Well they're not not Nazis.
April 2, 2019 1:46 AM   Subscribe

A recent Guardian article has shed light on an intelligence report provided for US law enforcement agencies, authored by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center. From the article: Experts say the report mischaracterizes the dynamics of the street violence that was emerging at that time, and is mistaken in characterizing white nationalist groups as “anti-antifa”, suggesting they act in opposition to leftwing groups or out of a sense of anarchism rather than having their own political and violent agenda. The report was made public by Property of the People and is available on their website.

This was first brought to my attention by listening to recent podcasts with Bellingcat investigator/reporter Robert Evans. Evans, who hosts the podcast, Behind the Bastards, has recently been all over the podcast scene. Taking a historical look at the far right activists, dictators, and other unscrupulous figures, Evans' podcast has tackled topics such as George Lincoln Rockwell, King Leopold II and the Koch Brothers.

Evan's new series of episodes is entitled It Could Happen Here and explores the possibility of a new American Civil War. (With some skepticism.)

(I first heard Evan on an episode of Slate's What Next, but I think his best interview was a recent episode of War College, which covers everything from redpilling to police corruption to the excesses of some antifa chapters.)
posted by Telf (20 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
* Notes that I didn't want to put in the FPP:

I was originally going to build post just around Robert Evans' work and center it around the War College episode linked above. I think it's a very important interview and everyone will find something to disagree with.

The interview spends a lot of time covering law enforcement colluding with far right groups and the danger of far right extremists embedded in the military. They focus on the situation in Oregon/Washington and the Portland Police Department.

One of the interviewers on the podcast is a former Green Beret who provides additional insight.

When the Guardian article came out, I decided to just combine it with the Evans' stuff. I do highly recommend you try and take the 90 minutes to listen to the main interview though as I think it touches on many important ideas.
posted by Telf at 1:51 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

Fascists: We will ethnically cleanse the world of racial and religious minorities.
Antifa: We will stop you by any means necessary.
Anti-antifa: We will stop YOU with these weapons we've been hoarding, and then ethnically cleanse the world of racial and religious minorities.
Media: They all make valid points. Let's sit them all down for a roundtable.
posted by Mayor West at 4:54 AM on April 2 [68 favorites]

From my reading of A Force More Powerful, no non-violent movement has succeeded without having the support (either passive or active) of the police and military. If the police or military acted against the movement (see pre-revolution Russia), the movement failed. When the movement succeeded, it was because the police and military either actively protected the movement or, at least, stepped aside and did not act to suppress it. Two extremely simplified examples... The US Civil Rights movement was suppressed at the local level until that eventually received intervention from the National Guard. Indian independence provoked local suppression until it generated disgust internationally and in England, eventually resulting in withdrawl.

If the US law enforcement agencies are enmeshed with white supremacist groups, which is no big surprise, and coming up with these definitions of who they're fighting against (the left) and who they're protecting (the fascists), then effective strategies must find ways to counter that. Otherwise, state-sanctioned force will win the day. Clearly the national government has no shame at this point and would not care if the international community cut us off. They're already isolationists and would consider that a win.
posted by kokaku at 5:42 AM on April 2 [29 favorites]

Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit:
While the body counts from domestic terror attacks mount, the analysts looking into those attacks have been moved.

The administration is helping domestic terror attacks, largely committed by white nationalists and their ilk, to continue. It’s not it can’t happen here, it’s it has happened here.
posted by The Whelk at 5:55 AM on April 2 [32 favorites]

Most/all of the Bellingcat links I see on the blue seem to have an Evans by-line. The articles I've read are very interesting and seem legit. But I haven't seen or heard anything about Bellingcat or Evans anywhere else, and there doesn't seem to be other info about them easily findable via online search (they're based in the UK, so me being in North America probably doesn't help with that). Since I try to be careful about sourcing, my lack of further info worries me a little bit. What's the backstory (to the Bellingcat collective, and/or Evans himself)?
posted by eviemath at 5:56 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I don't know much about either. I was also introduced to Bellingcat through the War College podcast. I was most interested in their internet forensic work on Russian internet campaigns.

Evans started off as a Cracked.com writer and sort of fell into his current role as far as I can tell. He self admittedly got his start by growing up on SomethingAwful but was repulsed by the alt-right development of 4chan.

Bellingcat is interesting. They'll be in the news a lot more in the next few weeks on account of their recent work on MH17. It strikes me as one of the most William Gibson or Warren Ellis inspired organizations on the internet. They offer courses on internet investigation and the next time one comes through the UK, I'd really like to check them out.

Here's a BBC article that sheds a bit more light on Bellingcat.

Similar write up from The Guardian.

Appeared on All Things Considered.

This New Yorker article goes a bit more into Bellingcat's methodology.

Higgins gets tapped to do a lot of panels and discussions at various universities like Oxford and Cambridge.

I would like to know more about how they do there work and how they avoid accidentally putting polonium 210 in their tea. I'm genuinely excited by the emergence of this kind of journalism and the opportunities in organizations like The Centre for Investigative Journalism.
posted by Telf at 6:14 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]

Here's the original interview I heard with Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, on examples of their methodology and some of their past successes.

I do think there's also a potential danger from this type citizen journalism too. How do we differentiate this sort of work from Q Anon conspiracists or Flat Earthers? One could make the argument that this sort of connect the dots thinking infected a lot of people on the American left in regards to the expectations of the Mueller investigation. Hopefully they have some sort of disconfirming mechanism built into their methodology.
posted by Telf at 6:24 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]

The all American origins of ‘cultural marxism’ and conspiratorial thinking

Part of the issue of untangling genuine operations from moon logic is that a certain paranoid aspect seems native to US political thoughts and that the government does do genuinely conspiratorial shit all the time. The answer would appear to be ...rigid proof and critical thinking skills.

See also, “Did you know the CIA ___?
posted by The Whelk at 6:41 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]

My SO is an academic who studies intelligence and intelligence history. He follows Bellingcat and considers them a good source.
posted by jb at 6:53 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]

He has now just informed me that he assigns Bellingcat to his class on Intelligence history.

(this would be intelligence in the security sense, not the psychological sense).
posted by jb at 6:56 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]

How do we differentiate this sort of work from Q Anon conspiracists or Flat Earthers?

Falsifiable evidence? Independently-verified truth?

One could make the argument that this sort of connect the dots thinking infected a lot of people on the American left in regards to the expectations of the Mueller investigation.

One could also make the argument that we don't actually know what the conclusions or the evidence in the Mueller investigation was yet, given that almost no one has actually seen it. And also that a lot of the evidence used in the formation of expectations was right out in the open, happening on live television.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:09 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

Anyway, Robert Evans is great, Behind the Bastards is super great (it's one of the few pods that I listen to immediately when it drops), and It Could Happen Here is great but probably not awesome for my mental health. (I showed it to my husband saying, "I don't know why I'm showing you this. It's extremely your jam and you should extremely never ever listen to it, for your own health and safety.")
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:31 AM on April 2

Infuriating. I don’t want my safety at a protest to be in the hands of some idiot who thinks a Washington Times op ed is a valid source. And such a lazy one, too: “the student union building where people broke windows [only in the Amazon store] was named after MLK, guess they’re not really so into social justice after all, check and mate.”

I was at UC Berkeley when the alt-right kept showing up, and I don’t know what kind of report the police there had — but their actions would certainly have been consistent with one that portrayed antifa as terrorists, and alt-right terrorists as anti-antifa.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:31 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]

I also want to take this opportunity to again point that some of the people involved in the original Free Speech Movement at Berkeley responded to antifa by basically saying “why can’t you handle free speech, you babies?” As if there’s no meaningful distinction to be made between violent police suppression of the constitutional right to free assembly, and the people opposed to a rally organized by white supremacists who were openly fantasizing about beating or killing leftists. Literal jackbooted thugs were marching on campus in body armor, and these famous icons were saying “just let them speak and it’ll be so absurd no one will take them seriously!”

You got played, idiots. Never meet your heroes, I guess.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:44 AM on April 2 [10 favorites]

I'm so tired of people acting like "anti-antifa" is a thing. We already have a word for people who are against antifa.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:09 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]

Anti-antifa = fa. And we all know what the "fa" stands for (it's fascist, btw, just in case we don't all know).
posted by asnider at 9:31 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]

You'll be happy to see my fa tag.
posted by Telf at 9:41 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

And we all know what the "fa" stands for (it's fascist, btw, just in case we don't all know)

I'm pretty sure fa stands for a long, long way to run, but since for the Von Trapps* that long, long run was over the Alps to escape the Nazis I guess the difference isn't all that great after all.

*the movie family anyway
posted by gusottertrout at 9:50 AM on April 2 [14 favorites]

I'm pretty sure fa stands for a long, long way to run, but since for the Von Trapps* that long, long run was over the Alps to escape the Nazis I guess the difference isn't all that great after all.

Captain Von Trapp ripping that Nazi flag in half is pure antifa, even if he is most definitely not an anarchist.
posted by asnider at 9:57 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]

actually, anti-antifa is "Pro-Fa", and it's nothing new. The KKK were lynching people for decades and law enforcement was usually looking the other way...
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:23 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

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