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How Antifa went mainstream From Brussels to California, illiberalism is thriving

Antifa demonstrators In Washington, DC (ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Antifa demonstrators In Washington, DC (ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)


April 19, 2024   6 mins

In early 2018, I attended a reading at an independent bookstore in the heart of bourgeois Brooklyn. It was to launch the memoir of a Mexican-American former Border Patrol agent who had become disillusioned and quit. To the surprise of most of those present, a group of aggressive protesters also showed up, dead set on preventing it from happening. Their objection was to the author’s prior employment in a law enforcement agency that had become central to Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.

It didn’t matter that the book was critical of the Border Patrol; as the protesters saw it, to treat that agency’s operations with literary nuance and moral complexity was as obscene as doing so with the Gestapo. They tried to shame attendees into leaving, then repeatedly shouted down the author, derailing the discussion until the store manager called the police. After loudly denouncing her, they left.

I don’t know whether any of these hecklers called themselves “Antifa”, but their disruption of a minor literary event was just one small indication of the extent to which the movement’s values and tactics went mainstream during the Trump era. For decades, Antifa activists had focused their attention on shutting down the activities of fringe far-Right groups with violence if necessary. But with Trump in the White House, many concluded the domain of the struggle needed to be extended. In their panicked state post-2016, many liberals and mainstream progressives who might have once eschewed Antifa’s rejection of free speech and advocacy of violence against ideological opponents came to regard them as a last line of defence against a surging Right.

In reaction, Antifa became a central element of conservative demonology in the Trump era, especially during the riots set off by George Floyd’s killing in 2020, in which masked “black bloc” agitators were often seen setting fires and causing mayhem. As Minneapolis burned, Trump claimed on Twitter that his administration would designate Antifa a terrorist organisation. This never happened — and since the United States lacks a domestic terrorism law, it is unlikely it will in the event of a second Trump term.

At the local level, however, conservatives are now testing out other ways of cracking down on the movement. This month, the District Attorney of San Diego, California, brought conspiracy charges against two Antifa activists who were involved in street brawls in early 2021, in effect trying to prosecute them using a legal toolkit created to fight organised crime.

Both the prosecution and the defence in the Antifa trial lay claim to free speech. In her opening statement, the Deputy District Attorney alleged that the defendants conspired “to shut down the speech and the assembly of a patriot group” (they were protesting a pro-Trump rally of the Proud Boys and other far-Right groups). In response, as well as arguing the prosecution is politically motivated — plausibly, given that the government opted not to prosecute any of the Right-wingers involved in the street fights in question — defence attorneys contend that the conspiracy charge threatens free political expression, because it will have a “chilling effect” on anyone protesting Right-wing gatherings.

The irony of the defence attorneys’ argument is that Antifa advocates are often explicit about doing what prosecutors allege — conspiring, or at least coordinating, to prevent those it defines as “fascist” from speaking and assembling. They are also open about the fact that they reject the liberal conception of free speech. In Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, the historian and activist Mark Bray writes: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase incorrectly ascribed to Voltaire that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.” Bray, whose book is at once a history of Antifa, an apologia for its approach, and a how-to guide for aspiring militants, writes that the movement is “committed… to fighting to the death the ability of organized Nazis to say anything”. (“To the death” here is literal: Bray approvingly cites historical instances of murders committed by anti-fascists.)

“Antifa are open about the fact that they reject the liberal conception of free speech.”

Like many Antifa sympathisers, Bray directs much of his ire at liberal free-speech advocates, whom he believes are naïve devotees of the “marketplace of ideas”. The reality, though, is that after Trump’s election, many liberals and liberal institutions embraced Bray’s position. Indeed, the popularity of his book — which garnered many positive reviews in the mainstream press and scored Bray multiple NPR interviews — was an indication of this shift. The most dramatic about-face occurred at the ACLU, long notorious for defending the right of a Nazi group to hold a rally in Skokie, Illinois, in 1977. The organisation took the same consistent free-speech stance prior to the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, but after the deadly events of that day, it began to waver, with many of its employees publicly disavowing its prior position.

In another sign of the patina of respectability Antifa acquired in the Trump era, in early 2018 Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison — then the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee — promoted Bray’s book on Twitter, saying it would “strike fear in the heart of [Donald Trump]”. This was quite a reputational upgrade for a movement that, as Bray’s historical account details, existed for many decades mainly as a minor skinhead subculture devoted mainly to brawling with equally marginal groups of neo-Nazi skinheads.

For much of its existence, however, Antifa had a more ambivalent relationship with the liberal mainstream than its frequent denunciations of liberal proceduralism would imply. The movement first emerged alongside and in response to the rise of fascism in interwar Europe; the first anti-fascist militants were communists, socialists and anarchists who took to the streets to confront fascist paramilitary groups such as the SA in Germany and the Blackshirts in Italy. At this time, their violent struggle was part of a broader revolutionary agenda. Defeating fascists, viewed as the shock troops of capital, was one piece of the larger radical social transformation they sought, often inspired by the recent Bolshevik triumph in Russia (the fascists, for their part, saw their violent activities as justified by the threat of Bolshevism). Yet in nearly every country, they failed not only to bring about a communist revolution but to block the rise of the far-Right.

It was only in the post-war era, with the West settled under liberal-democratic rule, that Antifa re-emerged in something like its current form. With the dream of universal communist revolution deferred, the movement focused largely on beating back the scattered far-Right groups that persisted. While still deploying the rhetoric of the revolutionary Left, these militants were for the most part resigned to policing the outer fringes of acceptable discourse, following terms set by the liberal mainstream they despised. To the extent their use of political violence was tolerated, it was in large part because their far-Right targets had already been pushed to the margins of society by other means, or because they unfolded in subcultural spaces of little broad political significance.

In making the case for the efficacy of Antifa tactics, Bray and other apologists often point to concrete successes at preventing some particular neo-Nazi group from gathering or speaker from speaking. But it was the subtler, more comprehensive methods of enforcing ideological consensus employed by the liberal mainstream that rendered these fringe groups vulnerable to the antics of a handful of activists in the first place. Conversely, Antifa has had less success lately at shutting down Right-populist leaders and parties it dubs fascist, from Trump to Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni — for the simple reason that it is unable to muster sufficient numbers to physically confront their mass base of support. Even Bray concedes the movement’s tactics are inadequate to take on this new enemy.

Hence, Antifa faces the problem that its approach is more likely to rack up successes when the stakes are lowest; when those it dubs “fascist” manage to command a broad base of support, it seems unable to scale up its approach. An approach calibrated to shutting down a bar show by a neo-Nazi hardcore band is unlikely to have much effect on a Trump rally. The liberal establishment, it would seem, began to embrace Antifa just as its tactics were becoming irrelevant.

