How a black man ‘outsmarted’ a neo-Nazi group and became their new leader

To understand how Stern came to overtake Schoep’s organization, you first must understand how the Michigan neo-Nazi came to find the California activist.

Stern says that while serving prison time in Mississippi for mail fraud, he formed a relationship with his cellmate and onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen. The KKK leader had been convicted in the “Mississippi Burning” killings of three civil rights workers. Though Killen regularly called Stern a racial slur, he nevertheless granted his cellmate power of attorney over his life story and estate.

Stern was paroled from prison in 2011. In 2016, he used his legal discretion to dissolve the Klan organization that Killen once led. That was his first successful infiltration, and the lore of Stern’s relationship with the KKK leader is what Stern says first drew Schoep in.

In 2014, Schoep called Stern to inquire about his relationship with Killen, the activist said. Schoep asked to see the man’s prison ID card and said Stern was the first black man his organization had reached out to since Malcolm X. Stern said he searched Schoep’s name, discovered he was a white supremacist, then arranged for the two to meet in California for a small race-relations summit.

The two fostered a strange kind of relationship, Stern said.

Schoep and Stern remained firmly entrenched in their political camps, he said, fundamentally opposed to what the other represents. But they also engaged in regular debate: about the Holocaust, the ugliness of the Nazi swastika, the fallibility of Schoep’s white-nationalist ideals and, most critically, the fate of his hate group.

The goal, Stern claims, was always to try to change Schoep’s mind.

“From day one, I always told him: ‘I don’t agree with you; I don’t like you,’ ” Stern said. “I talked to him because I wanted to hope to change him.”

Stern did not change Schoep’s beliefs.

But according to Stern’s version of recent events, he was able to accomplish the next best thing.

In early 2019, Stern said Schoep came to him for legal advice on the lawsuit, which was filed in 2017 by a Charlottesville counterprotester against NSM and other white-nationalist groups that attended the Unite the Right rally.

Schoep seemed “rattled,” Stern said, and began talking about making a change. “I was hoping he was talking about his ideology,” Stern said.

Instead, Stern said the white-nationalist leader called NSM an “albatross hanging around his neck” and said he was looking for ways to get out. He still held the same beliefs, Stern said, but he was ready to cut ties with NSM and start a new organization because he felt underappreciated by his followers and left out of the mainstream white-nationalist movement that had swept the country in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Schoep was concerned about the repercussions of the Charlottesville lawsuit and the legal bills he was shouldering, Stern said, and he confided in the California activist as he sought solutions.

“I saw a crack in that armor,” Stern said.

So he encouraged Schoep to get a fresh start by handing Stern the control of the Detroit-based organization and website.

Schoep said yes.

“He knew that he had the most vulnerable, the most loose-cannon members that they had ever had in the organization,” Stern said. “He realized somebody was going to commit a crime, and he was going to be held responsible for it.”

Stern says he’s preparing for what comes next and is seeking guidance from Jewish leaders. He said he does not plan to dissolve the corporation because he doesn’t want Schoep’s followers, or others in the white-nationalist movement, to reincorporate it.

Stern admits his plans for the website are still evolving, but his primary goal is to offer it as a reclaimed space to Jewish organizations that could help him educate NSM’s followers on the history of the Holocaust.

“Everything is out in the open,” Stern said. “My plans and intentions are not to let this group prosper. It’s my goal to set some hard records right.”

Schoep took control of NSM in 1994 and was responsible for growing its membership and brand as an organization of Holocaust deniers and Adolf Hitler acolytes. The group maintains a website that draws in millions of visitors from around the world, Stern said, and has organized public rallies across the county.

The group, whose members wear SS-like uniforms that mirror those worn in Nazi Germany, was founded under a different name in 1974 by two former officials of the American Nazi Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Signing over leadership of an organization this old is the equivalent of a death sentence in the white-nationalist movement,” said Keegan Hankes, an SPLC research analyst. “It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen since I started tracking these things five years ago.”

Several of the people listed on the NSM website as leaders within the organization did not respond to a request for comment from The Post on Friday. One man, who identifies himself as SS Capt. Harry L. Hughes III and is listed as the public relations director for NSM, said in an email that he is “not involved in the NSM’s legal affairs” and was “not at liberty to discuss anything, until Commander Schoep personally makes a statement.”

“Just like you and the rest of the media, I’m waiting in suspense, too,” Hughes added.

