Why Antifa Is The Keyser Söze of Social Unrest

Antifa_The_Anti-Fascist_HandbookBelow is my column in the Hill newspaper on yesterday’s hearing in the Senate, which ended abruptly with Sen. Hirono walking out after a confrontation with Sen. Cruz over his objection that the Democrats were avoiding direct criticism of Antifa. In roughly 50 hearings as a witness in Congress, that was a first for me. I have been in a hearing with a lock down but I have never been in hearing with a walk out. I was not sure if I was expected to turn off the lights after both senators left.

The dramatic ending of the hearing however quickly supplanted the underlying issue. As I stated in my testimony, I am less concerned with Antifa’s role in the protests as its role in the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States.

Here is the column:

If you read the coverage online or watch the cable networks, the extremist movement known as Antifa is either the new Al Qaeda or the new Big Foot. President Trump wants to have Antifa classified as a terrorist organization, while various Democrats insist it is simply a conservative phantom. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler even insisted that violence by Antifa is a myth and called the accounts imaginary.

While I oppose designating Antifa as a terrorist organization, its existence is certainly not a myth. Indeed, it may be the most successful movement against free speech in modern history. However, its structure and tactics avoid easy detection, which is why so many people claim the group is an apparition. It is true that whenever such spontaneous and concentrated violence erupts, many people tend to believe it is Antifa.

Antifa is often the culprit on university campuses. In the film “The Usual Suspects,” the character Virgil described the invisible villain Keyser Söze. He is “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.” Antifa does exist and the last few weeks demonstrate how skilled it is as the Keyser Söze of social unrest in America.

Antifa was founded on a rejection of formal structures and leaders. Many associated groups are part of Anti-Racist Action and a loose coordinating organization known as the Torch Network. This lack of structure not only appeals to the anarchist elements for the movement but serves to evade both law enforcement and legal challenges. The threat of Antifa is not its role in civil unrest but its activities attacking free speech.

Both far left and far right groups have been identified in riots in various cities. These extremist groups use social media and the internet to sow disorder, hide their identities, and frame other groups for their activities. Notably in the last week, Richmond police identified both Antifa and the Boogaloo Boys in violent protests in that city. It is part of what Attorney General William Barr refers to as the “witches brew of violent groups on both sides” such as Antifa and some other similar groups.

Antifa members have been arrested and involved in violence in the cities. The president of the Portland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wrote in the Washington Post to denounce the “white spectacle” of the recent violence. He asked, “What are antifa and other leftist agitators achieving for the cause of black equality?”

The answer is that Antifa is not an ally to Black Lives Matter. It is all about revolutionary change and using demonstrations to trigger greater social unrest. It follows the same purpose mistakenly spoken by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley following those riots during the Democratic National Convention in 1968, “The police are not here to create disorder. They are here to preserve disorder.” Antifa causes such violence.

Antifa has found allies while the movement has grown. It primarily targets conservatives and the free speech community, so it has not been a major concern of liberals. Former Democratic National Committee deputy chair Keith Ellison, now the Minnesota attorney general, once said antifa would “strike fear in the heart” of Trump. This was after Antifa had been involved in numerous acts of violence and its website was banned in Germany. His own son, Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, declared his allegiance to Antifa in the heat of the protests this summer.

That fact is that Antifa works to strike fear not in the heart of Trump but in the heart of anyone who will oppose the movement. The Antifa handbook states how the group has rejected the idea of free speech and has spent years organizing protests to prevent opposing views from getting heard. That practice has been adopted by other groups as well. Antifa violence can give colleges or politicians cover for barring conservative speakers. Nancy Pelosi has called for the revocation of a permit for a conservative prayer group viewed as a security matter in San Francisco.

George Washington University student Jason Charter has been charged as the alleged “ringleader” of efforts to take down statues across the capital. Charter has been an active Antifa member on campus for years. Following his arrest, he claimed the “movement is winning.” It is winning partly since local officials order police to stand down or drop criminal charges to avoid conflict. But it is winning mostly since people remain silent.

