Does it surprise anyone that Trump’s rhetoric has labelled anyone involved in the protests and riots in the US as a “terrorist”? That isn’t hyperbole, that is the implication of him trying to designate Antifa as a terrorist organisation, even though he can’t actually do that on a whim despite how he’s acted during his first term (yes, first, there will probably be a second even after this).
The riots and protests in the US at the moment are escalating. There were videos of clashes and fires outside the White House, various States have been rocked by protests and riots with police and fringe elements (on the “left”, “right”, and opportunistic sides) instigating violence, and their President is blatantly threating using deadly force against the populace. That is, more deadly force than usual, mostly experienced by people of colour.
I am not going to make any judgements right now, but there have been numerous predictions about what is going to happen in that wild part of the world. There are whispers of another civil war or a split between States in the Union (The Chaser had a good headline saying they changed to the States of America). Some don’t expect there to be any change at all, and this will just be another surge of action without any long-term change. The latter, sadly, seems more likely, seeing as Trump still maintains such a huge unshakable base.
This division will only continue to become more exacerbated as their buffoon of a leader incites more hatred and violence. Talking about trying to designate Antifa as a terrorist organisation, for instance, is extremely troubling. For starters, as far as I’m aware, I don’t believe he is actually in a position to do that officially, it’s just more bait for his base to grab onto. While there are undoubtedly groups or individuals that are probably on secret lists in some database, official “terrorist” groups generally have a hefty criteria to match before the US machine will slap them with that label.
Antifa is an interesting case, because while there are certainly groups that fall under it, for a lot of people it is a pretty decentralised movement that has been active for many years, well before Trump rose to power. Not that I’ve taken the time to look, but I’m unaware of any “leaders” of the movement, and many consider themselves associated with it, but as individuals, not as part of any organisation or following the guidance of other members. The implications this may have if Antifa does get designated – or even if people perceive it as – a terrorist organisation are huge.
Take the targeting of Muslims after 9/11, both in terms of the rise in hate crimes and public perception, and the West’s invasive programs that have monitored Muslims and even attempted to alter their behaviour, either by silencing them politically (making them “moderate”, depoliticised people) or by entrapping them in conspiracies to commit terrorist acts. Arun Kundnani’s book, The Muslims Are Coming!, is an excellent source of information on this activity. These programs targeted people solely on the basis of their religion, their “predisposition” (whether it existed or not) to terror, because that’s how Islam is perceived. In fact, they usually tended to increase “radicalisation” in some.
With Antifa being such a broad and vaguely defined “group” of people that cover a range of demographics and ideas, with no official membership or specific uniting trait, essentially anyone the intelligence community deems to be “part of” Antifa could become a target for similar programs if they were to earn that designation. Add in “suspect by association” and the numbers would likely be staggeringly high. If this takes hold, even if only in the minds of Trump’s base (still over 30%, last I heard), then any actions taken that could be labelled as “Antifa-inspired” or whatever will earn the individual or group the label of terrorist as well.
Diving further down the Islamic terror parallels, the “War on Terror” is a global conflict that has been carried out with minimal consequences for US Empire overall. Would it be so crazy to question whether Trump or some equally or more (yes, more) deranged leader could initiate global operations against individuals and groups considered to be a part of “Antifa”? Not really, seeing as the US is no stranger to toppling governments and crushing resistance with immense brutality anywhere they see their interests being threatened or challenged. But as I said, Antifa as an idea is incredibly vague, and if such operations took the same pathway as those carried out against Muslims in the West, well, you can imagine what could happen.
Anarchists have already been thrown under the bus as perpetrators of violence in the US riots – I’ve even scored a few website hits because people are searching up topics related to anarchism and violence (which I wrote a piece about last year). I recall my mum made the joke that my site better not have ASIO or ASIS crashing through our door, and obviously that is likely to never happen, but there is no doubt my writing, even with its insignificant audience size, would tie me in, even if I’ve never been involved in riots or violence of any sort. Honestly, my take is that if you’re not on some secret government list somewhere, you’re not doing enough.
And my position as a straight, white, cis male in Australia is an extremely privileged one, so simply by virtue of not being able to know first-hand the experiences of oppressed groups, I can only imagine how concerning and, in many cases, terrifying these prospects are. Even if my views are “radical”, I feel safe in everyday life while Australia’s own Indigenous population has faced similar fates to George Floyd, with hundreds dying in police custody over recent years, something which I am admittedly not as well versed in as I probably should be. While we may not have as volatile a powder keg as the US, we do have a violent history that needs to be acknowledged and action that must be taken to achieve justice for those under the thumb of an inherently racist system.
Trump’s toying with words like terrorist and outright calls for violence should not be seen as the ramblings of a madman – they need to be seen as dangerous and calculated statements by a powerful leader, because that’s what he is. Whatever your theory as to his mentality is, it’s irrelevant when his position gives him the power to act on it. To dismiss it as anything else trivialises the suffering his authoritarian tendencies inflict on the victims.
It will be fascinating to watch all of this unfold. Hopefully some resolution can be reached, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.
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