Given the broad variety of my acquaintance, it came as little surprise to me to find out that one of my friends is a member of Antifa — more specifically, a member of the Portland Antifa meta-group, the folks who are causing either all of the trouble or none of it depending on how the Facebook algorithm perceives your desire for news. We had a meal together last week in California while the fires raged yet again back in his hometown. I asked him if it was true that Antifa had no leaders; he laughed at me as if I’d inquired regarding the actuality of the Easter Bunny. Of course there are leaders, organizers, treasurers. How else could we get all of this done? Then he made a joke about checks from Soros. He’s never seen any money personally, but he’s heard stories.
He says that you can hear his voice on a video where Portland mayor Ted Wheeler is being abused by Antifa while attempting to march with them. Talked about the six plainclothes cops Wheeler had — “the biggest human beings I’ve ever seen in real life.” The whole thing was oddly kayfabe. But that’s okay, because he says the protests are thinly disguised parties most of the time. You get out there for a while and shine lasers into the pigs’ eyes or whatever then you retreat to someone’s house and the hardcore shit comes out — MDMA, LSD, the “dab” marijuana with its eye-watering concentrations of pure THC — and then it is time to get it in. Polyamory, orgies, you name it.
And thus it has long been, ever since the Woodstock hippies: the girls do this stuff because they’re naive and the guys do it to have sex with the girls (and, increasingly, with each other). I’ve seen the girls involved, so I’m not going to burn an Apple Store just to make their acquaintance, yet I can see how some of them would have some appeal for people who would otherwise be “incels”. That’s how the foot soldiers of the revolution are recruited.
Above the foot soldiers, however, you have the people who are running the show. Presumably these folks are motivated by more than the chance to hook up with a meth addict while listening to Rage Against The Machine. What is that, exactly? Who are these people? More importantly, what do they want?
This much I know: either the people running the Antifa/whatever colossus are exceptionally dim, or I am exceptionally dim. (A third possibility will be considered at the end of this article.) To begin with, their perception of reality does not appear to align with any available statistics whatsoever. They subsist on a diet of outrage and grievance that has, to be frank, contained some pretty thin gruel lately. The killing of Daunte Wright was originally said to be the product of a racially-motivated stop to harass him about having an air freshener hanging on his rearview mirror; when it turned out that Wright was driving on an expired tag, had a warrant out for his arrest on an armed robbery charge, and had recently escaped a traffic stop on the same grounds by assaulting a cop then fleeing the scene, the New York Times took a deep breath and then ran a story about how another Black man who was not an escaped violent robber was stopped for an air freshener in his car. It’s a fairly breathaking shift to watch in real time, because the purpose is to keep the outrage stoked long after the original fuel for the fire has either run out or proved to be damp in the first place.
Of course, nothing actually happened to the fellow who was stopped for Driving While Freshening The Air, but that didn’t stop the Times from then talking about another incident where a Ford Freestar full of illegal immigrants got deported because they had a tree air freshener hanging off their rearview mirror. The Times reporter, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, took it for granted that readers would be horrified by the idea of illegal immigrants being deported, and is probably correct in doing so. The people who steer American society are, more or less, Guild Navigators. They require enormous amounts of spice to retain their power, and the spice has many forms: cheap or free labor, unrestricted trade, panopticon surveillance via public-private partnership, endless racial unrest, and a money printer for which the rate of acceleration continues to increase until Weimar infinity.
Are the Antifa et al. leaders mere servants of the Navigators? Are they part of the conspiracy Zoom calls? Or is this some sort of distorted fellow-traveling where the black-bloc crowd will march in lockstep with Target and Apple until the moment it suits them to break away?
