Antifa and the Boogaloos: Condemning Political Violence Left and Right

Remember in the 1990s when the progressive left was in full meltdown over the violent actions of anti-government, anti-police right-wing types, that amalgamation of conservative and nationalist movements, far-right militias and survivalists? The name “Michigan Militia” was etched on the public mind. Remember how horrified progressives were to hear the police described as “jackbooted thugs” and their societal function characterized as oppressing the people on behalf of a privileged elite? It sounded crazy. All this talk of the New World Order and something about the “sovereign citizen.”

Imagine the horror if the Michigan Militia took over the streets of our cities, burned down buildings, looted stores, overturned police cars, assaulted black and brown people, physically attacked cops with bottles, clubs, sticks, and firearms, invaded and occupied neighborhoods, and marched through black communities demanding residents get out of their homes—the flags of white supremacy held aloft. Imagine how proud progressives would be to finally see an armed black couple defending themselves and their property against a white mob on the prowl for the black mayor of their beloved city. Imagine that the Michigan Militia received millions of dollars in financial support from corporate America.

Antifa and Black Lives Matter are out in the streets engaged in anti-government, anti-police action, characterizing the police as “fascists,” “racists,” and “Nazis” whose function it is to oppress the people on behalf of a privileged elite. “All cops are bastards.” “Fuck the police.” Such anti-police rhetoric is commonplace in these circles. The things I just asked the reader to imagine the right-wing militia doing, Antifa and BLM are actually doing. They are armed, extremist, organized, and violent. Yet the progressive left, when it’s not encouraging the violence, rationalizes it as “chickens coming home to roost.” White people had it coming. “No justice no peace.” Corporations fund the rebellion.

The doublethink ramped up recently when the FBI thwarted an alleged plot (there is a criminal complaint supported by an affidavit by an FBI agent that has yet to be subjected to cross examination) to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI arrested thirteen men, seven of whom were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia group based (of course) in Michigan. In court documents, Michigan law enforcement authorities write that “the Wolverine Watchmen have called on members to identify law enforcement officers’ home addresses in order to target the officers, have made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse, and have engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the Capitol of Michigan, and kidnap Government officials including the Governor of Michigan.” Sound familiar? Antifa and Black Lives Matter dox law enforcement officers (leading police and other law enforcement personnel to hide their names on their uniforms). Antifa and BLM are explicitly rebelling to establish a new social order, one without the police. They plan and carry out attacks on city governments. 

The media are associating the alleged Whitmer kidnapping plot with the libertarian anarchist movement the Boogaloo. To learn about this movement, see “The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think,” at Bellingcat. Boogaloo joins Antifa and BLM on the streets for anti-police action. Yet the news media separates them out by claiming they are “fascists” and “white supremacists.” Is this true? No, it’s not.

He's not a Republican, he's an anarchist… Trump is not your friend dude |  Simply America
Brandon Caserta, one of the alleged plotters, appears to be a devotee to The Boogaloo, a a menagerie of libertarian anarchist shitposters

The Boogaloo movement is neither fascist nor white supremacist. They are for the most part non-racist, libertarian anarchist. In fact, the Boogaloo, like the Proud Boys, has a multiracial membership. The anarchist flag behind Brandon Caserta featured in his anti-government rants is intentional. There are plenty of pictures of Boogaloo members standing alongside Antifa and Black Lives Matter protestors during anti-police protests. The Boogaloo folk do indeed have a gun fetish. Because the movement is open, there is no mechanism for policing membership; a few white supremacists and neo-Nazis have claimed to be fellow travelers, but there are few actually involved, and they appear to be unwelcome. Gun enthusiasm is a powerful attractor.

Why are the people who are supposed to be informing us about such matters writing about it but not bothering to research it? Or are the running interference? If you feel the need to look and see what the Southern Poverty Law Center has to say about it, be my guest. Just remember that the SPLC is the same organization that claimed Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz were Islamophobes. However, I have an advantage. I am a criminologist whose hobby has been for decades keeping up with extremist groups. But it’s not like this information is hard to find. After all, J.J. MacNab, a fellow for the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, recently testified before the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism Committee on Homeland Security, on July 16, 2020, and talked about Boogaloo. J.J. MacNab is one of the nation’s leading experts on sovereign citizens, tax protesters, U.S. paramilitary militia groups, and related anti-government extremist organizations. What does she say about them?

MacNab tells us that, among other things, “Guns are common denominator in most anti-government extremist groups. Racism is not. For that reason, you could find the Oath Keepers taking to the streets to protect police from Antifa while Boogaloo members join forces with Black Lives Matter against the police.” As for any fondness for Trump, she said, “The non-racist side of the Boogaloo proponents are the exception in that consider themselves Libertarian and therefore prefer Jo Jorgensen.” Who’s Jo Jorgensen? She is the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. Frankly, I would support Jorgensen myself, but I cannot get past her stance on immigration. It’s pretty much open borders. But isn’t that interesting? White nationalists supporting the open borders candidate. Yeah, that seems likely.

The Boogaloo (that’s the name for the civil war devotees wish to provoke) consider Trump a tyrant—just like the progressive left, Antifa, and BLM do. They see Whitmer as a tyrant, as well. Of course, corrupted by doublethink, the progressive left does not see Whitmer that way. The media is telling the public that Trump inspire the kidnapping plot against Whitmer. But this is untrue. Whitmer’s draconian lockdown is what motivated the protests and plot against her. As libertarian anarchists Boogaloo do not recognize the official government as legitimate, in their minds they were going to affect a citizen’s arrest and try the governor for what they believe were crimes against liberty. It’s a lot like how Antifa and Black Lives Matter pursue justice on the streets.

Do I need to emphasize that I oppose anti-police and anti-government movements? I do. That’s why I oppose Antifa and Black Lives Matter. I am a small “R” republican who believes we need a police apparatus to secure public safety in order to keep citizens safe from crime and violence in order to maintain a functioning democracy. That means I oppose the Boogaloos. I just can’t sit by and corporate propaganda proceed unencumbered by facts.

I am aware that shitposting taken literally can lead to very wrong conclusions about the ideology of a group. Just because libertarian anarchists truck in Nazi tropes doesn’t make them Nazis. They’re being silly. They’re fucking with people. It’s a form of trolling. Most libertarian anarchists are not plotting to hurt anybody. They are keyboard warriors sitting in their parents basement. Many of them are just kids. Too many “experts” of extremism don’t know about shitposting or other activities on the Internet. But they do know how to work the public into a hysteria.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.