Antifa becomes ideal boogeyman for political right


Ethan Singleton, Hook Editor

Back in their lynching days, members of the Ku Klux Klan wore white sheets that covered their faces during their activities. They did this to hide their true identities and because it created an unmistakable aesthetic that struck fear into their opponents.

Decades later, Antifa wears black masks for more or less the same reasons. This is not to equate the two, but it calls attention to a fatal flaw in Antifa’s whole approach to activism.

When you show up at a demonstration wearing this attire, you are not there as an American expressing your point of view in our democratic process. You are just a bunch of weird guys in masks making everyone around you uncomfortable.

Antifa derives its name from Antifaschistische Aktion, the Weimar Republic anti-fascist network which frequently clashed with Nazis in the 1930s. A loosely organized group of far left radicals in the United States with the derivative title Antifa rose to prominence this year and have since shown up and caused havoc at numerous right wing rallies.

The uncomfortableness that the group causes with their behavior and actions may have permanently turned to fear after the events in Berkeley where, on Aug 27, five Antifa protesters aggressively assaulted right wing demonstrators with pepper spray, clubs and windmill kicks.

Regardless of the actual threat they present to public safety, which is not much in the big picture, Antifa has effectively become the political right’s ideal boogeyman, surpassing even Black Lives Matter.

Their movement is based on vigilantism against the threats of fascism and bigotry. Their New York City sect describes themselves thus, “Since 2010, New York City Antifa has been dedicated to research on, and action against, fascist cultural and political organizing in New York City.”

Our President is a mentally impaired reality TV star who is turning America into even more of an oligarchy than it already is. He frequently compliments dictators on their “leadership,” publicly disparages both the judicial branch and the free press, and demands “loyalty” from his staff, as opposed to loyalty to the country.

The integrity of the United States is at stake. It is not okay. But violence and overall scariness do not help the situation.

Antifa claims to see its role as fighting fascist forces and bigoted hate groups who take to the streets to deprive people of their security and liberty.

To their credit, during recent clashes in Charlottesville, Antifa helped bring several people, including famous political activist Cornell West, to safety, as was chronicled in a Aug. 16 Slate article. However, this service could be easily accomplished without the weapons and without the threatening rhetoric and costumes.

Most importantly though, Antifa is ignoring the broader war that is being fought and that matters most: the war for public opinion. The leadership in our country has gotten as bad as it is because the wrong people have been able to gain enough public support to carry out their agenda.

The reasons for this are multifaceted, including demographic shifts, partisan media, and economic disparity.

The only way America can truly get itself out of the mess it is currently in is by getting public opinion on the side of responsible governance, instead of authoritarian populism. The message people get from the scenes at Antifa protests, on the other hand, is not one of resistance against fascism, but of a chaotic situation which requires a strong police response.

America is not becoming Nazi Germany and Trump is not a dictator, despite his ego. Our constitution is too rigorous to allow him to assume truly fascist authority, but the stakes are still as high as stakes get.

Unfortunately, Antifa are at best a distracting spectacle, and at worst a generous offering to the authoritarian right, who have never been in more need of a means of deflection than they are now with Trump as their leader.