Matthew Heimbach, a leading white-nationalist figure who briefly served last year as the organization’s community outreach person, told the Associated Press that there has been conflict between NSM’s leaders, including Schoep, and its membership. Heimbach estimated the group had 40 dues-paying members last year.

The biggest challenge the group has faced, Hankes said, was being outshone by the more refined efforts of new alt-right leaders such as Richard Spencer. There was tension within the organization about the need for a shift to a less violent, less explicit brand of neo-Nazism, he said.

“A lot of these groups see [NSM] as extremely detrimental to anything regarding identity politics,” Hankes said.

Stern told The Post that he and Schoep discussed this infighting and that Schoep expressed a desire to leave NSM behind and start a new organization with less baggage.

Schoep offered a different perspective in his statement: “I realize that there is a lot of confusion right now, and ongoing legal matters prevent me from being more thorough in my explanation of events. Regardless, it is important for me to communicate that my actions are always done for a reason, and I would never purposefully damage the organization I have spent so many years serving.”

Though Schoep is no longer legally affiliated with NSM, he still faces the lawsuit because he is listed as a defendant.

“It’s definitely not good for him, and it shouldn’t be good for him,” Stern said. “You spend 25 years terrorizing people, you can’t rebrand overnight. It doesn’t work like that.”

Stern, who runs Racial Reconciliation Outreach Ministries, is still sorting through the legal intricacies his NSM leadership entails. He is listed as the attorney representing NSM in court filings, but a judge ruled Friday that he cannot be NSM’s lawyer because corporations are not legally authorized to represent themselves in court.

Stern said he is working on hiring an outside lawyer to refile his motion for a summary judgment on the lawsuit. He has also offered the plaintiff’s attorneys full access to NSM social media accounts, he said, because he claims to own those, too.

“Say what you want about me,” Stern said. “But I’ve done this twice now.”

Our Increasingly Fascist Public Discourse

Consider the concept of “European Enlightenment,” which has no singular philosophical meaning. As a taxonomical category, it could include philosophers as fundamentally opposed as Hume and Kant. Some of its figures, not least Kant, were the chief proponents of concepts that fascists roundly reject (namely, universal human dignity).

.. Nonetheless, European far-right politicians have subtly adopted talk of the Enlightenment as a way to smuggle in more bald-faced claims of European superiority. For example, Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever, an outspoken Flemish nationalist, recently started referring to the Enlightenment as “the software” of “the grand narrative of the European culture.” Borrowing from British philosopher Roger Scruton, he argues that “the European Enlightenment” and nationalism are complementary, rather than opposed. In De Wever, one finds significant overlap with Faye. For example, both condemn liberalism and socialism as leading to “open borders,” “safe spaces,” “laws that protect feelings,” and the dissolution of parental authority.

.. By contrast, consider the case of Steve King, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Iowa, who recently caused a controversy by asking how language like “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” had “become offensive.” King apparently did not get the memo about striving for respectability. But the rest of his party did. Following a public outcry, congressional Republicans stripped King of his positions on the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees. Though he had made similarly offensive statements in the past, the Republican Party saw an opportunity to assert its relative respectability. And so, King was thrown to the wolves for expressing views that many of his fellow party Republicans – beginning with its 2016 presidential nominee – no doubt share.

.. And yet, reading European fascists’ metapolitical dictionaries is deeply disconcerting, because one finds that much of the language – and the concomitant ways of thinking – has already achieved mainstream status.

Faye, for example, denounces anti-racism as a doctrine that “encourages discrimination in favor of aliens, the dissolution of European identity, the multiracialization of European society, and, at root, paradoxically, racism itself.” When that was written in 2001, it seemed ridiculous. To say that anti-racism is racism is a classic fascist inversion of ideals (war is peace, corruption is anti-corruption, authority is freedom). But now consider what has happened in the intervening years. The concept of “reverse racism” has become mainstream.

When Faye asserts that anti-racism is the “[t]ouchstone of the self-righteous” and “the most advanced expression of postmodern totalitarian ideology,” his diatribe becomes obviously unhinged. But aside from the level of hyperbole, is his argument really so different than the brilliant Columbia University linguist John McWhorter’s description of “Antiracism” as “a new and increasingly dominant religion?”

