The “Cultural Fascism” of Andy Ngo and Quillette
by Marcus Otono
There was another clash between the fascists of the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer and the anarchist collective known as Antifa in Portland, OR the weekend of June 30th. While these dustups have become quite commonplace since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, there was a qualitative difference in this time and some of the previous battles between these two ideologically opposite forces. That difference was the beating and injury of a so-called “journalist” for the on-line and right-wing platform called Quillette.
His name is Andy Ngo and he’s a gay man of Asian, specifically Vietnamese, extraction, two details that added another layer of confusion to this incident in this most recent clash.
Predictably, the mainstream media in the US, almost universally, fell all over themselves condemning the “brutality” of the Antifa protestors and the audacity of them for attacking a “journalist” even if he was a “journalist” of the “conservative” variety. Jake Tapper of CNN tweeted that, “Antifa regularly attacks journalists. It’s reprehensible”. Matthew Gertz, a senior fellow at the Media Matters for America think tank, said that “It’s not acceptable to assault journalists, no matter how much you hate their work.” Other op-ed pieces chimed in on the attack, all mentioning the supposed “fact” that Ngo was a “conservative” journalist. From all the flack generated by the media, you would think that Antifa had attacked Tucker Carlson and strangled him with his bow-tie.
And of course this solid wall of support for this “conservative journalist” has led to the threat of governmental interference in calls for the repression of Antifa as a “domestic terrorist” organization. The Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, has called for a federal investigation of Portland’s mayor and of Antifa. Cruz has also recently followed up his rhetoric by introducing a resolution calling for the repression of Antifa as “domestic terrorists” The head of the local police union in Portland also denounced the mayor telling him to allow the police free rein to stop the violence in the streets, never mind that the violence has been promoted by the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and covertly, by Quillette itself and Andy Ngo. For the most part the Antifa grouping- which, by the way, is not an organization, but a collection of like-minded individuals- has merely responded to the fascist invasions in their town. After all, you haven’t seen Antifa heading to Idaho to take on the Proud Boys on their home turf. If they had, it would certainly have been plastered across all the news platforms in the US in “the end of the world” headlines.
Andy Ngo and Quillette- Cultural Fascists
In truth Andy Ngo and the media platform that he claims to be an editor with, is not a totally innocent bystander in all this. Although Quillette claims to be an arm of the press/media, they do cover events from a particular political slant. And that slant is slightly more right wing than just “conservative”. Their slant makes Fox News seem liberal by comparison. Quillette and Ngo has had a close relationship with noted fascist groups and individuals since their inception and they’ve made it a priority to protect these groups and individuals from the consequences of their oration and actions. So calling Ngo and Quillette “conservative” is like calling a rattlesnake a “reptile”. It’s not a lie, but it certainly doesn’t give the entire picture.
Just by looking at the history of Ngo and Quillette will show a pattern of behavior and a slant that, if not explicitly fascist, definitely shows a close working relationship with fascists and fascist groups. Instead of being a “conservative” journalist, Ngo should be more aptly titled a “far right advocacy journalist”. In other words, he doesn’t really even pretend to show both sides of any issue, just the far right side.
Not that this is a negative in and of itself. We at the League for the Fifth International also are writers who advocate for a particular political viewpoint. The difference is that we wouldn’t expect to show up at a Trump rally unprepared for a violently negative reaction. Our logo alone would assure this reaction. The point is he was a noted and known advocate for fascists showing up at a rally where there were people who were opposing fascist violence and violent rhetoric with their own version of street self-defense. Apparently his reputation as a fascist sympathizer preceded him and he paid the price for that reputation.
The following are some examples of this relationship and patterns of behavior. First of all Ngo took a sign against alcohol in a majority Islamic London district and extrapolated it into an entire scare piece on Islam taking over Britain, playing into the anti-Muslim, Brexit hysteria of the Boris Johnson, Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage ilk. Another example of his cozyness with the Proud Boy/Patriot Prayer network is showing up shortly before members of these groups, spoiling for a fight against Antifa, appeared at a Portland watering hole called the Cider Riot which was a noted “safe space” for Portland leftists, which included Antifa members. His group of “journalists” got there in plenty of time to get the best camera angles to record the ensuing brawl. It’s not a stretch to figure that he was tipped off by his Proud Boy sources.
A final example is the Quillette “research” piece on Twitter that supposedly showed a bias against “conservative” groups and people. This research included groups like the American Nazi Party, Proud Boys, Traditionalist Workers Party, and the League of the South as victims of this “harsh” Twitter” treatment. It also used as examples of Twitter “discrimination” against conservatives notables like David Duke formally of the KKK, Richard Spenser noted white nationalist, and Gavin McInnes, founder of the above noted Proud Boys group which advocates for “western chauvinism”. These groups and people can all be considered fascist or white supremacist and are considered to be so by the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL is definitely not a “communist” organization and has a long history of calling out fascism wherever it appears and it has appeared in Portland with some regularity since 2016.
