actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

JournalistI’m Josh Lederman and I cover foreign policy for the AP. I’ve been reporting on what’s happening to U.S. officials in Cuba that would lead them to complain of mysterious medical symptoms. AMA.

Oct 4th 2017 by magancrane • 24 Questions • 319 Points

I'm Will Carless, a reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, where I cover hate and extremism in the U.S. I recently embedded with anti-fascists and discovered that they have a "hit list" of alt-right activists, which they disseminate ahead of protests. Many of them believe that pre-emptive violence is the only way to shut down hate speech.

Read my latest: https://www.revealnews.org/article/antifa-has-a-rapid-response-team-that-targets-alt-right-organizers/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/yj1cela4fboz.jpg

Q:

Most people think that non-violence is the way to go and that violent, aggressive responses could backfire, that is play into the hands of white supremacists by using violence. What do you have to say about that?

A:

I agree. Most people do think that. But some elements of the antifa don't think that. I think we've already seen even targeted violence blowback onto antifa's image among the general public. But I also know that the people committing this violence aren't really concerned about their perception among the general public. I would agree that they have "played into the hands" of some white supremacists. I think that's kind of inevitable. And I know that's of concern to some within the antifa movement. I think that's why we saw so little violent action in Berkeley this week.


Q:

So as per your experience what do you think can be done when you’re at the early stages of struggle, before you get to the point where there are tanks, artillery and heavy weapons?

A:

What some antifa believe is that by disrupting groups like the alt-Right while they're in the organizing phase -- by shutting down their meetings, blocking their protests and violently confronting their spokespeople, fascism can be "nipped in the bud." That's how anti-fascists have traditionally operated for almost 100 years. TBC: I am not condoning. I am passing on info!


Q:

In the media we see a lot of Antifa protesters using violence to oppose other views. Do the majority of members use this tactic, or are they a loud minority with in the group itself?

A:

Definitely the latter. There are many, many people who describe themselves as "anti-fascist" to some extent. The people willing to engage in violence are a vocal minority. But I would say they're largely accepted by the majority.


Q:

what was the socioeconomic background of most of the people you encountered? are any at risk of losing their jobs or livelihood because of their activities?

A:

All over the place, from proud working class to middle class kids. As for losing their jobs, most of these activists don't do anything illegal, and they're very careful about being doxxed. If they are doxxed, I would say they're less likely to face social ostracizing because of their beliefs than, say, closet neo-Nazis!


Q:

what would you guess the race/gender breakdown is as well? also, in general, do their friends and family know what they're doing?

A:

I don't know about the overall race/gender breakdown because the reality is that when these guys amass in large numbers, they almost always cover their faces. I spoke to mainly men, but also a few women. Most of the people I spoke to were white, but there are POC in the movement too.


Q:

what would you say is the most divisive issue within the movement? also, have you spoken to any people who have recently left the movement, or people who have recently converted?

A:

I've spoken to people who recently converted. I think the most divisive issue is probably how to organize effectively and whether violence is ok or not and whether it's helpful or not to the overall cause.


Q:

What's the most dramatic conversion you've seen (e.g. ex-KKK member etc...)?

Were there any unusual signifiers you noticed cropping up (e.g. a disproportionate number of members are into Bojack Horseman or something like that)?

A:

I didn't see any really dramatic conversions. Although the to-and-fro between Alt-Right provocateurs and antifa provocateurs is interesting and something to watch. As for unusual signifiers -- nothing specific comes to mind. Although obviously a lot of these people are anarchists as well.


Q:

Thank you for this AMA. After spending time with antifa activists, how much do you lean towards the view held by some that both they and the (alt)right are "violent extremes" and practically the same?

A:

That's a GREAT question. Firstly, as my reporting shows, there are clearly elements of antifa who are willing to use violence as a last resort against people who might threaten vulnerable members of their community. But antifa as a concept, and as a movement, is primarily defensive. I think the two-sides thing is very misleading. On the Alt-right side, you have groups who want to actively disrupt and harm large numbers of people (immigrants, minorities, feminists, LGBTQ population, etc.). On the other, you have people who are willing to do very limited violence to stop a greater harm from happening. I don't think the two are in any way equate-able on a moral or practical plane.


Q:

On the other, you have people who are willing to do very limited violence to stop a greater harm from happening.

How do they quantify the potential of this "greater harm"?

Let's face it, you can't predict the future anymore than I can, or they can: so how do they measure the possibility and at what point is it suddenly "violence is okay now"?

A:

This is a very complex question to answer, and the reality is that the line is different for everyone, both within the movement and outside of it. But I know there are people within antifa who believe that the US is facing a legitimate "fascist creep" and that they can prevent lives being lost in the future by using calculated and isolated violence now. I'm not endorsing that view, but it's out there.


