Last weekend, protesters claiming to belong to Antifa and the “Proud Boys” clashed in the streets of Portland, as well as on the internet. The images from the streets of Portland seem to tell a story of violence from the far-left group, so much so that Trump has referred to Antifa as a “terrorist group.”
Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2019
Of course the notion that Antifa would be considered a terrorist organization is nothing short of absurd.
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For one, Antifa isn’t an actual organization. Their name is an abbreviation of “anti-fascist”. And that’s it. That’s all they stand for. The only unifying ideology self-described members share is to oppose fascism.
And before we get too far into this discussion, I want to make a couple things clear. This article is not a defense of Antifa. I do not condone Antifa. I also don’t condone groups like the “Proud Boys” or “3 Percenters”. These groups show up to protest each other, and when the weekend is over, not much has changed except the far-right talking heads have more ammunition to fuel their (false) narrative that “the left has lost its mind.” It’s simply playing their game, and you can’t win their game.
It reminds me of the line “roll around with a pig, and you both get covered in shit, the only difference is the pig enjoys it.” There’s no way to engage with far-right groups and come out looking clean. In fact, many of these groups require a foil to survive, which these protests give them.
While I don’t care for either far-left or far-right groups, far-right groups like the “Proud Boys” are objectively worse than Antifa (as I’ll explain below). I don’t condone violence purely over ideological differences. If the only defense of your ideology is violence, your ideology probably isn’t that great to begin with (that whole “lower your voice and strengthen your argument” thing).
And it would be wonderful to see our president – who seems consumed by calling out perceived violence from the left at every turn – also call out alt-right violence. After all, the FBI has said that white supremacist groups are as great a threat to our safety as ISIS, and the El Paso shooter’s “manifesto” was peppered with quotes from Trump himself. But I digress.
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The ‘Proud Boys’
Groups like the “Proud Boys” however have leadership structures. After all, there’s even a tab for “The Elders” on their website (which I can only assume was designed by a 12 year old in 2001 and never updated since), and they encourage all visitors to the site to “join a chapter today.”
The diversity on their banner is impressive. They have both types of people: white dudes with beards and white dudes without beards. It’s nice to see these polar opposites coming together like this. It’s a true melting pot.
Many conservative “news” outlets rush to highlight clashes between the two groups. A Daily Caller headline reads “Multiple Attacks Caught On Video During Antifa Demonstration In Portland”. A Fox News headline reads “Antifa violence feared in Portland Saturday – Group must be condemned and exposed”.
Huge if true!
Mr. Andy Ngo and Antifa ‘violence’
Hyped up by none other than Trump, the entire “antifa violence” narrative is largely being propagated by one man – Andy Ngo – who calls himself a “journalist” and attends Portland protests to “report” on the events. His “reports” are misleading at best.
I put quotes around “journalist” and “reports” because Andy is neither a journalist nor is he reporting on events. Andy is just as much a journalist or a reporter as I am. I am neither.
An actual journalist reports facts, speaks with experts on the subject matter, and presents stories as they happened, or at least puts stories in a context greater than a short video clip with a quick caption. Andy does none of this. Instead, he shares videos that tell the narrative he wants to be told, truth be damned.
It’s true that he was beaten and “milkshaked” by protesters in June, as he posted about shortly afterwards.
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) June 29, 2019
At the time, I was public in my condemnation of violence against him. And as problematic as he is, I would still condemn any acts of violence against him in the future. I’m sure that it feels somewhat cathartic to punch someone you disagree with, but it does nothing to further your cause and only gives fuel to your opponents who are already painting you as violent and out of control.
You’re adults. He’s not representing an imminent physical threat against you. Use your words.
That said, here’s a “report” by “journalist” Andy Ngo from this past weekend:
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) August 17, 2019
In the 1:22 clip, you see a short bus with what appears to be anti-antifa protesters on it. The scene is chaotic, at 11 seconds in, you see someone raise a hammer, in addition to hearing someone shout “he’s got a hammer!”. Paired with the caption from the self-described “journalist” (“try to pull them out and hit them with a hammer”), it’s no wonder why the video has over 4 million views on Twitter.
The only problem is Mr. Ngo is willfully lying about the situation, is just a shitty journalist, or both.
I’m going to go with “both” here.
Twitter user Nathan York replied with a picture taken just before Ngo’s video, which tells quite a different story.
