The Daily Show ran a segment about “Antifa,” and though the whole point was to lecture the anti-fascist activists on tactics that just give ammunition to their opponents, the segment itself wound up doing basically the same thing.
In the above video, host Trevor Noah mentions that Antifa has “no defined leadership” and that there’s “no clear way to know what they’re actually meant to do.” But … it’s right there in the name. Antifa stands against fascism. That’s it. That’s the whole goal. You can cherry-pick a few individuals from any group, defined leadership or no, and find inconsistencies, as the Daily Show segment does, but that doesn’t invalidate their core purpose. No group is a monolith.
Noah would likely say that something like this, where a Fox News pundit attempts to justify Heather Heyer’s murder by invoking Antifa, proves his point that the actions of some Antifa members are only hurting their cause:
it hasnt even been three weeks since she was killed and look where the discourse has taken us pic.twitter.com/Jd6zsQfFKu
— SMOOTH JAZZ 101.9🎵 (@2dAmMuslim) September 1, 2017
But anyone who’s willing to sympathize with white supremacists and literal neo-Nazis, for any reason, was always going to find a dishonest way to shift this blame. Anyone who believes this talk that it’s OK to run someone over with a car because of Antifa (when Antifa had nothing to do with that person) would be just as easily convinced that it’s OK to do it just because someone is blocking a road while protesting—a line of thinking some lawmakers have already been playing into.
It’s up to the rest of the media not to play into it, and too many are failing miserably. A lecture on nonviolence that shifts any amount of blame anywhere but onto the white supremacists and neo-Nazis only helps those groups. No one else benefits from it, even though giving the fascists what they want is always what these lecturers claim to be concerned about.
I’m not saying that I condone or encourage violence. I’m saying that going out of our way to chastise Antifa about it is just as helpful to actual fascists as Trevor Noah and the Daily Show writers imagine Antifa’s punches are. All it does is create moral confusion where there should be none.
Punches and broken windows or not, we have a choice of whether to blame that obfuscation on Antifa members’ actions or on the white supremacist sympathizers who use those actions as propaganda. We don’t have to just roll over and let the issue become confused, but tacitly absolving the propagandists as though they’re unavoidable forces of nature, to the point of choosing instead to blame the activists for how their actions are portrayed, is a surefire way to do just that.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time criticizing people who use a few punches to equivocate about actual fascism than the people who threw the punches. There’s a crystal clear difference between the systemic injustice and violence caused by white supremacy in our country and the actions of a few anti-fascist protestors who are doing what they can to right that wrong. Our society doesn’t have an Antifa problem; we have a fascism problem. Anything other than standing up and saying that unambiguously is just spreading the far-right propaganda.
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