Playboy magazine published a story about Antifa last week. The story is mostly flattering to the group and spends much of its length arguing that Antifa is about a lot more than political violence. But if so, why does the group continue to endorse violence? According to the piece, it’s because sometimes the violence serves the left’s ends:
If antifascism really favors vigilance and community building over fists, why do some of its adherents give the far right what it wants by meeting its violence with more violence? Because for better or worse, sometimes it works out in the left’s favor.
David (not his real name) is a family man in his mid-30s and a member of Rose City Antifa, one of America’s oldest antifascist groups. He cites Richard Spencer, the white -nationalist whose fame peaked after he was punched in the face with cameras running. Spencer’s assertion that the black bloc has made his allies afraid to show up to events suggests that violently confronting the far right can be an effective tactic. “If they can’t find a protester in black bloc to fight,” David explains, “they’re going to go beat up an African American teen at a mall who is not involved in a protest whatsoever. They’re going to attack somebody just walking down the street.”
This is the same reason given for why college students need to shout down opposing voices on campus, i.e. speech represents a physical threat to someone on campus. If we don’t stop the speech, someone will be harmed. There’s no evidence this is true. Most of the people beaten up by Antifa goons, like the Marines in Philadelphia, weren’t a threat to anyone. The story goes on to point out that Antifa’s anti-cop rhetoric and actions aren’t helping them win over the public:
The rare instances of antifa affiliates hurling various projectiles their way are further steps away from antifa’s core message. (The antifa slogan “All cops are bastards”—or ACAB—while not equivalent to Pax Centurion’s claims, isn’t helping either.) Activists say their anger arises with good reason and that they’re often left to fend for themselves when attacked. In Portland, instances of overzealous policing include shooting nonlethal rounds into crowds of peaceful protesters, resulting in devastating head injuries; charging groups of black bloc anti-fascists, regular citizens and journalists alike (myself included); striking civilians with batons while driving them toward downtown traffic; and disproportionately arresting leftist protesters.
He forgot to mention the instances of Antifa harassing the police, especially minority police officers who are called race traitors:
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) August 17, 2019
Here’s more of the same from a Portland anti-ICE protest last year. I wonder if David (mentioned above) was part of this hateful mob. (There’s some NSFW language in this clip.)
One of the people Playboy interviewed for the piece to admit that Antifa has a PR problem:
When I ask McKelvey about the future of the movement, he replies without hesitation.
“Antifascism sure as hell has a PR problem,” he says.
He goes on, and his words suggest an outline of how the movement might finally find a voice to meet that of the roaring far right: “These elements that Trump has inspired to come out of the woodwork aren’t going anywhere regardless of what happens next year, so antifascists aren’t either. We need to make it okay for people to say they support antifascism, including people in all levels of government. We’re going to need people in the streets forever, but the people who are open about their involvement need to change their rhetoric, because right now we’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.”
This is delusional. When right-wing groups show up in Portland they are always dwarfed by the size of the Antifa mobs that show up to combat them. In any case, changing the rhetoric won’t work because political violence is one of the group’s foundational principles. Talking a good game might win over some of the anchors at CNN and Vox but it won’t convince the majority of Americans that Antifa is anything more than left-wing thugs in masks.