We know that this picture is of the same incident because it’s the same bus and the same people around the bus, and you see the bus pull away during Ngo’s video.
So, given the observable evidence we have, it appears that an individual on the bus was wielding the hammer first, and was either threatening to hit or trying to hit the protesters when they lost possession of the hammer.
With that in mind, go back and watch the beginning of Ngo’s video. It appears that they’re not trying to wrestle the men off the bus, instead they’re trying to wrestle the hammer away from the idiot who brought a hammer to a protest.
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A real journalist, before hitting “tweet” to this video with that caption, would stop and re-assess the situation. They would watch the video again, and if they only started recording mid-kerfuffle, they would gather witness statements. They would have an intrinsic desire to share the truth of the situation, no matter what the truth might be.
But that doesn’t matter to an incompetent “journalist” like Andy Ngo. Facts don’t seem to matter to him. All that matters is that he spreads his preferred narrative.
Here’s another video from this past weekend posted by Ngo:
Middle-age man was maced and beaten by an antifa mob. He was knocked unconscious to the ground. His partner or spouse was trying to protect him as mob still surrounded them. No police. #PortlandProtests pic.twitter.com/eAhrMSEKU1
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) August 17, 2019
Again, it sounds awful. But yet again, Ngo is doing nothing more than demonstrating his pure incompetence as a journalist:
Here is what happened immediately before that: pic.twitter.com/SuOcNd4pEq
— Respectable Lawyer (@RespectableLaw) August 20, 2019
If Ngo was a real journalist, he might have captioned it something along the lines of “Shithead tries to pick a fight, gets his ass handed to him. More at 11.”
Here’s a third video that Ngo posted from last weekend, again with a caption that sounds damning.
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) August 17, 2019
The video looks very dramatic. The unnamed man and “young girl” look like they’re being preyed on by the Antifa protesters. But truth is often more interesting than fiction, as is the case with Ngo’s post, yet again.
This is “Based Spartan” (John Turano) and his adult daughter, Bianca Turano. He’s a violent extremist, not a random bystander, and his *adult* daughter is his sidekick. https://t.co/fWurQaH3jB
— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) August 17, 2019
The guy is a known alt-right figure, and he brought his adult daughter along with him to antagonize others. Despite this, “journalist” Andy Ngo again posts a video based on incomplete facts.
What’s the big deal?
All this is similar to the Covington High School incident back in January of this year (yes, that was in 2019, even though it feels years ago). As I wrote at the time – and had significant pushback from my fellow liberal friends about – it’s easy to take a snippet of a video and re-post it without context to make the point that you want. And yes, many journalists repeated the lie that the smirking kid was insulting the Native American man who approached him. And respectable journalism outlets who were wrong about their coverage have since published retractions, owning their mistakes, and promising to do better.
Ngo will do this sometimes, but even when he does, it’s a half-assed attempt to be transparent and report factual information:
It’s been pointed out to me that the female described as a “young girl” in my tweet is actually a young adult woman.
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) August 18, 2019
He’s admitting that it was an adult, but not saying anything about the known provocateur – in his full Spartan regalia – trying to be provocative.
There are countless examples of this, and I encourage you to read this twitter thread detailing multiple other examples of Andy Ngo’s dishonest attempts to be a “journalist”.
It’s about truth.
I wouldn’t take the time to type this up if Andy Ngo was just another far-right blathering mouth like Tomi Lahren or Tucker Carlson. People know what and who they are. But people are taking the nonsense Ngo is posting as serious and as some sort of indictment of the left/far-left, when that is very clearly not the case.
When you look at this web (created by Erin Gallagher), it shows who on Twitter used the word “antifa” in 13,412 tweets in the 48 hours leading up to the clash last weekend.
As you see, Andy Ngo was the largest contributor to the conversation leading up to the weekend, which then gets picked up by other far-right outlets, and of course then gets picked up by Trump.
In almost every single instance, what’s happening is a Proud Boy or other member of far-right throws a punch, and the retaliation to that ends up being the story covered by “journalists”.
As I’ve said before, people have the right to defend themselves from imminent threats of physical violence. But this is the game the far-right figureheads like Andy Ngo are playing. They want the reaction. They want the retaliation. It is crucial to their survival. Without it, they have no foil, no narrative to push, no jingly keys to distract the easily manipulated masses, no story to tell.
It’s nothing more than a game to them.
And the only winning move is to not play.