There may be a clue in the “No More History” graffiti spray-painted on the front door of the Oregon Historical Society, which got thoroughly trashed in last week’s rioting. The people who advocate socialism and/or anarchy on a broad scale in America have to be dimly, vaguely aware that these concepts have never truly worked before. To someone like me, a Jurassic holdout from the days of Western Civ, this suggests the likelihood that these concepts will fail again in the future, unless some sort of magic bullet is found. To the Antifa crowd, however, the solution is to free one’s self from history and the future in a single swift stroke, all the better to live in the perpetual Now of Year Zero. They will consume American society like locusts until nothing is left, at which point… who cares? They have the self-awareness of heroin addicts five minutes after the injection.
Like I said, either they’re stupid or I’m stupid. My approach to society’s problems is pragmatic: get everyone working, make sure that we produce what we consume, stay out of trouble overseas. Their approach is something along the lines of: burn it all, level every human being down to animal consciousness, exist in the perpetual moment, neither sow nor reap the harvest. I’m always struck by the nagging thought that maybe these people are right. Maybe we can all quit our jobs and maybe the food will keep showing up somehow. How hard could it be to engineer such a situation? Is it harder than landing on the moon or building the B-29?
The most likely answer is that I’m not stupid and neither are they. Instead, all of this is simply their hustle. Consider, if you will, the case of Patrisse Cullors. Ms. Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, was just exposed as having indulged herself in a $3.2 million property-buying spree that included a primary residence (with guest home!) in lily-white Topanga Canyon. If you view Ms. Cullors as a ideologue struggling to obtain justice for Black people, than her decision to siphon off a home for herself in Whiteworld is a bitter, cynical betrayal of “the struggle”. If you view her as simply an entertainer or agitator, like Alex Jones or Joe Rogan, then it makes perfect sense. Rush Limbaugh had a $50 million home; why shouldn’t Ms. Cullors have some nice real estate herself? The money was given to her by IBM, Bank Of America, and other corporations. They didn’t say she had to spend it on anything in particular.
(A left-wing defense of the “Black Lives Manor” can be found here, and it’s fairly cogent although it waves its hand at the rather startling concept that one of the primary benefits of advocacy for African-Americans should be the ability to get as far away from African-Americans as possible.)
I used the word kayfabe earlier, and not without purpose. Kayfabe is the underlying concept of pro wrestling, and it states that while the blood and pain may be real (should be real, if possible) the plotlines and stories provided to the “marks” in the audience are always fake. It’s easy to see the entirety of 2019 to now as one long kayfabe storyline. We destroyed the economy and trampled on cherished freedoms for a killer pandemic that kills around one in a thousand people. We saw the “heel” Donald Trump defeated by the “face” Joe Biden, but the kids are still in the cages and there’s still a wall, only now it’s around DC. The Mayor of Portland marches with the people who want to burn the city. Apple turns its Portland store into a memorial for George Floyd; they burn it anyway.
Anything can happen in kayfabe, but you have to exist in the moment if you want to enjoy it. The plot twists and wacky stories don’t make any sense if you look too far back; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a “babyface”, then he was a “Face”, then he was a “heel”, and there was never any real reason for it. (Donald Trump was a “babyface” as a thirty-something real-estate mogul, then a “face” as the leader of “The Apprentice”, then a “heel” as a fascist Nazi politician from fascist Nazi-land.) If we are going to have kayfabe as our guiding principle for real life, therefore, we have to stop thinking about what’s already happened, or what might happen. Just watch CNN and find out what today’s storyline is; they’ll cheerfully mutilate the truth on command.
The reward for being a player in the kayfabe is obvious: you always get a gorgeous home, whether you’re Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or Les Wexner or Patrisse Cullors. You get money, a limited amount of power, a chance to be part of the great game. The reward for being a “mark” in the kayfabe is less obvious, but it exists: you’re entertained, you’re distracted, you have the sense that you are on the right side of history in a triumph of garbage secular humanism that is no less pre-ordained than the ending of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe but is no less thrilling for being so.
Both the players and the marks, however, must accept the same basic condition: that of zero history. So if you choose to learn history, or to learn from it, you must also understand that you are opting out of the game. Which is a miserable choice in 2021. Make it wisely, even if you choose to abandon wisdom after doing so.