Meet Kenyon’s violence-happy anarchist

matytsin
Matytsin wrapped in a US flag

His CV boasts a native fluency in both French and Russian, and he attended high school at the Washington International School, so presumably Anton Matystin is the son of immigrants or came to America himself in his youth. He went on to pursue undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his Ph.D. in history in 2013. After spending a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, he began teaching at Kenyon College, a small but storied institution in Gambier, Ohio. At Penn he won the prize for best undergraduate history thesis and two graduate fellowships awarded in recognition of academic excellence.

Unlike many professors in the humanities these days, he teaches a list of courses that sound legit: “Early Modern Europe,” “Imperial Russia, 1547-1917,” “History of the Renaissance and the Reformation: 1300-1648,” and so on. Last year he published his first book, The Specter of Skepticism in the Age of Enlightenment, which “explores the ways in which eighteenth-century thinkers responded to the challenges posed by the revival and spread of philosophical skepticism and details how the debates about the powers and limits of human understanding led to the making of a new conception of rationality that privileged practicable reason over speculative reason.” Serious, solid-sounding stuff.

2006-07 Tuition and Fees: $36,050 2007-08 Tuition and Fees: $38,140
Kenyon College

All of which makes it come as a shock to read Matytsin’s Facebook feed. Matytsin has had a Facebook page for years, but he was almost entirely absent from it until recently. The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States appears to have been the event that broke his silence. “If you voted for Trump, please do us both a favor and unfriend me,” he wrote on November 14. “Whatever motivated your choice, I cannot bring myself to respect it, and I find it morally reprehensible. I do not want to share the public sphere with you in either digital or physical form. I have no intention of interacting with you or spending money at your business. I prefer to stay in my echo chamber of sanity. This is miles beyond party politics. This is a moral, not a political choice.” He went on to encourage his Facebook friends to boycott firms that “supported” Trump, and helpfully linked to a list of those firms. He further suggested that “perhaps it’s time to bring back old partisan slogans and great each other with ‘Death to Fascism’ with a response ‘Freedom to the People.’”

matytsin2
Matytsin: another day, another flag

How, one wonders, does he treat students in his classes who express support for Trump? Or do the Trump supporters who take his classes have to pretend not to be Trump supporters? It seems clear from his Facebook comments that he is incapable of seeing students who did not support his candidate for President as moral and sane. How can such students possibly expect fair treatment from him?

On February 3 he went even further than before, posting the following rant:

We cannot have a liberal democratic state that is run by a corrupt fascist cabal. We cannot have a secular multi-confessional republic when 30% of the population are Bible-thumping bigots who want to impose a Christian theocracy on the rest of us. We cannot have a racially inclusive, cosmopolitan, and multi-ethnic society when a large proportion of the population is composed of racists and white supremacists. We cannot have a functioning democracy when a majority of the population is politically, economically, and sometimes literally illiterate. We cannot have civil debates when our opponents are uncivilized human beings. We cannot remain idealistic lambs among hungry wolves.

In short: Trump people are so morally abominable, so barely human, that something must be done. But what? If Trump’s supporters are “hungry wolves,” and “we,” the people on the side of the good, “cannot remain idealistic lambs”…than what he is suggesting that “we” do?

A few hours later he got even uglier:

Apparently I was not abundantly clear earlier. I will continue the FB cull until there is no more fascist shit in my feed. I don’t care who you are or how far back we go. If you or your friends post racist, sexist, xenophobic, and otherwise ignorant garbage, I will take a big verbal shit on your wall and then block you on here and in real life. So if you are one of those people, spare yourself the cleanup and unfriend me.

berkeley-riot2
The Milo riot at Berkeley

Only a few hours later, after a violent anarchist riot broke out at the Berkeley campus over the planned appearance of Breitbart writer and Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos, Matytsin wrote: “Brother Anarchists, if you are going to engage in political violence, make sure to claim credit lest the fascists confuse you with the ‘liberal snowflakes.’” And he added: “Brother Anarchists, looking to volunteer.”