Q:

That sounds super wanton and random to me, with very meager attempts to color it otherwise.

A:

I disagree.


Q:

This reply seems rather disingenuous. I think we've all seen videos of antifa activists engaging in unprovoked violence, and altogether seeming like they're enjoying themselves. That's far from a last resort protecting the greater good.

Those may well be a small minority of antifers, but to portray that minority as some defenders of the peace who only use violence when it's called for is just false. At least take the reasonable route and say there are bad people involved, just like pretty much every other group in human history.

A:

I said elsewhere on this page that there was a lot of indiscipline in early months. I think antifa are working on that! And yeah, I'll agree that there are people within the movement who act rashly and stupidly, as there are in almost any group of protesters. So, yeah, wasn't meaning to downplay that.


Q:

I hear that for every confrontation in the streets, there are a bunch more events they got shut down or cancelled by lurking in fascist forums and outing the nature of the event to the community.

Did you see a strong online component to the people you interviewed?

A:

Thanks for the question! Yeah, there's definitely a lot of activity by antifa online. But I think that's unsurprising. A lot of these people are young and live much of their lives online. So, there's certainly a proxy battle going on on the internet, as well as on the streets.


Q:

After spending time with members of antifa are you more or less sympathetic to their movement and why?

A:

Good question. And a difficult one to answer. I would honestly say that I'm sympathetic to an overall fight against fascism. And I would say that traditionally, some sort of violence has inevitably been an element of any successful struggle against fascism. But I would say that the antifa, especially those practicing violence and property damage, have been more damaging to their movement than positive. I think in the early part of this year, there was a lot of indiscipline within the movement. I think that's changing.


Q:

Good and well thought out answer. It would be interesting to see how you feel antifa in general are evolving at some point in the future. Glad to hear that the more violent element if antifa are disapearing i mean i strongly believe in violence at the right time and for the right reasons but so far from the little that ive seen this hasnt been the case.

A:

Thanks. Yep. And I would strongly recommend reading Mark Bray's "Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook" if you're interested in the history of the movement.


Q:

Which regional Anti-fa did you embed yourself with?

A:

I spent time with the antifa in the Bay Area, California.


Q:

What do you think the predominate political affiliation of Anti-fa members in the Bay Area are?

A:

I don't think most of them have any time for either of the parties, tbh.


Q:

I guess I mean to say: what political philosophy do they most associate with?

A:

Most believe in some form of anarchism and/or socialism.


Q:

I've seen a number of folks on twitter talk about the danger that reporters put people in when they report and take pictures at anti alt-right demonstrations. Did you encounter any resistance towards your reporting due to similar criticisms?

A:

I did. On a couple of occasions, I was told not to take photos of antifa. And I think there is some legitimacy to the fear antifa have of getting doxxed. Read up on what happened to Eric Clayton for more details!


Q:

I think there is some legitimacy to the fear antifa have of getting doxxed. Read up on what happened to Eric Clayton for more details!

You'll forgive me for thinking that you could have chosen a better example.

A:

My point was that Clanton was doxxed (if it was really him) via 4Chan. It was a pretty massive, organized effort.


Q:

To what extent are there different groups - with different agenda - operating under the antifa banner?

A:

Yeah this is definitely happening. There is very little actual organization or coordination going on between different antifa groups, as far as I have witnessed. (Although of course, that may have been kept out of my sight).


Q:

how did you get started and interested in this case?

A:

We first started seeing antifa as an interesting group after the big protests in Berkeley in the Spring. As a reporter covering extremism, this seemed like a group I should look into. So I did!


Q:

where you scared at all during your time embedded

A:

Not really. I was with known antifa when I was in crowds.


Q:

If we need an 'antifa' movement to fight fascists, that assumes that there are fascists around every corner just waiting to take over the country. How many fascists (on a percentage basis) does antifa think there are in the US and how close are the fascists to taking over?

A:

Good question, and obviously the answer is different for each individual. But I will say that many antifa feel that there's been a remarkable increase in proti-fascist sentiment, rhetoric and activity since the election of Donald Trump. I've heard that time and time again. Antufa point to the fact that Hitler's political party was tiny when it started (a few dozen people) and they look at groups like the Alt-Right and it worries them. My point is that these people are legitimately concerned about what they call "the fascist creep." It's not just some crazy concept to them.


Q:

Do you feel antifa would be better served using a more leaderless resistance model, ala the weathermen, to be more effective?

A:

Thanks for the question. I'm not sure the antifa could be more leaderless. Everyone I spoke to in the movement said it is a horizontally structured organization (to the extent that it's an organization at all). I didn't see any evidence of hierarchical leadership.