Erstwhile Republican – but self-proclaimed true conservative – pundit Rick Wilson decided Friday to suggest through a tweet that anarchist/socialist group Antifa, thought to be one of the main proponents of the last week’s violence and on the list to be named a terrorist organization, does not, in fact, exist.
Wilson was responding to a tweet from The Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Noah Shachtman that linked to a story saying Antifa is not mentioned in any of the 22 federal cases brought so far related to the rioting and looting following the death of George Floyd.
“Because Antifa Isn't Real,” Wilson tweeted.
Now, there may be any number of reasons the first federal cases related to the rioting don’t mention Antifa by name (although the Daily Beast article does note that “anarchism” is mentioned as a “motivating ideology”) and the DOJ declined to comment for the piece. Maybe – and this is purely a guess – Attorney General Barr is waiting until there is some legal movement naming the group a terrorist organization, as the Trump administration has indicated a desire to do. Opening cases after that designation would certainly open up a new realm of potential charges. Since Barr isn’t talking, there’s no way to know.
But suggesting Antifa is not a real group – as both Wilson and the Daily Beast do – is essentially providing cover for a collective of socialist/anarchist groups that claim the mantle of antifascism but are actually using the death of Floyd to foster what they always seek: chaos.
The Antifa website ItsGoingDown.org states that “in the U.S., most [anti-fascist] activists are anarchist, although a few are Maoist or anti-state Marxists,” but “in other countries, the movement is predominately Marxist.”
Antifa views America and those who safeguard its free institutions as fundamentally illegitimate. ItsGoingDown.org advises activists to “build a culture of non-cooperation with law enforcement.” “If you have any intention of working with the police, FBI, or other agencies,” it continues, “or if you publically [sic] condemn anti-fascists who break the law: don’t call yourself an anti-fascist.”
ItsGoingDown.org has urged activists to make the country “ungovernable” by participating in “mass insurrection,” “mass resistance,” and “all manner of physical violence” against Trump supporters, capitalists, and “conservative fascists.” The website displayed propaganda images of violent attacks on persons wearing Trump campaign hats bearing the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” This kind of violence was a “necessary evil” to promote social justice and destroy “fascism.”
For a group that Wilson says doesn’t exist, there are a number of Antifa-aligned websites and social media accounts, and now a new expose by the Project Veritas team that seems to confirm the group has centralized planning, is very well organized – and international.
Then there’s the FBI Situational Information Report issued Tuesday and obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation that mentions Antifa by name as part of a coordinated effort to vandalize or burn a federal courthouse in Richmond, Va.
"FBI Norfolk received information indicating the Richmond Federal Courthouse exterior walls were spray painted with a thick black line around the entire exterior,” the report states, adding that the black line “has been used by anarchist/ANTIFA as a marker to designate a target for potential vandalism/arson.”
Wilson and others seem to be attempting to make the case that a movement of like-minded anarchists is not cohesive and therefore cannot designated a terrorist “group,” despite, as even New York Mayor Bill de Blasio admits, their coordination and common goals.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday morning that the members of the anarchist movement plan together online and that "they have explicit rules, and we're going to make all this information available today and in the days ahead."
As mentioned, Barr and the DOJ aren’t talking. But where Wilson sees that circumspection as proof Antifa is not a real thing, the silence could in fact be proof of the exact opposite: that the Trump administration is not yet ready to bring charges because the pieces aren’t in place yet.
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.