Antifa Punks and Boogaloo Bois: A Tale of Two Scapegoats

It was the kind of story that always seems to fly just beneath the radar. You probably missed it. I nearly did. Somewhere between the Pride parades and the Fourth of July, while the country was busy hyperventilating over the latest Coronavirus spike and I was busy scrubbing the glitter and gunpowder from my crack, a memo from Attorney General and Melvin Purvis impersonator William Barr was published by those fine parasites at the Washington Post. In this memo, Barr directed the Justice Department to form a task force devoted to combating the vague scourge of “Anti-Government Extremists.” The task force was to be led by a junta of state attorneys and would gather information on individuals and organizations deemed to be a threat by the same Attorney General who brought us Ruby Ridge.

This information would then be shared with a wider junta of local Floyd stranglers in order to help those heroes in blue to better combat the amorphous boogeyman known as the anti-government extremist, a species that could easily include anyone and everyone from Black Lives Matter to your local Mennonite co-op. The language of this thing sent shivers down my spine. To a subcultural history fiend like myself it was hard to ignore the similarities between the language of Barr’s witch-hunt memo and the Nixonian double-speak of J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro, the notorious FBI pogrom that worked with local law enforcement to combat the similarly vague threats to democracy posed by the likes of the Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Panther Party. Cointelpro began as a filthy little memo that ended in a veritable dirty war waged by glorified death squads with badges, stoking violence between competing radicals and assassinating them themselves when poison pen letters failed to produce the desired body count. With Trump’s law and order jihad in fool bloom, I fear that we could very well be ramping up to a bloody sequel to J. Edna’s love letter to the Third Reich, and anti-government extremists like myself could easily find our smoked and shimmering ass-cracks in the crosshairs.

The most novel thing about this underreported scoop, aside from its creepy parallels to one of the federal government’s darker chapters, was the fact that only two movements were singled out by Barr’s memo, and both were movements that I had personally held rather low opinions of until recent events led me to reconsider what I thought I knew about them, the seemingly diametrically apposed leftists of Antifa and the conservative Boogaloo Bois. Both groups have been roundly vilified by mainstream commentators on both sides of the aisle rendering them convenient scapegoats in partisan food fights. According to Fox News, Antifa is a bloodthirsty pirate army second only to Black Lives Matter in their pathological hatred for the nuclear family and traditional democratic values. And according to Roger Ailes’ neo-McCarthyite doppelgangers over at CNN and MSNBC, Boogaloo represents pretty much the same damn thing. The ironic thing is that, once again, in their downright flamboyant ignorance, they’re both kind of right, but my own ignorance needed to be confronted before I could see the revolution for the mob.

My bigotry towards the Antifa movement has been building for years and comes from my own personal interactions with some of its lesser partisans online. I have always considered myself to be devoutly antifascist and antiracist. I despise bigotry of all kinds and, as a trans person in a Trump Country hicktown, I’ve been given a front row seat to just how hideous preconceived notions can be. But that hasn’t stopped me from forming ill-informed preconceived notions of my own. Antifa likes to trace its roots back to the street fights of Weimar Germany, but the reality is that their shallow roots lead largely to the same Hardcore Punk scene that offered me a soundtrack to my own rebellious youth.

In the late Seventies and Eighties, punk kids grew tired of having neo-Nazi lunkheads invade their spaces so they could beat the shit out of anyone they could ambush and outnumber. So their victims formed their own street fighting paramilitary operations to confront these bullies and defend those who couldn’t. But what began as a movement for collective self-defense quickly devolved into the same kind of macho violence they had originally sought to confront. Soon Antifa gangs were gathering pissed off white boys from the same testosterone kiddy pool as the White Power Movement and mirroring their squadist invasion tactics by attacking Nazi punks at their own venues, creating a veritable cottage industry for toxic masculinity in cities across the Heartland and the Pacific-Northwest.

That being said, all of this mayhem was no skin off my ass. Jock on jock violence seemed like a pretty victimless crime to me. That changed when Antifa began to develop into a movement dedicated to combating perceived political incorrectness on campuses and social media sites. Before this, my only major beef with the movement was that they wasted their energy on small fish in countercultural skinhead ghettos while fascism thrived unchallenged in America’s rapidly expanding police-warfare state, but soon this very criticism made me a target of Antifa’s cultish online trolls who hold the dogmatic belief that all those who appose or even simply criticize Antifa are automatically fascists themselves.