And yet, the possibility of effective collaboration between the centre-left and Antifa activists was on view this week, in the briefly successful attempt to shut down the National Conservatism conference in Brussels. Belgian anti-fascists had repeatedly demanded the conference be prevented from happening, and the local mayor used the pretext of potential violence from counter-protesters to justify asking the police to break up the gathering on public safety grounds. Ultimately, a court forced the city government to allow the conference to go forward, but the affair revealed something novel: that Antifa’s willingness to use violence can furnish sympathetic authorities with a useful rationale for limiting the freedom of speech and assembly of their enemies.

If Antifa has contributed anything to public discourse other than shrill slogans, it is having forced the consideration of what the limits of tolerance and freedom are in a society that claims to revere these values. But this question also applies to them too, as the San Diego prosecution’s case makes clear. Can a liberal society tolerate the activities of a group that openly seeks to deny the speech and assembly rights of whomever its members deem “fascist”? (In the final chapter of his book, Bray implies all Trump voters are “everyday fascists”, but doesn’t clarify whether he and his comrades therefore consider half the US electorate legitimate targets for violence.)

Lately, Antifa has lost much of the prominence it enjoyed in the Trump era but the questions raised by its activities persist. Amid the Gaza war, pro-Palestinian protesters have used Antifa-style tactics to prevent pro-Israel speakers and groups from holding events, but have also fallen victim to tactics long used by Antifa, such as doxxing. If the San Diego prosecution of Antifa succeeds, we can expect further crackdowns on Left-wing protest by conservative DAs along similar lines — but this, in turn, may only confirm fascism is imminent, prompting more aggressive action on the Left. The question, it seems, is less whether we are lurching into a new age of illiberalism than which side will go further, sooner.


Geoff Shullenberger is managing editor of Compact.

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Arthur King
Arthur King
27 days ago

Like BLM, Antifa function as Brownshirts for the Democrats. We’ve seen an increasing authoritarianism by former liberal institutions across the Western World. While at the same time these illibral liberals decry anything right wing as extremist. It’s surreal.

glyn harries
glyn harries
26 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Paranoid delusion. Antifa has a tiny number of people involved, blown out of all proportion by Right Wing media and demagogues

Arthur King
Arthur King
26 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Nonsense. They are organized and have supporting lawyers. They have links to Southern Poverty Law Center and other supposed anti-hate or anti-fascist organizations who provide funding and logistical support. https://nypost.com/2023/03/26/who-funds-antifa-protests-we-all-do/

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
26 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

If it is a tiny number, we normal people should be able to beat the shit out them them and stop their fascist takeover.

Christopher
Christopher
26 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Clearly you watch too much MSNBC , Antifa ( fascists) don’t exist.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
26 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Antifa has a tiny number of people involved
So did the Bolsheviks.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
24 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

How many do you think were in the Brownshirts or the IRA?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
24 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Try reading Unmasked by Andy Ngo. But then you’ll have to admit you have bought and paid for the propaganda you intentionally believe.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 hours ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Excellent book!!!

Peter West
Peter West
26 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Beautifully stated.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
26 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Violent armed Christian Nationalists and MAGA are not mainstream ???

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
26 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

What on earth has happened here? A top post 18 hours old with 10 thumbs up and plenty of posts 10 hours old with no approval or disapproval.

mike otter
mike otter
25 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Nah they share Ernst Rohms love of wurst but the parralel ends there. Bloc/Antifa and othe rfake anarchists will attack any unarmed elderly, women or children but unlike the SA they won’t fight against men of fighting age. As i have often said to Grauniad types and their fighting talk: “dare you to come to Stranraer”. There’s no “antifa” at Stair Park and no “fa” either.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
27 days ago

Fascism, like a photon, is its own antiparticle.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
27 days ago

Never forget nor forgive anyone who told you this was just your imagination.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
27 days ago

The question is whether AntiFa activists are suffering from an illusion of virtue or a delusion of virtue. More research is needed.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
27 days ago

Does anyone know if antifa has been involved in pro Hamas rallies?

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
27 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The irony being, obviously, that Islamic pressure groups, from the ‘mild’ to the extreme are the very real notion of fascism, albeit one that is religiously based as opposed to nationally, Islamic state being but one extreme example, as Salman Rushdie might attest.

Paul T
Paul T
27 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Weren’t there a load of them around on Remembrance Day when the police seemed unusually focussed on a group of “far right” protesters who, it turned out, just wanted Remembrance Day to be respected? The “far right” are continually evoked as though there are goose-stepping hordes ready to march in every town and village when in fact they are usually that most awful and despised group of people claiming a right to be heard; the working class (shudder).

Paul T
Paul T
27 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

In other news a Jewish person has been threatened with arrest for going about his lawful business near a Pro-Palestine rally and being “quite openly Jewish”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

I read the report. That is not quite fair on the police officer

Paul T
Paul T
26 days ago

Was he “asking for it” by being Jewish in a public place? Does he deserve a corrective beating for not hiding? Would it be his own fault?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

This is what the officer said
The officer then replies: ‘In that case sir, when the crowd is gone I will happily escort you out.’ 
After the defiant man attempts to walk across the road in the Aldwych area, the officer blocks him and says: ‘I don’t want anybody antagonising anybody… and at the moment sir, you are quite openly Jewish. This is a pro-Palestinian march. 
‘I am not accusing you of anything but I am worried about the reaction to your presence.’
You are clearly blinded by your own prejudice as you reference to going about his lawful business demonstrates

Paul T
Paul T
24 days ago

The police have since confirmed, after repeatedly getting it wrong, that being Jewish in public is not provocative and that he should be free to go about his lawful business without fear. Have a word with yourself.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago

I’m sorry but that’s BS. He can be openly Jewish if he wishes it. I don’t understand why these people are marching for a foreign country that doesn’t involve them. Are they not British citizens? Or do their real loyalties lie elsewhere- if so then deportations should be the order of the day.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
27 days ago

As the author highlights the preWW2 effect of Antifa type street violence was simply to legitimise and justify the violence of the NSDAP in the eyes of many conservatives and enable the party to flourish in elections.

As in preWW2 Germany Antifa are merely the mirror image of the violent totalitarianism of the National Socialist forces they opposed. Their real threat, particularly in the modern form that seeks to target a more broad concept of their opponents is to civil society that values civil discourse and debate over sloganeering.

