On the Outside Agitators Question
Governors, Mayors, Police Chiefs, and many network TV journalists with their security experts are all set on promoting the idea that the uncontainable sectors of the enormous protests that are engulfing America are made up of sinister “outside agitator” elements. These breakfast table theories vary from a slightly sophisticated knowledge to downright ignorance. Downright ignorance generally holds sway. It is a repetitive spiel, and the volume level is almost ear shattering.
American public opinion has always been susceptible to this argument, dating back to the old HUAC red scare of the 1950s all the way up to Minneapolis and everywhere else in 2020. It is a tired old shaggy dog of a story that conveniently gets taken out of its kennel or doggy retirement facility for a walkabout whenever their rule of law is threatened. It remains dangerous though and here’s why.
As their armed foot soldiers have to cede ground on the streets or resort to cracking heads and gassing or shooting demonstrators with rubber bullets to seize back territory, those in charge are continually on the lookout for employing divisive tactics. One of their approaches is to coddle what they perceive to be the more reformist portions of the protest movement. They will describe these people as the ones who have great faith in American democracy, who know that the wrongs can be fixed with just enough fiddling to the system without wanting to undo it and making something completely new that works for everybody. We are told that these same trustworthy people are from the community. The notion here is that the law-abiding protestors are local and that the outlaws, the ones who don’t play by the rules, are foreign. This is hammered home relentlessly. It’s not that different from Trump’s xenophobia.
Trump’s latest broadside against the Governors not being brutal enough could well jeopardize this strategy, but it will not stop it. Such statements might push a critical mass of liberals and apolitical people to the side of the protestors. He can always be counted on to screw things up, even for the establishment. He’s not “old reliable” for nothing.
It is obvious what those with clout are trying to do here and that is to isolate the more ungovernable and committed parts of the movement, and to set them up. Trump’s threat to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization is not something to be taken lightly. Despite the fact that Antifa is not an organization, but a very loose network of different anti-fascist groups across the country, it would be naïve to dismiss the government’s intentions here. Trump’s bluster aside, this sentiment is echoed all the way down the chain of command. Even two of the most liberal big city mayors in the US, Bill de Blasio of NYC and Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, are proponents of the professional troublemaker position.
It is safe to say this. All anti-fascist formations in America are anti-white supremacist. And they are all anti-police too. Any committed anti-fascist activists will tell you that they not only regularly knock heads with fascists, but also with police at the same time. Some of them refer to this situation as “a three-way fight” between themselves, the fascists and the state. This is part of their political modus operandi, it’s what they signed up to do when they announced themselves as anti-fascist activists. They understand this; the fascists get it too, and so do the police. The government’s stated desire to single out Antifa is a clear signal to all of us…if you are an active anti-fascist, their aim is to come after you. We do not mean to diminish the intelligence capabilities of the other side here. They will cultivate this field with all of the resources available to them.
Why is it that when different police departments are shipped in from other places to prop up a local one, or National Guardsmen are deployed from all over a state to a particular city in that same state, they are not seen as outside agitators? But when anti-fascists travel from Duluth to Minneapolis to join the protest, they are seen as foreign interventionists, worthy of utter contempt for causing trouble. Can we smell a double standard here?
Given that there are now protests in over 100 cities across the country, it might be interesting to wonder where exactly these outside agitators are coming from, and how they are getting around. Do they own a fleet of Lear jets? Somewhere is there a Fort Knox-like depositary of anarchists located in a secure vault hidden inside of a secret mountain location?
If there are any genuine outside agitators on our side of the barricades they are the Boogaloo fascists, who advocate joining with Black Lives Matter to press their own racist program, which calls for civil war. These are outright racists who happen to hate the police. They are opportunists, an enemy that needs to be exposed. They represent the antithesis of what our movement is about.
We have no illusions about the destruction and misery caused by wanton violence. Anyone who is cavalier about creating ruin for ruin’s sake should probably do some serious rethinking. But these are tinderbox circumstances, and wreckage will occur. That is undeniable. We also draw a distinction between damage to police or government property versus the burning down of a neighborhood corner grocery store. The former is a target, the latter is an innocent victim. Unfortunately, this is a tragic consequence of how this struggle is being waged.
We are sure that many protestors on the ground are aware of this. But not all of us can be on that ground for a myriad of legitimate reasons, and many rely on information that is disseminated from so-called reputable sources, like familiar faces on the television screen. Watch out for the outside agitator argument! It will be flogged to death. We are about creating a better life, one without their lies, provocations and whipping posts.
* Merci, The Clash