When charged with crimes, some consider themselves defendants while others hold themselves out as martyrs to the cause. Former Diablo College adjunct philosophy prof, Eric Clanton, is the poster boy of the martyr.
My name is Eric. I’m currently facing years of prison time as the result of accusations made in the most shockingly hateful parts of the internet. On April 19th I began being targeted by a dedicated swarm of internet trolls known for spewing racism, xenophobia, and misogyny onto the web. Suddenly a hit piece by Milo Yiannopolis caused the targeting to go viral. Several old social media photos were posted, online accounts hacked, addresses published, hundreds of calls to my employers, and countless threats of physical violence made against me, my coworkers, friends and many others. This harassment campaign is where the accusations against me originated.
That’s the view of life of the martyr. The retelling, however, isn’t quite accurate. He’s not facing prison time as a result of accusations, but as a result of hitting a guy on the head with a metal bike lock for being a Trump supporter at a Berkeley protest.
Clanton was dressed in black, his face hidden, the uniform of the Black Bloc Antifa, designed to conceal his identity as he engaged in violence against his ideological enemies. There was no threat of violence against him or anyone else. Rather, Clanton reached out from behind a girl to swing his lock, which struck a head filled with wrongthink.
Dealing with an unintelligible internet force smearing and threatening me online was not easy, and created stress to say the least, but I had every expectation that very few people would take them seriously, especially considering the character and credibility of their sources. However, five weeks later the Berkeley police smashed into two houses, held guns to peoples’ heads, handcuffed, verbally abused, and stole the belongings of over a dozen people including books and zines.
Clanton was identified as the coward in black by the “most shockingly hateful parts of the internet.” This apparently offended his sensibilities, whether because hiding behind his black mask when engaging in violence against someone for ideas he hated was his right as a fighter for his personal brand of justice or he just thought posing as a ninja meant he could get away with it. If the people who identify you are people you hate, that is far worse than anything you did because you are on the side of “justice” and they are hateful.
What’s the one thing Clanton does not claim? That he didn’t do it. Nowhere does he contend he was misidentified. Nowhere does he deny committing the crimes with which he’s charged. He was “smeared” with truth.
And then he’s martyred again by the police for arresting him in a fashion that failed to match his notion of how kindly he deserved to be treated, which proves the cops aren’t on the side of enforcing the law but . . . well:
This is just one example of the police doing everything in their power to facilitate and to legitimize the violence and the rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. They are also criminalizing protesters who stood up to neo-Nazis last summer, hundreds of J20 and standing rock defendants. All of this from a system that has perfected criminalization through centuries of racist policing. All of this moves in a strategy to further chill dissent, and to clamp down on resistance to the dangerous and aggressive growth of the exact kind of white supremacist violence that we saw this last weekend.
In a twisted world where beliefs of self-righteousness bear no connection with reality, people have wrapped themselves in a psychotic certainty that everyone who doesn’t passionately share their religion is evil and deserves to be violently harmed. Or worse. There is no remorse for the infliction of harm on others, as they are certain that they do so as some avenging angel in the name of justice, that they are fighting for goodness and that their enemies must be eradicated. Bear in mind, Clanton was a guy teaching students philosophy.
If this could be chalked up to one flaming nutjob, the prosecution of Eric Clanton would rid society of his violent conduct and tenuous grip on reality. But the mindset of otherwise educated and putatively well-intended people to believe that the other team is so fundmentally evil that violence against them is warranted, that they must be stopped by any means necessary, goes far beyond this one defendant.
Is the Antifa the “moral equivalent” of the Naxos? Hardly, but it’s the wrong question, and one uttered to deflect attention from what is happening on the street. When people believe that the righteousness of their cause entitles them to be the aggressor, to inflict violence on others, they are the danger to society regardless of whether their cause and rhetoric are dearer to our hearts than those of the other people.
No matter how horrible the beliefs of the people who revealed Eric Clanton’s identity behind his black mask, no matter how badly the police failed to match the expectation of respectfulness the smug Antifa demand, Clainton was just a violent thug hiding behind social justice rhetoric.
He doesn’t deny he was the cowardly punk who hit a guy with a bike lock because that violence was in furtherance of the cause.
Supporting me in this bizarre time is not only an act of care, but one of bravery and strength. Seeing that on display makes me feel our collective power. Thank you all for showing up and for all the diverse, creative, and intimate ways that support has materialized outside of court. Thank you especially to the close friends who have cared for me fearlessly and unfailingly.
Eric Clanton is a sick, violent person. That he engaged in wanton violence is bad enough. But he has supporters. He didn’t start out wanting to be a martyr, but to harm someone who didn’t believe his truth. But since he was caught, there is no other choice for an Eric Clanton. Isn’t it wonderful to be a martyr?