On Antifa and the Media — a Response to the Washington Post

In an August 14 Washington Post story, antagonistically titled: “Antifa protesters couldn’t find any fascists at Unite the Right — and harassed the press instead”, Avi Selk incorrectly states that anti-fascists “crash far-right demonstrations to brawl.” We must ask, what kind of worldview informs someone’s choice to make a statement like this?

Plain and simple: anti-fascists confront fascists by any means necessary in order to deny its white nationalist and white supremacist purveyors a platform and the means to carry out and expand their programs of oppression and violence. If certain members of the media prove themselves unwilling to understand this time after time, and even create smokescreens for fascists to operate behind, why shouldn’t they be treated with suspicion and contempt?

Note: It should be said that some mainstream journalists like reporters for The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post covered the Aug. 12 actions with integrity. These folks even defended anti-fascists when smug reporters like Jake Tapper of CNN took to Twitter to take cheap shots at activists.

However, we haven’t seen anyone ask or report how media treated activists at the protest in question. A member of Agency (the group authoring this piece) was at the protests in DC — they witnessed first hand professional photographers and cameramen throwing elbows and shoving people to “get their shot”. At one particularly tense moment when the police attacked protesters, a male camera person with a major television network aggressively pushed a female protestor to the ground in order to get himself onto the side walk first to escape the police. Why are these types of actions not being examined closely or sought out to balance the accusations against antifa? Why isn’t anyone asking whether or not it’s common for members of the media to treat people this way at protests? And if you act like this (or your colleagues do) how can you reasonably expect people to be friendly in return?

While we are asking questions, we want to address another one that Selk and Tapper neglected to ask in their attacks on antifa. Why might an activist not want to be filmed or photographed at a protest?

In a world where one’s identity can be used by adversaries to harass, threaten, intimidate and violently attack, it makes sense that some people would want to protect themselves from such harm. Those who are especially vulnerable to attacks, like anti-fascist activists and the anarchist communities from which many of them come, might object to being photographed or filmed for that reason.

Countless activists have been attacked online and in person as a result of their identities being broadcast by mainstream and social media, sometimes with the help of police.

If someone who’s been recorded were to be arrested and prosecuted, that identifying documentation can and probably would be used against them. This was the case for more than 200 people violently attacked by police and arrested for demonstrating in an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist protest on Trump’s inauguration day. Despite efforts by the Trump administration to paint anarchist and anti-fascist activists as inherently violent and try to lock them up for decades, nearly all of the politically-motivated charges were dismissed. The Charlottesville anniversary and the anti-fascist protest in DC occurred just weeks after the dismissals. Selk’s Post article offers none of this context.

Add to the concern over publication of one’s identity, a determination by many mainstream journalists and outlets to focus on the actions of anti-fascists as if they were divorced from the white supremacist and white nationalist violence that has engulfed the country. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that in the month following the murder of an anti-fascist activist in Charlottesville, the six top broadsheet newspapers “found virtually equal amounts of condemnation of fascists and anti-fascist protesters.” Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote at the time that anti-fascists “are no different from neo-Nazis” and are “morally indistinguishable” from each other.

The facts speak for themselves. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the mainstream media isn’t always going to be welcomed with open arms at protests. If the Post and other media want to be received differently, they need to act differently and even hold their own colleagues accountable. Along with a misunderstanding of where to apply blame and condemnation, some members of the the mainstream media, large segments even, have through their own actions, inevitably engendered a lack of trust among anti-fascist and anarchist activists, perhaps even the public at large.

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