On Thursday, Attorney General William Barr stepped out to give a textbook non-apology apology by denying that there was any systematic problem with American law enforcement while saying that “it is undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in our American criminal justice system.” Black confidence in the people who are killing them; that’s the real problem, America.
However, the primary reason Barr stepped out on Thursday, and brought along FBI Director Christopher Wray, is so that the two of them could squeeze “antifa” into the press conference a maximum number of times. Over the course of the morning, Barr and Wray blamed violence on antifa, groups like antifa, antifa-related groups, and people with antifa-like motivations. And while they did admit that there were others involved, they miraculously managed to not mention any of them. So, here’s a funny thing. Charges against 22 people arrested in the first days of protests have now been released, and there is one word missing from all those complaints.
During his everything-is-antifa press conference, Barr insisted that the DOJ knew that antifa was behind every bad thing. Except, Barr tossed antifa into the conversation in sterling sentences like this: “We have evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.” So that would be antifa, and people who are not antifa but were “similar” in some undefined way, and others who were not at all like antifa … except Barr only managed to say antifa.
That there is actually no such group as antifa isn’t a handicap for Barr, Donald Trump, and others who have made it the nation’s number one boogeyman. After all, there’s also no boogeyman. Going after a group with no members, no spokesperson, and especially no legal representatives is double-plus good. With a cherry on top. Because if there’s anything these guys like, it’s punching someone who can’t punch back—and imaginary groups can be blamed for anything.
That’s why it’s not just Trump, and Barr, and Wray who love to go after antifa. It’s Tom Cotton. It’s Lindsay Graham. It’s every Fox news and far-right radio host ever. They can kick antifa all day and never have to worry that the president of antifa, or spokesperson for antifa, or especially lawyers for antifa will ever show up to contradict even the most outrageous claim.
When Barr talks about antifa, he might as well be talking about something as imaginary as fairies, or bigfoot, or honest Republicans. Or he might as well be talking about “people who need to eat” or “people who think air is a good idea.” Antifa is nothing at all, and it’s everyone. It’s whatever Republicans need it to be. That’s the way it works with imaginary boogeymen.
Antifa is anarchists! Antifa is coming for your guns! Antifa is everywhere, and they’re after your cream puffs! (this joke provided for people of a certain age).
So it’s not all that surprising that, as Daily Beast reports, the first 22 criminal complaints filed against people involved in violence during protests don’t feature antifa, or even anything “antifa-like.” However, those charges do include a mention of the race war fetishist Boogaloo Bois, a group that seems to actually exist, and actually love to run around waving guns and threatening people. A group that Barr, Wray, and Trump haven’t labeled as domestic terrorists.
Among the complaints there was one guy who said he was “with an anarchist group” and another who declared that he was planning to “off racists.” Barr is sure to explain that those people are antifa. Or antifa-like. Or antifa-related. Or the third cousin of somehow whose neighbor was antifa-adjacent. And also leprechauns.
Because for Trump and Barr, antifa serves two purposes. First, it allows anything to be blamed on nefarious forces on the left. But far more importantly, the focus on antifa allows the cause of racial justice to once again be marginalized and turned into a political fight where the real issues of police violence against Black Americans can be ignored.