R Wright
R Wright
27 days ago

I remember for years mainstream figures trying to gaslight me into believing this group did not exist, when I have seen them in person at Hyde Park. Unsurprisingly they were, as far as I could tell, all foreigners with American accents.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
27 days ago

The latest left-wing tactic to justify violence and terrorism is to relativize it. This article comes close to doing this.
The author refers to the collaboration between the Mayor in Brussels shutting down the Conservatism conference and the Antifa types threatening it as “something novel”. It’s not novel. It was the macro tactic that helped delegitimize Trump prior to the 2020 election. It is what lies behind the over the top prosecution of the 6th January rioters and demonstrators.
The author conflates “protest” with violence. Also he describes Antifa as a ‘movement’. Your right to protest is a 1st Amendment right. It is not a right to disrupt other people’s right to speak or to go about their business, or to intimidate them. Suggesting that how we handle Antifa is some kind of nuanced problem is naive. There is no nuanced debate to be had here. There is no “forced…consideration of what the limits of tolerance and freedom are in a society that claims to revere these values.” Violent thugs are violent thugs. Period.
If one steps back to look at a larger scale, one can see a good case to be made that the US 2020 election was stolen on the grounds that Antifa / BLM violent protests served as the military / brown-shirt wing of the left. Street disorder, violence, shutting down the speech of others, and even physical intimidation were explicitely supported and endorsed by Democratic politicians. The consequence was a rolling Kristallnacht through much of the Trump presidency and especially through 2020, that had similar purposes to the Brown Shirt / SA original. It was a strategy not just a tactic to use chaos and violence to delegitimize opposition. The strategic goal was that people just wanted peace and so would vote for Biden.
The Mayor of Etterbeek in Brussels, just like US college administrators, showed this logic in microcosm on April 16th last. The radical-left threatens violence and so, because there might be violence, we the administrators who politically agree with the radical left will do what the radical left says because, well, nobody wants violence. The radical left are our military wing.
This shows the corruption of the left and why it has to be removed from every institution it controls.
It’s also the basis of the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement so, as a principle, it’s already baked into mainstream social democratic opinion. Violence pays. Violence might be bad but it is the voice of the people and you ignore it at your peril.
The author’s perspective implicitly permits this kind of relativizing. He argues that the DA in San Diego charging those guilty of street violence with conspiracy is a “threat” to their freedom of speech. This is a sleight of hand. Once you understand that street violence is not “protest” and therefore cannot have anything to do with freedom of speech.
I suspect the author doesn’t know this.
I also suspect that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know this.
This is where we are in 2024. Where journalism that passes for cogent analysis of the left allows, in its implicit framing of the discussion, the one element of the left’s argument that legitimizes its violent nature and is essential for its success.

opop anax
opop anax
26 days ago

This is a very good post. The same applies to the Islamists and their apologists in the UK.

glyn harries
glyn harries
26 days ago

Except that that Mayor is NOT a woke Left Wing pro Antifa Mayor. He is on the Right Wing and seen as sympathetic to the Turkish Far Right! His decision was probably to play to the values of his conservative Turkish immigrant voters.

R Wright
R Wright
26 days ago
Reply to  glyn harries

Ah yes the socialist right winger, or dare I say, ‘national socialist’.

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
26 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Social Nationalism? More tolerable.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago

I suspect the author doesn’t know this. — Or perhaps he does know this. When he’s critical of a prosecutor attempting to, well, prosecute violent offenders, you may be giving him undue cover.

Y Chromosome
Y Chromosome
26 days ago

Bravo!

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
26 days ago

These tactics began in late sixties.

New interpretations of incitement needed. These are weak losers
Real jails will neutralize them and their influence.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
26 days ago

There was an incident today in London when a policeman threatened a Jewish man with arrest, basically for wearing a kipper while there was a pro-hamas march.
In fairness, the copper I think wanted to protect the man who had just left a synagog and found himself in this position.

“The radical-left threatens violence and so, because there might be violence, we the administrators who politically agree with the radical left will do what the radical left says because, well, nobody wants violence. ”

Isn’t this the dilemma? The authorities either support the views of violent agitators or fear the consequences of sending in the water cannons.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
26 days ago

Excellent comment. I would add that here in America antifa doesn’t stand for anything. They are anarchists who delight in chaos. They are immature young men who dress up like ninja warriors so they can feel powerful. Most of them probably don’t even know what fascism is. Yes, they tend to show up for liberal causes, but I don’t think they even care what the issues are. Fun and games. Let’s destroy everything.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
24 days ago

Well written article. Without a doubt, Antifa and BLM violence resulted in Trump losing in 2020. A small group of extremists should not have such power. However, they were enabled by the media.

Martin M
Martin M
27 days ago

I don’t doubt that there are Left Wing groups who consider themselves to be “Anti-fascist”, but is “Antifa” a real organisation (or confederation of organisations) with an actual leadership structure? Right Wing commentators talk as if it is, but I personally haven’t seen any real evidence of that.

David Dansky
David Dansky
26 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

You may have a point. Looking at Wikipedia the Cable Street “anti fascist demonstrators including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews, and socialist groups.. The anti-fascist counter-demonstration included both organised and unaffiliated participants.”

The term Antifa, was oft used by Trump to suggest a cohesive movement, and to sound much scarier than” anti fascist demonstrators.”

Arthur King
Arthur King
26 days ago
Reply to  David Dansky

You don’t see because you are not looking.

Martin M
Martin M
23 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Who is the leader of “Antifa” then?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
26 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Well, there is *this* https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/the-international-anti-fascist-defence-fund — and somebody has to decide which groups get the money.

Tony Price
Tony Price
26 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

I don’t know why you are getting downvotes. As far as I can see there is no such entity as ‘Antifa’, just a label put on any protest against authoritarianism, or the state, or those the protesters themselves label fascist, or protest/riot which can be labelled as ‘leftist’ whether it is or not.

R Wright
R Wright
26 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

It’s an organisation in the same way as the Five Families mob, biker gang chapters or ISIL branches. They work in concert to the same ends, despite being loose knit.

Martin M
Martin M
23 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

All of those entities have leadership and coordination structures.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
26 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Who cares? The antifa unorganization must be stopped.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

A point of agreement between us. So must the Oath Keepers, and the Boogaloo Bois, who are clamoring for a 2nd Civil War.

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your comment sounds like “ya….what about them!”. Distraction from the real issue which is the criminal organization that is Antifa. The Oath Kpers and especially the Boogaloo Bois are mere amateurs who are not taken seriously by most Americans. To me they are boys trying to legitimize the KKK. And not succeeding.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

It is not the only real or relevant issue and that is what many apologists for Right-wing extremism insist on denying. Taking on one side of a topic in a virtual echo chamber is not confronting the whole topic: extremist violence and menace.

