In fairness, sometimes a publication will receive an op-ed submission from a person so notable that they feel obliged to print it even if the ideas contained in it are garbage. If Trump submits a piece to the New York Times making the case for why Ilhan Omar should go back to where she came from, odds are that piece is going to run despite the editors’ contempt for it. It’s news. Same here. On the one hand, we have an author arguing that a group identified by Obama’s DHS as having engaged in a “domestic terrorist” violence isn’t really violent and, to the extent it is, that its targets have it coming. But on the other hand, the author happens to be [checks notes] a “singer-songwriter who uses music as a community organizing tool.”
So, you see, Newsweek really had no choice but to print it.
I won’t deny that Antifa employs physical violence and destroys property for political aims. But they typically confine their actions to throwing punches when they see the need to de-platform someone inciting violence against vulnerable populations, as one Antifa activist famously did during a TV interview with white supremacist pundit Richard Spencer in early 2017. They also step in when they see right-wing groups menacing vulnerable people as they did in Charlottesville during the Unite the Right events there in 2017.
Even Willem Van Spronsen—who some have pointed to as an example of the danger posed by Antifa—does not fit the terrorist mold. Van Spronsen was killed by Tacoma, WA police in mid-July while throwing home-brew incendiary devices at a parking lot full of unoccupied ICE vehicles near the Northwest Detention Center in the wee hours of the morning.
If he intended to harm ICE personnel—or any other person—Van Spronsen could not have picked a less effective way to go about it. His choice of targets strongly suggests his aim was to sabotage ICE vehicles, presumably to hamper their ability to round up innocent people. Militant? Sure. Illegal? Absolutely. But not something most Americans would equate with terrorism in the everyday usage of the word. Antifa is responsible for a body count of exactly zero. If they’re terrorists, they must be the least threatening terrorists ever to face the kind of sanctions that Cruz and Cassidy are proposing.
To date, fringe-left apologetics for van Spronsen’s attack on the ICE facility have tended to claim that he wasn’t “real” Antifa, just a poseur. (More radical members of the progressive activist class make no bones about applauding him, by contrast.) I don’t think I’d seen it argued until now, though, that an activist armed with a rifle and driven to such a rage that he’d start chucking molotovs at government vehicles wasn’t really dangerous the way a capital-T Terrorist is dangerous. By the same token, I suppose James Hodgkinson wasn’t a capital-T Terrorist because, at the end of the day, he didn’t end up killing anyone either. James Hodgkinson is responsible for a body count of exactly zero. Thanks to Steve Scalise’s doctors.
As for the point about Spencer getting punched in the face, it’s a special logic that tries to justify that on grounds that he’s guilty of incitement without grappling with how attacking him might help his cause. If a Nazi is bleating at whites that they’re “under siege” and need to “fight back against left-wing violence,” and skeptics say “what left-wing violence?”, and then — voila — he’s punched in the face randomly on the street, you haven’t done him any harm. To the contrary.
And if you’re wondering, “What does she say about the beating they gave Andy Ngo for the crime of reporting skeptically on Antifa?”, she doesn’t say a thing. Ngo isn’t mentioned, incredibly. The closest the author gets to acknowledging the attack on him is the word “typically”: Typically Antifa limits itself to harming people who are inciting violence against the “vulnerable.” If occasionally a reporter goes to the hospital because he got in the way, hey. Mistakes happen. If you want to make an omelette, you need to crack a few skulls. I mean eggs.
How do you write in defense of attacking Spencer, knowing that the counterargument is “if violence against Nazis is okay, violence against all of Antifa’s enemies will eventually be treated as okay,” and not address the apparent proof of that theory in the Ngo incident? At a bare minimum, don’t dismiss the threat with something as glib as “I’ve met golden retrievers who scared me more.” It amounts to pure propaganda.
Read the rest yourself. The piece goes on from there to describe the help the author received from Antifa droogs after she was menaced by some right-wing droogs herself (“they were there for me with the kind of emotional support you’d expect from a faith community”) and extols Antifa as “a far-reaching, multidisciplinary mutual aid and support network” known for charity work, which smells like the sort of thing Hamas apologists used to say whenever there was a terror attack in Israel. (“Why must we focus on their activities on Israeli buses instead of their activities in providing food to hungry Palestinian families?”) Whoever picks up this issue while waiting in the dentist’s office next week is in for a ride.