In other words, if we take him at his word, Matytsin was announcing his readiness to join the black-clad rioters, cover his face, and take part in the brutal beating of people whose only crime was their interest in hearing what Milo Yiannopoulos had to say. Contemplate the irony: a professor whose first book is all about the Enlightenment has taken his stand against freedom of speech and, in the name of opposition to fascism, is prepared to support a kind of violence that can only be described as quintessentially fascist.

Leopoldo

Tuesday evening brought what may be promising news from Venezuela. The National Assembly, which since January 6 has been dominated by the anti-chavista opposition, passed a law ordering the release of political prisoners. President Maduro vowed to veto. We’ll see what happens. We’ll have to keep an eye on the Venezuelan media, because outlets like the New York Times and CNN can’t always be relied on to pay attention to such developments.

It’s not as if the international news media have entirely ignored what’s been going on in the Bolivarian Republic, but it does seem to us that, with few exceptions, they’ve failed to recognize just how remarkable the current situation is in that tortured country.

chavez4
Hugo Chávez

This failure, if that’s the right word, is not entirely a puzzlement, of course, given that many of the aforementioned media were, not so very long ago, eager stooges and vociferous cheerleaders for Hugo Chávez, the father of Venezuelan socialism, otherwise known as chavismo. Chávez, with his brazen and unapologetic anti-Americanism, embodied the hopes of certain Americans and Europeans for a smashingly successful socialist Latin America, led by the example of the fearless Hugo and wonderfully free of the baleful influence of the nefarious norteamericanos.

Instead, Venezuela has turned out to be an extraordinary dramatic – indeed tragic – textbook example of the sheer folly of socialism. The rapidity with which the country’s economy has collapsed, and the terrifying particulars of that collapse, provide – for those too young to remember the Soviet Union and too foolish to recognize that the Castros’ Cuba is not a charming vintage-auto museum or 24/7 salsa party but a well-nigh unlivable everyday reality for 11 million people – a vivid picture of the disaster that is Communism.

lopezcell
Leopoldo López in prison

That in itself is dramatic enough. But add to that the singular case of Leopoldo López. The chavista regime’s most eloquent critic, the opposition’s most charismatic leader, he has been in prison for over two years now, for no other reason than that he is – quite obviously – by far the most potent threat to the power of Chávez’s hapless, fatuous successor, Nicolás Maduro. López is so manifestly everything that Maduro is not, so completely the Gallant to his Goofus, that it seems almost too tidy a scenario; if this were a film script, the producer would almost certainly order the writer to make the villain at least somewhat less buffoonish and corrupt and the hero somewhat less noble and courageous.

Venezuelan acting President Nicolas Maduro raises his fist during a campaign rally in San Carlos, Cojedes State, on April 4, 2013. The presidential campaign to replace Venezuela's Hugo Chavez formally kicked off Tuesday, with Maduro -- Chavez's hand-picked successor -- battling opposition leader Henrique Capriles for the forthcoming April 14 vote. AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETOJUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
Nicolás Maduro

But on rare occasions, reality is simply better than fiction – and this is, quite simply, one of those times. López – a collateral descendant of Simón Bolívar, the George Washington of South America – studied economics and government at Kenyon College in Ohio and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Elected mayor of Chacao, one of the five administrative districts of Caravas, by a slim margin in 2000, he was re-elected four years later with 81% of the vote.

leopoldolopezprisonervenezuela-670x472
With his wife, Lilian Tintori

The glowing success of his mayoral tenure and the thoroughgoing spotlessness of his record were attested to by Transparency International, which gave him its first-prize award in 2007 and again in 2008 for running his country’s most honest and efficient city government. In 2008, he came in third in the World Mayors contest for the planet’s best mayors. He’s a remarkable, almost incredible combination: a learned student of economics and statecraft, a staunch, eloquent defender of human liberty, a highly competent and incorruptible administrator, and an inspired, practical-minded reformer of local government on every level.

venezuela_supermarket_empty_shelves
Just a reminder of those empty Venezuelan grocery shelves…

