabilizing, civil war and revolution on an otherwise peaceful and fully functioning democracy. Tyranny does not exist in the USA, and a threat to John Locke’s Natural Law is not imminent.

And the paramilitary group, known as the Three Percenters? Heck, yes, we should identify and socially sideline community members who support stockpiling weapons and advocating for civilian vigilantism against our democratic government.

This isn’t some clever game. This isn’t a trendy bro-match of who can be the edgiest rebel. The ideology of the Three Percenters is dangerous, and its associates should be held accountable for its militancy.

You want to hold the radical views of the Three Percenters? Great. Just stay within the bounds of the law. But don’t expect the rest of civil society to act like yours are just another flavor in our melting pot of American ideas. Because your associations scare the heck out of us. And we don’t care to help further your platform of violent and unregulated revolt.

Our democracy still works. True patriots act within the bounds of our constitutional democracy. And civil society demands that our leaders not pretend otherwise.

Kudos to Bryan Caforio for declining a radio interview on the program “connectingRight.” The 25th Congressional District will be well-served by a leader who advocates for peaceful democracy.

Lori Rivas is a Santa Clarita resident.

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