Antifa as Spectacle: How White Supremacists Get A Pass
Antifa has gone from the margins of American life to the spotlight since the events of Charlottesville last month. Antifascism isn’t a new phenomenon or a fetish for jobless millennials dwelling in their parents basements. Rather, it is a movement that has been around, internationally, since the beginnings of fascist organizing in Europe after WW1.
Historian Mark Bray outlined the history of antifa in an August 16th Washington Post article. Bray wrote,
The first antifascists fought Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts in the Italian countryside, exchanged fire with Adolf Hitler’s Brownshirts in the taverns and alleyways of Munich and defended Madrid from Francisco Franco’s insurgent nationalist army. Beyond Europe, anti-fascism became a model of resistance for the Chinese against Japanese imperialism during World War II and resistance to Latin American dictatorships.
Antifascists began mobilizing in the shadow of the Great War in response to the growing fascist movements in Germany, Italy, and Spain. It was incumbent on concerned citizens to meet the fascists threat wherever they found it. The powers-that-be didn’t take the movement seriously and hoped to yoke the raw political energy within fascism for their own political ends. Antifascists knew, what many apparently can’t comprehend now, that you always take fascists at their word.
In 1996 Yale historian Henry Ashby Turner, Jr. published Hitlers Thirty Days to Power, a powerful political history detailing the month leading up to Hitler’s ascension to chancellor of Germany. Turner’s work details the ambivalence that many in the Wiemar Republic had towards the Nazi party; very similar to many of the current attitudes in this country. It took ten years, but eventually Hitler gained the power he desired. Twelve years and millions of lives later, surrounded by the Allied armies, he took his life in a bunker in Berlin.
Unfortunately, journalists and civic leaders are more concerned with the tactics and clothing of antifascist activists, rather than the rise of the alt-right. The LA Times published an article outlining the current discussion among city and state officials over whether to label antifa a gang and thus prosecute anyone arrested at a protest as such. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin commented that,
“Antifa,” is no different than a street gang, and police should start treating protesters in the anti-fascist movement accordingly.
Under the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, passed during the height of gang violence in the nation, persons arrested as gang members could receive sentences with up to 15 years added to a criminal sentence for people convicted of committing a crime in concert with gang activity. Is the larger strategy to marginalize and censure antifa’s message?
White supremacist organizations have been, and remain, the largest domestic terrorist threat in this country. Those who equivocate antifa with the alt-right are participating in fascist apologetics due to either their ambivalence or ignorance of the history of white terrorism in this country. Lest we forget that Heather Heyer was killed, and many injured, by a white supremacist in Charlottesville.
Focusing on the masks and black attire of people standing against white supremacy creates a new narrative and a new enemy for the average reader to focus on. The problem is morphed into one of “violent” antifa/leftists rather than the serious threat of rising fascist organizations in this country and a White House administration that , until recently, was being led by Breitbart’s Steve Bannon.
Again, the United States, instead of having an honest conversation about our fetish for white supremacy, in all its forms, we seek to rather punish those who continue to stand against it. More, real patriotic Americans, should be standing against the very things we claim to detest as a nation rather than seeking to pick apart the very people with the backbone to stand against tyranny.
Those who chant “Blood and Soil” do not want to sit down and debate the merits of genocide or deportations. There are no merits. There is no discussion. It’s wrong. Choose your side.