Since his unjust arrest, he has also proven to be a man of extraordinary bravery. Pretty much every major international human-rights group has declared him a political prisoner and called for his immediate and unconditional release. So have the New York Times and Washington Post. Polls show that if he were to run for president today, he would win easily. It’s clear that the main reason he remains behind bars is that Venezuela’s current leader, a grotesquely inept, ill-educated, and economically illiterate former bus driver, knows that Leopoldo is everything he isn’t and that more and more of the Venezuelan people – who are suffering increasingly from the tragic everyday consequences of chavismo – realize that Leopoldo is exactly what they need to pull their country out of its hole.

grocery
…and ridiculously long lines to get into those grocery stores

The present state of affairs, in short, could scarcely be more striking: Venezuela has what may well be the worst government on earth right now, and López, if chosen to replace Maduro, would, upon his installation, immediately become one of the world’s most thoughtful, ethical, and skillful heads of government. Every day that he continues to languish in prison is a lost day for the Venezuelan people, who have waited long enough for rescue. Let’s hope they’re able to finally spring him from the joint – and turn the grim winter of Venezuela’s discontent into a Venezuelan spring.  

The Nation‘s shameless spin on Venezuela

lopez
Leopoldo López

The other day Foreign Policy posted an excellent article by Jeffrey Tayler entitled “Venezuela’s Last Hope.” The reference was to Leopoldo López, who was described by Tayler as “the most prominent and charismatic leader of Venezuela’s embattled democratic opposition” and as embodying “the change his country needs” – and who’s been a political prisoner for over a year. Although his jailers have subjected him to “especially harsh treatment, hurling excrement and urine through his cell’s bars, disrupting his sleep, confiscating his personal belongings and writings, subjecting him to eight months of solitary confinement (torture, according to the relevant United Nations convention), and denying him legally mandated visits from his wife…and his two young children,” López has twice refused offers to be released and sent to the U.S. in exchange for a convicted traitor.

maduro
Nicolás Maduro

The contrast between López and Nicolás Maduro, the incompetent clown who incarcerated him, is stark: Maduro is an ignorant lout who rode the wave of chavismo from poverty to power and who, unable to abandon the ideology that underlies Venezuela’s economic crisis, seeks to distract his followers with fatuous speeches blaming everything on the evil U.S. and his “fascist” opponents; López, handsome, charismatic, and highly intelligent, attended Kenyon College and Harvard, served as a “high-level analyst for the country’s state-owned oil company,” taught economics at the university level, and for eight years was the remarkably effective and corruption-free mayor of the Chacao municipality in Caracas. “If anyone is fit to unseat Maduro,” wrote Tayler, “it is López.”

britto
Luis Britto García

Yet how have our friends at The Nation, that chavismo-loving, Putin-defending flagship organ of the American left, spun this story? In April of last year, under a headline identifying López and his allies as “Neo-Fascist Creeps,” it ran an interview with author Luis Britto García, a longtime Chávez courtier, who called López an “extreme right-winger,” “fanatical fascist,” and “ultra-super-reactionary” and mocked him as “the latest in a long line of messiahs of the right” who’d soon be forgotten.

grandin
Greg Grandin

This March, The Nation ran another piece in which NYU history prof and critic of “U.S. imperialism” Greg Grandin, purportedly seeking the truth about the current situation in Venezuela, consulted a series of “experts” all of whom, unsurprisingly, supplied The Nation with exactly what it wanted. To sum up their wisdom: (1) we should “keep perspective” (after all, things are bad in Mexico, too); (2) the U.S. may not support Maduro, but the Venezuelan people do; (3) Venezuela’s economic problems are caused not by socialism by the “destabilizing” influence of the “fascists”; (4) Venezuela’s economic problems are caused not by socialism but by “a dysfunctional exchange rate system”; (5) Venezuela’s economic problems are caused not by socialism but by the fact that Venezuela has not become socialist enough – the country needs to leave “neo-liberalism” completely behind and “advance towards a post-capitalist model in which productive capacities are socialized in the hands of the people.” Yeah, that always works. 

And what about López? Grandin mentioned him in passing  in parentheses – identifying him as “the now jailed Leopoldo López”; but that was it. There was no mention of the reason for López’s captivity, no acknowledgment that he’s been locked up for over a year without trial; and, of course, no attempt to discuss the morality of his incarceration.

Surprising? No. This is just The Nation being The Nation – an eternal disgrace to freedom and tireless defender of socialist despotism.