I’ve had cis-hetero white boys bash me for my perceived lack of wokeness until they realized that I was one of the minorities they supposedly and paternally protect, at which point I was subjected to the even more insulting ‘You-poor-baby’ treatment, as if having libertarian leanings within my gender identity rendered me to automatic victim status and only their strong tattooed arms could save me. These experiences were sickening and demeaning and led me to cast off the whole Antifa lot as a bunch of disingenuous poseurs serving the status quo by acting as its shock troops against Alt-Right shock jocks and principled free speech absolutists alike, and I don’t believe that leftists like myself and, more recently, Noam Chomsky were wrong to make this conclusion, but George Floyd changed everything.

After that televised lynching I became shocked to witness members of Antifa putting their bricks where their mouths were and finally unleashing some of that apish machismo on the real source of fascism in this country. Sure Antifa had tussled with cops before but this was different. The cops would throttle peaceful protestors by day and Antifa would hold them accountable by night, smashing their tax funded toys and burning down their clubhouses. It was during this upheaval that I began to receive a trickle of support from Antifa members for my own screeds in defense of the George Floyd Uprisings. We still exchanged words on issues like free speech and the Non-Aggression Principle, but their was no longer any argument on the fact that we were both on the same side. It was also during this time of turbulence that I came to a startlingly similar conclusion about William Barr’s other scapegoats, the much loathed Boogaloo Bois.

Like most of America, I knew virtually nothing about Boogaloo other than the mainstream media’s narrative that painted them variously as either armed Alt-Right race warriors or some kind of revival of the Nineties Militia Movement. While the Alt-Right grossed me out and bored me to tears with their childish shock tactics, I’ve long carried the same sympathies for the Militia Movement held by fellow left-wing iconoclasts like Alex Cockburn and Gore Vidal, and unlike most of my fellow millennial leftists, my militantly idiosyncratic views have developed me a following among weirdos on both the right as well as the left. So I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth and figure these armed lunatics out for myself. I sent a simple message out on Twitter, asking my more conservative followers to explain the Boogaloo to me. Was this a race war thing or just armed hillbilly cosplay? The response frankly shocked me. A few dozen reposts later, I found myself a left-wing T-Grrrrl engaged in a 48 hour long viral conversation with several hundred self-proclaimed Boogaloo Bois and their sympathizers. The cross section I encountered was unsurprisingly concerned first and foremost with gun rights and then, in a close second, with combatting the expanding police state in this country, the same menace Antifa has been battling in the streets and I’ve been battling on my blog.

The Boogs I encountered were militantly non-partisan and tended to lean toward the Ron Paul wing of the Libertarian Movement, but not one of them, not a single solitary troll in the racial cesspool of social media, endorsed a race war or any form of bigotry whatsoever. In fact, the number one butt of their jokes seemed to be the well publicized handful of white nationalists who ham-fistedly attempted to infiltrate and co-opt the movement. What struck me most about these well-armed bros, and I’m sure this sentence will piss off quite literally everyone, was how similar they were to the Antifa punks I’ve encountered. Both movements are comprised largely of middle class white males who were sick of the empty promises of both major parties and their corporate handlers and sought to take matters in their own hands to create a far less authoritarian society by any means necessary. Both groups had their flaws and their differences, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I seem to have far more in common with the gun-toting free speech absolutists in the Boogaloo set, but both movements serve as a much needed decentralized threat to the status quo of the state, and this, along with the fact that both groups also ally themselves with the more radical aims of Black Lives Matter, is precisely why the Trump Administration seeks to hang them both from the same noose.

My suggestion is détente, not just between Antifa punks and Boogaloo Bois, but between all radicals who agree to appose bigotry of all kinds while prioritizing the destruction of it’s source in the American police-warfare state. We can agree to disagree on pretty much everything else but we need to stand united against the enemy that now quite openly seeks all of our destruction. The original Cointelpro succeeded because it managed to pit a wide variety of radicals against each other, from Black nationalists to white Maoists. If us “Anti-Government Extremists” are going to survive round two, we must learn from their mistakes and stand united against our common foe, the fascist regime of the American Empire.

Think about it, dearest motherfuckers. It could be groovy.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.