The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

"Antifa" as Antipasto

I get it -- we've just been interpreting the word "antifa" wrong!


Maybe the "anti-" in "antifa" doesn't really mean against, but is just the Italian prefix for "before," as in "antipasto" (or, it turns out, "anticipate"). It comes before the planned fascism, as a way of paving the way for fascism, as antipasto makes us anticipate the pasta.

I mean, yeah, that prefix is usually rendered "ante-" in English, but fascism comes from Italian, so that must be it …. After all, it so well explains the many incidents we've seen; here's Avi Selk (Washington Post) writing yesterday about the most recent one, involving attacks on reporters (real physical attacks, not just verbal criticism) in D.C. over the weekend:

[Y]ou might expect that when Antifa can't find any fascists, it has nothing to fight. That seemed to be the situation this weekend, when a long-planned rally for far-right extremists fizzled into a paltry gathering of a few dozen white supremacists, unapproachable and nearly invisible behind a police blockade as they met without incident in a Washington D.C. park.

And yet Antifa still managed to fight — not fascists this time, but reporters….

A few blocks [from the rally and counter-rally], several dozen masked Antifa members marched up 13th Street in the early afternoon. They carried the movement's red-and-black flag, and some wore makeshift body armor even though no fascists were anywhere in sight.

When a Washington Post reporter tried to interview the antifascists, they refused to speak. When he followed them up the street with his cellphone camera, one of them shoved a black umbrella into his lens and several shouted: "No photos!"

"This can harm us," one of the protesters said, just before someone swatted the reporter's iPhone out of his hand and threw it into the middle of the street.

The reporter and camera were fine, but the incident was hardly isolated. Throughout the day, journalists covering the rally shared stories of cameras being yanked and reporters accosted by members of the same movement that claims it is protecting free society.

At the same event, NPR reporter Tim Mak watched Antifa protesters lob fireworks and bottles at the police separating them from the white supremacists.

Then he ducked as someone whipped an egg at his head….

Robyn Urback (CBC) has a similar story from Toronto:

A member of the news media was assaulted by a protester in Toronto this past weekend.

The altercation happened on camera, in front of police, with dozens of people standing by. The incident in which a journalist was struck by an activist — ironically, at an anti-hate rally — seemed entirely unprovoked: a pathetic attack on someone who was just there to do his job.

Every Canadian who respects the role of the news media (and knows that grown-ups aren't supposed to hit each other) ought to be outraged. Though, at a guess, at least a few readers are only learning about this incident now.

The encounter happened Saturday, when a number of anti-fascism groups assembled to counter a planned protest by the Calgary-based Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) organization at Nathan Phillips Square, outside Toronto City Hall. The WCAI protest was actually cancelled ahead of time, but the counter-protest was held anyway, and it was there that a Toronto Sun photographer was attacked by a still-unidentified protester.

Forgive me for employing a lazy rhetorical technique here, but it's perhaps still the best way to emphasize the point: if that protester were an alt-right fanatic, and the journalist worked for a more centrist news organization, this column — written days after the incident — would be old news….

I'm telling you, antipasto.