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NYT Antifa Explainer Relies On A Sympathizer Who Funds The Group

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter

A New York Times explainer on antifa relies almost entirely on the perspective of the man who literally wrote their handbook. Mark Bray, an author and Dartmouth lecturer, not only funds the group, but also has a history of defending and even promoting its violence.

Bray is donating half the proceeds of his book, “Antifa: The Anti-fascist Handbook,” to an antifa defense fund. He explains in the book how antifa thinks about and justifies violence, even against peaceful demonstrators — a view he has publicly endorsed. He also expressed support for the antifa members who assaulted journalist Andy Ngo in Portland, which is the event that prompted the explainer. (RELATED: Meet All The Journalists Who Tried To Downplay Ngo Assault)

None of this is disclosed in the piece, which is presented as an unbiased look at antifa. Instead, Bray is given free rein to speak on the group, with no criticism or opposing perspective from other interviews.

The piece quotes Bray explaining antifa’s view:

“The argument is that militant anti-fascism is inherently self-defense because of the historically documented violence that fascists pose, especially to marginalized people,” said Mark Bray, a history lecturer at Dartmouth College and the author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.”

Many antifa organizers also participate in more peaceful forms of community organizing, but they believe that using violence is justified because of their views that if racist or fascist groups are allowed to organize freely, “it will inevitably result in violence against marginalized communities,” said Mr. Bray, whose defense of the anti-fascist movement has incited criticism and generated support at Dartmouth.

The link leads to a story in the Dartmouth school paper that explains the uproar prompted by remarks Bray made in defense of antifa’s violent tactics on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2017. “They need to be able to defend themselves,” he said.

Andy Ngo, a Portland-based journalist, is seen covered in unknown substance after unidentified Rose City Antifa members attacked him on June 29, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. (Moriah Ratner/Getty Images)

Andy Ngo, a Portland-based journalist, is seen covered in unknown substance after unidentified Rose City Antifa members attacked him on June 29, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. (Moriah Ratner/Getty Images)

Bray adopted antifa talking points in the segment, casting all violence against fascists as self-defense, because the existence of fascists constitutes a physical threat to millions. He referred to their violent tactics as “pulling the emergency brake,” in order to prevent fascist demonstrations from becoming normalized. Here’s some of what he said in the segment:

“I think that a lot of people recognize that, when pushed, self-defense is a legitimate response to white supremacy and neo-Nazi violence. And you know we’ve tried ignoring neo-Nazi’s in the past. We’ve seen how that turned out in 20’s and 30’s and the lesson of history is you need to take it with the utmost seriousness before it’s too late. We’ve seen the millions of deaths that have come from not taking it seriously enough. …

A lot of people are under attack, and sometimes they need to be able to defend themselves. …

They don’t see fascism as a difference of opinion or as kind of a different perspective to consider. Instead they see fascist as the enemy and I think that we need to come around to that notion considering there is no doubt what they’ve done historically. .. I mean, fascism cannot be defeated through speech …”

Dartmouth responded to the uproar with a statement disassociating the college from Bray’s view, and condemning violence in any form. More recently, Bray endorsed Ngo’s attackers, who left him in the hospital with a brain bleed. (RELATED: Antifa Researcher Is Punished By The Press, Trans Researcher Celebrated — For One Clear Reason)

Professor Bray retweeted Rose City Antifa — the self-described militant wing in Portland responsible for the Ngo attack — calling for funds to support the perpetrators. “Donate here to help support antifascists arrested today in Portland while standing up to bigoted far-right chuds (free-range and state-employed alike)!” the tweet read.

Bray also criticized The New York Times for describing Ngo (an editor and reporter at Quillette) as a journalist, in a tweet commenting on the explainer, once again adopting an antifa talking point. “Mostly fine if brief except taking at face value the notion that that guy is a real journalist,” he said.

Eoin Lenihan, who was banned from Twitter after writing about his findings that some prominent antifa reporters are also sympathizers of the group, explained in a Medium post how Bray is often cited in antifa reports as an unbiased expert, by journalists who are wittingly or unwittingly legitimizing the group.

“Relying on Bray as an independent or credible source to discuss Antifa, especially in the aftermath of the Ngo attack, is akin to having David Duke on to objectively discuss KKK violence,” he wrote. (RELATED: Behind CJR’s Hit Job On An Antifa Researcher)

The reporter who wrote The New York Times explainer, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, told the Daily Caller he and his editor were not aware Bray funds antifa or that he expressed support for the perpetrators of the Ngo attack prior to publishing the story, and are considering an update. He said it is “vital” readers know he has supported the group, which is why he included the link to the Dartmouth story on the controversy. (The reference to Bray’s defense of antifa, however, does not make it clear he has explicitly endorsed the group’s violence.)

Bogel-Burroughs did not respond to a follow up question as to whether he is confident given Bray’s ties to antifa that the explainer is presenting an unbiased, balanced perspective on the group.

Antifa responds to a “Demand Free Speech” rally outside of Freedom Plaza on July 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. The demonstrators are calling for an end of censorship by social media companies. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

The only other expert quoted in The New York Times story is New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who criticizes the group’s violent tactics, but only because it might backfire on antifa — not because she condemns the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. If antifa gets violent, the group’s opponents could use that to crack down on the group, she said.

Ben-Ghiat has spoken out repeatedly about her view that President Trump is a fascist. “When we have the actual leader of the country who has declared himself a violent potential killer, that’s a whole other level,” she said on an Intercept podcast.

The Daily Caller reached out to her directly regarding her view of antifa. She said that she condemns the group’s violence, but is “entirely committed” to fighting what she views as a fascist president and Republican party. Here’s her full response:

I am against the use of violence by any group, Antifa included. I feel that violence is counter-productive to Antifa’s pushback against an American right, President Trump included, that tries to depict even democratic liberals like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an “angry mob.”

I am entirely committed to the cause of anti-fascism understood as a non-violent movement intended to save American democracy from an emerging authoritarian state led by a corrupt President and a party (the GOP) with ties to white supremacy and child sex trafficking (see the Trump campaign managers, most recently in Oklahoma, involved in such activities). https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna822461

The New York Times omitted perspective from critics or other sources familiar with the group to balance out Bray and Ben-Ghiat’s take, such as federal and local enforcement officers, or policymakers. (RELATED: Democrats Silent On Antifa Attack, Liberal Journalists And Activists Blame The Victim)

Brian Levin, a former New York City police officer and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, is one expert who has spoken out about their violence. Portland police chief Danielle Outlaw has had several run-ins with antifa, is not shy when it comes to the media, and has proposed an anti-masking law, in order to mitigate their acts of violence. The reporter also made no apparent effort to talk to someone at the Department of Homeland Security, which received a report that the FBI is investigating antifa for plotting an “armed rebellion” at the southern border, and has designated antifa a terror group.

An anti-fascist demonstrator, also known as Antifa, taunts participants as they arrive for a white nationalist’s rally on October 28, 2017 in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The event billed as a White Lives Matter rally is hosted by Nationalist Front, which is a coalition of several white supremacist organizations. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

No criticism of antifa is offered until the last few paragraphs of the piece, under the subhead, “How have politicians and others reacted?” There, the piece notes that both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the group, and quotes House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemning antifa’s violence. “These critics point to moments during which purported antifa members have been accused of sucker-punching Trump supporters,” the piece notes. But then it turns again to comment from Ben-Ghiat, devoting another four paragraphs to a sympathetic portrayal of antifa violence.

The piece cites a study that found more terror attacks are carried out by right-wing than left-wing groups, and concludes with Ben-Ghiat warning that conservatives will overstate and mischaracterize antifa violence in order to shut down the group.

“Throwing a milkshake is not equivalent to killing someone, but because the people in power are allied with the right, any provocation, any dissent against right-wing violence, backfires,” she told The New York Times, adding that militant leftists can “become a justification for those in power and allies on the right to crack down. In these situations, the left, or antifa, are historically placed in impossible situations.”