Silence kills free speech. Antifa knows that. It is the silence of professors who watch as their colleagues are harassed, investigated, or threatened. It is the silence of students who watch as others are attacked for dissenting ideas. It is the silence of reporters who watch as other journalists are fired or forcibly retired for challenging orthodox views. Finally, it is the silence of those politicians who dismiss the destruction of property as a case, in the words of Pelosi, that “people will do what people will do.”

Antifa will do a great deal of damage if allowed.

That is why, for academics and writers, Antifa’s presence is menacing, not mythological. As Virgil explained, Keyser Söze became the “spook story that criminals tell their kids at night.” Some politicians want to portray Antifa as a spook story that Republicans tell their kids at night. However, it is no illusion for those who have been the targets of Antifa and related groups.

Antifa has achieved the agenda against free speech to a degree that even critics like me never imagined possible. It simply took inaction from our government and silence from our citizens. Threats against free speech are reaching a critical mass in our schools and on our streets. We can either take action or remain passive bystanders to what inevitably comes next.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University who will testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee on antifa and the movement against free speech in America.


178 thoughts on “Why Antifa Is The Keyser Söze of Social Unrest”

  1. “The Department of Homeland Security is a rogue agency. Democrats must take action”

    Trevor Timm, Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation



    As Klippenstein notes, the attempt to tie activists to foreign powers is key, as it would open up even more invasive and warrantless surveillance methods available to the DHS. (It’s worth noting that the federal government hasn’t been able to tie any protester it has arrested to antifa, let alone a foreign power.)

    Virtually every day we learn more about the DHS abusing its vast surveillance powers to spy on journalists, protesters, and immigrants

    “They targeted Americans like they’re al-Qaida,” a source with knowledge of the surveillance operations told the Nation. If you think this sounds like an exaggeration, consider this: another leaked DHS document, this one posted by Lawfare’s editor-in-chief, Ben Wittes, showed that the DHS was creating “baseball cards” of arrested protesters. As the Washington Post noted: “Historically, military and intelligence officials have used such cards for biographical dossiers of suspected terrorists, including those targeted in lethal drone strikes.”

    -Trevor Timm


    We need to take a close look at fusion centers, as well.

  2. Great movie reference. Antifa is silencing free speech, but Antifa does not exist, therefore no one is silencing free speech, therefore everything in the garden is lovely, and all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

  3. I’d like to see you and Mike German go head to head.

    “Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution”

    “Michael German, fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program, will testify before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on August 4, 2020.”

    Mike German

    August 4, 2020


    “Increasingly, government actions rely on secret legal memos, classified court opinions, and unpublished regulations. We’re working to expose and curtail this epidemic of secret law.”


  4. Watching the going-ons from afar — Sweden — I have a question. Is there a theory that white supremacists participate in the BLM demonstrations in order to be able to partake in the violence and vandalism?! They would have to be heavely disguised, would they not? They’d be outnumbered and in deep trouble if found out by Antifa (and even by nonviolent demonstrators), would they not? Also, would they really be there at all? Isn’t the message of these demonstrations the opposite to what these groups strive for? I watched most of the senate hearing and was struck by how senators of the Democratic persuasion only spoke of white supremacists. There’s no doubt in my mind that these groups are behind a lot of bad things, it’s just that I don’t understand how they are involved in the present situation.

    1. Yep, they are not really involved. White supremacy involvement in the riots is a wet dream of the american left, and can only be taken seriously when you realize Antifa themselves espouse white supremacy views (which they sometimes do):

      1. Thanks for your reply, corpoblogger. I’m listening to the video, even though I don’t get everything due to them speaking so fast.

      2. …or when antifa’s body count includes African-Americans, as it did during the Last Days of #CHOP.. More recently, a Black supporter of President Trump was stabbed by an antifa commando.

    2. Mats, they are generally NOT involved. They are sitting back eating popcorn and laughing at naive white people who thought black crime was not a “thing.”

      Evidently it is.

      1. Imagine Mads that you are a native born Swede with white skin.

        Now Sweden imports a few ten thousands of migrants from, say, Somalia.

        They are packed into whatever housing can be found in big cities. There, they have welfare and refugee benefits, but are under-employed.

