What Antifa activists did to Andy Ngo was just awful. But also Antifa are socially irrelevant numpties who (just like their far right opponents) have been given outsize attention — and thereby encouraged — by mainstream media and politicos running a culture war about Trump.
But, better still:
The really great thing about your work [Andy] is that it empirically verifies the very good news that the far right remains utterly socially marginal in Australia.
Cheeky! Still, like everything else in life, responding is pointless.
And yet — here we are.
Where to begin? Regarding Quillette editor Andy Ngo: he got milkshaked at a counter-protest in Portland on the weekend, becoming a martyr in the process and, with the help of fellow propagandist Michelle Malkin, scored himself a very cool USD190K (and counting) for his troubles.
The assault on Ngo — he was milkshaked, punched, and sprayed with silly string — has triggered some YUGE disco on anTEEfa, jernalisms and violence. It also inspired a naughty troll to send a sneaky message to the Portland Police Bureau about anTEEfa super-soldiers concealing concrete mix in their vegan, PopMob milkshakes, which PPB faithfully repeated for the benefit of Fox News and their other allies in the meeja.
Still, such nonsense is to be expected, and the lies and the stoopid about concrete milkshakes, urine-filled balloons and other amateur weapons of mass destruction has a long history. While there are innumerable other examples, in the Australian context, see : G20: And balloons filled with… urine? (November 23, 2006) and, earlier (1991), AIDEX:
What most infuriated those opposed to AIDEX however was a series of bizarre police allegations that were aired in the closing days of the protest. The Canberra Times variously reported that protesters had wielded vegetables stuffed with nails and needles, a spear gun, knives, Molotov cocktails, pieces of wood stuffed with nails, steel spikes and acid filled condoms. On top of this, demonstrators had supposedly laid booby traps made out of wood studded with spikes, bashed police in packs, cut the brake lines and slashed the [tyres] of police cars, attempted to electrify NATEX’s fences, covered themselves in faeces and urine, and abandoned small children on the picket lines for police to rescue …
Despite none of the police injuries being consistent with the use of such weapons and no one being charged with possessing or using such weapons, the police allegations were nevertheless presented as fact in both the Canberra Times and much of the commercial news media. Similarly, a lack of footage or photos of anyone using or displaying such weapons was never questioned despite the only evidence of their existence being a motley collection of pocket knives, steel drink bottles, soiled condoms and other items that were presented at a police press conference.
See/hear also : Aidex ’91: inside the Australian arms trade, john jacobs, EngageMedia, August 22, 2012.
Regarding Quillette, it became the centre of a controversy recently when it published an essay by Internet troll ‘ProgDad’ (AKA Eoin Lenihan) which purported — using SCIENCE, LOGIC and FACTS — to demonstrate that ‘It’s Not Your Imagination: The Journalists Writing About Antifa Are Often Their Cheerleaders’ (May 29, 2019). Of the fifteen doubleplusungood journalists identified, only a handful are named: Christopher Mathias (Huffington Post), Kit O’Connell (freelance), Patrick Strickland (freelance) and Jason Wilson (The Guardian). According to Jared Holt in the Columbia Journalism Review (Right-wing publications launder an anti-journalist smear campaign, June 12, 2019):
The Quillette article was circulated approvingly on white supremacist forum Stormfront the day after its publication; a day later, a YouTube user uploaded a video of imagery of mass shooters intercut with images of the reporters mentioned by Lenihan under the heading “Sunset the Media.” Some reporters who do not cover the far-right but were listed as “connected” to antifascists by Lenihan appeared in the video…
Quillette writer Andy Ngo, who called attention to Lenihan’s work on Twitter and whose work Lenihan cites in his article, insisted that the legitimacy of Lenihan’s findings was self-evident from Lenihan’s Twitter posts.
Uh-huh. See also : I was the target of alt-right death threats across the internet – here’s what happened next, Shane Burley and Alexander Reid Ross, The Independent, June 19, 2019 | Quillette’s “Antifa Journalists” List Could’ve Gotten Me Killed, Kim Kelly, New Republic, June 14, 2019.