Or, consider the issue of “political correctness,” defined by Friberg as “a pejorative normally used for a set of values and opinions from which individuals are not allowed to deviate without falling victim to social and/or media sanctions.” In the two excerpts below, both from Friberg’s work, it is genuinely hard to tell whether the author is Friberg or one of any number of US-based “classical liberals” decrying the latest trends on college campuses:

.. To take a final example, attacks against so-called cultural Marxism seem to have become mainstream within academia. But, as Yale University’s Samuel Moyn recently pointed out, the term itself is a recycled anti-Semitic trope that has been bouncing around on fascist message boards for years.

In reading Faye and Friberg and seeing the many overlaps with contemporary political discourse, it is difficult to avoid the thought that the fascists are winning the semantic war. To be sure, many of the American and European liberals wringing their hands about the “far left” and gender studies would reject Nietzsche and be called, by the far right, “globalists.” These are not fascists. And yet, we should not forget how easy it has been for some thinkers and politicians – Germany’s FDP is our era’s Exhibit A – to drift there from neoliberalism.

THE FASCIST SINGULARITY
Similar slippages can occur in other areas. For example, some anti-nationalist public intellectuals are increasingly pressing for a debate about IQ differences between racial groups, if only to signal their own commitment to the truth. And others are urging us to recognize the Enlightenment as the signal achievement of civilization, as if it was the Europeans who invented reason and bestowed it on the rest of humankind. As Gingrich understood when he included terms like “debate” and “listen” on the positive side of his ledger, appeals to reason can serve almost any end. Hence, Friberg assures us that reason is on the side of limited immigration.

Likewise, fascist ideologues constantly hold up and defend meritocracy as an ideal. But so, too, do all of the “globalists,” as well as the libertarians in Silicon Valley. In the event of an environmental catastrophe, it is not difficult to imagine free marketeers opting for ultra-nationalism as the best survival strategy, or tech billionaires deciding that society should be run by the “winners” – that is, people like them.

.. In its original usage, the term “alt-right” encapsulated somewhat distinct anti-democratic ideologies, among them the philosopher Nick Land’s “Dark Enlightenment.” According to Land, democracy is inevitably corrupting, and democratic states thus should be replaced by “Gov-Corps” that are run as corporations and managed by a CEO. The guiding principle would be “No voice, free exit,” meaning that citizens would have no say in policymaking, but could leave whenever they wanted (as if self-exile – one of the harshest punishments throughout antiquity – is cost-free)

According to Quartz’s Olivia Goldhill, the Dark Enlightenment has attracted a number of prominent supporters in Silicon Valley, including, apparently, the venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who has been channeling some of its tenets in his speeches.

Scholars who write about the Dark Enlightenment have employed the term “fascism” to describe it. The danger now is that distinct far-right anti-democratic movements, from European and American ethno-nationalism to techno-corporatist strains like the Dark Enlightenment, are converging, albeit with supporters who have been drawn in for different reasons.

.. the objective of fascist metapolitical dictionaries like those by Faye and Friberg is to insinuate innocent-sounding terms into public discourse in order to make once-unacceptable anti-democratic ideologies seem benign, thereby lessening public opposition to, if not licensing, anti-democratic action. When the fundamental democratic principle of equal respect is recast as “political correctness,” it is no surprise that people would become more accepting of politicians calling entire immigrant groups “rapists” and “snakes.”

.. we do not know if it is possible to adopt the language of hysteria about leftists, unions, Marxism, gender, and immigrants without also adopting other parts of the fascist package.

.. Intellectuals from Klemperer to James Baldwin have warned us about the costs of defeat in the semantic war, which we lose by adopting the vocabulary of our enemies.

Transcript of Richard Spencer’s Speech at Texas A&M

I’m just curious; I want to do a bit of a demographic study. If you’re a member of the media, please raise your hand. Okay, okay, put your hand own, please. That’s a very offensive gesture. Shut it down. We knew you were the lying media, but for God’s sake, that’s out of hand.

.. I actually did grow up in Texas, so I am proud to say, the Alamo did nothing wrong.

.. It is certainly the expression of the desire of a mainstream media to slander and just silence us with one thirty second footage.

.. But I think it also says something about the life of the Alt Right. We don’t allow other people to tell us what we can joke about. We don’t play by their rules. We have fun, we can be outlandish, and that is never going to stop.

.. So, the Alt Right can’t be defined by something from the past. We can’t be trapped in the past. But we also need to go forward guilt-free. We need to be high energy, we need to have fun, we need to be a little outlandish, we need to trigger the world. So all I would say is: keep it up. I love you all.

