Two weeks ago, we witnessed a horrifying display of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, when a white supremacist ran down group of counter-protestors with a car, injuring 19 and killing one. The condemnation was swift from almost all corners, but absent from perhaps the most important one: the President of the United States. President Trump’s failure to forcefully condemn the Nazis and his wishy-washy attempts to talk about both sides did little to inspire confidence in his leadership or moral standing. Hitting Trump on those points alone would have been good enough, but in the rush to attack Trump and the Nazi marchers, many pundits began to defend another equally deplorable group: Antifa.
Just a few days after the attack, CNN’s Chris Cuomo posted a picture on twitter of the landings at Normandy with the caption, “Anti-Fascists disrupting a large gathering of white supremacists.” Many other members of the press and political left posted memes of the same theme; that the (often violent) counter-protestors and Antifa were the equivalent of WWII Soldiers, and brave guardians of the Republic[i]. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth: Antifa and the Alt-Right are simply two sides of the same hate-filled coin. They hate for different reasons, but their methods, tactics, and grievances are shockingly similar. Isolated in their respective corners, Antifa and the Alt-Right share more in common with each other than they do with the mainstream of either party.
Before the White Supremacist attack in Charlottesville, Antifa had already earned itself a reputation for radicalism, violence, and destruction. In June of 2016, Antifa arrived at a small White Supremacist rally in Sacramento. Wearing masks and carrying bats, knives, and fireworks, Antifa descended upon and attacked the protestors without provocation. From that event, ten people were admitted to the hospital with stab wounds and other lacerations. Police laid blame for the assaults squarely at the feet of Antifa[ii]. Similar scenarios have played out all over the country, in places like Berkeley, Claremont, Boston, Portland and Washington DC; each time, Antifa has violently assaulted others in order to shut down ‘hate speech,’ often hurting innocent people and destroying property in the process[iii].
These events showcase what Antifa is and how they act. Antifa is not a guardian of the Republic, nor a defender of Democracy. In their zeal to condemn fascism, or whatever they decide counts as “fascism,” they have embraced the tactics of actual fascists. They employ violence to shut down speech they don’t like, care little about any collateral damage they might cause, and engage in identity-based politics. They have no tolerance for ideological dissent and have shown a willingness to physically attack anyone they feel is a threat to their objectives, including members of the press and the police[iv]. Based on their tactics and goals, Antifa actually bears a striking resemblance to the Sturmabteilung, or SA, which was the original “storm” wing of the Nazi party that helped Hitler rise to power and predecessor to the SS. Its primary purposes included “protecting” Nazi rallies, disrupting the meetings and rallies of Nazi opposition, and intimidating opponents of the Nazis. They also regularly targeted businesses for boycotts and destruction[v]. A group that adopts such tactics in modern society is not to be praised or admired, but rather condemned.
Besides the proclivity for violence, Antifa is a profoundly illiberal organization. While loosely organized and with no official leadership, Antifa has shown strong affection for Marxism and Communism. Its members often proudly display the Soviet flag or images of Communist leaders like Che Guevera. While the US may have fought WWII to stop the Nazis, it spent the entire Cold War attempting to stop the spread of Communism, under which hundreds of millions of people died. Josef Stalin did indeed help stop the Nazis, but that does not make him a good person. Antifa is no better for identifying with him and his ideology. They get zero credit for “standing against Nazis,” since that is the position held by every decent person in the world. Their desire for violence, affinity for a system that killed millions more than the Nazis, and strong desire to impose regulations on speech and thought make them a profoundly un-American group; one that has no place in the United States. Lionizing them because they attack the Alt-Right is a profound mistake, and we should be harsh in our condemnation of them, their tactics, and their ideals. Because ultimately, they have far more in common with the Nazis they attack than they do with the rest of us.
[i] Chris Cuomo, Twitter Post, August 16th, 2017. https://twitter.com/ChrisCuomo/status/897820041273626626/photo/1
[ii] Stanton, Sam. "One suspected neo-Nazi and three counter-demonstrators charged in Capitol Riot. The Sacramento Bee, July 19, 2017. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article162479738.html.
[iii]Tuttle, Ian. “The Roots of Left-Wing Violence” National Review. June 5, 2017.
[iv] Boston Police Department, Twitter Post, August 20th, 2017. https://twitter.com/bostonpolice/status/898991076157136898
[v] William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) p. 42