More and more, nearly every UnHerd comment board turns into a back-slapping sloganeering fest in which a boiled down Master Narrative of Leftist evil gets served with hardly any balance or chaser. So boring and lazy. Clearly some prefer a self-soothing little refuge where the prevailing herd shouts and votes down dissent–often into a 12-hour-plus comment-quarantine–in the name of independent free thought of course.
The Right-wing groups mentioned above may not worry you but they should at least a little—even if several dozen of their members are in prison.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
25 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I dislike the left-right dichotomy because it splits us into opposing camps, when really I believe most people want the same things regardless of their political leanings. The problem is is that over the last thirty years very extreme things have become increasingly normalized: same-sex marriage, sexual reassignment surgery on minors, celebrations of terrorism, racist rhetoric, misandry, hate-speech laws, rampant anti-semitism, academic attacks on truth and objectivity. All of these are deeply authoritarian top-down movements coming from establishments and institutions that describe themselves as progressive and liberal, yet operating under the arrogant belief that all forms of human activity must be vetted by them.
Saying that we should be worrying about event like January 6th and groups like the Oathkeepers and the Proud Boys is akin to Germans protesting about the the fragmented groups who opposed the gleichschaltung* of N*zi Germany. These groups have close to zero political clout compared to the vast state machinery of leftist activists who have somehow situated themselves into all rungs of power. This is why many people are opposed to DEI initiatives. It has nothing to with racial equity and equality, and everything to do with appointing politically aligned individuals who will enforce progressive dogma.
*a system of totalitarian control and coordination over all aspects of German society from the economy and trade associations to the media, culture and education

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
25 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

So you went reductio ad h i t l * r u m–most of us do at times–but wow. I don’t think your comparison to the present-day contains much kinship at all, though I confess I’m not familiar with that German compound word or the precise context alluded to.
I respect that you attempt to get away from the indeed hollowed out left-right dichotomy. Unfortunately, it seems that your substitute approach relies on a rather fixed and self-certain idea of right and wrong, one which usually divides quite neatly along that selfsame divide: left-right.
I dislike and sometimes hate the DEI Industrial Complex and agree its stated motives are disingenuous at best, though some individual actors within it are sincere and well-intentioned–road to hell right? I don’t compare standard-issue MAGA fans, much less actual conservatives, to the P r o u d Boys and their ilk and I don’t think you should make every Biden government official, Progressive activist, or rank-and-file Democrat voter into a Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from parts of M a r x and H i t l * r. They are not all such would-be tyrants and I return you to your resonant opening statement: most of us want the same things, left & right & center.
I think people, such as yourself (today at least), who engage in floccinaucinihilipilification about every threat from the right are about as deluded as those that think Antifa and Equity Revolutionaries are benign. Both extremes, in there current formations, are very dangerous. Though I ended up betraying my (fairly obvious) leaning, I refuse to pick a favorite flavor of extremism–I hate both and I am trying to call out the excesses on both sides of the for-now-inescapable divide that neither of us likes. I wish more in the very-broad middle (perhaps 80% of the electorate) would try to do the same, instead of co-opting extremists according to some zero-sum sociopolitical mindset.
I usually play the other side of the middle on NYT comments boards, giving a version of my sincere beliefs & current opinions according to what seems missing from a given conversation*. I can tell I’m not winning many converts so to speak, but I hope to have a net-good influence and can’t seem to shut up regardless.
*But I’m not a weathervane or leaf blowing in the wind. My overall intentions are quite sincere and benevolent, when the day begins anyway–road to hell right?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
25 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

We are already living in a very extreme time; I would describe it as a sanitized form of fascism in which authoritarian diktats are cleverly couched in terms of care and compassion so as to stifle all opposition. Almost every Western institution is singing from the same hymn sheet, and those that deviate from the script are ridiculed and have their credibility called into question. You can be a respected health expert and calmly tell people that men can be women, but dare to suggest otherwise and you can quite possibly lose your job. Warped thinking such as this bears all the hallmarks of a sick society, and I don’t mean sick as in twisted, but sick as in mentally unwell.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
24 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Ok. I accept that to a significant degree Julian. But please don’t panic or become an angry extremist in response to an angry and extreme zeitgeist.
Is our best response to an authoritarianism we hate to double down on a favorite flavor of authoritarianism?

Martin M
Martin M
23 days ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

It’s a lot harder to stop an “unorganization” than an organization.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Seek out excellent reporting by Laura Logan regarding this. They are being funded by someone

Katharina Bloem
Katharina Bloem
27 days ago

The point is that we didn’t find a way yet to make the nauseating far-right racist bigot supremacist ideas from spreading. In Europe we said, since 1945, many times “never again”, but we’re now facing the very same coming back upon us. How do we stop it from spreading? How do we counter those ideas before that speech becomes performative? Because it’s already passed that point, as we see it in Hungary, Italy, Slovakia etc.

Victor James
Victor James
26 days ago

You sound like a fascist. The 20th century was dominated by left wing fascism ( Communism ) and you sound like you want to turn much of the world into a giant gulag all over again.
True anti-fascists also have an eye on fascism of the far-left.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Victor James

Just one side and not the other? Even during the 1930s and 40s? #OneSimpleSide-ism

R Wright
R Wright
26 days ago

Hysteria.

McLovin
McLovin
26 days ago

The problem is that the terms far right and fascist are being used for anyone that doesn’t agree with a certain point of view. That’s how lifelong socialists like Julie Bindel and Kathleen Stock can be labelled “far right” simply for disagreeing with the “progressive” viewpoint on one issue.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  McLovin

I agree. The terms far left and Marxist are also used far too loosely.

McLovin
McLovin
26 days ago

If you want to find fascism in the 21st century look no further than Iran, which organised a holocaust denial conference a few years ago, and which oppresses women, sexual minorities, racial minorities and religious minorities. But of course that doesn’t fit the narrative of how Muslims are always the victims does it?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago
Reply to  McLovin

Ironically, when you look at current events, with whom does the American left side? First, it was Hamas and now, it’s the Islamic Republic. And I say this as someone who thinks Israel may be creating its own problems with its current offensive and refusal to lets its back-and-forth with the mullahs die peacefully.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
24 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It’s hard to reason with people who would rather suicide bomb you than allow you to live.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

They have to be taken down this time, forced to be brought to the table. Beheadings and other things done cannot be allowed to stand.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago

Be aware that there is a sizable minority of people on a comment board like this who are neither nauseated by or opposed to much of the historical fascist agenda. Often they lurk silently, contributing their up and downvotes.
Sometimes they are provoked into a self-reveal, as with the commenter who started his post “white supremacist here”–and received dozens of upvotes (before they showed separate green and red thumbs for up and down).

David L
David L
26 days ago

You are Titania McGrath, and I claim my five pounds

DenialARiverIn Islington
DenialARiverIn Islington
26 days ago

“The end justifies the means” is always the first refuge of the scoundrel.