.. So what is the Alt Right? When I first started using that term, it was about mid-2008, and at that point, I think the Alt Right was fairly, you could say, negative in its meaning. We didn’t quite know exactly what it was. I knew that something was profoundly wrong with mainstream conservatism. That was evident enough with the George W. Bush administration, with the neoconservatives disastrous wars in Iraq and so on, and with the rest of the mainstream Right offering no answers, the religious Right, all that kind of stuff. I knew that we had to have a new starting point. I also knew that we needed to — this wasn’t a matter just of tweaking the Right, as it is — this was really the matter of a new beginning. Of a new starting point for conservatism in America.

You can actually look at the starting point of the conservative movement, and they talk about global capitalism, and free markets, and the Constitution, and vague Christian values of some sort. But they never ask that question of “Who are we?” They never ask that question of identity. They probably assumed it. They probably assumed a white America, a European America, but they never really asked about it and they were never really conscious of it.

.. the conservative movement became, in its way, a mirror reflection, a photographic negative, of the Soviet Union. It became an ideological nation, it became a nation based on abstract values, like “muh freedom,” “muh democracy,” “muh bombin’ muh commies and Muslims.” It was never a place; it was never a people; it was a kind of ideology. That’s what conservatism was.

.. So, in a way, George W. Bush was the founder of the Alt Right. He was at least the founder of the term, because I knew that we had to get away from that. We had to get away from him.

..  the Alt Right evolved, it took on new meanings, and in a way it was outside of my control

.. the Alt Right has been organic, that’s why it has succeeded, precisely because other people have picked it up and they have added meanings to it, and so on.

.. After I dropped out of graduate school, I worked in what you could call the anti-war conservative movement

.. I had an idea of where that new starting place was going to be. And that new starting point was going to be identity. And that was going to be the question that we asked first.

.. So what is identity? In a way, it’s the question “who are you?” We all have many different identities. You could say that you’re a student at Texas A&M. You’re into weight-lifting. You went to a Star Trek convention. You like to wear sweatpants. These are elective identities. They say something about us, but they’re elective.

.. you could say, “I’m a citizen of the United States. I grew up somewhere. We all grew up somewhere. We’re all part of something. We all come from someplace.

.. You can go even deeper, and say, “These are my parents. This is my family.” The Left in the eighteenth century had this line “an accident of birth.” An accident of birth. No birth is an accident. There’s no historical or cosmic accident in birth. You come from somewhere. You have parents. They have parents, they have a history. So you’re part of a family. And you grew up somewhere. And you can go deeper, and you can say that you are part of an ethnicity and you are ultimately part of a race.

.. You might not like this. You might really resonate to the idea that we’re all individuals, we’re all citizens. “We’re just Americans. I don’t see color. But color sees you.

.. We all see color. And race isn’t just color. Color is, in a way, a minor aspect of race. But you’re part of something. Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a bigger extended family. You’re part of this world; you’re part of this history. And that race has a story to tell.

.. As a European, I can tell a story about people, people I never will know. Our lives stretch back to prehistory. We first started to become ourselves in the Greek and Roman world. So there’s a story that involves people you’ve never met. As a European, I can tell this story about the Greeks and the Romans, about the foundation of our civilization, about empire, about the coming of Christianity.

.. Sure, Europe’s a place. It’s a place on the map, the people, the blood and its spirit.

.. I think if I were an African-American I could tell a very different story. If I were to say what that story would be, it would be about being rooted in an African continent, and enslaved and kidnapped, and going through trials that perhaps I cannot imagine, but then becoming a people. You’re still a people. That’s the story I would tell. But it’s a different story.

.. So that’s what it means to be part of a race. A race is genetically coherent, a race is something you can study, a race is about genes and DNA, but it’s not just about genes and DNA. The most important thing about it is the people and the spirit. That’s what a race is about.

.. A lot of white people do not want to have a race. They say, “Oh, I’m just an individual. I’m just an American.” You have a race whether you like it or not. You’re part of a race whether you like it or not.

..  When a Syrian refugee — so called — whether they’re from Syria or Africa or somewhere else in the middle east, when they enter Europe, they don’t look at anyone as “Oh, look, lookee there, this man, he’s Bavarian. Oh, he’s a Bavarian Catholic. Oh look, this guy must be from Ireland. Hmm, interesting. He’s Italian.” No, they don’t see that at all. They see us as white; they see us as white men. They see us as a race, and our enemy can see who we are whether we want to define ourselves as such or not. We are white.

