As many people who are in the know about such groups have been pointing out, “Antifa” is not a formally or even informally organized institution in the United States. Antifa is a loose ideology based on the principle of direct action against fascism (the name is just a foreshortening of the phrase “anti-fascism”) which is sometimes taken up by specific groups who oppose fascistic policies in government and socioeconomic systems.
For years, certain interests have pursued the goal of misleading people into believing that Antifa is an organization knowing that this is not the case—even going as far as describing the name as an foreshortening of “anti-family” to stir people up emotional. They have also conveniently labeled any militant defiance of the government that does not originate with the social or economic hard right of the country as originating with this organization which, again, does not exist in this sense.
So, if such an organization isn’t necessarily real in the sense that it is being portrayed, why would someone pursue labeling it a terrorist organization?
That’s a great and perfectly valid question.
The people who have pursued this project aren’t interested in policing a fictional organization. They’re interested in having the powers to litigate and punish against any individual or group that acts in defiance of their agenda or policies as terrifying, knowing that they can successfully label such entities as “Antifa members” after the fact because few Americans have the time or inclination to question this dynamic. This is a planned feature of the move, not a bug.
Today many Americans will likely be heartened by this news.
“Finally,” they’ll think, “we can punish that group of bad guys for all the evil they’ve done.”
As well intended as that line of thinking may be, the truth is that should a day ever come that you wish to practice disobedience to the state—civil or otherwise—you, too, can be labeled as a member of a fictional anti-fascist organization that does not really exist and handled as such.
That’s pretty bad news for a lot of the 2A crowd who have built a lot of their self-understanding on the notion that they might one day have to form a well-armed militia in defense of their civil liberties.
But while all of that is the case, I have to say that I am impressed by the success of this project by the present administration and its enablers. This can greatly expand its powers to demonize and remove any opposition to its agenda, which is a bad thing for democracy, but really great for anybody who is more interested in seizing and keeping power than one of the alleged core tenets of the country.
Of meaningful related interest to me is that the Ku Klux Klan still has yet to be labeled a terrorist organization despite frequently relying on a number of modalities common to terror groups for generations. What is more interesting to me is that, unlike Antifa, there is hard evidence of this group’s formal organization, activities, member groups, infiltration of state entities, and financial ties.
There are also historical echoes at work here. Though most people on Facebook may be too young or disengaged to remember (or otherwise supportive of such activities), a similar thing happened in 1950—1954. This was the McCarthy era, during which the the US government and other institutions carried out a blacklisting campaign against alleged communists. We learned years later that the majority of the individuals who were punished in that movement were not, in fact, communists and instead had simply earned the personal ire of the people who administered the program’s punishments.
Addendum: What is fascinating to me is that when you lay these factors out, they are met with incredible resistance. This is in part because groups like Black Bloc who do engage in formally organized militant activity have been (intentionally by the formal Right and unintentionally by citizens not in the know) labeled as a part of the Antifa organization (which does not exist). It was initially that group which was being mislabeled as Antifa before the formal right pursued a broader defining scope.
If the government wanted to label Black Bloc a terrorist group, they could easily do that and point to hard evidence linking people to it. There is little interest in pursuing that tactic, however, because it would reveal how small that organization is and it would reveal that its tenets are deeply similar to many of the civil liberties-oriented values that Americans claim to hold dear (particularly the 2A crowd).
The Boston Tea Party would likely have been categorized as Antifa if evaluated by today’s standards.