In keeping with the nature of regurgitating narratives, allegations of “outside agitators” wreaking havoc on cities were shifted to focus on “Antifa” during the administration of former United States President Donald Trump. The reaction to a planned series of protests in November 2017 serves as just one example.
The demonstrations, organized by the California-based activist group Refuse Fascism called on supporters around the U.S. to protest in their cities against then-President Donald Trump on November 4 2017.
“We formed this organization around two main points,” an organizer told the Washington Post at the time. “One is that the nightmare must end, and second, in the name of humanity we must refuse to accept a fascist America.”
The protests, promoted under the collective title “The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!” became grist for the disinformation mill that is conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ media operation. In a post that has since been deleted, Jones’ website claimed that “Antifa Plans ‘Civil War’ to Overthrow the Government.”
As the Washington Post also reported, other conspiracy-minded channels soon picked up on Jones’ line:
The John Birch Society put out two recent videos warning Americans to “stay home and tell your children to do likewise” on Saturday. YouTuber “A Glock Fanboy” notched more than 400,400 views for a clip raising the alarm about “the first day of the revolution or whatnot.”
“Honestly, I’m happy,” the YouTuber told his followers. “Dude, we’ve been on the verge of the great war for what seems like forever and I’m just ready to get it going.”
Refuse Fascism released its own statement denouncing “categorical lies” smearing the protests:
The individuals and organizations in RefuseFascism.org have many different ideologies, programs and proposals about the future, including ideas of what might replace the Trump/Pence regime. Our protests have a clear objective and character, and it is not acts of violence or “civil war.”
The ginned-up controversy was part of what became a new avenue for disinformation during Trump’s one term as president. Historian Mark Bray, who wrote a book about the antifascist movement, told The Guardian newspaper at the time that these attacks were a way to “smear” people opposed to right-wing politics, regardless of whether they were part of antifascist causes.
“Prior to 2017, the far right didn’t really know what antifa was,” Bray said.
Since then, “Antifa” has become an all-purpose boogeyman for right-wing conspiracy theorists — easy to blame for imagined offenses including renting vehicles to “carry people” into neighborhoods; “busing” hundreds of people into Oklahoma; setting wildfires in Oregon; and either infiltrating the ranks of Trump supporters during the January 6 2021 coup attempt against the U.S. Capitol or carrying out the attack itself.
In January 2023, even law enforcement seemed to be picking up on the tactic; journalist Jon Peltz reported that the Los Angeles Police Department contacted neighborhood groups asking them to “be on the lookout for large groups or ANTIFA members” in response to protests against extrajudicial killings on the part of law enforcement in Atlanta and Memphis.
On January 27 2023, however, Peltz reported that police released a statement backtracking on those messages, saying that they “were not done in coordination with command staff.”
“We do not any credible information of Antifa in the area,” the department said.
Update 12/10/2019, 3:35 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag