Misconceptions of Antifa: A Review of ‘Unmasked’ by Andy Ngo

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Journalist Andy Ngo has spent the last few years covering Antifa protests and riots, most notably in Portland and Seattle. He has compiled his encounters, along with his research into the tactics and ideology of Antifa, in his book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.

Much of what is described in the first few chapters will already be familiar to readers: the death of George Floyd, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), and Antifa riots in Portland. Ngo explains the circumstances of these events, recounting his own investigations into the latter two.

Chapter Four contains a rather illuminating explanation of the radicalization process of joining Rose City (Portland) Antifa. A syllabus acquired by Project Veritas from Rose City Antifa detailing this process is interspersed throughout the chapter. It contains required reading and key competencies for radicalization.

The middle chapters of the book provide an overview of the story of Antifa, from its origin in Weimar Germany in 1932 to its bleeding into America, resulting in the riots we see today. 

The last few chapters go into the tactics and actions of Antifa’s “Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.” Such a subtitle sounds hyperbolic, but in this case it certainly isn’t, as any member of Antifa would proudly assert. Ngo describes many stories of individual members of Antifa and its defenders. He writes about his many encounters with them, including occasions when they arrived at his home, as well as the famous moment he was physically assaulted by Antifa radicals on June 29th, 2019, suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He details their acts of intimidation, their doxing efforts, and their connections to influential people.

One of the concerns pushed by Ngo’s opponents questions his motive. Is he doing this for fame and fortune? If he is, it seems to be working. Why else devote all of this time to go after a small group of radicals opposing police brutality and the corrupt regime?

Ngo offers us two answers to this. The first is the main thesis of the book. Antifa is not merely an idea, or just a tiny group of radicals fighting for freedom. It is a dangerous decentralized organization that seeks to end not just democracy, but any private-property-based system. Although I, unlike Ngo, am not very fond of our system of liberal democracy, the world Antifa advocates is far more evil than this current flawed system. 

The second answer is in the form of a mini biography of his parents contained in the Afterword. Ngo’s parents escaped to America from the prison camps of communist Vietnam. He surely sees in Antifa the same ideology of tyranny that his parents suffered under, and rightfully so. One can hardly be surprised that Antifa has become his primary concern.

Upon completing this book, some readers may get the impression that Antifa is the greatest threat to the American system. I do not think this is the case. Antifa is a threat to Portland, Seattle, and the many other communities it has a presence in. They have allies of moderate influence. They will fuel certain instabilities in the system, and these instabilities will continue to fuel it in return. Antifa is one of many threats. Ngo’s statement that they are “the canary in the coal mine of a coming disorder” is accurate.

I have not investigated Antifa to the extent that Ngo has. I have read some of their books, listened to some of their podcasts, and followed some of their social media accounts. I obviously cannot confirm every single claim in the book, but I can say that my understanding of Antifa aligns with what he has written.

This book is a fantastic investigation into Antifa, and will provide an excellent source for other writings on Antifa in both the near and far future.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]

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