I would like to respond to Dan Metzger’s letter (Star, March 20) where he expressed concerns about the Mir Centre extending an invitation to historian, Mark Bray to speak at its lecture series. I can appreciate Mr. Metzger’s concerns about whether Mark Bray’s work threatens free speech, yet I am also confident this lecture would have provided a healthy forum for exploring this and other important debates.
I believe this lecture would have revealed valuable research and critical analysis on key questions that are so fundamental to democracy, especially at this exact historical moment. Questions such as when does free speech turn into hate speech and when does hate speech actually put people’s lives in danger? Is violence in self-defense justified, especially when it appears that authorities are unable or unwilling to protect people of colour and minorities? Just how serious is the threat of fascism in our current political landscape? Moreover, how can we use non-violent means to address these issues effectively?
Furthermore, the question as to whether violence in self-defense is a legitimate response to racial violence is an important one. More so when the state itself appears apathetic in its handling of violent attacks on people of colour and minorities. However, to ask these questions does not equal a Mir Centre endorsement of Antifa or Dr. Bray.
Accordingly, Bray claims that Antifa only uses violence in situations of self-defense and that constitutes about 3% of what they do. He further claims that the other 97% of their work focuses on destabilizing far-right networks through non-violent means. Bray’s work is also well-researched and forms the basis of his PhD thesis (Rutgers U.). I cannot confirm or deny the validity of other claims about what Antifa is and what it isn’t, but I do know that Bray’s work has been peer-reviewed and his research has been held to a high standard.
It’s unfortunate that nature prevented this lecture from taking place as I know it would have promised a constructive forum to explore some of the most important questions and pressing issues we are facing today.