They are the rowdiest of the social justice warriors on the activist scene… but none of this is new.
Every age has its radicals…
In America today, the closest thing to a revolutionary political movement is the loosely organized and defined group called “antifa.” The name is a contraction of “anti-fascism,” for that is what these self-aggrandizing activists claim is their core mission.
As their narrative goes, those who march and fight under the antifa banner are the only thing standing between America and the long, dark night of fascism that has been threatening our Republic since Donald Trump won the 2016 election.
They are “woke” in leftist parlance, meaning antifa are socially conscious class warriors who operate under the slogan “by any means necessary,” including violence. They do this to oppose the “white supremacy” that they view as a defining characteristic of American life and the underlying rot of the Republican party. Antifa also attempt to explicitly associate their cause with the real anti-fascist fighters of World War II, referring to themselves as part of the “resistance,” and reveling in their street scuffles with right-wing enemies (real and imagined), known as “Nazi-punching.”
A former Occupy Wall Street activist has even written a pseudo-scholarly history of the group, called The Anti-Fascist Handbook, which tries to construct a bridge from the fight against Nazism in Europe to today’s antifa social justice warriors, who are found in abundance in latte-drinking precincts like Berkeley, California. Indeed, the inauguration day protestors who lit an immigrant’s limousine on fire in the streets of Washington D.C. to protest Trump consider themselves the direct ideological descendants of the Antifaschistische Aktion communists who battled it out with Brownshirts on the streets of 1930s Germany.
The most visible characteristic of antifa is its de facto dress code of all black. This leads some to refer to them as “black bloc,” but that is a description of the protest strategy, not the actual group that uses it. Black bloc simply means dressing in black from head to toe, face covered, to create a sense of paramilitary unity among radical leftists with mayhem on the mind. Conveniently, it also makes the police’s job of identifying the anti-fascist vandals much more difficult. Armed with this virtual anonymity, black bloc hooligans are willing to tangle with cops, get tear gassed, and commit multiple felonies in the name of defeating (imaginary) Nazis.
It is these antifa tactics that separate them from other Leftist political groups. They are the rowdiest of the social justice warriors currently on the activist scene. They’ve been known to throw bags of urine at police, smash the windows of random nearby businesses, light random objects on fire, and attack journalists for the transgression of filming them in public places, including protests.
So who joins the ranks of these neo-Marxist malcontents? In the Urban Dictionary, which defines slang terms in common usage, antifa are referred to “middle-class champagne socialist white boys.” This is a good working definition.
Overwhelmingly, antifa are 30-something-year-old suburban Bernie voters casting aside their iPhones and Priuses in exchange for gas masks and homemade shields. Typically, they hold up banners that state their intention to “make war on the state,” then head back to their jobs as adjunct professors at third-tier colleges or baristas in overpriced coffee shops from Portland to Brooklyn. There is no specific profile of an antifa member, they exist nationwide, and social media has now given them a tool to both organize themselves and amplify their message.
When it comes to the political beliefs of antifa, they are, to borrow a phrase from writer George Packer, “more a meme than a movement.” Antifa opposes fascism, but their definition of fascism is elastic beyond comprehension… They consider invited conservative speakers to college campuses to be fascists. The same goes for free speech rallies, which antifa treats as the moral equivalent of a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Anyone who opposes orthodox leftism in America can, and in many cases already has, been labeled a “fascist” by antifa, which again is basically a group of white guys in black uniforms who threaten to punch anyone they don’t like. Antifa doesn’t get irony.
What they want is also anybody’s guess. We know that antifa hates Trump, but replacing him with the wildly corrupt and blatantly corporatist stooge Hillary Clinton isn’t really an option for any self-respecting anarchist. Antifa don’t have a list of demands, or even a single specific demand. As much as anything else, antifa is a collection of emotions that have been cultivated and aggravated on the political Left for decades. Ultimately their activism amounts to virtue signaling through violence.
None of this is new. Antifa are the latest iteration of a longstanding cultural phenomenon among progressives. Trump is not antifa’s cause, merely their excuse.
In fact, the same tactics and amorphous, quasi-anarchist ideology they espouse today has been a part of left-wing activist circles for decades. Go back and watch video of the World Trade Organization riots back in 1999, and you will see familiar scenes of black-clad anarchists, going toe-to-toe with riot police for sport and indulging their pseudo-revolutionary fantasies. Their objection that time around was to globalism.
More recently, there was a “black bloc” splinter faction of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. I covered almost all of the major Occupy gatherings in New York City, and that was my first introduction to the tactics and imagery of anarchist protestors… They gathered specifically to antagonize police, force confrontations with them, livestream their exploits on the internet, and generally cause chaos.
Antifa today is a rebranding of this earlier leftist impulse, with a more full-throated embrace of violence, and a desire to shape our national political dialogue with threats and spectacle instead of reason and debate.
The good news is that antifa’s delusions will almost certainly never become a major political force.
The more the American people know about the group and its activities, the more they reject it. Antifa will likely be forgotten soon – and then rapidly resurrected under a new name, with a new purpose, so that left-wing activists can play at being petty radicals once again.
Buck Sexton is host of the nationally syndicated talk radio program, Buck Sexton with America Now, heard on over 100 stations across the country.
A former CIA and NYC Police Department Intelligence Officer, Buck is also the cohost of Stansberry Investor Hour, a weekly radio show that you can subscribe to for free right here: http://investorhour.com/ .