The anti-fascist organization Antifa has been a hotly debated topic for a while now, but after the Berkeley protest, they have been dragged further into the spotlight. Many are calling for them to be labeled a terrorist organization, given the violent tendencies of some members.
I have seen wide-ranging opinions on the subjects of the morality and the efficacy of the group, with some even calling them the moral equivalent of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis.
On the subject of morality, I find that equating violent white supremacists who advocate for the genocide or deportation of entire racial, ethnic, or religious groups with the people who occasionally go too far to oppose them to be dangerous.
We are comparing people who are part of an organization responsible for terrorizing, brutalizing and murdering African Americans ever since the Civil War ended to some kids throwing rocks.
We are comparing groups who are trying to continue the work of Adolf Hitler, who applaud the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust, and violently try to turn the United States into a “whites-only” ethno state through coercion and terror, with some young, dumb kids who misrepresent a movement.
Comparing established hate groups with body counts in the thousands and millions with a few idiots who break a few windows is confusing, aggravating and disheartening.
There is this narrative being pushed that conservatives are becoming a targeted group. Many people claim the white Christian male is the most persecuted group in America. One can only arrive at this conclusion through purposeful ignorance and a complete disregard for any sort of fact based evidence.
Were the conservatives met with open arms in Berkeley? No.
Were some of them attacked? Yes.
Does any of this even begin to compare with the Klan’s terrorizing of African Americans for well over a century? Not even close.
However, where efficacy is concerned, I am much more divided.
On paper, Antifa sounds like a wonderful idea: oppose fascist and hate groups to prevent their taking hold in America. However, the implementation of this ethos is occasionally troubling.
Many members of Antifa do good work, uncovering white supremacists and protecting people in dangerous situations.
There is also a much darker side to Antifa. When I covered the Berkeley protest, there was no one on the left wing that needed protection. The few Trump supporters who did show up had already left by the time Antifa took the park.
Antifa members did physically assault a number of people, including Al Letson, a host at NPR who, fearing for the man’s life, jumped on top of a Trump supporter to protect him from Antifa.
Therein lies the problem for Antifa: they are a loosely organized political movement rather than a cohesive group. Their mission statement is vague and they lack leadership to steer the group in any specific direction.
There is no barrier to enter for Antifa, and many of their members were young, dumb, and looking for a fight at the Berkeley protest.
These few violent members are being used as tools by white supremacists and fascists as examples of “left wing terrorism.”
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that it was not the right wing protesters in Berkeley who furthered the goals of white supremacists, of fascists, and of the president, it was the violent members of Antifa who gave those groups an excuse, a counterpoint to their own hateful nature.