        They are bored and become angry. They also want to “party” like Westerners do

        Then you have something like this


        why would nationalists step in and participate? the migrants were doing their job for them, convincing natives that “rapugees” are a very bad idea


        1. “why would nationalists step in and participate?”

          Yes, that was my thought. And it made me wonder why so many of the D-senators talked about nationalists. It seemed irrelevant to these protests.


    3. Mats, Antifa is 99% white. What does that tell you?

      It tells you this:

      Portland Cop calls out the Hypocrisy of Antifa – Speaks out against White Protesters


      Antifa is just an offshoot of the Anarchist movement that became prevalent while Bush II was in office.

      It was initially formed and funded by wealthy young white males with trust funds whose sole interactions with black people when they were growing up were limited to the hired help, and servers in restaurants.

      Now Antifa’s funding comes from people much higher up the wealth ladder, and they co-opted BLM by providing much needed money to BLM (which was dying off as an organization).

      As to the mythical “white supremacist” involvement. That’s just the beginning of the set-up that’s coming between now and the election. I.E.- false flag violence that will be blamed on white supremacists, but in reality was actors within Antifa.

    4. “I watched most of the senate hearing and was struck by how senators of the Democratic persuasion only spoke of white supremacists.”

      This is standard propaganda tactics from the Democrats backed by 99% of the corporate media. They’ve been doing this everyday for over four years now. The Dems know that the riots and violence is damaging their chances in the coming election so they deny it’s even happening and point the finger elsewhere. I’m 52 and I’ve never encountered a “white supremacist.”

    5. “it’s just that I don’t understand how they are involved in the present situation.”

      they’re not

  5. Antifa may not be a terrorist organization, but they sure are practicing to be.
    Remember Chamberlain with his magnificent “Peace in our time” speech.

  6. More On New York’s Suit Against NRA

    The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.

    In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.

    She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten money and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.

    Experts in tax law said the deep investigation into the NRA’s finances showed the potential for state officials to vigorously enforce nonprofit rules.

    The dual suits filed by the attorneys general in New York and Washington punctuate nearly two years of infighting at the NRA over management of the group’s funds, a civil war that led to the exodus of many veteran members and top officials.

    The group’s bitter internal battle burst into public view in April 2019 at the NRA’s annual convention in Indianapolis, when then-NRA President Oliver North was forced out by LaPierre after pressing for an internal financial review.

    The Washington Post and other news organizations subsequently revealed how the NRA directed funds to board members and how LaPierre racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique and on foreign travel.

    The Post also reported how, after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., LaPierre told close associates he was worried about how easily he could be targeted and needed a more secure place to live and sought to buy a $6 million, 10,000-square-foot French-style country estate in Westlake, Tex.

    The suit expands on previous allegations that LaPierre improperly charged the NRA for private jet travel and luxury vacations that had no clear business purpose. The filing claims he billed the NRA more than $500,000 for private charter flights he and his family took to visit the Bahamas eight times over three years.

    Last year, a spokesman for LaPierre told The Post his visits to the Bahamas were for NRA business. But the New York attorney general’s investigation found the trips were private vacations.

    Edited From: “New York Attorney General Seeks To Dissolve NRA In Suit Accusing Gun Rights Group Of Wide Ranging Fraud And Self Dealing”

    This Evening’s Washington Post


      The article tells us that after Republicans attacked the IRS for alleged hostility to conservative nonprofits, state attorney general’s have become defacto enforcers of nonprofit regulations.

      However political New York’s suit appears to be, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has pursued a lavish lifestyle on funds channeled inappropriately from the nonprofit.

      Turley’s column here is about whether ANTIFA is essentially a terrorist organization. Yet a substantial number of Americans have similar feelings toward the NRA.

      1. Yeah Tisha here is really concerned about gun rights and good corporate governance. She conducting a political prosecution and here’s hoping it backfires like they always do.

      2. “Yet a substantial number of Americans have similar feelings toward the NRA.”

        Yeah, well, they’re deludenoids.

        When was the last time the NRA tried to burn down a federal court house?

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