Victor James
Victor James
26 days ago

“The end justifies the means” is always the refuge of fascists – aka, communists or nazis.
Sadly, the fascist-left are still threat to freedom everywhere.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago

And the rabid Trump enthusiast.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

When multiple American cities prepared for possible violence after the 2020 election, they were not concerned about “the rabid Trump enthusiast.” The prep work was being done in case he won re-election.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

They were so concerned. There was real risk with either result, which was amply demonstrated on Jan.6th by a riotous attempt at election interference that could have been more severe. Ask the FBI and CIA–or are they Deep State Cultural Marxists now too? Has the left co-opted the police and armed forces?
I’m not charging you in particular with this, but I see extreme paranoia left and right: mutual broadbrush vilification that attempts to reduce about 40 percent of the electorate–on either side–to its most lunatic fringe.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
26 days ago

We are safely within an age of illberalism. Look at your newspapers. Hate Mobs for Palestine or Climate smash up banks and rip up paintings with impunity. Ideological derangement has captured the European/UK legal elite, hence Net Zero degrowth and EHRC Swiss Cuckoo zealotry. Then there is their ongoing catastrophic war on nation state border security and the overturning of once healthy multiculturalisn . The post Lockdown Crime Progressive State sees unmandated coercion as wholly legitimate. Smoking bans. Smacking bans. DEI diktat on City firms all this week. Coercion. This is our destiny as the dark logic of the bond between toxic human rights progressivism and the supersized Big State takes a deeper grip and accelerates into its fourth decade of oppression, failure and betrayal.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

And that’s with your convenient failure to mention the rise of Right-tilting, self-declared illiberal democrats in Hungary and elsewhere.
Is it your contention that the true liberals are now more often found on the Right? When it comes to centrists or the center-Right I think there’s a case to be made, but among Right-wing Populists and Left-wing Progressives I see mostly competing brands of Illiberalism: “We need to burn your books and cut off your mics. How dare you oppress us by trying to do the same?!
Only the overall cultural–not political or all-institutional–ascendancy of real liberals and tangentially associated rabid wokesters tilts the balance of who gets suppressed so decidedly to the Right. Once the Right gets in power, a great number of Right-wing erstwhile champions of free speech show their appetites for suppressing Left-wing extremism, real or perceived–or for deliberate mischaracterization of the center-Left as extreme.
This happens in both directions. Hypocrisy and self-serving bias is not monopolized by one side of the sociopolitical divide. And more people need to see and admit that.

David L
David L
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

An intelligent person judges people by what they do, not by what their opponents and biased sell-out journalists say about them. A fascist is someone who behaves like a fascist. In this case, the fascists are the people shutting down a conference of their political opponents. In America, the fascists are the people trying to lock up their president’s main rival. In Scotland, the fascists are the people bringing in speech laws to stop you disagreeing with their wierd degenerate beliefs.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
26 days ago
Reply to  David L

Not happy with your mis-use of the word ‘fascist’ but I agree with the sentiment; actions certainly speak louder than words.
This essay and most of the other comments are proof positive that the labels ‘left/right’ mean nothing anymore. If we really need a polarity to discuss the people’s business let me suggest ‘adults’ vs ‘noisy little boys’. I think many people would be surprised at how many adults there are out here.
I have nothing against noisy little boys (was one myself) but they should be given a paddock of their own, somewhere outside of town, where they won’t trample the flower beds.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago

Please look up the tweets of NPR’s new CEO and then get back with me about noisy boys.

T Bone
T Bone
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The problem is Giganticism and in order to reduce Giganticism you need to reduce the size and scope of government to create a separation of State and Corporate Power. Big government is preferable to Monopolies because they can easily be steered to produce specific outcomes.

IMO, you can classify four groups of people that fit within the bounds of rational political discourse.  You have a Center-Right and Center-Left but you also have Right-Center and Left-Center.  The first two groups (Center-Right & Center-Left) are people that define themselves by their “Centrism.” These are pragmatists with flexible principles that move with the Center wherever the Center goes. They are nominally Right or nominally Left but they’re primarily driven by fitting into the status quo of “proper society.” The second set of people (Right-Center & Left-Center) define themselves by their principles and try to move their ideas into the Center. This is known as “centering” which “marginalizes” the other groups ideas to the fringes.

What’s happened in the West (mostly driven by the US) is that the Left-Center emphatically won the Culture War following the Bush Presidency.  After Bush and the market crash, the Left-Center were able to use that cultural capital to shift institutions dramatically left. The Right-Center’s inability defend Bush Era Conservativism left it flailing.  So the Narrative of “Conservative Unenlightened Stupidity” became an axiomatic mainstream truth.  I can’t blame the Left-Center for leaning into that.  Their goal was center-shifting.

But then you have to evaluate the primary difference between the Western Right and Left.  The Right generally likes Corporations and disdains government intervention as tyrannical and the Left generally disdains Corporations as tax cheats and likes government intervention.  The Right’s “Free Market” position has always been that self-interest and greed is inherent to life and trying to micromanage inequality is a fools errand.  The Left says “Nonsense.” A scientific expert driven, compassionate order can check inequality and assure that outcomes are at least modestly redistributed amongst the population to ensure tranquility. 

The problem is that when you start trying to micromanage inequality at the government level, you can’t do so without classifying people into binaries and then discriminating against the “Haves” on behalf of the “Have Nots.”  Once you do this, you get two major problems.  Many Have Nots will pile into a line making demands and grievances.  Many Haves (often the Corporate Class) will simply concede the new order and purport to “work on behalf of the Have Nots.”  They will present as “virtuous elites” and establish “Public-Private Partnerships” where the government and corporations work together to “eradicate injustice and inequality.” 