.. You can go up, you can look at elective identities — I’m into weightlifting, I’m into Star Trek — and you can keep going down, and you go down, and down, and down, and you get to the root of identity. You get to that base, where you can’t go any further. And that is race.

.. It was an open country for Europeans who confronted people who were radically different than they were. And that confrontation, I’ll be honest, was terrible, bloody and violent. It was terrible, bloody and violent, but we conquered this continent. Whether it’s nice to say that or not, we won. And we got to define what America means, we got to define what this continent means. America, at the end of the day, belongs to white men.

.. I re-watched perhaps my favorite movie, which is John Ford’s The Searchers.

.. But we won’t be out on that limb forever. At some point, Texas is going to be a wonderful place to live. It’s going to be a great place to live. But perhaps our bones have to be in the ground before that will happen.”

.. Texas is a wonderful place to live. And there are a lot of the white man’s bones in the ground to make that happen. White people did it. And I’m not going to ever claim that there wasn’t a lot of brutality that went along with it. But we did it. Our bones are in the ground, we own it, and at the end of the day, America cannot exist without us. We defined it. This country does belong to white people, culturally, politically, socially, everything. We defined what America is.

.. it’s not just whoever happened to do the labor. Other people could have done it. But no one could have imagined it, no one could have designed it, because no one else did. History is proof.

..  Embedded in that slogan “Make America Great Again” is its opposite, and that is an acknowledgement that America is not great. I think we know that. I think we know that in our bones and our guts, that things are getting worse.

.. Previous generations couldn’t imagine that their children would have a worse world than they enjoyed, even a worse world than their parents enjoyed. Now 75% of white people think the country is on the wrong track; who could disagree with them, exactly? Does anyone think it’s getting better? “

..  We assume that America is not great. And it isn’t. And why isn’t it great? America is not great because in my lifetime, America has lost an essence. It’s lost a people, it’s lost a meaning.

.. they don’t talk about America as an historic nation and a people with a story, as the product of a race, of a worldview, they basically talk about America as a platform for all of humanity. They talk about America as an economic system, effectively.

.. Many have talked about the Roman Empire’s decline. It went from being a people to being a population, then to being a mob. I think that says a lot about the fall of Rome. America went from being a frontier, to being a people, then to being an economic platform for consumers from around the world. And let there be no doubt: Americanization, in this worst possible sense of the word, this is what Hillary Clinton was talking about when she said she wanted a “hemispheric open market.” This is what George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg want. They want an undifferentiated global population, raceless, genderless, identityless, meaningless population, consuming sugar, consuming drugs, while watching porn on VR goggles while they max out their credit cards.

.. Don’t deny that that is the kind of passive nihilism that so many in the elite class actually want. They want a world without roots, they want a world without meaning, they want a flat grey-on-grey world, one economic market for them to manipulate. That’s what’s happening in the world.

.. It isn’t just a great erasure of white people. It isn’t just an invasion of Europe, an invasion of the United States by the third world, it is ultimately the destruction of all peoples and all cultures around the globe.

I’m not paranoid, they’re just out to get me.

.. We might not all be able to put it into those words, but we know that that is what America is becoming. It’s becoming an homogeneous consuming mass

.. But just the fact that Donald Trump said that word “great” — “Make America Great Again” — meant that he had higher hopes than the Clintons, and the Zuckbergs, and the Bill Gates, and the George Soroses combined. That he had a sense of height, of upward movement, of greatness, of that thing that makes the white race truly unique and truly wonderful, that striving towards infinity, that however vulgar he might be that he had a sense of it.

.. What we need right now are people who are willing to speak truth to power. I find that there’s this amazing thing about the Left. And I have a certain respect for the Left, believe it or not. I understand the Left in a way. What I find so amazing about the people who are protesting me out there, who are attempting to create the largest safe space in the world of 100,000 people at Kyle Field, is that they think they’re the underdog.

.. Richard Spencer is not the Establishment. Richard Spencer is not running the government. Richard Spencer is effectively a heretic in the modern age

.. Think about those places of power. The US military, public education (academia), major corporations whether they’re financial on the east coast, Silicon Valley, what have you. What do they all agree on? “Diversity is good.” “We’re all the same.” “We’re one world.” “C’mon man, we all bleed red.

