By David Sole
Probably every culture has a mythical terrifying figure that parents use to threaten children with, if the kids don’t behave well. In the U.S. it was often “the bogeyman will get you!” After all, children not knowing any better believed in his existence and might alter their behavior for the better.
Now here comes Trump (who, come to think of it might someday be used as a bogeyman figure). The president, along with his right-wing cohorts, is telling the people of the U.S. that their property and lives are being threatened because “Antifa is coming.” What the heck is Antifa?
It most certainly is not an organization, open or secret. Antifa is short for anti-fascist. Since the 1920’s, when the dictator Benito Mussolini took over Italy along with his National Fascist Party, those who opposed him and his dictatorship proudly called themselves anti-fascist. In 1933 Hitler and his fascist crew seized power in Germany and proceeded to systematically slaughter millions upon millions of Jewish people, Romani people (“Gypsies”), LGBTQ+ people, socialists, communists, trade unionists and others they deemed “inferior.” Spain and Portugal soon had their own fascist dictators (not without a fight, however). A world war from 1939 to 1945 was fought that ended in the defeat of the fascist powers (Spain and Portugal’s dictators held on long afterward). The term anti-fascist was a good thing for a long time, even a badge of honor.
Trump, in his drive to win and hold onto the presidency, has promoted blatant white supremacy. He has gathered under his wing a wide range of Nazis, KKKers, Proud Boys, skin-heads and other right-wing dregs. In particular Trump has repeated over and over that he is the only one who can protect people from Antifa – a name he has applied to any and every real or imagined left-leaning protest.
The widespread and massive Uprising that broke out after the May 25, 2020 brutal and televised police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, has drawn in people of all ages and races for over one hundred days. In some locations anger at police terror and white supremacy has boiled over into violence against property. More often, however, it has been the police and Trump’s federal agents who have launched violent attacks on peaceful protesters. But for Trump’s purposes it is “Antifa” at fault. The right-wing media has even accused “Antifa” of starting the massive forest fires raging across Oregon and California.
Anyone familiar with the protest movements around the country knows that there is no organization called Antifa. The term is used by some demonstrators to identify as being militantly anti-fascist in sentiment. Antifa has no headquarters, no newspaper, no membership and holds no meetings. But that doesn’t matter to Trump or his allies. Antifa serves their goal of scaring people into voting for the only one who can “save” them from the Antifa bogeyman.
Of course actual fascists do exist and present a very real terrorist threat to people across the United States. Trump, Fox News and that crowd are working hard to defend them, excuse their actions and encourage further attacks. Local and federal police agencies are tolerant of fascist minded groups, actively collaborate with them and often count them among their members.
A few examples should suffice. On August 31, 2020 USAToday.com reported “President Donald Trump defended the 17-year-old who fatally shot two protesters in Wisconsin last week, embracing an attorney’s account that Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.” Don’t forget that Rittenhouse calmly walked through police lines in Kenosha carrying his AR-15 style rifle after he shot dead two demonstrators and seriously injured a third.
Following the march of fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 13, 2017 Trump commended the alt-right crowd as “very fine people” even though one of these “good folks” drove his car into the counter-protest killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.
Trump also urged his supporters on when they drove a caravan of vehicles into Portland, Oregon where they attacked Black Lives Matter protesters on August 29. In what was described as an act of self-defense the demonstrator, Michael Reinoehl, allegedly shot and killed Aaron Danielson, a member of the Patriot Prayer right-wing group.
On September 3 a federal task force tracked down Reinoehl and killed him. He had previously told reporters and friends that he was “being hunted.” Trump celebrated the U.S. Marshals’ execution of Reinoehl for “taking care of” the suspect “in 15 minutes.” Trump added, “I will tell you something, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution when you have crime like this.” The NAACP Legal Defense Fund president, Sherrilyn Ifill, warned “We are on our way to normalizing the execution of criminal suspects before arrest, trial or conviction.” (new.yahoo.com).
Last spring, law enforcement officers and politicians were casting blame on Black Lives Matter demonstrators for killing a number of police in California. One of those was a Santa Cruz County Sheriff Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller killed in an ambush on June 6, 2020. Another was the murder of a federal officer, Patrick David Underwood, who was in Oakland, CA guarding a federal courthouse during a big George Floyd protest on May 29. It turns out that Steven Carillo, who was a sergeant in the United States Air Force where he received training in weapons and explosives, was arrested on June 6, charged with both of those murders. He is apparently a member of the right-wing Boogaloo Bois, whose adherents say they are preparing for, or seek to incite, a second American Civil War, which they call the “boogaloo”.
Trump and much of the media are determined to sow fear and division with the phony specter of the big, bad Antifa bogeyman. It remains to be seen if this can successfully shift attention away from the very real dangers of COVID-19 pandemic, racist police terror, unemployment, global warming and the other very real threats to the working class population of the U.S.
Any youth of today should be proud to identify as Antifa. They will join a long line of anti-fascist resistance heroes throughout history.