Terry H. Schwadron
June 10, 2020
As the tear gas — er, aerial irritant — starts to clear, there have been a few developments on the Trump White House living history textbook.
In our “1984” Orwellian world, it’s worth a moment of reflection. It’s all too difficult to follow on the fly.
For openers, it turns out that the FBI has found no intelligence “indicating Antifa involvement” in violence surrounding protests near the White House, despite Donald Trump’s repeated identification of Antifa as the source of violence which never happened — as reported by an FBI situation report obtained by The Nation.
And, in fact an FBI source told that news outlet that other situation reports, produced daily by the FBI on the continuing protests, have similarly shown no evidence of Antifa involvement. However, FBI director Christopher Wray told a congressional hearing last week that the FBI is most worried about rising threats of violence, political leanings aside, and specifically about those from organized white supremacist groups.
Meanwhile, NBC News tells us that Trump’s suggestion that of possible Antifa leanings of 75-year-old Buffalo, N.Y. protester Martin Gugino, who is in serious but stable condition after being pushed to the ground by two police officers, actually began as a conspiracy theory published on a right-wing site by a writer formerly employed by a Russian state media organization.
Plus, even Atty. Gen. William P. Barr, who apparently was assigned the role of falling on his voluminous sword to take the heat for clearing Lafayette Square for the Bible photo op, says it was Trump who gave the go order, not him. And, Barr says, Trump’s whisking away to the bunker on the first night of big Washington protests was no inspection tour, but an actual removal of the president to safety.
And the new blocks-long security fence remains in place, while Trump thumps the table and talks Law & Order.
A Bad Screenplay
I wish I had written it and had pushed it as a script. But twisting the truth to fit whatever political purposes are needed at the moment seems the order of the day, especially Trump, but not limited to him or to his side of the divide.
Let’s start in Buffalo. According to Trump, or his original guest writer, Kristian Rouz of the One America News Network, Gugino, a self-described activist from outside the city was using “common Antifa tactics” like “scanning” police equipment to knock out the signal, when he was pushed by the two officers. He struck the ground backwards, bleeding from the head, and lay there as the pair of officers walked away. The incident was videotaped, of course, and the two officers face assault charges, while 57 comrades in the department have resigned duty on a special squad in protest.
But Trump, 73, saw that the older Gugino “fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?” the president tweeted. It is a claim originally posted to an anonymous conservative blog. Rouz claimed that “newly released video” showed Gugino “using a police tracker on his phone.” The video is not newly released, but slowed down and does not show Gugino using a “police tracker.”
Indeed, the whole Antifa angle still lacks evidence. Antifa is a loose network of groups that use direct action to confront far-right and fascist groups, and has been found to have relatively little involvement with the protests, despite rumors to the contract. By the way, last month, Rouz claimed that the coronavirus was a plot by George Soros, Bill Gates, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and China for “population control.”
By contrast, there has been no governmental wrap-up of all police aggressiveness.
In its report, The Nation quoted an FBI report that said: based on canvassing, social media partner engagement and liaison, FBI “has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence.” That report followed a list of violent acts during the protest, including people who threw bricks at police and a backpack found to contain explosives.
None of it is good, of course, but you might think that Trump or Barr could check their own law enforcement groups before blaming any particular group with a purported political agenda — although Antifa’s postings, such as they are, seem more directed at wealth and the excesses of capitalism than at Republicans or Democrats.
Nevertheless, on the same day of that report, Trump announced by tweet that he would label Antifa a terrorist organization, with questionable legal authority to do so, and Barr threatened domestic terrorism charges. Sen. Tom Cotton R-AR has now taken on the job of unleashing U.S. troops against American protesters to “dominate” the streets, as Trump has demanded. His controversial New York Times op-ed never acknowledged that there was no FBI evidence for blaming Antifa.
The Department of Homeland Security has meanwhile revealed that “a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the ‘boogaloo’ — a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War — by shooting in a crowd,” as reported by Salon magazine.
Federal prosecutors in Las Vegas have charged three men as members of the far-right extremist “Boogaloo” movement with multiple violations of conspiracy to cause destruction during protests, as well as possession of Molotov cocktails.
And Politico noted that the FBI also found evidence that “suspected anarchist extremists and militia extremists allegedly planned to storm and burn the Minnesota state Capitol.”
In some cases, far-right groups have sought to stage Antifa threats of violence on social media. Twitter said it had shut down a fake Antifa account after it was linked to
to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a “hate group.” Just to help dad, Donald Trump Jr. shared a screenshot of the account calling for violence in residential areas.
And so, it goes on, with one conservative source citing another, and repeating unfounded claims until they reach the White House and come out as quasi-truth.
We have achieved a goal in which Trump can say anything without factual basis, twist the use any term or video for personal gain, as long as he identifies an enemy to stand for “I don’t like it.”
It’s just the kind of thing that might piss off Antifa.