This is a climate of what Dr. Peterson calls “Giganticism.” Giant Government and Giant Corporations controlling everything in total alliance.  And this is where both the Center-Right and Center-Left live.  A state of redistributive corporate governance.  Big Corporations implementing a progressive cultural norms on behalf of an aggrieved class. It’s a dialectical synthesis.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
26 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

The heirs of Sam Walton are worth 90 billion dollars. Yet they pay their workers so little that the workers have to turn to the government to survive. Food stamps. Medicaid because they have no health insurance. It all works out for Walmart, which grows richer thanks to the taxpayers. Walmart pays its European workers a living wage and they have unions. Why can’t Walmart so the same for American workers? Oh, profits.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
25 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

This makes more sense once you realize that Walmart supports medical care as a government rather than business responsibility. They have publicly advocated for a single payer medical system, not against it.
However, that’s for the future. Currently Walmart does offer medical coverage for full time workers. But they would be glad to have the government take that responsibility instead; and would likely need to increase wages with their savings, in order for workers to pay the increased taxes. Would that work better? Maybe.
I’m not attached to employment controlled health care myself, it began as a WWII workaround to expand benefits during a wage freeze, not as a well debated public policy for the 21st century. There are many alternatives; the diversity of national health care approaches in Europe and Canada would provide a good starting point for considering an alternative health care system. (They range from universal coverage via private insurance and providers, up to most medical personnel being direct government employees, with many variants in between)

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think this argument is not supported by evidence – certainly not in the case of the UK, where the populist movement is almost universally pro free speech. Sooner or later you’ll have to acknowledge that there is a distinctly totalitarian aspect to the contemporary ‘bourgeois’ left that is not present elsewhere on the political spectrum.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

There is something in what you say, some on the right are illiberal. I don’t like them, I reckon they’re wrong.
But the proportion are all skew whiff. The left have far more institutional power and I reckon their illiberalism is the source of this.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago

Of course no actual blame can rest on the Right, to you the incontrovertibly correct side of all things or nearly so.

I reckon that’s a pretty skewed worldview, one that some of your other comments go well beyond in depth, or at least used to.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

By the way: I see you as sensible and fairminded even so, and not an extremist. I hope some of that can be said for me too (when I don’t lose my temper),

Arthur King
Arthur King
26 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Many Canadians are livid about the open prohamas support of protests in our country. Crickets from the Liberal Party when these people should be arrested and deported.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Arrest them on what charges? Deport them where?
By the way, I agree on the despicable motives of some protestors–not extending to all who offer any criticism of Israeli policy–and the widespread Liberal silence, which is cowardly.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Trumped up ones. Anywhere.

Ruth Ross
Ruth Ross
25 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

The LIB/NDP Party sees them as their new voter base. Same playbook Biden is using, written by Klaus Schwab of the WEF. Globalists all.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
24 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

No doubt many of the pro-Hamas protesters in the USA are students on visas, new legal and illegal immigrants. There is a way to control their disruption to society. Cancel their visas and deport non-citizens who are creating double back to their homelands.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I’ve never seen any evidence of a healthy multiculturalism…

Victor James
Victor James
26 days ago

Antifa is fascist. Therefore Mark Bray is fascist, as are all Antifa apologists. Unlike the fascist right, the fascist left clearly have power.
The fascist left has suffocated Europe and the Western world ever since ww2. The oppressed need freedom from them.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Victor James

Extremists certainly tend to mirror the tactics of their sworn enemies at the supposed other extreme.
I wish the illiberal hard-left and anarchist wild-right–along with their less topsy-turvy, extremist brethren on both sides–would fight it out in the dessert somewhere and leave the rest of us alone.

John Riordan
John Riordan
26 days ago

I still just don’t understand how anyone can be stupid enough to accept at face value the defence Antifa has for its own attacks on free speech. It is quite obvious that as far as Antifa itself is concerned, the defence in question is merely a convenient facade for enforcement of its agenda: it doesn’t give a shit about personal liberty and never will.

But for Antifa to get away with what they do, loads of policymakers, bureaucrats and law enforcement figures have to go along with an assumption that Antifa’s stated aims are legitimate. How is it these people are allowed to have the jobs they have? They can’t even protect ordinary people going about their legal business from violence or the threat of it, and they just do nothing? And the rare ones who do try to deal with it, such as the San Diego DA mentioned above, are now reported as outliers from some sort of norm that we’re now stuck with, despite nobody ever voting for it.

glyn harries
glyn harries
26 days ago

Interesting article. A few thoughts. 1) I’m not sure you can say there is any one Antifa. all the groups are autonomous as far as I understand. 2) America fought fascism militarily in the 1940s. Liberal societies are not against being illiberal and shutting down voices and movements that threaten them. the issue is that people have different opinions of what those threats are. 3) Does the author regard The Patriot Boys and those that stormed Congress as illiberal as ‘Antifa’? 4) The cancellation of Nat Con was a Right Wing populist Turkish Muslim Mayor playing to his voters not a consequence of ‘Antifa’ threats.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
26 days ago

I’m going to make this very simple: these groups are formed and paid for by American intelligence operations. Their purpose is to terrorize the general populace into frightened obedience. Anyone deemed a threat to the governing class is targeted and harassed, and the media, also owned by intelligence agencies, then set upon the victim to create the “narrative” that the victim is actually the perpetrator.

Also, George Floyd, a life long criminal, wasn’t “killed”. He died in police custody of a drug overdose and heart disease.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago

You’ve made it way too simple.
*Do you have any evidence for your first sentence?

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The ultimate left wing put-down. As if they ever believe in evidence.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
26 days ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

I suggest a little evidence would be handy (and I’m inclined to agree with Allison’s assertion).

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

In other words there is no credible evidence but why bother IF there were because I belong to a tribe of idiots that doesn’t “believe in evidence”. When it comes down to left and right you’ve created a mental world in which you never have to think but think you remain correct.

And I’ve never seen you engage in a substantive exchange across any bridge of disagreement.

Have a good weekend. Peter.

John Riordan
John Riordan
25 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“Do you have any evidence for your first sentence?”

If she’s right, then the establishment owns the evidence as well, so no.

At this point of course we’re well into the realms of conspiracy theories, where a complete lack of evidence is itself treated as a form of evidence. Except for one thing: if you dismiss Allison’s hypothesis, you’re still stuck with a pressing need to explain things that do have to be confronted and explained. What needs explaining is why certain groups of people are routinely permitted by the legal system to threaten and injure others without significant legal consequences.

Personally I do not agree with Allison’s view that the whole thing is orchestrated by the intelligence agencies – that’s too narrow. Widen the definition to the political Establishment generally though, and it’s clear Allison has a point. And if you still don’t agree, you still have to come up with an alternative explanation for a problem you cannot deny is real.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
21 days ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I don’t have to conclusively debunk baseless theories. That’s absurd. The burden of proof is on the wild accuser.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago

Antifa went mainstream because one political party enabled it to do so. It’s not that complicated. Not long ago, members of Congress – Dems every one – were dismissing antifa as “an idea,” never mind the visible evidence of it being something more. This is basic human nature – you will always get more of what you allow.
Incentives matter. They can be used for good purposes or perverse reasons. The refusal to crack down on these idiots only emboldened them. Eventually, there will be gunfire and some antifa bodies will litter the streets. The left will profess to be horrified and look for someone to blame. Its first stop should be the mirror.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Antifa may have swollen their ranks but they are not mainstream. That’s a wild exaggeration. All of us need to look in the mirror–in the sincere, figurative sense–at least as often a we prescribe that for others.
“The left” cannot profess anything with one collective voice, because they are not a united front–thankfully. Neither is the Right, although loyalty to the perceived Common Cause is, on the whole, more demanded in Right-leaning circles than on the fractured, disorganized Left. That doesn’t apply to many of the contrarians and eccentrics here–thankfully!

