Monday, December 20, 2021


I'll tell you something that bugs me: antifa.

In an attempt to head off the violence expected the following day, on January 5th, 2020, President Trump instructed the Secretary of State to consider adding Antifa to a list of “aliens who are members of an identified criminal organization” within the country’s Foreign Affairs Manual. A 2019 Senate bill called for "the groups and organizations acting under the banner of Antifa to be designated as domestic terrorist organizations." A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives this year, "calling for the designation of Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization."

The day before the Capitol insurrection, the President issued a statement:

Pundits now theorize that the President actually believed that an organization called "antifa" existed, and he was preparing to have the National Guard protect the nice "pro-Trump people," swooping down on antifa when they tried to disrupt his coup. Then Trump could declare martial law and cancel the certification of the election results. The non-appearance of antifa spoiled the plan.

Fox news and other media went ahead with their part and reported that antifa was actually responsible for the January 6th attack on the Capitol. (Dr. David Duess has even published a 212-page Complete List Of Antifa Members In Capitol Building Riot -- one reviewer wrote, "A thorough and well vetted list of AntiFa terrorists caught trying to undermine the Democracy of this great country of ours. Every patriot should read and try to grasp the magnitude of this book") All the people arrested so far in conjuction with the January 6th attack have been Trumpers.

In small towns across America, warnings have gone out that antifa was planning to attack, and patriotic locals would go downtown with their guns and gimme caps, and in every case antifa saw the turnout and went chicken, didn't even show up.

I'm old enough to remember protesting the Vietnam War. They called us, sensibly enough, "anti-war protesters." There were usually some pro-war protesters as well but not enough to give them a name, maybe "hard-hats" because a lot of them were construction workers. Anti-war protesters were not usually very well organized; if you had somebody with a hammer and some tacks they could put up posters and everybody would show up for the demonstration. You didn't join anything, you just went to express yourself with millions of other Americans.

There were some well-organized civil rights groups in the mid-twentieth-century with names, like the NAACP or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, that had members and leaders. You knew if you were in it or not, there were offices and membership lists and roles in the organization. There were also groups like the Black Muslims and the Black Panthers, who took a different approach but again, you were either a Black Panther or you weren't. You might agree with them and go to their events. but that didn't make you a Black Panther.

On the other side you had groups like the Ku Klux Klan, fighting against racial equality. There were lots of these groups, the point being that on both sides there were real organiztions, with members, and headquarters, and leaders. There were also lots of people who sympathized but did not wear the hood and gown, they might even show up for the violence but you were either in the KKK or not in it.

During the Iraq War I marched in some protests in DC that had two or three hundred thousand people in them, massive parades, miles long. They called anti-war protesters "anti-war protesters," or, maybe "liberals," or if you wanted to be inflammatory you could call them "lefties," but that would not appear in a news story. Most people weren't members of any group, they just opposed the war and protested it.

Donald Trump rose to power on a movement that is correctly described as fascist. It is an authoritarian white supremacist movement that seeks preference and power for a certain segment of the population. They don't like Black people or uppity women or gay and transgender people. Also don't like Jews, Muslims, atheists, or foreigners. Or liberals. They believe that laws apply to other people and not to themselves. This group of people doesn't really have a name because they are used to being the default American. Every television show was about them. They starred in every movie, played every sport, they ran every big company and got all the good jobs there. If you ask them what group they belong to, they will say "we're normal Americans," because as far as they know everyone is just like them, or should go back to where they came from. There was a suggestion to label them "Deplorables" but they also run the newspapers, and that did not stick.

Trump's followers walk around with heavy guns, intimidating people. They start fights on airplanes and in grocery stores when they are told to wear a mask during the pandemic. Groups of them go into cities and vandalize them, shoot people with paint guns or bear spray, start fights with residents. They display a lot of patriotic American symbols as a way of asserting that this country belongs to them and they don't want to share it -- they even refer to one another as "patriots." These people are fascists, even if they are too dumb to know what the word means. Their beliefs coincide with a way of thought that is generally considered by decent people to be an evil force that should be stopped. My father, for one, took a load of shrapnel and nearly lost his life over Europe opposing fascists. Many Americans died for that cause, and we grew up proud that we stopped Hitler.

It turns out there are many millions of people in the country who do not agree with our fascists, and sometimes they come out to protest the increase of racism and authoritarianism in the country today. It would be reasonable to call these people "anti-fascists." Most of them do not belong to any organization, they just have common sense and some knowledge of history.

A rightwing agitator/writer named Andy Ng, in the Pacific Northwest, is most directly responsible for popularizing the myth of antifa. He uses the term for any liberal person or group who challenges the fascist crush for power. He has almost single-handedly created the image, now a cliche on Fox and other Republican media, of antifa rioting, looting, starting fires. He regularly claims to be a victim himself of the awful violence, though nobody ever sees it happen.

Rightwing media took the ball and ran with it, further mythologizing antifa as a well-funded and highly organized group. It is believed by many conservatives that George Soros himself, who in reality has nothing to do with it, is sending paychecks to protesters for marching in the streets, committing violent acts, vandalizing the cities. Rightwing media show video of street violence and claim that it is "antifa," and millions of ignorant Americans think that antifa members use their Soroschecks to loot and vandalize cities and attack "normal Americans" on the street. Out in the flyover states they believe that coastal cities are too violent to visit, because of antifa looting and violence.

Antifa is said to dress in black, that's how you know it's them, unless it is a rightwinger in disguise. Antifa are said to be extremely violent and highly organized and they take orders from a secret cabal of ... nobody really knows. Communist China, maybe. Atheists? Somebody bad, that's all we know.

So listen, have you ever seen an antifa website? Have you ever seen an antifa office building? Have you ever met anyone who said they were a member of antifa? Have you ever received a fund-raising email or text message or robo-call from antifa? Have you ever seen antifa supporting a political candidate, or calling for a boycott, or carrying a banner in a march? Have you ever seen a reporter go undercover into an antifa bunker, compound, or training exercise? Has any TV show ever had commentary by an antifa pundit, or even quoted an antifa official or representative? Have you ever seen an antifa yard-sign, flag, "antifa" on a cap, in a song? Antifa grafitti? Have the police ever busted an antifa arsenal, or actual pile of bricks or concrete milkshakes (hee hee) prepared by antifa? Can you name any real person you have ever heard of, in the news, on TV, anywhere, who said they are a member of antifa?

Does that not seem a little strange to you? The Republicans literally wanted to declare antifa a terrorist organization, but ... what organization? You can read all the organization's beliefs and official positions on their website:

Antifa is the creation of rightwing media. Everything you have heard -- dress in black, looting, attacking conservatives -- is fiction. There is no such group. Oh somebody might loot after the police murder someone, maybe even start a fire, there are counterprotesters at Nazi rallies, but calling them "antifa" is simply made-up. Antifa, or anti-fascist, means somebody who opposes fascism, which should be all of us. It's not an organization, not a club, cult, party. Just like we were anti-war protesters, these are anti-fascism protesters, people who oppose the authoritarian takeover of our constitutional democracy.

Responsible citizens should be wary of the way that our media are able to create the myth of such an organization and drill it into the public's collective brain, and responsible citizens should ask themselves why the media are doing this, what they get out of it, and what it means for our future as a country.