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.


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

  1. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist” But, no.

    The greatest trick the Democratic Party ever pulled is convincing the world that they’re not holding antifa’s leash.

    1. Trump was pilloried during and after the Charlottesville protests for saying there were good people on both sides. Biden has been lionized for only praising the leftists in that melee, calling them “courageous Americans”. Snopes.com basically said the claim Biden praised antifa was “mostly false” because Biden did just what Trump did – he didn’t pase his remarks to praise some leftists and not condemn others.

      So, let’s hold Biden to the same standards we’re holding Trump to. It’s too late to do that for the Charlottesville riot, but now we have a stabbing and two deaths by gunshot inflicted in areas where antifa’s allegedly held “peaceful protests”. Condemn both groups or none.

      President Trump should practice holding Biden’s feet to the fires in America’s cities lit by Biden’s “courageous Americans”. If the President has researchers to compile antifa’s record of bloodshed, let them do their jobs.

      Make sure the voters know they have a choice. NO ONE one on the Democrat side of Congress has yet condemned antifa. Senator Tim Kaine’s son is in antifa, and Kaine’s not addressed that issue yet. Rep Maxine Waters has called out for public shaming of people in the Republican Party. She hasn’t uttered one word against antifa. The voters can choose between fans of public violence when it suits their party, letting the people who like public violence go home on January 2021. I don’t have an issue with Republicans who support white supremacists go home from Congress for good. Let’s make sure antifa’s fans in Congress leave next January, too.

  2. Interesting – I had to look up the term “Boogaloo Boys” because I had never head it before. Wikipedia has a long and relatively skewed page (mostly repetition) while searching for Antifa returns next to nothing. If you happen to figure out that Rose City Antifa is the only domestic reference you are treated to a paragraph or two of inconsequential information. Is Antifa being memory holed?

    1. ANTIFA has been bragging about itself for decades. They fancy they are descendants of the POUM militia that got hammered by the rebels in the Spanish Civil War 90 years ago

      really they are rag tag heroin addicts and the like, who are looking for some fun breaking things, and opportunity to steal stuff and take to the pawn shop and feed the habit

    2. Welcome to wikipedia’s “consensus model” – which sounds democratic until you realize that admins exist to make sure the Left can overturn any vote on content that they lose. People with outside lives soon figure out between the left wing and their friendly admins, life’s far too short to keep undoing the slanted point-of-view in things like their article on antifa.

  3. If Trump or Biden uses a cuss words, can that be quoted on this blog? I employed piglatin for a cuss words and got “moderated” off the blog.

  4. A leaderless government is an anarchy — that is, no rulers. Anarchy is difficult to attain. We humans, being human, establish hierarchies. Some families, I suppose, have no leader, and practice leaderless Marxism in which everyone does what he can and takes only what he must. Rare, too.
    In Antifa there is no public hierarchy, but still sometimes a spokesman ‘explains’ Antifa. The leader of Antifa, not Antifa itself is our mythical Keyser.

  5. Antifa uses bullying and intimidation as their primary tactic. This is successful because most people and even groups are not prepared to shout them down.

    I suspect that at some point, the confrontations will grow violent, and if they do, I don’t see Antifa fairing well.

    1. Lorenzo– No, I don’t see Antifa doing well when truly confronted either. Angry citizens are not likely to show the restraint Antifa has enjoyed from the police. It is possible the police would be asked to stay away. They can eat donuts and accomplish nothing somewhere else.

  6. “…you just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.”

    – Roger “Verbal” Kint, The Usual Suspects

    George Washington

    “With men and officers being shot down all around him, George Washington rode forward to take charge of the collapsing lines at the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755. While riding along the ranks looking to steady the men, Washington had two horses shot out from under him and four bullet holes shot through his coat.

    “At the Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777), Washington rode forward on his white charger as he led his soldiers in a successful counter-attack against the British. At one point Washington was no more than 30 yards from the British line and was an easy target. Despite the widespread fears that he would be shot down at any moment, Washington was heard to say to his troops, ‘Parade with me my fine fellows, we will have them soon!’”

    – MountVernon.org

    America is in a condition of hysteria, incoherence, chaos, anarchy and rebellion.

    President Abraham Lincoln seized power, neutralized the legislative and judicial branches and ruled by executive order and proclamation to “Save the Union.”

    President Donald Trump must now seize power, neutralize the legislative and judicial branches and rule by executive order and proclamation to “Save the Republic.”

