If the last 365 days has proven anything, it’s that anti-fascist action (Antifa) is far more effective at countering neo-Nazis than decades of neoliberal respectability politics.
The original “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in August of 2017 attracted several hundred members of hate groups, far-right militias, Ku Klux Klan figures (like David Duke), neo-Confederates, and neo-Nazis. Many came armed and eager to fight. Some of the counter-protesters last year were maced, beaten, and attacked with torches and lighter fluid, according to The Guardian.
Because Charlottesville is a Southern college town, there wasn’t a heavy Antifa presence. Most counterprotesters were members of clergy, civil rights groups, and labor unions, as well as student groups from the University of Virginia. Because the police were largely impotent in stopping white supremacist violence last year, a neo-Nazi was able to drive a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others. Roughly 14 others were injured in various other clashes that day.
When fast-forwarding one year to this weekend’s two hate rallies in Washington, DC and Charlottesville, however, attendance from hate groups was minimal, with just two dozen white supremacists in attendance, according to CNN. The DC rally ended hours ahead of schedule due to a vigorous counter-protester presence, who followed the hate marchers all the way out of the city while the roughly two dozen white supremacists were being shielded by the state. Journalist Chuck Modi tweeted that there were approximately ten police officers for every one white supremacist.
What #UnitetheRight2? Looks like Nazis were shutdown b4 the shutdown! Only handful of Nazis & at least 10 cops per Nazi protecting them (because of course) Congrats to #AllOutDC #ShutitDownDC pic.twitter.com/BT2vizAF12
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 12, 2018
The fact that this year’s rally was so sparsely attended is likely due to the fact that Antifa has made it a point to not only directly confront neo-Nazis and white supremacists when they hold public rallies — as they did in Berkeley last year — but Antifa is also incredibly skilled at tracking down individual white supremacists, finding their places of employment, and making sure they pay an economic cost for subscribing to an ideology of hatred and violence.
The most recent example of this was in Georgia, when an Atlanta Antifa group outed two Spalding County jail guards as neo-Nazis after finding posts on their social media profiles praising both Adolf Hitler and American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell. Thanks to Antifa’s actions, both guards are now unemployed.
Antifa also played a role in amplifying public awareness of Florida middle school teacher Dayanna Volitich, whom HuffPost exposed as a white supremacist after finding her podcasts in which she called for ethnic cleansing against Muslims. Antifa activists in DC also built up public pressure for Maryland Catholic school teacher Greg Conte to be fired. Because of anti-fascist action’s reputation for unmasking and exposing white supremacists, they’ve become so afraid of showing their faces in public that they’re forced to keep their bigoted views to themselves, thus achieving the goal of stamping out fascism by silencing hateful individuals and turning them into unemployable pariahs.
However, it hasn’t been easy for anti-fascist activists to suppress the spread of violent extremist ideology given corporate media outlets’ determination to mainstream them, or irresponsibly propagate false equivalences between Antifa and neo-Nazis.
Last year, The Washington Post published an op-ed from George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who said that Antifa was “the moral equivalent” of neo-Nazis. This op-ed came just weeks after President Trump said that there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville — including white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And just last week, NPR lent its massive platform to Charlottesville hate rally organizer Jason Kessler on its flagship program, in which his opinion that certain races are intellectually inferior based on genetics went largely unchallenged by host Noel King.
Of course, corporate media outlets are continuing their condemnation of Antifa due to one counter-protester in Charlottesville this weekend swatting away an NBC reporter’s camera and calling him a “snitch ass news bitch.” CNN’s Brian Stelter called the protester’s behavior “unacceptable,” without mentioning that Antifa protesters likely don’t want their faces broadcast on national TV without consent, given that Republicans in Congress are trying to make associating with Antifa a federal crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Unacceptable behavior by a protester in C'Ville last night — violently swatting away a journalist's camera — I asked @CalNBC for more info, and he deferred to his tweets, which described the protest as "almost exclusively Antifa at that point." https://t.co/BJ2t5HGceZ
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 12, 2018
Just 74 years ago, American soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy in what is now known as D-Day, in the Allied offensive against fascism in Europe. More than 400,000 Americans died in Italy, France, Germany, and elsewhere to snuff out Nazism in World War II. As of August of 2018, there has never been a war against anti-fascism. Equating the two as equally bad is irresponsible and reckless.
When Nazism rears its ugly head in the U.S., and Antifa counters it, journalists owe it to their audiences to give the full context of why masked protesters — most of whom are completely nonviolent — are opposing them.