There was this astounding headline Monday in the Washington Post: “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley.”
Put aside the question of how the Post determined that the demonstrators were “right-wing.” What makes the headline remarkable is that a major liberal newspaper finally and accurately denounced the thugs. Antifa may be short for “anti-fascist,” but it is in fact just the opposite.
The Los Angeles Times soon chimed in, decrying “violence by far-left protesters.” And on MSNBC, of all places, Joe Scarborough blasted the antifa goons as “fascists in their behavior.”
A few far-left politicians have also joined the anti-antifa chorus. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who actually applauded the mob that shut down Milo Yiannopoulos in February, now wants antifa officially classified as a gang. “They come dressed in uniforms,” he observed, “and they have weapons, almost like a militia.” Hey, Mayor Arreguin, good of you to finally notice.
And the most stunning turnaround came Tuesday, when Democrat Nancy Pelosi issued a statement condemning the “people calling themselves antifa.” She added that they “deserve unequivocal condemnation.”
What makes all this notable is that just over a week ago Reuters referred to the antifa agitators as “peace activists,” while Democrats refused to say anything mean about the masked warriors. So what happened to turn the tide? Let us put forth some educated speculation.
First, professor and philosopher Noam Chomsky openly questioned antifa’s goals and tactics. Chomsky, always anti-capitalist and often anti-American, has been the guru of the radical left for decades. When he speaks, progressives listen.
Two weeks ago Chomsky described antifa as “a miniscule fringe of the Left,” and called their violence “a major gift to the right.” The professor also hammered antifa for shutting down speakers with whom it disagrees.
A few days later, professor and attorney Alan Dershowitz, another lion of the left, warned that antifa-like groups are “trying to tear down America.” He denigrated antifa as “radical, anti-American, anti-free market, socialist, communist, hard left censorial organization.”
All this criticism was pre-Berkeley, which was another black mark against the black clad antifa crew. Last weekend the left-wing gangsters assaulted a handful of people who gathered in Berkeley to march against Marxism.
The antifa radicals, their faces masked as always, chased and beat down people whom they considered Trump supporters. It was an especially ugly scene, even by antifa standards, after which more than a dozen radicals were arrested.
If antifa and other self-styled anti-fascist groups occupied the moral high ground after Charlottesville, they surrendered it last weekend in Berkeley.
But perhaps the biggest reason for the recent opinion shift is old-fashioned politics. Democrats can read polls as well as anyone else, probably better. They know that most Americans do not are repulsed by masked marauders running wild in the streets. That could explain Nancy Pelosi’s surprising statement. She desperately wants a Democratic majority in 2018, and she won’t get it by ignoring or endorsing violence.
In the Senate, the two darlings of the far left – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders – have yet to call out antifa by name, although Senator Sanders did speak out against lefties who shout down campus speakers.
Antifa will always have supporters, especially on elite campuses. A Dartmouth lecturer named Mark Bray has become a frequent guest on mainstream networks, where he rationalizes and defends violence. Dartmouth’s president actually criticized Bray for “supporting violent protest,” a rare show of courage from a university administrator. Naturally, the left-wing Dartmouth faculty was angry not with Bray, but with the president.
But college professors aside, antifa may have overplayed its ugly hand with all the recent violence and vitriol. Pay close attention the next time there are masked antifa protesters fomenting violence and pelting cops with urine.
Law enforcement, which once looked the other way, might step in to quickly stop the madness. And Democrats, who were once acquiescent, might rise up in unison to denounce antifa.
That may be wishful thinking, but it would be a very welcome sign in extremely troubled times.