The ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, West Virginia received international media coverage when one alleged white supremacist drove his car into a group of counter protesters resulting in the death of a counter protester. While politicians from both sides condemned violence and the alt-right equivocally, almost everyone looked past violence caused by Antifa, Alt-Right’s nemesis. While everyone acknowledges the fact that violence on any side is questionable, what raises questions is the fact that extremists on the left seem to be getting away with murder. The questions that haunt the heart of this matter are- Who or what is Antifa? How are they different from the Alt-Right? Also, while Antifa accuses the Alt-Right of being neo-Nazis, how different is Antifa’s ideologies from a regressive populist regime’s, something perhaps resembling Nazi Germany?
The ‘Unite the Right’ rally was against the removal of Confederate Symbolism throughout the country, which, arguably, is plagued with undercurrents of racism and neo-confederacy. The rally was laced with elements of white-supremacy and Nazism, they subscribed to the same pseudo-scientific reasoning to racism as the Nazis did. The rally was non-violent until Antifa started their ‘counter protest’. In line with their ideology of violence, when required; they started attacking the original protesters and, in some cases, reporters too. While what happened next can never be overlooked, the inciting of violence on Antifa’s part shouldn’t have been overlooked by the mainstream media either, which it clearly did. This bias has an apparent explanation too- mainstream media’s liberal bias is transitive. The media’s liberal bias makes sure that they go easy on Antifa because most of the time they have a common enemy- the Alt-Right. Oftentimes, this misrepresentation of facts enables the Alt-Right to step in, cry victim, and create a false equivalence between Antifa and the Alt-Right.
The most notable incident of this bias was the backlash from when President Trump condemned violence in Charlottesville on both sides, which, from a neutral standpoint is a very respectable position but the media called the President a white supremacist enabler for specifically not pointing fingers at the Alt-Right.
Antifa, short for Anti Fascism is a loosely tied far left group in the United States of America that gained relevance when Trump’s campaign was gaining momentum. Antifa opposes perceived fascism through direct action, often, in form of violence. Though the origin of the idea of Antifa has ancient roots that can be traced back to the European Political Movements in the 1930’s that went by the name of Anti-Fascist Action, a phenomenon that was revived in the 1990’s, particularly in Germany. Antifa’s activities are usually responses to what their perceived opponents are doing, instead of having concrete political motives and actions. Antifa is hugely critical of absolute free speech, which, their mortal enemy- the Alt Right is a proponent of. While it is true that part of the reason the Alt Right is coming forward as a champion of free speech absolutism is that it enables and normalizes racial and religious profiling, something as basic as free speech should not be opposed by a group that claims to oppose fascism. Antifa’s stance on various things are extremely liberal, egalitarianism is the central idea behind their ideologies. While it is still not clear what kind of economic model they prefer, but, it is obvious that they lean towards socialism and perhaps, even communism since the idea of absolute equality is of primal importance to them.
Antifa clearly has no shame in embracing violence, it has previously resorted to- using Molotov cocktails (bottle bombs) against the police while protesting the right-winged provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, destruction of public property, physical assaults and being a social ruckus in general. Clearly, Antifa’s understanding of what an acceptable form of dissent or protest is completely different from the widely accepted one. Notwithstanding these gaping laundry list of flaws and eccentric ideologies, politicians on either side don’t seem to be rushing to condemn Antifa, unlike in the case of Alt Right. When Donald Trump called Antifa out for their fair share of the blame, the media accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer and under-representing the crimes of Alt-Right.
Antifa often demonizes Alt-Right by calling them Nazis, because of their tendency to use pseudoscience to justify racism. Their argument has one major flaw- almost EVERY racist use pseudoscience to justify racism, this isn’t specific just to Nazis. A closer inspection of Nazi ideologies shows Antifa shares as much as with Nazi ideologues as the Alt-Right does with Nazis. The free speech repression that Antifa clearly propagates, the socialistic economic leanings, the idea of forced equality and homogenous society, albeit free from the ‘inferior’ races, are all reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Therefore, these facts beget the question- ‘What would the Fuhrer do?’
Would he relate to the racial profiling ways of the Alt-Right? Or would he look at Antifa and realize this is basically something he can spin into his propaganda machine? Or would he realize that all these contradictions and extremism has rendered both, the Alt-Right and Antifa, basically the same?
The truth is, Nazi ideologies borrowed ideas from both, left and the right, and if one starts painting the other side with a broad brush, the other side can do the same. Also, Nazism is now an archaic idea- it has no place in the modern world. The Alt-Right is a movement of its own, it doesn’t target Jews or holds them responsible for crimes against Germany, calling them Nazis ‘is’ misrepresentation. The Alt-Right strategy is broadening the definition of Alt-Right to incorporate a greater chunk of the population under its umbrella, therefore, calling them Nazis doesn’t hurt their movement. All the members of the Alt-Right don’t necessarily subscribe to the same set of ideas, while some of them are extremely racist, some are just free speech absolutists. The Alt-right is an amalgamation of so many movements that it is now very difficult to pinpoint what it stands for.
While there is no denying the fact that the Alt-Right is a negative force but letting Antifa off easily makes it look like Antifa is somehow not doing the wrong thing; which, by extension, is basically approving of what Antifa is doing. It is true that Antifa’s message, at the crux of it, is an important one, but ignoring its method is a grave mistake. Violent repression of unpopular opinions IS fascism. In an attempt to become an anti-fascist movement, Antifa is becoming fascist.
Antifa is no longer a small movement in a small town, it is nationally recognized and thus, should be subject to same kind and amount of scrutiny as other national movements. It should be condemned if it becomes a fringe movement and strict action needs to be taken if it continues the same, violent path. Since it movement is still taking shape, it would be interesting to see what it finally becomes. Whatever happens, the basic principle of a democracy should never change- no one is above the law, not even if you hate fascists.