Yahoo! News followed up the weekend’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, with an uncritical portrayal of one of the groups most deeply involved: violent left-wing “anti-fascist” street gangs, collectively known as Antifa.
Yahoo! reporter Caitlin Dickson penned a gushing paean Monday for the “secretive movement of combative leftists” who “seek to destroy” “authoritarian movements” with “direct action.” The piece even included a photo of a large group of smiling happy warriors, unarmed and fists raised in righteous indignation at the “white supremacists” they would confront.
According to Ms. Dickson, “[A]ntifa’s origins can be traced back to Europe in the 1920s and 30s. Since the end of World War II, antifa activity has ebbed and flowed along with that of neo-Nazis, skinheads and other hate movements that have sprung up around the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.”
In fact, as the avowedly Marxist-socialist periodical Jacobin magazine explains in a much more honest, if not less enthusiastic, appraisal, Antifa, originally known in its native Germany as Antifaschistische Aktion, was founded as the militant wing of the German Communist Party. In the 1930s, it was known to be every bit as violent as its Nazi opponents. After World War Two, Antifa groups re-formed in Germany to collaborate with Soviet communists on subduing the country and rooting out its past to create a new socialist utopia. They were active in Communist-controlled East Germany until that country’s Stalinist leadership got fed up, broke the groups up, and sent many of their leaders to gulags.
The modern Antifa is a transnational movement of pale imitators of their communist forebears who have mostly traded class-struggle for “anti-racism” and other vague ideologies that tend to justify violently attacking any group they feel ought not to be able to speak. The modern movement began among squat-dwelling punks in West Berlin and other West German cities in the 1980s and soon had chapters throughout Europe. The Antifa scene in the United States, by contrast, began with the more American-friendly name “Anti-Racist Action” among Midwestern skinheads in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It has grown up recently more than its European counterparts, especially in college towns like Berkeley, California, and cities with bustling punk communities like Chicago, Illinois.
Even putting aside Antifa’s prominent role in turning Saturday’s Unite the Right rally into a bloody slog, the Yahoo! piece willfully ignores decades of Antifa tactics and behavior to give this unashamedly violent group an endorsement as the defense against “bolder neo-Nazis.”
“They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet,” Dickson writes, neglecting to mention that “direct action” to Antifa means smashing people in the face with bike locks, spraying elderly men with bear mace, sending reporters to the hospital when they film them, and then bragging about it online, all because people with different opinions than theirs are allowed to speak, or simply be, in public.
In Europe, where self-proclaimed anti-fascist crews have been a major feature of the continent’s street politics for decades, gatherings of right-leaning groups there, including Britain’s UKIP, Germany’s populist AfD party, and the continental Identitarian movement, have come to expect to come under attack from Antifa.
When not the subject of national news attention, Antifa groups are even more wantonly violent. In 2012, as many as 18 Antifas from Bloomington, Indiana, the University of Indiana’s college town, busted into a family restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago, because they heard a meeting of a tiny organization called the Illinois European Heritage Association. Unprovoked, the men smashed up the restaurant and attacked diners and employees, including those with absolutely no connection to the European Heritage Association lunch with clubs, crowbars, and batons. Only five of the assailants were ever caught and charged. Not one snitched on his fellow Antifas, and all served several years in prison. They are still regarded as heroes in the Antifa community, known as the Tinley Park Five.
Other Antifa blogs on both sides of the Atlantic, which Breitbart News will not link to for decency’s sake, routinely post braggadocios reports of their members seeking out lone individuals or small groups they believe are Nazis and macing or beating them to a pulp with clubs.
Not to worry, Ms. Dickson assures us–interspersing her article with mirthful tweets from celebrities about white nationalist “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer being punched in the face by a masked antifa. The group is only “willing to use violence in order to fight white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and others they deem to be ‘fascists.'”
In reality, Antifa’s definition of a “fascist” can, and often does, encompass virtually anyone not a member of their gang, including some on the mainstream left. “Liberals get the bullet too,” for example, has become a not-entirely-ironic slogan of the movement. People and groups designated “fascists” — and therefore subject to unprovoked Antifa violence — include not only Richard Spencer and his ilk, but, in no particular order, former Breitbart News Tech Editor MILO, his readers, Trump supporters, other Trump supporters, members of Germany’s populist AfD party, a 20-year-old woman who chose to wear a Spanish-flag bracelet, a Philadelphia free speech rally, former UKIP and Brexit leader Nigel Farage, libertarian VICE News co-founder Gavin McInnes, French policemen, and Israeli-owned bookstores. Interesting, a Salafist Muslim who attacked a “filthy white” Antifa writer because he disrespected Islam does not qualify.
Other photos of Antifa’s handiwork went out on Twitter hours later when an “anti-racism” march in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in response to Charlottesville, appeared to result in the Hennepin County flag being replaced by that of Antifa: