HARRINGTON: Antifa villainization underplays dangers of American fascism


Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Nazis marched on American soil in August 2017. This is not a science fiction story or a nightmare. This was, and continues to be, the reality of American politics in our time.

White nationalists and advocates of genocide have become a part of contemporary political spheres. What about the countless victims of the Nazis all those years ago during World War II? Or the millions who laid down their lives to stop the spread of Nazism? It feels as if the American public has forgotten the evils we once fought so ardently to defeat in Europe. This is especially true of the demonization of Antifa, a movement dedicated to combating the rise of Nazi beliefs in America.

Antifa is not a formal organization, but rather a conglomerate of smaller groups and networks with similar views. These groups recognize the dangers of allowing the hateful teachings of racists, sexists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes to exist without direct opposition and actively stand in the way of that hate.

Youth movements have often been the breeding ground of fascism, from the punk scene of the 1980s to the dark corners of the Internet today. The rise of public support of fascist ideologies, often obscured by the more palatable name of “alt-right” ideas, has been a terrifying aspect of the Trump era.

While law enforcement in Charlottesville failed to quell the scare tactics and violence of the white nationalist protestors this past summer, Antifa supporters picked up the slack and fought back against their unchecked and vile hatred. After Alex Fields Jr., a Nazi marcher, drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters and murdered Heather Heyer, President Donald Trump claimed there was “blame on both sides.” After a member of the alt-right very intentionally murdered someone brave enough to stand up to racism, the president of the United States still sought to place blame on the left.

This sort of complacency is not only passivity, it actively emboldens the actions of the alt-right. This lack of outright condemnation is read as thinly-veiled support by the supporters of these far-right movements. As Nazism is tolerated more and more, their bigotry becomes less and less of a “fringe ideology.”

This is evidenced in the creeping rise of their evil in more and more mainstream platforms over the past two years. Condemnation is only the first stage in the fight against fascism.

Some critics have dubbed Antifa groups the “alt-left,” styling them as the Nazis of the political left. This is an unfair comparison that reduces the meaning of their actions to senseless violence without purpose. The degree of their respective activities is also incomparable. Antifa protestors in North America have killed a whopping total of zero people, yet the rise of violence from alt-right groups such as “the Atomwaffen Division” and the Ku Klux Klan have gone under-reported by mainstream media. The “Atomwaffen Division” is a Nazi group who share their views over internet message boards, and are responsible for the murder of five people over the past year.

Despite the undeniable fact that Nazis are killing people and Antifa are not, article after article have been written about the supposed dangers of Antifa. These are not two sides of the same coin. If one group has routinely expressed their support of genocide and ethnostates, and has repeatedly committed acts of violence on the innocent, and the other is actively trying to prevent that very violence, the former is clearly the dangerous party.

The de-platforming of bigots such as Milo Yiannopolous and Richard Spencer has been shown to be incredibly effective, as Antifa have routinely protested their speaking events and exponentially reduced the turnout of their engagement. While traditional media outlets and platforms such as the New York Times and Twitter often give these hateful figures platforms to recruit further support, Antifa recognizes these hate groups as an issue that must be addressed and fought head-on, rather than entertained or outright ignored.

Fighting fascism is as American as apple pie and baseball. While the white nationalists and Nazis cower behind arguments regarding their free speech and the oppression of their ideas, Antifa is one of the movements in this country that sees them for the hate-filled and dangerous monsters they really are. The media’s demonization of Antifa is complicity in the spreading of these anti-American and dangerous ideas.