.. You might think that that kind of limp liberalism is some kind of underdog perspective, that you’re speaking truth to power by saying that nonsense. You are not speaking truth to power. The military-industrial complex agrees with you, so does every major corporation, so does the US government. You are not speaking truth to power, you are power speaking.

.. These institutions do not want you to have a sense of yourselves. They do not want you to have identity and rootedness. They do not want you to have duties to your people. They do not want you to think of yourself as part of an extended family that is bigger than any single individual, because the moment you have those duties, the moment you have that identity, is the moment that you are no longer the perfect, passive consumer-citizen that they want to create.

.. But I will tell that to white people: have a goddamn identity, have a sense of yourself. Be a part of this family.

.. Having an identity is the greatest challenge to the power structure that there is. Speaking truth to it means speaking the truth about race, about people, about nations, about who we are

How Russian & Alt-Right Twitter Accounts Worked Together to Skew the Narrative About Berkeley

#Antifa and #Berkeley were hot topics last weekend in America — and in Russia

In the case study below, I describe how the narrative surrounding Berkeley was picked up and shaped by Russian-linked influence networks, which saw a chance to drive a wedge in American society and ran with it. Next, I look at the individual accounts and users that were identified as top influencers on Twitter, and explore what they were posting, how they worked together to craft a narrative, and the methods they used to amplify their message. Finally, I look at how news coverage of the events in Berkeley was shaped by the skewed narrative that emerged on social media.

.. Three of the top 10 most frequently shared URLs within the Russian-linked influence network were related to Antifa or the Berkeley protests

.. these trends show that users in the network of Russian-linked influence operations wanted to exploit unrest in the U.S. and “amplify alt-right alarmism about the left-wing Antifa (short for anti-fascist) movement.” For several consecutive days this week, the most-tweeted link in the network was a whitehouse.gov petition seeking to declare Antifa a terrorist group.

.. Once it started trending, the ‘alt-right’ made a concerted effort to flood the hashtag #Berkeley with negative posts about #Antifa in an attempt to saturate the hashtag, as well as to mix in some misinformation and disinformation to muddy the waters. The purpose was to create and then establish control of the narrative, skew perceptions of the event and those involved in it, and influence mainstream media coverage by boosting the visibility of certain content.

.. the hashtag #Antifa looked quite different. Nearly all of the top influencers were ‘alt-right’/far-right Trump supporters, including

  • Mike Cernovich,
  • Paul Joseph Watson,
  • Irma Hinojosa,
  • Mike Tokes,
  • Nick Short,
  • Bill Mitchell, and
  • Dinesh DSouza.

.. Only two of the top 30 influencers were not part of this ‘alt-right’/far-right group

.. Notably, a fake Julian Assange account was the most influential contributor to the #Antifa hashtag (as measured by engagement), and both Roger Stone (bottom row, far left) and Nigel Farage were also among the top influencers (bottom row, last on the right).

.. A final noteworthy observation: The third most influential contributor to the #Antifa hashtag was one of the many fake Antifa accounts (BevHillsAntifa) created in the spring and summer of 2017.

.. Antifa is not an organization

..  Other dominant themes included a concerted effort to connect Antifa to the Democratic party and to smear the name of Black Lives Matter, as well as to shift the focus from the surge of right-wing extremist violence to the individual actions of “leftist” protesters.

.. you can see the narrative surrounding #Antifa really start to take shape. The dominant themes all involved presenting an exaggerated threat and promoting right-wing alarmism about that threat. These themes included labeling Antifa as a terrorist organization, trying to link Antifa to George Soros, presenting Antifa as the aggressor and far-right extremists as the victims, and trying to portray Antifa as the “real” fascists. Both-siderism was also a common tactic used, often in attempt to equate hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan with Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

..Repetition is one of the most important elements of successful propaganda dissemination. Even when information is not true, being exposed to it repeatedly and from multiple sources boosts its credibility and increases the likelihood that an audience will internalize and believe the message. Repetition also increases the likelihood that any given person will be exposed to the message, while simultaneously drowning out alternative messages and perspectives.

.. When people see that other individuals with similar ideological viewpoints are propagating a certain message or position, they’re more likely to adopt that perspective themselves. Additionally, perceptions of widespread support can make extreme ideas seem more acceptable and “mainstream” —a key step in the process of normalization. These social normative factors make social media ripe for manipulation, as it’s easy to create false impressions of support using automated accounts (“bots”), cyborgs, and orchestrated hashtag campaigns.

