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Tue 19 November 2019
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CJ Werleman on what the reaction to the violence in Oregon reveals about the rising threat of fascism in America.

When fascism comes to America, its arrival will have less to do with ultra-nationalistic, flag-waving, hyper-Christians – as warned in the famous quote that’s too often erroneously attributed to 1930 Nobel Prize recipient Sinclair Lewis – and will come, instead, when actual card-carrying neo-Nazis and white supremacists are portrayed by the mainstream news media as the anti-fascists.

In the wake of yet another confrontation between an ad hoc coalition of militant anti-fascist leftists, who refer to themselves as “Antifa,” and the Proud Boys – whom the FBI has designated as an extremist group – pundits on both the right and the left have framed the latter the victim in Saturday’s violence in Portland, Oregon, by portraying them – not Antifia – as the real “anti-fascists”.

So much so, that the hashtag #AntifaTerrorists had become the number one trending topic on Twitter on Sunday, despite the fact that no Americans have been killed by anyone associated with the Antifa movement, according to former FBI counter-terrorism expert Michael German. And, despite the fact that right-wing extremists are responsible for 100% of all terrorist attacks on US soil since the end of 2017.

The group is using non-deadly means to counter and prevent domestic white terrorism and fascism, at the same time as sections of the media are trying to normalise both.

As part of Saturday’s violence, Andy Ngo – a prominent Far Right blogger and provocateur – was targeted by Antifa with milkshakes and raw eggs.

In a column for The National Review, Douglas Murray, the British author who is widely known for propagating the same kind of anti-Muslim animus as espoused by Ngo, wrote that “the real lesson of Saturday is that anybody interested in genuine anti-fascism should from now on aim themselves directly at Portland’s Antifa… These are the people of our day who behave most like fascists”.

He also accused me of being “a deeply confused figure” after I explained, not justified, why Ngo was targeted.

It should be noted here that Murray urged the Dutch Parliament to make “conditions for Muslims in Europe harder across the board” in order to make Europe “look like a less attractive proposition”. I’ll leave it to readers to determine whether or not it is he or me who is “deeply confused”.

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Again, to be clear, in no way whatsoever is the injuring of Ngo justified or acceptable, and – it should go without saying – I find much of Antifa’s headline-grabbing antics moronic and not within the interests of public safety. But, we should also not lose sight of the fact that Antifa’s existence is premised almost entirely on countering fascists of all stripes – including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists and activists who advocate discrimination against Muslims, Jews, people who are gay, and immigrants. 

This reality, however, didn’t stop CNN’s Jake Tapper from playing the “both sides” card when he not only elevated Ngo’s status from far-right agitprop to “journalist”, but also in singling out Antifa for alleged assaults on his peers – while ignoring the fact that his workplace has been targeted with pipe bombs and daily threats from right-wing extremists.


Ngo was targeted, according to the Antifa website, because he had “participated in the Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys attack on Cider Riot on May 1, 2019 and… was the first to publicly promote the June 29 Proud Boys event”. It said he “also targets the DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] while dismissing the Portland LGBTQ community, some of which were gloated by Far Right activists”.

If you’re wondering how Ngo – a gay, atheist Asian man – can become a darling of neo-Nazi fascists, then look no further than his endorsement of Nazi-borne “race science”, including promoting those who claim it can be proven that whites have superior IQs because of “skull measurements”. 

Then there is his peddling of the same kind of “Great Replacement” conspiracies that are popular among white nationalists, including his entirely erroneous claim that London has become overrun by Muslims. He amplified a tweet claiming that the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack, which left 51 Muslim worshippers dead, would allow “Islamists” to portray themselves as the “besieged Muslim”.

There are also the death threats he has allegedly brought upon Muslims by falsely portraying civil rights groups, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), as a terrorist organisation. Then there are the journalists who have found their names on neo-Nazi “kill lists” after Ngo falsely accused them of being covert “Antifa ideologues”.

One of those targeted journalists is Alexander Reid Ross, who told me he now believes that “targeted assassination is one of the strategic aspects of ‘lone wolf’ terror that the Alt Right has moved toward”, adding that it’s just a “step removed from mass shootings, after all”. This is a sombre assessment given the execution of German leftist politician Walter Lübcke last month, and the assassination of British MP Jo Cox in 2016. 

When fascism comes to America actual card-carrying neo-Nazis and white supremacists are portrayed by the mainstream news media as the anti-fascists.

The spike in violent right-wing extremist attacks coincides with the first term of President Trump, who not only describes neo-Nazis who march in the streets as “fine people”, but also has established a network of Nazi-era like concentration camps for refugees on the US-Mexico border.

Despite these objective realities, we are being told a combination of the following narratives: that actual Nazis are merely exercising their right to free speech; that we should be more concerned with anti-fascists who egg and milkshake these neo-Nazis than the neo-Nazis themselves; and that the threat posed by fascists is overblown by the “liberal” media.

The assertion, or rather deflection, that “anti-fascists are the real fascists” has always been the “knee-jerk hot take of anyone who is willing to defend fascists,” says Ross. “The effect is to give the advantage to the Far Right under whatever name such groups hope to persist, which ultimately gives ground to actual fascists in the end.”

Ultimately, the US doesn’t have a leftist domestic terrorism problem, and it hasn’t had one since the early 1970s. It’s right-wing extremists who are shooting up black churches, mosques and synagogues all across the country. 

So, whatever you think of Antifa’s methods and means – and there’s much to disparage – the fact of the matter is the group is using non-deadly means to counter and prevent domestic white terrorism and fascism, at the same time as sections of the media are trying to normalise both.

Meet CJ Werleman at this summer’s Byline Festival

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