CNN, you almost did a great thing. In fact, the article you published about the violent Antifa movement was not bad. You showed how they view police as the enemy; how the group’s far left views on pretty much everything is way outside the mainstream, and how they’re lawless. Even those who are studying extremist groups in the country note that the violent course Antifa takes will ultimately kill the movement. Yet, it seems the news network caved to Antifa’s complaining over their original headline: “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists seek peace through violence” to “unmasking the leftist Antifa movement.” The editor’s note reads, “This story has been updated to clarify that counterprotesters say they are not to blame for violence at the Charlottesville protest. The story's headline has also been updated.”
What happened in Charlottesville was a disgrace. Both white nationalists and Antifa showed up, melees broke out, and one woman died when a white nationalist plowed through a group of counter demonstrators. I’m not saying Antifa isn’t violent. They are—and CNN did a good job noting this in their story. The problem is that it was a white nationalist who murdered someone. The narrative changes with this incident because, despite the clashes, one side decided to mow people down—and it wasn’t the far left. Then again, the CNN piece was not really focused on Charlottesville. It was about the movement in general [emphasis mine]:
CNN literally scrubbed a headline which called Antifa violent because Antifa did not like it.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 20, 2017
This is modern journalism. pic.twitter.com/pQ2oHRwkIw
Anti-fascists and the black bloc tactic originated in Nazi Germany and resurfaced in United Kingdom in the 1980s. Large numbers of Antifa activists first appeared in the United States at anti-World Trade Organization protests in 1999 in Seattle, and then more recently during the Occupy Wall Street movement.
But their profile has been rising.
Antifa demonstrators have marched in more than a half dozen protests since Election Day in Portland, Oregon, according to police.
Earlier this year, Antifa activists were among those who smashed windows and set fires during protests at the University of California, Berkeley, leading to the cancellation of far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and withdrawal of Ann Coulter as speakers.
For almost three decades, Scott Crow was part of the Antifa movement.
"I fought (against) Nazis. I've had death threats. I've had guns drawn on me. I've drawn guns on fascists. I've been in altercations. I've smoke-bombed places," he said. "I've done a myriad of things to try and stop fascism and its flow over the years."
Activists don black bloc, Crow said, as a means to an end.
"People put on the masks so that we can all become anonymous, right? And then, therefore, we are able to move more freely and do what we need to do, whether it is illegal or not," he said.
And that means avoiding police, whom many Antifa members see as an enemy, as well as skirting the scrutiny Antifa activists often get from alt-right trolls on the Internet. Black bloc, one member told us, also unites the movement.
Antifa activists often don't hesitate to destroy property, which many see as the incarnation of unfair wealth distribution.
"Violence against windows -- there's no such thing as violence against windows," a masked Antifa member in Union Square told CNN. "Windows don't have -- they're not persons. And even when they are persons, the people we fight back against, they are evil. They are the living embodiment, they are the second coming of Hitler."
Crow explained the ideology this way: "Don't confuse legality and morality. Laws are made of governments, not of men," echoing the words of John Adams.
"Each of us breaks the law every day. It's just that we make the conscious choice to do that," he said.
Antifa members also sometimes launch attacks against people who aren't physically attacking them. The movement, Crow said, sees alt-right hate speech as violent, and for that, its activists have opted to meet violence with violence.
Right or wrong, "that's for history to decide," he said.
CNN interviewed Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, who said such violence is going to kill Antifa.
“It's [violence] killing the cause -- it's not hurting it, it's killing it, and it will kill it,” he said, noting that such acts, like when Antifa members physically go after neo-Nazi members, gives them moral high ground. These are awful people. Then again, so are the Antifa members.
The moral of the story is that just because Antifa is fighting white nationalist and neo-Nazis, doesn’t make them the good guys. Neither side deserves to be defended as a beacon of political discourse or civic engagement. They’re both despicable—and that’s what CNN captured in this story that’s been diluted in the name of political correctness. You cannot talk about or condemn political extremism without slamming both Antifa and white nationalists. Does a white nationalist murdering someone in Charlottesville change how we should view these two groups? No. They’re both made up of violent thugs. But in the case of Charlottesville, only one side decided to use a car to achieve a homicidal goal. That’s what’s different here, and why so many were not satisfied when Trump blamed both sides for the violence. There’s a difference between a scuffle on a march way and plowing through people with a car.
Yet, it doesn’t negate the fact that Antifa are still violent criminals, who shouldn’t be martyred or idolized as some anti-Nazi antidote to American political discourse.