R Wright
R Wright
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If you get mayors on side and NGO funding you are not only mainstream but establishment.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Show me the list of mayoral and NGO funders.
Did the Proud Boys go “mainstream” once Trump instructed them to “stand don and stand by” during a presidential debate? Did Nick Fuentes go mainstream after he was hosted at Mar-a-Lago?
I’d say no to both, but those were two of Trump’s lower moments that gave a lot of air and spotlight to fringe actors, as did his association with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Trump supposedly didn’t know who Fuentes was as he was brought along by another Trump guest to Mar-a-Lago. And prior to Jan 6 – Trump had no interaction with the Proud Boys….just the facts.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
19 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Yeah supposedly. How believable is that, even to you? Key defendants from the Proud Boys stated that they took that debate-stage shout out as a direct call to armed preparation for interference.
You have an off-key ear for facts and extend to Trump a charity of interpretation that he has not earned.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Nothing wrong with Stephen Miller, he’s the only one to solve the border invasion effectively. Bannon knows populism although he’s a bit extreme right now. The left has a knack for making people crazy.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
26 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Not to mention the blank check given to these nihilistic swine by the BBC, Guardian, NPR, NY Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC (plus their online comrades) during the riots of 2020, who afterward denied the existence of anything called Antifa. Not seeing this makes you an accessory to your own oppression. Brownshirts for Democrats, you bet.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
24 days ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

Not to mention, that the Democrat leadership – Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer – also abetted Antifa, never criticizing their activities but insisting the riotous and destructive Antifa and BLM actions were in their own words, “mostly peaceful protests”. When the leadership is corrupt and rotten through and through there is no peaceable way out.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Tell yourself what you like but these people are out there and there is a track record of activity behind them. “The left” is far more united than you want to believe, from the media to academia to the entertainment industry to big tech and so forth. This should have been made evident by now from its various movements, from the climate cult to metoo to BLM to the trans madness, all of which demand complete loyalty to the dogma at the risk of ex-communication.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I will “tell myself” what I like, but thanks for the permission. I guess you’ll exercise the same liberty yourself.
Left movements are varied, and more splintered than you want to believe. I hate Antifa but I’m currently more concerned with the anti-modernity, sometimes America-hating and civil-war-fomenting far Right, who nearly all unite under the Orange Flag of Trump. They find useful political allies in traditionalist, often common and decent folk who have pinned their hopes on a bellowing chaos agent.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

As a reminder, when multiple American cities prepared for possible violence after the 2020 election, it was in the event that Trump would win. Not that he would lose. Who do you suppose they were concerned about?
But again, tell yourself that months of leftist-led rioting, arson, and murder were mostly peaceful, that antifa is just an idea or right-wing talking point, that the current pro-Hamas protesters are just kids, etc. Everything that we were told would happen under the orange flag is being done by the people who oppose him.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I don’t endorse ANY of the things I’m supposedly telling myself in your second paragraph.
C’mon Alex. That sounds like the type of black- and-white reduction too often used by the Right and Left to construct a monstrous image of some United Idiot Bloc on the Other Side.
*There may have been more concern with a Trump win, but not by a lot. Some American cities were concerned with comparatively united far-Right groups, many of whom banded together and stormed the Capitol. I think that day could have gotten deadlier (I know the initial reports were inaccurate, but some rioters died) and way more widespread but for Covid, draconian restrictions and all. Are the CIA and FBI currently more worried about extremists on the Right or Left? And why? Please give a thoughtful and substantive response if you have the time.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

*There may have been more concern with a Trump win, but not by a lot. —- May have been? That was the whole reason for the prepping. No one expected Trumpkins to riot. They were worried about leftists rampaging because they’d see those folks do just that in the months after the George Floyd incident. You may recall a sympathetic media calling those events “mostly peaceful.” While the reporter was standing in front of burning buildings.
Are the CIA and FBI currently more worried about extremists on the Right or Left? And why? —- The same FBI that went after pro-lifers, dissident parents who didn’t want schools sexualizing their kids, and various perceived political opponents? The demand for acts of white supremacy or something like it far exceeds the supply.
You’ve spent most of this thread downplaying antifa as if Portland, Seattle, and various other cities did not sustain heavy damage from those people, the ones who turn irony on its head by being exactly what they claim to hate.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The intelligence services very much feared riots and worse from Trump supporters. What are you talking about? The footprints of the Capitol Riot and other strains of planned mayhem were all over the Dark Web and even mainstream social media, and the FBI and CIA and others were monitoring that.
Did you watch any of the Jan 6th hearings? I’m not saying I have special first-hand knowledge or am exposed to all points of view but I think you might be in a pretty well-sealed right-wing bubble.

Caroline Ayers
Caroline Ayers
26 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You should find out more about the Jan 6 riot. There were 100 FBI operatives in the crowd.See Tucker Carlson’s review of the (finally) released videotapes which show the police ushering the “rioters” in… it’s part of the anti Trump derangement syndrome that has taken over the Democrats and the deep state in the US. They are determined at any cost to prevent Trump from getting in because he wont follow the establishment rules (that seem set on ruining the US through unprotected borders, permissive rules for homeless drug addicts, the closing of independent farms..). The lawfare against Trump is part of the same strategy. It’s very worrying.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

And during those hearings it was revealed that FBI operatives were abetting protesters…

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
19 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

That is a completely unfounded “revelation” you’ve swallowed whole.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

My emphasis is only so one-sided because this comment board (and many others at UnHerd) risks becoming (or remaining) an echo chamber in which all things Big Bad Left are oversold, while problems and threats from the Good Old Right are dismissed or downplayed, consistently.
I’m a centrist with contrarian tendencies, not a Progressive or Antifa apologist.
I live on the Left Coast and saw some of the damage in Portland with my own eyes. I don’t support destructive or violent protests–from anybody. Of course “mostly peaceful” was a bullshit evasion. Even most wartime battles are mostly peaceful if we compare the number of minutes spent shooting vs. hiding or waiting. Ok?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
25 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I like your self description as a “centrist with contrarian tendencies”. With apologies, I think I will purloin it and use it as a pithy way of portraying my own inconsistent and idiosyncratic views.