..The methods used by these “alt-right”/far-right figures to shape the narrative surrounding #Antifa and #Berkeley may look familiar, as they mirror the methods used by authoritarian states to manipulate public opinion and skew perceptions of reality

..The experimental psychology literature suggests that, all other things being equal, messages received in greater volume and from more sources will be more persuasive. Quantity does indeed have a quality all its own. High volume can deliver other benefits that are relevant in the Russian propaganda context.

  1. First, high volume can consume the attention and other available bandwidth of potential audiences, drowning out competing messages.
  2. Second, high volume can overwhelm competing messages in a flood of disagreement.
  3. Third, multiple channels increase the chances that target audiences are exposed to the message.
  4. Fourth, receiving a message via multiple modes and from multiple sources increases the message’s perceived credibility, especially if a disseminating source is one with which an audience member identifies.
.. By focusing on the isolated fights and outbursts by individual actors, a handful of Twitter accounts (amplified by bots & cyberborgs) shifted the focus away from the widespread, ongoing, and orchestrated activities of groups like the

Proud Boys and their “military division” known as the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK), as well as provocateurs and instigators like

.. For months, these “alt-right” and far-right extremists have been traveling to liberal cities and showing up at rallies wearing helmets, goggles, and body armor, and often carrying shields, flagpoles, and weighted sticks. While they’ve gotten (somewhat) more discreet in recent months, their plans for violence — including directions for making weapons to get past securityinstructions for making improvised explosive devices, and discussions about the best gear for battle — are often made out in the open, reflecting just how emboldened these groups have become.

.. They carry this out under the guise of buzzwords like “free speech” or “patriotism”, but their intent is clear: They want to provoke violence.

.. They use these so-called “free speech” rallies as recruitment events to increase their membership, and they know violence sells. They also know that increasing their size and consolidating power requires more mainstream support, and a quick way to get that support is by portraying themselves as brave martyrs fighting against a supposed uprising of “violent leftists” — represented by Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and anyone else they can fool the media into demonizing.

.. By traveling to liberal cities where they know they’ll encounter resistance, they can then frame their violence as a defense against “intolerant leftists” trying to “shut down free speech.” This, in turn, gives mainstream conservatives and right-wing figures a reason (or, in some cases, an excuse) to support their cause.

.. Violence sells. Mainstream news outlets know this, too, which is why they often prioritize sensationalism over context. As Shane Bauer warned in his account of the events in Berkeley, “reporters shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture: Fascists and other far-right extremist groups in America are visible and organized in a way that they haven’t been in decades.” Only this time, they’re harnessing the power of social media to increase their visibility — and Russia is helping them do it.

The Rise of the Violent Left

Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?

.. The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.”

A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”

.. Next, the parade’s organizers received an anonymous email warning that if “Trump supporters” and others who promote “hateful rhetoric” marched, “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.”

..  But in the country at large, some militant leftists are offering a very different answer.

  1. On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer.
  2. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart.com editor.
  3. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

.. these activists appear to be linked to a movement called “antifa,” which is short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action.  .. how the rest of the activist left responds will help define its moral character in the Trump age.

 .. In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism.
.. some American activists had adopted the name antifa
.. To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.
.. Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”
.. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action:
  1. They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet.
  2. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them.
  3. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

.. Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”

.. The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

.. Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert.

.. At that rally, a 41-year-old man named Kyle Chapman, who was wearing a baseball helmet, ski goggles, shin guards, and a mask, smashed an antifa activist over the head with a wooden post.

.. A politicized fight culture is emerging, fueled by cheerleaders on both sides. As James Anderson, an editor at It’s Going Down, told Vice, “This shit is fun.”

.. The Pacific Northwest has long attracted white supremacists, who have seen it as a haven from America’s multiracial East and South.

.. Now, in the Trump era, Portland has become a bastion of antifascist militancy.

.. A local paper said the ensuing melee resembled a mosh pit.

.. Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

 .. What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent
.. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors.
.. activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”All of this fuels the fears of Trump supporters, who suspect that liberal bastions are refusing to protect their right to free speech.

.. Joey Gibson, a Trump supporter who organized the June 4 Portland rally, told me that his “biggest pet peeve is when mayors have police stand down … They don’t want conservatives to be coming together and speaking.” To provide security at the rally, Gibson brought in a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers.

In late June, James Buchal, the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, announced that it too would use militia members for security, because “volunteers don’t feel safe on the streets of Portland.”

 .. Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation.
.. Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.
.. Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.