On Portland, Rose City Antifa is my go-to, but this thread by ‘It’s Going Down’ provides a useful summary of political conditions in that rosy place. (Bizarrely, Ngo’s Republican lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, attributed the production of the non-existent concrete milkshakes to Rose City: ‘The Rose City Antifa criminal enterprise that made the concrete milkshakes to assault our client [Ngo] had custom cups printed up with their criminal gang symbol. Who is the printer? Can anyone identify who made these cups?’) Further coverage of the protest and counter-protest is available via Far-Right Extremists Wanted Blood In Portland’s Streets. Once Again, They Got It., Andy Campbell, Huffington Post, June 27, 2019 (‘It’s not a surprise a conservative writer was bloodied in a street brawl in Portland ― far-right extremists have been freely hosting skirmishes there for years’) and Portland police clash with protesters and make ‘cement milkshake’ claim, Jason Wilson, The Guardian, June 30, 2019 and Massive Anti-Fascist Coalition Rebuffs Far-Right Proud Boys in Portland, Shane Burley, truthout, July 3, 2019.
In terms of police and the far-right, this August 2018 article by Robert Evans of bellingcat — Fascist Activists Have Spent The Last Year Trying to Win Over Police — is also required reading, exposing the ways in which facho and other jerks in Portland have been seeking to cultivate closer ties with police (the ranks of which contain more than one sympathiser) in that fine city. More broadly, Kathleen Belew’s recent title Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America is a brilliant account of the development of the white power movement in the United States in the post-Vietnam era through to the mid- to late-1990s, one which locates so-called ‘lone wolves’ within the wider context of the movement in which they are embedded. The failure to learn from this history — a failure shared by not only government actors but scholars and journalists — is one that has consequences for the contemporary white power movement and efforts to confront it.
With regards this opposition, Stanislav Vysotsky provides some political clarity on anTEEfa here. Comrade Vysotsky has also penned an article for Haaretz, ‘On America’s Streets, Militant Anti-fascism Isn’t Terrorism – It’s Self-defense’, which concludes:
In response to fascist organizing and even threats of violence, antifa activists mobilize public shaming and confrontational protest. They do so as part of a countermovement strategy designed to demobilize the fascist movement, and in doing so secure the safety of themselves, vulnerable populations, and their communities.
Much more could be said on this subject, and happily enough Vysotsky is publishing American Antifa: The Tactics, Culture & Practice of Militant Anti-Fascism through AK Press later this year.
Three cheers and a loud huzzah!
At approximately the same time as the fascist parade in Portland was taking place, Deutsche Welle published an article detailing how German neo-Nazi doomsday prepper network ‘ordered body bags, made kill lists’ (June 26, 2019). Weeks prior to this, of course, German conservative politician Walter Lübcke was shot dead by a right-wing extremist; in England, a plot by another neo-Nazi to kill another politician, Rosie Cooper, was spoiled thanks to the work of Hope Not Hate, though sadly the life of Jo Cox MP (June 22, 1974 -– June 16, 2016) was unable to be saved. See also : Germany Has a Neo-Nazi Terrorism Epidemic, Peter Kuras, Foreign Policy, July 2, 2019 (‘How many political murders do far-right extremists have to commit before the German government does something about it?’).
Anyways, back to Dr_Tad:
[redwog] By awful do you mean politically, morally or ethically?
[Dr_Tad] Politically idiotic. Although that’s par for the course with them. But also just plain nasty.
[Dr_Tad] What unpleasant people.
[hailants] It’s socially irrelevant to make fascists afraid?
[Dr_Tad] When the fascists themselves are socially irrelevant, yep.
[hailants] Fascists are murdering folks left right and centre… so your definition of socially irrelevant is totally deranged.
[Dr_Tad] Actually politically motivated murders by the far right are at historically very low levels in the USA, and there is no evidence of a trend upwards from that very low level.
Well, actually … I’m not so sure about that. Thus according to the ADL’s COE (Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018 [PDF]), the ‘Five Most Deadly Years for Domestic Extremist Killings (1970-2018)’ were:
Year : Deaths
1995 : 184 Oklahoma City bombing (168 deaths)
2016 : 72 Orlando nightclub shooting (49 deaths)
2015 : 70 San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Charleston shootings (28 deaths total)
2018 : 50 Pittsburgh synagogue, Parkland High School shootings (28 deaths total)
2009 : 46 Ft. Hood shooting (13 deaths)
In terms of lethal violence, 2018 was dominated by right-wing extremism. Every one of the 50 murders documented by the COE was committed by a person or persons with ties to right-wing extremism, although in one incident the perpetrator had switched from white supremacist to radical Islamist beliefs prior to committing the murder. In fact, 2018 saw the highest percentage (98%) of right-wing extremist-related killings since 2012, the last year when all documented killings were by right-wing extremists. Right-wing extremists also killed more people in 2018 than in any year since 1995. For comparison, only 62% of extremist killings in 2017 were committed by right-wing extremists, and only 21% in 2016.