    1. ‘President Donald Trump must now seize power, neutralize the legislative and judicial branches and rule by executive order and proclamation to “Save the Republic.” ‘ says the Other George.
      That choice is based on the theory that “rule” is from the top down. In a _Republic_ each local area where people know each other and think generally alike choose one of their number, often a respected elder, to be their representative. These select few group up and choose again to get down to a manageable few. These few elect a President by casting votes representing their own conscience. We the people are represented thus.
      Such a monarchy would be the means to … what? “Save the Republic” by the antithesis of the very definition of a republic? Or did I miss the [/sarc] tag.

  7. I want to move out if the u.s. zoo. What country would be the best to go to?
    Canada? If so, which province? Let me know folks.

    1. As a dual national, Canadian/American, and speaking as I may for Canada and most Canadians; as we have so much in common, coming from common stock, and sharing similar ideals, there is a distinct difference between the average Canadian and the average American. The average Canadian grows up in the shadow of the British Empire/Commonwealth and at the same time the shadow of everything American. This gives the average Canadian a perspective that cuts through hubris such as exists on a national level in the US as well as Great Britain. So, don’t bring any of that ‘We’re number one.’, ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’, etc BS up with you. Come as a citizen of the world first, someone that appreciates the point of view of others, and don’t mention John Wayne or Trump, seriously. Also, read up on Sir Arthur Currie, the most effective General of WW1, on all sides. Take particular not of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the memorial there. Understand what he meant when he said, ‘It was the first thing on my mind when I got up, and the last thing before I fell asleep.’

        1. The construction is hooey offered by people who fancy they’re better than the country in which they live.

  8. Wow. This article proved nothing. Zero. Nada. You simply state your dislike of evolving norms on acceptable speech (fair enough) and then arbitrarily assign the blame to “Anitifa.” The claim seems to be that “I think its out there so it must be out there.” If this were college essay, I’d fail you.

    1. Evolving norms.

      The Ten Commandments don’t “evolve.”

      The U.S. Constitution doesn’t “evolve.”

      The population of a nation doesn’t “evolve” with the exception of invasion and a fertility rate in a “death spiral.”

      1. The Ten Commandments and U.S. Constitution are irrelevant to the point of the article. But to address the latter, evolution has certainly occurred in the form of 27 amendments. And I suppose its fair to say that Thomas Jefferson himself advocated for more radical “evolution” of the Constitution in his letter to James Madison of September 6, 1789. He writes, “On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. … Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.—It may be said that the succeeding generation exercising in fact the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to 19 years only.” Finally, the stipulation that populations do not evolve absent invasion or fertility changes contradicts experience and history, and is just silly.

        1. You don’t suppose it was eminently constitutional to nullify the Constitution and Bill of Rights and “ratify” the “Reconstruction Amendments” through warfare, do you? Everything “Crazy Abe” Lincoln did was unconstitutional (secession is what the American Founders did vis a vis Great Britain and it is eminently constitutional). America awaits corrective action and the re-implementation of the “manifest tenor” of the greatest document on self-government in the history of mankind…or foreign conquest.

          If I go to China, will I be Chinese? How many foreigners vote in Japan? What is the level of difficulty in emigrating to Switzerland?

          “It’s the will, stupid!”

          – James Carville

          “…you just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.”

          – Roger “Verbal” Kint, The Usual Suspects

  9. The persecution of academics with “politically incorrect” opinions has been long underway.

    Pioneer Fund is a charitable endowment which awards scientific research grants to study subjects in human biology and psychometrics.

    It and its associates have been hounded and chased for decades due to the eugenic sympathies of its founder, who established the fund in 1937, prior to the war and all its horrors.

    Nonetheless, it has funded worthy scientific research in hundreds of valid studies with peer reviewed results in scholarly publications.

    Here is a little info, a law review publication which can give an idea of the back and forth over it.


    Before his death in 2012, the Fund was managed by the eminent Canadian psychologist Phillipe Rushton. I am not sure about the Fund’s current operations. but, here is a link to a website which archives many of Dr Rushton’s published works.


    As you will see, some of his work concerned measuring differences among human populations and IQ. This lead him to being denounced as a racist when he was really simply a scholar and a gentleman. I hope the readers including Professor Turley will see this post and consider that this attack on free speech and academic freedom harms the advancement of human knowledge, understanding, and science.

  10. Maybe Bill Diblasio can get the anti-fascists Antifa to man his fascist “check points” into New York.

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