The right want to make the Andy Ngo Antifa violence a reason to stop confronting fascists. Don't ever let it happen
There are echoes here of the Nazi's exploitation of Horst Wessel's death in 1930.
Right now, much of the online ecosphere of the far right is abuzz with the news that right-wing Quilette editor and journalist, Andy Ngo, was allegedly attacked by “Antifa” at a protest in Portland, Oregon, resulting in a suspected brain bleed.
In fact, the news has filtered through to the cable networks. Even figures in the UK, such as Toby Young have railed against the re-emergence of a supposed radicalised, violent Antifa attacking those they disagree with.
Let me be absolutely clear: Nobody deserves to be physically assaulted in the midst of carrying out their lawful work, not a provocateur like Ngo – nobody.
Listening to some of the messaging coming from the far right, however, you would think that this was their (cut-price) “Horst Wessel” moment.
Wessel, aged 22, was a Berlin Nazi Sturmabteilung (or “stormtrooper”) district leader gunned down by Communist KPD members who knocked on his door on the night of 14 January 1930, and who later died in hospital.
Wessel's death was a propaganda win for the Nazi's like no other. Not only was the death of a young, handsome SA leader a great recruitment tool, but it horrified much of the middle class that would later propel the Nazis to power.
In fact, the ongoing violent skirmishes between the SA and the KPD, especially in Berlin, were heavily drawn upon by the growing Nazi Party. In their media, and indeed in much of the mainstream press, the threat of “Bolshevik” violence was highlighted, amplified and presented as an existential threat to the Weimar Republic.
Today's far right appear to be conscious of this. In the wake of Ngo's assault, stories of milkshakes containing quick-drying cement and other weapons being used were circulated by significant right-wing influencers and activists such as Mike Cernovich, Ian Miles Cheong and Jack Posobiec. These were soon picked up by mainstream media, who repeated the claims. To date, no hard proof of any of this has emerged.
The reason they're doing this? Simple.
Across the far right, groups big and small are aware that the only thing that can successfully hold back the tide of fascism is the weight of numbers confronting it head on.
If people are afraid of coming out to oppose the far right, for fear of being either caught in violence, or being labelled as “dangerous” Antifa, the far right know they'll have a much easier ride.
Don't be mistaken – it's not the masked Antifa hoodlums of cable news headlines that are killing and maiming people.
Last year in the US, according to the Anti-Defamation League, 50 people were killed by individuals with links to the far right – that's almost all the domestic terrorism experienced in the country that year.
None were in any way linked to Antifa.
Anti-fascism is far, far more than the stereotype of masked individuals waving flags and brickbats. Anti-fascism is community self-defence, by people of all creeds and colours coming together to protect themselves and each other in a peaceful, direct manner.
Remember the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington DC last year? Organized by some of the same faces behind the original, deadly Charlottesville protest, a pitifully small turnout was drowned out by thousands of anti-fascists coming together and drawing a line. There was singing, dancing, and a god-almighty racket preventing their speeches from being heard. DC rail staff refused to run trains taking attendees in solidarity.
It was, in short, a complete failure.
Don't worry about Ngo. He's been discharged from hospital, with a big fat GoFundMe of around $160,000 and any number of armed, right-wing groups offering to act as “bodyguards”.
Instead, start worrying about the growing power and influence of figures on the far right who use propaganda and bad faith arguments to demonise anyone who opposes them.
Furthermore, if you think the best way to fight the re-emergence of fascism is peaceful direct action, don't by turned off by Ngo's story – get out there and lead the way.