TRIED-AND-TRUE TACTICS of the mainstream media in ‘reporting the news’ so that it fits the ‘party line’ include false equivalency, ‘balanced’ reporting, and selecting evidence that supports an official position are busy as you read this! In fact, the corporate media is “busy creating a left-wing ‘threat’ to balance out the awful, racist, rightwing hordes who threaten civil society” against the antifa-sters! 1
At least so says the indomitable Thom Hartmann in an article for AlterNet on August 29. 2017. For those unfamiliar with Thom Hartmann, he was one of the central voices of Air America that brightened and enlightened AM airwaves for almost six years (2004-2010).
But as more and more progressive shows such as his began taking over the #1 position in their market, the VRC—come on, you know: the vast rightwing conspiracy!—effectively eradicated progressive talk-radio in America.
“We have to be vigilant about the coming smear project against Antifa.”
How? Easy: they bought the radio stations that featured progressive shows and replaced them! Here in Seattle, the more conservative parent company changed AM-1090 from a successful liberal talk radio platform to yet another all-sports all-the-time talk channel.
Look, as much as I love baseball, the Pacific Northwest doesn’t need another sports outlet—it needed progressive talk. (But that’s another story.)
Hartmann continues to broadcast his show on the air and the internet, while writing articles and books. The point of the AlterNet article was to tell most of us the obvious: “We have to be vigilant about the coming smear project against Antifa.”
Thom wants to make certain that the severity of his message is understood: “In these dark days, an intergenerational warning is in order: Antifa folks—be wary. They are coming for you.”
Former Occupy Wall Street organizer Mark Bray provides a detailed survey of the full history of anti-fascism from its origins to the present day. Based on interviews with anti-fascists from around the world, Antifa details the tactics of the movement and the philosophy behind it, offering insight into the growing but little-understood resistance fighting back against fascism in all its guises.
What are antifa-sters?
First, antifa is a contraction of anti-fascist (or anti-fascist action). I don’t know about you, but anybody that’s anti-fascist sounds good to me! 2
“Antifa is a radical political movement of autonomous, self-styled anti-fascist groups who oppose fascism by direct action, including violence if need be. Antifa groups tend to be anti-government and anti-capitalist, who, according to Mark Bray (historian at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook) ‘reject turning to the police or the state to halt the advance of white supremacy.
Instead they advocate popular opposition to fascism.’ Antifa groups are known for militant protest tactics, including property damage and physical violence. Antifa focuses more on fighting far-right ideology directly than on encouraging pro-left policy.” 3
Second, Antifa is a movement, not an organization. And like most of us left-of-center types, they’re unorganized. Hell’s Belles, they don’t even have a Facebook page, let alone a website!
“Given all the mainstream press now being thrown at the Antifa movement, it’s a sure thing that they’re going to be the media’s next big boogeyman.”
For those of us who came of age during the height of the Vietnam War era (1965-1975), the vilifying of demonstrators by the government and the mainstream media through any and all means available is taken for granted. Most of us with any experience and memories of that era take the adjectives, slanted language, and inept descriptions with a grain of salt. (Actually, a whole damn shaker of salt is often needed!)
Hartmann is of that age group and relates an incident from his days as a member of the Students for a Democratic Society (the also vilified SDS): his group had a really outspoken “Kill-the-pigs” kind of guy who tried to encourage them to burn down the ROTC building on his college campus in Michigan! Years later, Thom learned that the guy was a police officer working undercover.
Such people, whether local police or members of the FBI (remember COINTELPRO?), were acting as agents provocateur: they infiltrated perceived enemy agencies and encouraged members to break the law so that those members could then be justifiably arrested. Given the personalities of such paranoid men as Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, there was never a shortage of “enemies” to keep under wraps.
“Cointelpro is the first book to disclose, in indisputable and chilling words of FBI officials themselves, the two-pronged attack with which the FBI has attempted to discredit and destroy lawful and effective groups working for social justice.” (Gloria Steinem)
Heil, mein Führer!
Hartmann’s article details the incidents that took place in Germany in the 1930s that allowed Hitler to assume power. The list of events read like a chronology of the past few decades in the United States, leading to the recent elections in which the candidate who lost the popular vote assumed the Presidency anyway: Gorge W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.
Hartmann notes that Hitler rose to power by scapegoating organized labor and communists, charging that both movements were filled with Jews. The burning of the Reichstag in 1933 was apparently started by Marinus van der Lubbe, who wanted to call people’s attention to the rise of fascism in Germany and Europe.
Mark Twain once noted that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
The fire took place a few weeks after Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, and he convinced the Germans that a leftwing conspiracy had burned down the Parliament building. Hartmann refers to the Reichstag fire as “the 9/11 event” for Germany in the ’30s. The irony is that many believed that the Nazis started their own fire in the same building at the same time. 4
Using the event, Hitler rallied the German people to him, along with the military, the police, the media, and business leaders. The media at the time was predominantly newspapers and radio, and the Nazis used them brilliantly.
Hartmann’s chronology of events noting what the Nazis accomplished in a few years in the ’30s is paralleled by a similar pattern of accomplishments by the rightwinged elements of the Rep*blican Party over the past thirty years.
“There’s little doubt in my mind—having lived through the era of COINTELPRO and the PATRIOT Act—that somewhere out there is a person who’s planning to commit an act of terrorism. It may be a dedicated but deluded leftwinger, or, more likely, it’s a rightwinger hoping to stir things up by pretending to be a leftwinger. And Trump and his friendly ‘news’ outlets are ready to use it.