The Not-So-Hidden Agenda of Ngo and Quillette
Andy Ngo and Quillette are just a couple of examples of the most recent attempts by the far right to legitimize themselves as a player in American politics. Since the election of Donald Trump they have been constantly rebranding their version of hate speech against POC, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, both Muslim and Latinx and any oppressed group that’s not the “normal” of the majority population. And of course, Communists, socialists, and trade union advocates because these are usually the ones who can most effectively lead a resistance to fascist ideas.
The leaders of this disgusting community have studied enough history to know that in times of capitalist distress, like now, the populace of any country can fall prey to the most rabid ideas that blame the “other” for current problems. As such, it’s a valuable tool for the ruling class to divert systemic blame away from capitalism and onto the most vulnerable populations.
They also know that Hitler’s rise in Germany was mainly accomplished, not because the majority of the populace agreed with the ideas of the Nazis, but because there wasn’t an organized and unified resistance by that majority to the emotional appeals by the fascists to the worst aspects of humanity. You can’t out argue fascists because fascists don’t care about argument. Fascists care about owning the streets and intimidating their opposition. The way to fight fascism is by denying them a platform to spread their ideas and emotional appeals to the general population. If they’re allowed a free hand to spread their filth, then a solid portion of the people will follow the trail of slime because it’s easier, for many, to blame some stereotypical “other” than it is to blame the entirety of the system that’s failing.
And this is why Antifa is important and why it’s being so vilified by the press today in the wake of the beating of Andy Ngo. At present, Antifa is the only group- if it can even be called a group- that is actually standing up to the fascists in the streets where the real battle against fascism is fought. If they can cripple Antifa and, by extension the rest of the militant left, they will have cleared a path for fascism to come to America.
Antifa- The Problems of Anarchy Against Fascism
That said, it’s not difficult to point out problems with the Antifa response to fascist ideology.
There is, however, one critique that has been raised on many right-wing web sites and blogs that is somewhat spurious. That is the fact that Antifa is overwhelmingly white. Not that this critique is untrue, just that it’s mostly irrelevant, especially when it comes to Portland, OR.
Several reason actually make this argument against Antifa irrelevant. First and foremost is that Antifa is reactive. They face the fascists on home turf so to speak, they don’t go elsewhere to face them. Also, you work with what you have. Portland is overwhelmingly white as a city, with only a little less than 6% of the population being black. In fact, the second biggest minority in Portland is Asian, Ngo’s ethnicity, at around 7.5%. So since white people make up 77% of the population in this city, it should come as no surprise that Antifa is majority white. And although fascism is a deeply racist and white supremacist ideology, the first people that the Nazis came after were the communists, then the socialists, then the trade unions, which includes many white skinned people as members of these groups. This fact of history is not lost on the members of Antifa who mostly identify as communists or socialists, even if it’s a non democratic-centralist and anarchist variety of these beliefs.
But to sum up, we don’t disagree with the premise that fascists need to be confronted on the streets. Nor do we disagree with the need for self-defense, both on an individual basis and class wide. We just disagree with using a tactic as a strategy for confronting and destroying the rise in fascism.
Antifa does nothing more, to this point, than to turn a deadly serious threat to left wing ideas in this country into a version of “Fight Club”. And as satisfying as this might be on an individual basis, it does nothing to confront the underlying causes that have made the rise of fascism in Trump’s America into an issue in the first place.
Of course this has always been a problem with anarchism as a political system and, as stated numerous times here and elsewhere, Antifa is mostly an anarchist collective rather than a group. Or even a movement. Until we can turn the US working class into a class for itself, individual actions, even if performed in a group setting, will not be effective long-term in stunting the growth of fascism. For the most part, these types of actions will just as likely lead to more repression of the left than the right. Remember, fascism is a capitalist ideology, albeit one the ruling class would prefer not to use unless they have to. But with the economic stagnation of the Long Depression and a looming “Greater” Recession becoming more and more likely, the fascism that has arisen within the right populism of Trump is a precursor of harsher battles to come. Battles that we must be prepared for with a strategy, rather than just a reiteration of the same tactic.
We all need to get behind a strategy that’s laid out in an Action Program for the US that can ultimately lead to workers taking power in society. And that strategy probably won’t involve beating up journalists, no matter how odious they and their fellow travelers are.
Antifa is akin to a defensive wall and, as stated above, a reactive one at that. Only strategic thinking that will fold the wall into the disciplined force of a workers’ militia of all colors at the service of the wider working class can turn that defensive wall into an offensive force that can actually take power and smash fascism.