Despite its overuse, I’m compelled nonetheless to employ the word “ironic” when contemplating the image the Republican Party has managed to fashion for itself. Preening before his mirror, the Republican sees a man’s man, or a woman’s woman, independent, courageous, battle-hardened.
Irony enters the picture when one thinks of what the Republican actually stands for politically. The Republican needs a gun to go shopping, a wall to keep out scary brown people, a supernatural deity to watch his back. The Republican’s position on most issues is defined by fear: xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia. The Republican believes himself the guardian of truth but consoles himself with guardians of confirmation bias, like Fox News. The Republican sees himself as brave but lacks the moral steadfastness to summon the most courageous sentiment of all, compassion. Lacking real natural enemies the Republican invents them, and invites them to be false equivalencies to the enemies his own hatred and paranoia have created.
Despite what Donald Trump says, the Antifa movement is nothing like white supremacy. That is a false equivalency, and Donald Trump hopes no one will notice. For one thing, since 2011 white supremacists have murdered at least 175 people world wide. In that time operatives of Antifa have killed exactly zero people. Yet Trump insists on lumping them together shoulder to shoulder with White Supremacy as a “hate group.” Antifa is not a hate group.
What is Antifa? The European flavor of the movement was founded in the 1920s as a group dedicated to resisting fascism, including Adolf Hitler’s fascism. The modern American Antifa movement began in the 1980s with a group called Anti-Racist Action. Its principal remit was to resist and confront neo-Nazis.
Since then the Antifa movement has remained largely dormant — until the rise of Donald Trump. It brought its history of resisting Nazism and racism and fascism to confront the greatest threat America has ever had to face, the Trump presidency. Its remit is what it always has been, to resist hate.
Apologists for Donald Trump could have simply wagged their fingers and told Antifa they were barking up the wrong tree. Instead, they decided to create an Antifa bete noir, insisting that Antifa is an underground terrorist organization, possibly funded by the Deep State. If you notice an over-emphasis of Antifa among the alt right when describing “what’s wrong with the left,” it’s because their misrepresentation of what Antifa actually stands for is merely a symptom of their impoverished position. They have nothing actual to rail against, so they have created this “terrorist” bogeyman. I don’t know about you, but when I look at this John Wayne wax character Republicans have fashioned in what they presume to be their own image, I just see a bunch of cringing cowards.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.