By Dan Arel
July 20th, 2019
“Antifa is a terrorist organization composed of hateful, intolerant radicals who pursue their extreme agenda through aggressive violence,” wrote Senator Ted Cruz on Twitter on June 18, in a tweet announcing a bill co-written by Senator Bill Cassidy that would officially label “antifa” a terrorist organization.
“Antifa are terrorists, violent masked bullies who ‘fight fascism’ with actual fascism, protected by Liberal privilege,” wrote Cassidy in a press release. “Bullies get their way until someone says no. Elected officials must have courage, not cowardice, to prevent terror.”
The bill goes on to mention that Antifa (capitalized at every instance), represents opposition to free speech, and goes on to discuss the so-called attacked blogger Andy Ngo in Portland Oregon on June 29. The senator’s claim Ngo was seriously injured and required hospitalization.
The night before the June 29 fascist rally in Portland, Ngo tweeted that he “heard” antifa was going to be using acid to attack the marchers. Now, it’s unlikely this is something he even heard as a rumor but instead wanted to create a narrative before the event even started so that he could preemptively victimize himself. At the event himself, when hit with nothing more than a vegan milkshake, he pushed the narrative that he was instead attacked with quick-drying cement. A narrative that was also shared by the Portland Police, a claim presented with no evidence to support it.
When journalists reached out to the police department for further information, they were told they were too busy.
Yes, Ngo did visit the hospital but has yet to produce a single shred of evidence that he was “seriously injured” or that, as he claims, suffered a serious brain hemorrhage. In fact, the next day after he was hit with a milkshake at the fascist rally in Portland, he appeared on Fox News and CNN. This is not a common practice for someone claiming to be suffering a brain hemorrhage. When he later visited Joe Rogan on his podcast, Rogan himself, with his history of MMA fighting and UFC coverage questioned Ngo’s claim, and Rogan is no friend of the left.
One needs to look no further than the rise of Italian or German fascism to see what their next play is. Every move in recent decades from the right has been leading up to this moment. Control over women’s bodies played a major role in Nazi Germany politics, something we should all be familiar with today. Another major feature of fascism is its attacks on universities, in an attempt to further anti-intellectualism.
For decades now, the right has been attacking liberal professors on campus and claiming universities are squandering free speech and pushing a radical agenda against conservatism. When the fact is, free speech is thriving on campuses across the country. The crisis of free speech rights on campus is manufactured to create fear among conservative voters. The crisis was created not to further free speech rights, but in an attempt to shut down programs in the fields of social sciences and liberal studies, two programs that give students a sense of compassion and an open mind. Two things conservatism can’t survive without destroying.
What is most serious about this bill is that it poses a great danger to American politics. Cruz and Cassidy are using fear to capitalize on taking control of the narrative, and right out of the fascist playbook, are going to criminalize leftist groups and activities. If there is one thing in the United States worth defending, it’s that you can belong to any political party you choose without government interference. This bill would forever change that.
Because antifa isn’t an organization, there will be no leadership to go after, no meeting halls to raid, but there will be socialist, anarchist, and communist groups that the government can easily claim are “antifa” and in turn terrorize, arrest, and shutdown.
We can expect, if a bill such as this were to pass, it wouldn’t be a long road to where we see governments trying to shut down even the most innocuous Democratic Socialists of America meetings, under the guise of keeping the country safe from terrorist activity.
These senators don’t want you to know antifa is a reaction to literal murderous fascists and Nazis and is purely about community protection. This doesn’t fit the narrative of fear that drives people to give up their democratic rights and hand over more power to the fascists.
Look no further than body counts and activity when compared to far-right groups. In the press release about the proposed law, Cassidy claims antifa is fighting fascism with “actual fascism.” How can that be true when antifa has never held a rally on its own and has only shown up to defend communities against fascist marches from groups such as The Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, The American Identity Movement (formally Identity Evropa), and more?
How is it that in a press release condemning antifascists for confronting these groups, the senators fail to mention the names of Heather Heyer, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, or Rick Best? All three people murdered by fascists. Those are just three names out of more than 300 killed by far-right groups and its members in the US.
Where is the bill condemning those groups? Especially when compared to the number of people killed by antifascists, which as of now is zero.
This bill isn’t about antifa, it’s about shutting down the left. The bill “calls upon the Federal Government to redouble its efforts, using all available and appropriate tools, to combat the spread of all forms of domestic terrorism, including White supremacist terrorism.”
How is it to do that when the FBI has been aware of white supremacists in law enforcement for more than 10 years and has done nothing to stop it? Or when the Department of Homeland Security, currently overseeing US concentration camps, have officers openly mocking the death of immigrant children on Facebook and posting photos and threats of rape against congresswomen of color?
There will be no effort to stop white supremacy, and if these senators get their bill passed, there will be an even greater increase in police presence protecting fascist marches around the country, allowing these groups to act with near impunity.
If this bill is successful, it will be because the right has taken complete control of the narrative and used the fear of terrorism to pass another, in the same way they passed the Patriot Act, to strip citizens of their rights and hand more control over to the government, until eventually they have handed over all rights and our everyday lives are an even more extreme product of what the government will and will not allow.
The slow creep of fascism has been growing for decades, and now, the creep is becoming a sprint. How we react to this will forever define us, not as a nation, but as people.
Dan Arel is a Southern California based activist, award-winning columnist, and author. His work has appeared in such publications as Truthout, The New Arab, Time, Huffington Post, AlterNet, and Salon. He has authored such books as Parenting without God, and The Secular Activist.
Since 2017 he has worked in communications in the labor movement, fighting for higher wages, benefits, and the social justice of some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.