More than a week after the events in Charlottesville, some in the media are finally starting to wake up to the reality of the violent left-wing mob known as Antifa. The New York Times and CNN have run profiles of the group and some reporters have gone on record noting they were acting violently in Charlottesville, not unlike the Nazis they oppose. So naturally, Slate has jumped into the debate with a piece offering a fond defense of one particular Antifa group run by a man named Daryle Lamont Jenkins:
Jenkins, 49, is a black man who has devoted his life to fighting white supremacists, sometimes literally. He is the founder of the One People’s Project, easily the most mainstream and well-known anti-fascist, or antifa, organization. (Its motto is “Hate Has Consequences.”) Unlike other left-wing groups that track the far right, One People’s Project—which Jenkins runs with the help of a network of about 15 volunteers—confronts its enemies, whether that means getting in their faces at protests, doxing them, or contacting their employers. A volunteer named Laura, a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, described her work with OPP as “antifa CIA.”
Author Michelle Goldberg doesn’t deny Jenkins’ group (or Antifa in general) is violent, she just tries to humanize the violence. Here she offers a joke from James Anderson, one of the producers of the Antifa website It’s Going Down:
It’s certainly true that antifa refuses to eschew violence. According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, left-wing counterprotesters assaulted at least two journalists in Charlottesville. “The riot is our version of the strike,” said Anderson, even as he acknowledges a disconnect between some of antifa’s tactics and its goals. “Step one, broken window. Step two, we don’t know. Step three, classless and stateless society,” he said wryly. “I don’t think it works like that.”
I’m sure the residents of Portland, where Antifa did $1 million in damage as part of this idiotic campaign aren’t laughing, neither is the owner of the limo which was torched on inauguration day. Even Goldberg feels the need to create some distance between herself and the subject of this puff piece:
For many liberals—a category in which I include myself—antifa’s willingness to use violence and eagerness to shut down right-wing speech seem both morally wrong and strategically obtuse…
Some progressive groups that work to stem the growth of the far right worry that antifa plays into their enemies’ hands. Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a guide for college students about how to deal with alt-right figures on campus. It urges students to avoid confrontation with visiting right-wing speakers, and to instead hold separate, alternative events.
But the main thrust of this piece isn’t to condemn Antifa, it’s to give them a chance to make a case for their own necessity:
On Saturday in Charlottesville, when antifa did turn out, many of the peaceful progressive protesters credit it with defending them. West, who was demonstrating with a group of clergy, told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, “[W]e would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the anti-fascists.” Charlottesville pastor Seth Wispelwey, who was standing next to West at Saturday’s demonstration, told me that at one point the clergy were charged by a “battalion” of armed white supremacists, with the police nowhere to be seen.
If the police in Charlottesville failed to do their jobs (and they arguably did) that’s on their leadership. Take it up with the mayor. But that doesn’t mean the behavior of a left-wing goon squad using threats and violence in the streets should get winking approval. I’m not at all surprised that Slate wants to humanize and justify left-wing rioting, but responsible people should condemn this behavior, not attempt to offer excuses for it.