All this was lost in the reaction to Charlottesville. Liberal commentators spread memes comparing antifa to American GIs who stormed the beaches at Normandy. The comparison would be apt if the 1st Infantry Division got together to spend an afternoon beating up fellow Americans rather than giving its last measure of devotion to breaching Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.
There is a cottage industry in excuse-making for antifa. Mark Bray of Dartmouth College says in the Washington Post that its activists are characterized by “their willingness to physically defend themselves and others from white supremacist violence and preemptively shut down fascist organizing efforts before they turn deadly,” i.e., assault people and shut down uncongenial speech as they deem necessary. Todd Gitlin of Columbia University writes in the New York Times that antifa is “not squeamish about its means” — but he is clearly squeamish about describing it frankly.