get ready, antifa-sters, ’cause the boogeyman is comin’ to getcha

Es­ti­mated reading time is 10 minutes.

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.”


Antifa-sters: cover of Mark Bray's book ANTIFA – THE ANTI-FASCIST HANDBOOK.

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.


Antifa-sters: cover of Nelson Blackstock's book COINTELPRO.

“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.”


Antifa-sters: cover of Jacob Heilbrunn's book THEY KNEW THEY WERE RIGHT.

“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?


Antifa-sters: cover of Fritz Tobias's book THE REICHSTAG FIRE.

“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 . . .

Thom Hart­mann be­lieves a main­stream media smear project against An­tifa is im­mi­nent. Click To Tweet

Antifa-sters: photo of "Antifa" graffiti on a wall.

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.


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