The Intercept, June 2, 2020
On Sunday, in the midst of the largest popular uprising in at least a decade, President Donald Trump posted a most Trumpian tweet. It appeared to combine a profound ignorance of — or disregard for — the official mechanisms of U.S. governance, a deep connection to the mentality of his white supremacist base, a desire to distract and distort, and an authoritarian (grimly justified) confidence in the political consequences of his raging online proclamations. “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” he wrote.
In a literal sense, the tweet will likely prove false. No actionable legal statute will designate antifa — an abbreviation of “anti-fascist” — a terrorist organization. Trump has not, in one fell tweet, shifted the legal status of anti-fascist activity or antifa affiliations. He has, however, signaled the strategy he plans to take to discredit a powerful, black-led liberation struggle, while further encouraging and legitimizing law enforcement crackdowns and white supremacist vigilantism against broad swaths of anti-racist, leftist dissent.
Blaming antifa is a move as cynical as it is predictable for the president and his bootlickers. Meanwhile, liberal voices — claiming to support racial justice and oppose Trump with vigor — have been offering both tacit and explicit support for this pernicious “outside agitator” narrative. By now, this should also come as no surprise.