Why Are The Republicans Trying to Blame Antifa(Again)?
What Happened January 6th Was Entirely The Republicans' Doing
We all know what happened on January 6th. I don't feel like I need to lay it all out for you for the billionth time. But I definitely want to, so... On January 6th, the day after Georgia's special election and the day of Congress' certification of Joe Biden's presidential win, hundreds or thousands of Donald Trump's supporters gathered in Washington DC to protest Trump's loss. The Capitol police opened the doors for the protesters, and they quickly rioted and invaded the Capitol Building. Congress evacuated to safety, but the insurrectionists broke into their offices, their gathering spaces, and went wild. At least five died, including two cops, and on that day, maybe 13 arrests were made, although a few more were made in the following days.
As this insurrection was happening, there were quite a few reactions from many different sides. Of particular note was that almost immediately, several right wingers(including basically all of Fox News, Sarah Palin, and Matt Gaetz, among a dishearteningly large number of others) started spreading the baseless claim that it was "Antifa" that caused the riot, and not Trump's own supporters. This is obviously not true.
Antifa is not an organization. It's not some group like BLM or the Black Panthers. There is no leader, and anyone on Twitter or other social media who says things like "it's me, I'm the leader of Antifa" is making fun of someone who thinks there is. The only thing "antifa" means is "against fascism". Being "a member of Antifa" is not really a thing, because Antifa as an organization does not exist. I say that I am antifa because I am against fascism. I never joined anything, never paid any dues, I don't report to any Antifa Supersoldier up the line, I just think fascism needs to be opposed. If you don't like fascism, congratulations, you're antifa.
Now, on the other hand, Trump's supporters would appear to be the exact opposite of antifa. The Proud Boys being fascists is a matter of public knowledge at this point. Trump rallies have flown nazi or confederate flags, the Unite The Right rally had them all chanting "Jews Will Not Replace Us", the frankly insane backlash against this last summer's BLM protests... It's no wonder that those of us who say we are antifa accuse the other side of being "fa". Of course, not everyone who turned out on the 6th was a member of the Proud Boys, or the neonazis. But everyone who turned out on the 6th was there to defend a president who thinks fascism is great. Supporting a president who supports fascism cannot be antifa. And yet there are those who say the riot on January 6th was the work of the radical left terrorist group Antifa.
Radical leftists do not support Donald Trump or the radical right. Radical leftists do not break into and deface the federal capitol in order to overturn an election that Donald Trump lost. Radical leftists do not sing nazi songs or carry confederate flags.
So why is Fox News telling people it was antifa? Why is Matt Gaetz telling people it was antifa? Why are these claims circulating the internet, when it's so obviously clear that the rally that Donald Trump encouraged, that formed to support Donald Trump, that went to storm the capitol to try to ensure a second term for Donald Trump, was in fact made up of Trump supporters? The answer lies in two of the basics of fascist ideology as laid out for us by Umberto Eco: "The Obsession with a Plot", and "The Enemy is Both Strong And Weak". In the Trump Era Republican Party, we've seen the "Obsession with a Plot" point played out endlessly from the Qanon deepstate conspiracies to the "Covid is a hoax" buffoonery. It's always been stupid, and it's always been dangerous, with Pizzagate leading to death threats against public officials to Covid-deniers intentionally spreading a plague and contributing to the United States' massive failure to contain it. The civil unrest that began in the summer of 2020 has been used by the right to demonize the left. To many of them, any sort of protest at all simply must be the work of antifa. After all, it was antifa last time, right? So in that sense, it's no wonder that the right wants to blame antifa for its own failed coup. The nonexistent plot in this case is "Antifa wants to destroy America". The right wing terrorists on January 6th came very close to destroying America, therefore, they must have been Antifa. But the other side of this is that, without an external force to blame every time things go bad, or get worse, the right-wing ideology of the last few decades falls apart. Because they unite themselves in hatred of "the other"(in this case antifa, but also BLM, or the Jews, or China, depending on the week and/or genre of fascist), they need that "other" to exist and be a constant threat in order to stay in any semblance of power.
But a constant threat is not great for morale, so that threat needs to be strong enough to keep them together, but at the same time weak enough that they can be overwhelmed. "The Enemy is Both Strong And Weak". Antifa has secret supersoldiers and big tech allies who do their nefarious bidding up to and including stealing an election, but they're also a bunch of weak nobodies and losers who eat only soy and whine about their feelings all the time. Antifa is terrifying enough to be an all-encompassing threat, but weak enough to be routinely mocked. The leading figures of the American Right Wing need to lie about antifa being the cause of the insurrection because they need to paint the opposition as a threat. They need to make themselves the underdogs, show that they are under attack not by their own people, but by that "other". Admitting that their own supporters almost killed them would be humiliating, so they say it was an antifa psyop. Or some who might be more reasonable try to break with Trump completely.
Another reason to blame antifa is that many of those elected officials doing so are directly responsible for the riot in the first place. The hateful rhetoric of Gaetz, Cruz, Hawley, and honestly way too many others led to this. If they don't manage to spin this as an Antifa plot, then there is a very good chance that their careers are over. Inciting a terrorist plot to take over the government, last time I checked, is a pretty serious crime if you're not the CIA. On a professional level, the only option they have to avoid consequences for their actions is to blame the other side.
So what's going to happen next? I'd be a bad journalist if I said I could tell you that. I hope that Trump gets impeached, convicted, and removed. I hope the other senators and representatives who've aided in this plot are expelled from Congress. I hope that anyone proven to have taken part in the riot itself is arrested and prosecuted, as they should be. I hope that we can hold Trump, Hawley, Cruz, Gaetz, and the rest accountable for their words and actions leading up to January 6th. But for the government to do that, we need to make them. This is the part where I say that you should contact your elected officials and tell them that, if they were among those who voted in favor of overturning the election, they need to resign in shame for violating their oath of office; or if they were not, that they need to fight to impeach Trump and expel those Republicans who did. Don't let them get away with blaming an imaginary terrorist cell for the actions that they themselves have been calling for since November.