As The Omnivore writes, there is a free-speech rally in Boston. From reports it has something like 100 free-speechers and like 1000 or more counter-protesters, some of whom are . . . antifa! Antifa, standing for anti-fascist is the current demon of modern politics.
They look the part: black-clad, with bandannas across their faces like cut-rate ninja stage-coach robbers, they are vilified by the right as hooligans and rioters--beloved by the socialist left--and, until recently, not on most people's minds.
But they are now--hoo-boy. Why? What'd they do this time?
Let's Back Up--What'd They Do LAST Time?You can trace antifa back a long way--but this isn't a history lesson. Antifa was of interest for their violent reaction to some speakers on college campuses. Having decided that guys like Milo were, in fact, violence (or maybe gateways to violence, whatever) they rioted at Berkeley. This was, by all accounts a for-real scary riot. No one died--but it was full-on leftist violence against a guy who was just speaking.
During Trump's inauguration they were out there again, setting fires. They torched a limo. One of them punched Richard Spencer and ran off. There were rumbles in Seattle. If you go back far enough, you can find guys with a similar 'do' breaking Starbucks windows at the World Trade Organization meeting in the 90's,
This was antifa--up until last week.
There are a couple of things you should understand about this:
- The national-threat of antifa is, thus far, way, way less than, say the Weathermen or the original Black Panthers. They are not a national movement--there is no central organization. They might . . . stack up to the Proud Boys? It's not clear.
- They have, thus far in our story, been a stereotypical leftist violent overreaction. The case that is made that Milo Y. is violence which must be met with violence starts on a slippery-slope and goes down-hill from there. It's absurd. Yes: Milo is a tremendous asshole--but the guys setting fires and street-fighting to stop him from speaking have, it turns out, managed to top it (The Omnivore isn't sympathetic to Milo or his troupe--but man, if anything could make him . . .).
- They were adored by the Left. Now, a lot of people want "the Left" to be anything left of, say, Mitt Romney--but if we go by what people actually attest to, it looks more like this: The Left (socialists who want to destroy capitalism and replace it with
SomaliaUtopia). There are Liberals who rejected Bernie Sanders and voted for Hillary and maybe would have preferred Joe Biden. There are moderates who were confounded by 2016 but, probably voted against Trump. There is the right--Republicans--who almost all voted for Trump even though he embodies only one of their ideas (Gorsuch). There's the alt-right/nazi/pepe-right which voted for Trump because he's their God of Hellfire.
In this space it is clear that the Left is who really wanted a street-fight with Milo. The screeching bernie-bro rage-against-the-machine socialist crowd was perfectly okay with violence wearing a black mask--probably because it was the only way they could ever get TV to take them seriously.
But antifa got more support on the right than the left.
The person to whom The Omnivore is Omni-splaining knows this--but he doesn't like it. What's this secret that must not be spoken? Oh--it's here:
The dread truth is that the violent-left and the right-wing outrage / provocateur machine have a symbiotic relationship. Ann Coulter isn't a great thinker--but boy does she upset liberals. Milo was better at that--and he got better billing! Ben Shapiro is smarter than Ann but not quite as transgressive as Milo--so he comes in at the middle.
The fact is that even in Berkeley, everyone--all the players--were getting what they wanted. The antifa guys were just giving them more than they expected--they were ecstatic. The person to whom The Omnivore is Omnisplaining? He was probably ecstatic too: "Oh, I got a little hit of validation!! Mmmm--so good!"
That's okay--we all like to be validated--even if it's outrage kabuki. You gotta get your kicks where you can.
But then things changed.
It was easy to mock or hate antifa before Charlottesville. You could even revile them with every fiber of your being if that's what got your penis hard. They were violent thugs. They were fighting for a position that was literally toxic (we should be able to riot and beat people up if an obnoxious speaker comes to campus). They were in danger of maybe killing someone.
Then a white supremacist killed someone in Virginia. For the nation--which polling shows is paying close attention to that shit--the images coming out of Charlottesville were chilling. They weren't black-clad momma's-boys chilling either. There were paramilitary guys with tricked out AR's. There were swastika-flags flying. There were white supremacists with their hands wrapped for fighting and guys in body armor with shields and sticks.
The tiki-torch ceremony was both artistically sophisticated and frightening to behold: These were angry preppies holding lit torches in the 100's, shouting Nazi slogans. They surrounded some UVA students (unarmed, no masks) around the statue of Thomas Jefferson.
This was a show of force. It worked: they looked like, well, a force.
Then came Saturday. We saw images of people fighting in the streets. We got scattered reports that there were altercations--that the cops weren't keeping order--that it was kind of a war zone. In that space, we know--we saw--some people wearing the antifa-colors fighting literal Nazis.
Now, to be fair, we also saw clergy, in their robes, linking arms to stand against the column of Nazis--we saw people without masks fighting Nazis. We saw footage where you couldn't tell which side was which.
But at the end of the day, one thing was clear: a young woman had been murdered and the killer was a white supremacist.
Let's Pause For A Second
Before we wrap up, The Omnivore wants to make sure you're following along and understand two very important things;
(a) There was an attempt to make everyone standing against the Nazis with violence into antifa. Does Black Lives Matter count as the alt-left? Who knows. Do people who came out there and mixed it up count as antifa if they weren't wearing the bandanna? Maybe? The Omnivore doesn't know--and neither does anyone else. The use of the term Alt-Left is, by design, cagey that way.
(b) The guys who fought in Virginia were, almost certainly, not the guys who torched Berkeley. It's possible--but these guys probably didn't cross the continent for this (their moms would not lend them the cars). If you fly the antifa-flag you bear the burden--that's true--but if the only thing you ever did in your life for "The Left" was put on a black hoodie and a bandanna and went and punched a Nazi that day?
Well, The Omnivore isn't going to give you too much grief.
Back To Where We Were Going
Today in Boston a bunch of people cheered "antifa"--it's in quotes because we don't, again, know who those guys were. Maybe they were also in Virginia? Maybe they were in Berkeley? The Omnivore doubts both--they were, suspects The Omnivore, home-grown--but they flew the flag and they got cheered.
What's that mean?
The Omnivore is going to tell you that most of those people out there--who came to oppose an anemic free-speech rally by what appears to be libertarians? Those people probably don't have a good grip on who Milo is. They probably don't know what happened at Berkeley.
But they do know what happened in Charlottesville and it scared them. You bet your ass it scared them: somebody died. It should have scared them.
It turns out that fighting actual, literal Nazis is a way to improve your stature with a certain class of people. We even have a term for them: Americans.