Perhaps apocryphally, Mark Twain once noted that, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.’ There’s no shortage of examples of that rhyme, and given all the ‘mainstream’ press now being thrown at the Antifa movement, it’s a sure thing that they’re going to be the Administration’s and the media’s next big boogeyman.”
“A neoconservative is a liberal (or, more often these days, just a plain old conservative) who has been seduced by the notion that America is in steep decline and must reassert itself as a moral and military force in an otherwise corrupt world. Neocons bear, Heilbrunn writes, ‘an uncompromising temperament’ and a prophetic cast of mind, and they ‘use (and treat) ideas as weapons in a moral struggle.’ ” (Timothy Noah in New York Times)
Anti-Nazis are the same as Nazis?
I finished Thom’s article and immediately googled “antifa” and, lo and behold, there are articles galore to back up Hartmann’s premise. The one that caught my attention was an insane rant in The Washington Post called “Yes, antifa is the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis.” Got that? People who oppose Nazis are the equivalent of Nazis!
The author of this piece is Marc A. Thiessen, a ‘fellow’ at the American Enterprise Institute, an organization which laughing identifies itself as non-partisan. Hah! SourceWatch labels AEI “an influential rightwing think-tank that advocates for lower taxes, fewer protections for consumers and the environment, and cuts to the social safety net.”
Vanity Fair magazine said the American Enterprise Institute was “the intellectual command post of the neoconservative campaign for regime change in Iraq” during the George W. Bush administration.
The event in Berkeley is linked to the march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, who came brandishing pepper spray, clubs, and even guns.
Of course, there were many stories about the recent violence in Berkeley, which the mainstream media has blamed exclusively on antifa, before any investigating has been done. There are problems with this: when people wear masks, we can never know who they were.
Also, however one cares to look at the event in Berkeley, it is linked to the mass march of white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville the week before. Those marchers came to Charlottesville brandishing pepper spray, clubs, and even guns while protecting themselves with shields and helmets. All of this was conveniently ignored by the police and insanely downplayed by the DLM (damn librull media).
Given that the Nazis appeared to come looking for trouble—a preparedness that did lead to one death and several serious injuries—why is anyone surprised at what happened in Berkeley?
“The most likely fact is that van der Lubbe acted alone and was exactly what he seemed: a confused insignificant man, desperate for a place, any place, in a politics, indeed a world, from which he felt himself forever excluded. The whole case for a larger conspiracy responsible for torching the Reichstag rests on one dubious assumption: That it was a physical impossibility for one person alone to have set so many fires so quickly in such a very large building. This assumption dominated the claims of both Goebbels and Muenzenberg. Tobias refutes it decisively.” (Stephen Koch in Double Lives)
That’s how insane they are!
The comments sections that follow Hartmann’s article is rather readable, with readers ringing in with several important points. Joe Blow predicts that Trump’s impeachment will have a similar affect on American rightwingnuts as the Reichstag fire had on Germany:
“They’re already threatening civil war if he’s impeached. The christian (sic) right seems to feel that if the Republican investigating Trump files charges, and the Republican Congress and the Republican Senate impeach him, and the conservative Supreme Court agrees, then it’s all the fault of the Democrats. That’s how insane they are.”
Another reader (Red Frog) called attention to the lack of force and members in the Antifa movement compared to Hitler’s enemies in the ’30s:
“Antifa is nowhere as strong as the German Communist and Socialist Parties, which had millions of members and would have actually out-voted the little bastard if they had been united. These organizations were a huge threat to capitalism in the 1930s, which is why the Nazi’s were backed by the German ruling class.
Different situation, but yes, they are coming for Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and any of the communist, anarcho-syndicalist, socialist, Marxist, community, ethnic, and social-democratic groups that oppose fascism.”
Readers also commented on the possibility of agents provocateur, with Oaksavanna calling attention to the timing in Berkeley:
“I read the account of how peaceful the whole protest was on both sides until suddenly the police abruptly left at 1:30. All of them all at once. Then the Antifa showed up. Too suspicious. Everyone knows the cops have already been infiltrated by white supremacists. A previous incident, also at at CA campus, involved supposed Antifa instigating violence but everyone noticed they were all wearing police issued shoes.”
And the beat goes on . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: I found this cool image accompanying “Letter To The American Left: Antifa Is Not Your Friend” by Nicholas Goroff on the Occupy website. Goroff is not a fan of antifa: “As their presence has become a standard affair at demonstrations and protest rallies, their particular version of ‘radical activism,’ replete with its threats of violent insurrection and assaults on civilian bystanders, give the domestic security apparatus and its supporters perfect justification for increased surveillance and a crackdown on political speech.”
1 A false equivalence is a logical fallacy where there appears to be a logical equivalence (usually in quantity and quality of evidence) between two opposing arguments, but when in fact there is one side has substantially higher quality and quantity of evidence. (Skeptical Raptor)
So-called fair and balanced reporting is a form of false equivalency in that it often presents the argument of an expert supported by a wealth of evidence and the argument of a non-expert with no real evidence beyond his belief system as equally deserving of intelligent consideration. It abuses the old ‘there’s two sides to every story’ belief.
2 Since antifa isn’t the formal name of anything, should it be capitalized as Antifa or left uncapped? It seems to be up to each writer to use it as he sees fit. I have chosen to leave it uncapitalized as I do not capitalize capitalism or fascism, unless I am quoting another writer who does.
3 Adapted from Wikipedia, with some editorial changes.
4 The actual name of Hitler’s party was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But we forever will know them as Nazis.