I’m a pretty open-minded fellow when it comes to debate, but I’ve decided I’m no longer willing to engage with anyone who makes this argument: “Antifa means ‘anti-fascist.’ What part of that don’t you understand? If you’re against anti-fascism, what does that make you?”
This is an asinine argument, and it usually comes from the same people who think President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign motto is some sort of clarion call to fascism. (“MAGA means ‘Make America Great Again.’ Are you saying you don’t want to make American great again? What part of that don’t you get?”)
What’s great is that it also comes from the people who’ll simultaneously argue that antifa doesn’t exist. So, in short, the threat is chimerical, but it’s also not a threat if it were real because all they are is anti-fascist — and who’s against that?
This isn’t just a line parroted by those on the farthest reaches on the left side of the political galaxy. Here’s Molly Jong-Fast, editor-at-large at The Daily Beast:
Wouldn’t anti anti fascism be pro fascism?
— Molly Jong-Fast? (@MollyJongFast) May 31, 2020
The Daily Beast, in case you were unaware, is named after the inflammatory, mindless London tabloid in Evelyn Waugh’s journalistic satire “Scoop.” Just mentioning that — apropos of nothing, of course.
FBI Director Christopher Wray doesn’t necessarily find himself in the same company as Jong-Fast, but he’s also apparently not a believer in the notion that antifa groups pose any sort of serious threat. In fact, he’s not even necessarily a believer that antifa groups really exist.
Instead, Wray indicated during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Thursday that antifa is more of a ideological view of the world. I suppose this depends on your definition of ideology, which is a notoriously vague word in the social sciences. (There’s also a bit of irony there inasmuch as Marxism, a school of thought certainly not unpopular among antifa types, holds that ideology is part of what it terms “false consciousness,” but that’s a matter for another day.)
To the extent it is an ideology, however, Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw thought Wray was “downplaying” the effects of it.
“I’ve heard many members of this body, of this committee, question whether antifa even exists,” Crenshaw said as he questioned Wray.
“Earlier you confirmed antifa does indeed exist, but you considered it more of an ideology than a group, correct?”
“Yes, an ideology, or maybe a movement,” Wray said in response.
“That seems to me to be downplaying it,” said Crenshaw, who only needed about 40 seconds to subsequently school Wray on antifa.
“This is an ideology that organizes locally, it coordinates regionally and nationally, it wears a standardized uniform, it collects funds to buy high-powered lasers to blind federal officers, build homemade explosive devices, feed their rioters, since they clearly aren’t working, and then bail out those who have been arrested.”
“This is an ideology that has trained its members, makes shield wall phalanxes to attack federal officers. It formed an autonomous zone in an American city and besieged a federal courthouse in another, so it just seems to be more than an ideology.
“Do you have a way to define what you mean by ‘it’s not a group?’”
Wray said he wanted “to be clear that by describing it as an ideology or a movement I by no means mean to minimize the seriousness of the violence and criminality that is going on across the country.”
But, as The Daily Caller reported, much of the hearing consisted of a tug-of-war between our nation’s elected officials regarding what group was most dangerous — QAnon believers, antifa, white supremacists or the Black Lives Matter movement.
The argument that antifa apologists use for those who call it a group is that there’s no single antifa organization out there. Instead, it’s a diffuse constellation of groups — for a reason, one suspects, given that it’s more difficult to target that way.
In a piece for The Washington Post, Mark Bray, author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” — a tome praised lavishly in the establishment media for lavishly praising antifa — pointed out the decentralized nature of the movement: “There are antifa groups, such as Rose City Antifa in Portland and NYC Antifa, just as there are feminist groups, such as Code Pink. But neither antifa nor feminism is itself an organization. You cannot subpoena an idea or a movement. That’s not to say that antifa doesn’t exist, of course. Antifa is ‘very real,’ as [Ohio GOP] Rep. Jim Jordan has argued, but not in the monolithic, hierarchical way in which he and many other Americans are accustomed to thinking of political associations.”
But that doesn’t still mean that there aren’t antifa groups which can raise money and distribute implements of destruction.
Indeed, the lasers are coming from somewhere, as were the stun guns and explosives found inside a van that was abandoned by rioters in Seattle in July — a van which a witness said contained gas masks and baseball bats.
Ideologies can’t produce stun guns, lasers or gas masks.
That’s a helpful thing to remember as these demonstrations continue into their fourth month.
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