Of course, questions of methodology are very important. In which case, it seems germane to draw attention to the work of the Brennan Center:
In Fighting Far-Right Violence and Hate Crimes: Resetting Federal Law Enforcement Priorities, authors and Brennan Center Fellows Michael German and Emmanuel Mauleón write that ill-conceived Justice Department and FBI policies result in uneven enforcement, unequal protection of targeted communities and unreliable data that mask the extent of the problem. The government does not keep accurate statistics on far-right violence and hate crimes, despite a congressional mandate to do so.
“As a result,” the report warns, “the Justice Department doesn’t know how many people far-right militants attack each year in the United States, which leaves intelligence analysts and policy makers in the dark about the impact this violence inflicts on our society and how to best address it.”
There are, of course, other analyses available in the relevant literature which contradict Dr_Tad’s claim that ‘politically motivated murders by the far right are at historically very low levels in the USA, and there is no evidence of a trend upwards from that very low level’; in fact I would suggest the opposite is the case, ie, politically-motivated murders (and other, non-lethal forms of violence) by the far right are at historically-significant levels, and if there’s a trend, it’s upwards: see the invaluable work of Spencer Sunshine, for example, or read David Neiwert’s Alt America (which in some ways could be read as an extension of Belew’s work on the white power movement up until the Oklahoma bombing).
But whatever. (For a contrary view, see : Right-wing terrorism and violence may actually have declined, Jacob Aasland Ravndal, The Washington Post, April 2, 2019.)
As for the far right and political and social marginality, a few remarks are in order.
First, in the US context, the election of Trump is significant. And while there’s been a mountain of commentary on The Trump Effect, to cite just one example, Michael German of the Brennan Center argued in February 2017 that ‘The new president has given white supremacists plenty of reasons to feel he’s copacetic with their agenda’, and I’m not aware of any evidence since that this is not in fact a feature of his Presidency.
Secondly, the relationship between the (political) margin and the centre is not straightforward, and it’s obviously possible for seemingly marginal political phenomena to both exercise influence and to grow. A useful examination of the relationship between the margin, the mainstream and the far right is available in Aaron Winter and Aurelien Mondon’s Understanding the mainstreaming of the far right (Open Democracy, August 26, 2018). Or as Shane Burley writes:
White nationalist violence has to be understood within the complicated social framework in which it exists, a framework intended to manipulate the fringes of the movement to take on the dirty work and carry out its underlying methodology. The fact that [James Fields, the Charlottesville killer] may not have been a formal member of one of its coalition organizations, or even a part of a tangible friendship circle, does not take away from his membership in a movement. Instead, he is the perfect image of what their movement creates, the clearest example of who they are and what they do.
So Fields is guilty. They are all guilty.
Thirdly, in the Australian context (which which I’m more familiar than the US), I maintain that, in the last few years, the far right has been struggling to ESC its ‘utterly socially marginal status’, with many failures but also with some degree of success. This progress is less about building a political party than a political movement — if we exclude PHONy, then Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party is the likeliest candidate in this sense — and, crucially, seeking to influence political discourse. Perhaps the most obvious success in this regard is the passage of the ‘It’s OK To Be White’ meme from the chans to Pauline Hanson to the ruling Coalition (with the government voting in favour of its adoption by the federal parliament), but there are certainly others, many of which may be found on the blog.
Finally, I might also add that, in January 2013, Dr_Tad was able to inform me that as far as Australian fascism was concerned, ‘There are some groups, thankfully marginal right now’ but on a cautionary note ‘But then so was Golden Dawn for many years’. I’m unsure what’s happened to the doctor to cause him to reverse perspective in the interim, but GD is still kicking goals. See : Racist attacks rise in Greece as landmark neo-Nazi trial enters fifth year, Billy Briggs, The Ferret, May 23, 2019 (also : The killing of Zak: the astonishing violence and impunity of Greek police, Mariniki Alevizopoulou and Augustine Zenakos, Open Democracy, October 31, 2018).
To conclude, it’s certainly the case that questions of strategy & tactics are important, and any sensible anTEEfa (or anti-fascist) must necessarily pay careful attention to such matters. But the slew of ill-informed opinion which surrounds and crowds out any sensible discussion of such things does take some effort to cut through. For a rational accounting see, for example, Antifa: The anti-fascist handbook, Mark Bray, Melbourne University Press, 2017.
See also : Antifa is liberalism, feminism is cancer, and I’m a monkey’s uncle (April 18, 2018).