Sometimes, as you say, UH comments section feels like a right wing echo chamber but much of the time it provides a forum for both classical liberals and nostalgic reactionaries. Personally, I would prefer a few more left wing voices but progressives seem unwilling to debate with others outside their sect. The saving grace of the right wing voices on UH is that most of them are willing to debate with anybody – sometimes intelligently, sometimes merely acerbically. Even Champagne Socialist gets some intelligent responses along with the insults and suggestions he is just a troll.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
25 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Dispensing with my usual disputatiousness and intermittent acerbity: I agree with all of that.
Now I’m tempted to start qualifying my agreement, but I’ll save it for a change. Have a good weekend.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
24 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I think CS got the boot, alas. To be fair, he was not very constructive.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Some rioters died – a few from overexcitement, and one unarmed woman was gunned down by police. They didn’t kill anyone.
In terms of murder, it is fair to say that the BLM riots were mostly relatively peaceful too.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The right and far-right can be described with many adjectives but laughably not ‘America-hating’. These are the folks wrapped in red, white and blue. These people still know how to recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ which many on the left refuse to do. Go to any Republican Town meeting throughout the country and before any business is done, the group stands and recites the pledge. Not so at Democrat meetings.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Proving yet again that you know very little about the right. Trump is not right, he’s an old school democrat populist. He’s not changed much from the 1980’s; his interviews from that time period are rampant on YouTube right now.

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That’s nonsense. The left are basically arm in arm minus a very few loud opposing opinions such as Bill Maher and Russell Brand and…?

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
26 days ago

What we’ve lost is the grown-ups. These are spoiled, nasty, brats, raised by self indulgent so called parents.

Stephen Feldman
Stephen Feldman
26 days ago

Hopefully names and location data on chronic disruptors are collected. Visits in future will reduce the noise

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
26 days ago

The problem is that we are all fair-minded people who believe in fair play. If there is an Antifa then there has to be a Proud Boys to balance the equation; equally violent equally virulent. The fact that we never see it play out in the streets no matter. This allows the left to literally get a way with murder.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
26 days ago

Antifa seem to show up very conveniently, in numbers, and well equipped with the appropriate gear and banners. As if they had been hired for the occasion…

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
26 days ago

Antifa doesn’t need to exist anymore. It’s manifesto is now standard operating procedure on the far left, and enforced in every mainstream business, government agency, and school here in the US. There are many things you can never say, views you must hold, beliefs you must ascribe to.
I am a lifelong Democrat, and I must choke down my words daily. I can’t say that there are men and women in the world. Period. I can’t say that there are many facets to privilege and race is only one. Poor white people have a terrible lot as well. I can’t say that not every bad thing that happens to you is a trauma. I can’t say that Israel deserves to exist as a country, or that Arabs deserve most of the blame for the violence in the Middle East. I can’t say we need police and punishments for crime.
We have high ranking military officials in the US Army who are men now identifying as women. The US military pays for sex reassignment surgery. US college campuses are full of spoiled brat, anti-Semitic thugs. Police officers are demonized and criminals run amok. We have no border policies and thousands cross into our country every day. We have no idea who these people are. Many are undoubtedly good people. Many are undoubtedly not.
Antifa is now mainstream. They haven’t gone away. They just walk among us now.

Steven Howard
Steven Howard
26 days ago

I wonder how Hamas feels about antifa

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
26 days ago

Such groups are tools for the liberal Left because their organisers commonly recruit the alienated, mentally ill or straight sociopathic all prone to violence either for pleasure or under encouragement.
They are separate from mainstream politics but have their use in intimidating opponents – in the UK for instance, the Left of the Labour Party uses the Socialist Workers Party to show up consistently in the street and intimidate political opposition.
Antifa and the SWP may appear conduits for youthful rebellion but they attract underground types with the profiles that tend to join terrorist group given the right cultural context.

Peter Gray
Peter Gray
26 days ago

“[…] far right groups that persisted”? “[…] concrete successes at preventing some particular neo-Nazi group from gathering or speaker from speaking.”?
Who are the far right groups that “persisted”? People who watch FOX and. listen to Ann Coulter? As to Antifa, here is a mob that attacked journalists who dared to expose their actions, who burned storefronts, demolished buildings, and attacked bystanders just because a conservative speaker was about to present his or her views at the local university. A “concrete success” at preventing the exercise of free speech? Would the author call Kristallnacht a success? Give me a break!
Antifa is a classical fascist mob, no different than Brownshirt SA. Just because they are missing some insignias, like swastikas, does not mean they are an intellectual movement. They are organized and act for one purpose only: to disrupt the democratic process.

John Taylor
John Taylor
26 days ago

The dishonesty of someone like Bray stems from there being no historical or ideological link whatsoever between 1930s anti-fascism and today’s. Anti-fascists of that earlier era fighting militarized far-right street gangs would be shocked to find the term “fascist” applied to people believing there are only two sexes or who reject climate alarmism.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
26 days ago

The antifa is a mirror image of the Proud Boys. They are almost all proud boys themselves steeped in a male supremacist sense of entitlement and dominance. This was on loud display when they went on the offensive to protect and promote the pedophile Darren Merager who invaded the Wi Spa’s nude room for women and girls. In the resultant demonstration by women to protest the intrusion of a naked pedophile, the Antifa attacked the women, ripped their signs from them, shoved them and punched then. The original Proud Boys showed up as well and the two groups of boys had a dust up as both groups of proud boys love street brawls. It’s their substitute for signing up for the military; their side hussle.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
25 days ago

“…fascist paramilitary groups such as the SA in Germany and the Blackshirts in Italy.”

The Blackshirts in Italy were fascists, but the SA were National Socialists. Adolf and co were pretty sniffy about the fascists due to them doing stuff like allowing Jews to join their party, and a lack of a determination to wipe out and replace the Slavs.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago

Great article, you’ve managed to put into words what is really unwritable. I mean where do you start with this lunacy? These idiots are the thing they hate, opposite but same sides of a violent, oppressive coin.

I find it unbelievable anyone gives sympathy to sinister thugs dressed in black with shades and face masks, no matter what political persuasion they claim to be

mike otter
mike otter
25 days ago

Some renta-mob gobshite in UK once said “Now the hippies wear black and the system wears hippy” – and sadly he was right. So it is with “antifa” and “black bloc”. Much as i love laughing at the W.O.M.B.L.E.S and Ian Bone etc they were “true to the scene, maan” at least until they were at risk of physical harm – at which point they fled. Cue Python’s “brave, brave Sir Robin” lolz

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
24 days ago

I think that anyone sensible can see that Antifa are the same mentality that drove the blackshirts, the Bolsheviks, the IRA or Hamas. They are a group of poorly educated young thugs that want to use violence to get status in their communities, while pretending to be righteous.

Interestingly the bbc always refers to them as being on the side of good and the “right side of history.”

Kat L
Kat L
24 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Agreed except that they are not uneducated, they have a good many over educated and extremely wealthy trust fund babies.