Andy Ngo fell to the concrete, bleeding from his ear. Vessels in his brain had burst, doctors later told him, and blood pooled on his brain. Ngo, a journalist, had been attacked by members of Antifa while covering one of the "antifascist" group’s demonstrations in Portland in 2019.
"No hate, no fear," Ngo recalled the group shouting around him.
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The Portland native learned early on, however, that hate and fear are bedrocks of this radical movement. Ngo began covering Antifa for the Portland State Vanguard, where he went to graduate school, taking on what he called the "dissident beat."
"Colleagues were never fond of the stories I was interested in telling," Ngo told the Washington Free Beacon. "[But] I continued on that path of always being on the dissident beat, covering Antifa, and stuck with it. The gap between local and national press on reporting was so wide, that I had to step in and do it."
In his new book, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, Ngo details the violent rise of this organized but "amorphous" group in the United States.
"Antifa is an ideology. It’s amorphous—that is difficult for the average person to understand," Ngo told the Free Beacon. "There’s another whole structure to Antifa that includes working in the legal, democratic system by systematically mainstreaming tenets of the ideology. The fact that they are decentralized and anonymously organized gives them deniability."
That deniability goes "all the way up" to Democratic politicians who "don’t believe there is really any true organizational element" to the group. To take one example, Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York, called Antifa a "myth" when he was asked about the group's contribution to months of violent riots in Portland last summer.
Likewise, the media over the last four years have offered little in the way of opposition, as detractors were smeared as pro-fascist or labeled racist or bigoted.
"Nobody wants to be vocally [critical] of a movement claiming to be antifascist," said Ngo. "Those who do, myself and other journalists included, get smeared—in my case nearly killed—so they can have control over the narrative."
The Associated Press, New York Times, and other outlets not only denied that members of Antifa committed violence last summer, but also molded the narrative into one of positivity and peace. In his book, Ngo points to an example from the Daily Beast, which published a story last summer that claimed businesses in Seattle "loved" the "CHAZ/CHOP" autonomous zone—a six-block stretch of the downtown area that rioters occupied for weeks. But in the zone, six people were shot—two fatally—and others reported being assaulted and raped.
How did it come to this? Antifascist movements began under the Weimar Republic as an offshoot of the German Communist Party called Antifascist Action. It spread across Europe—notably, to the United Kingdom. There, it blended with British "punk subculture" and developed an anarchist flavor distinct from its pro-communist German counterparts. This newer strain of antifascism was then exported to the United States.
By the end of 2016, following the election of Donald Trump, local, centralized chapters of Antifa were proliferating. In addition to educating members in critical race and gender theory, firearms usage, and creating anonymous online personas, these hubs act in unison with unaffiliated bands of "black-bloc" misfits during their planned protests and violent attacks.
Antifa intimidates opponents with threats of violence and harassment, ranging from doxxing to death threats to actual physical violence, as in Ngo's case. The group is responsible for attacks on police officers and the deaths of fellow protesters and civilians—including several during last summer’s wave of riots and protests.
Antifa justifies the violence as "self-defense."
"The word ‘violence’ is being systematically remade to conform to their worldview," Ngo writes in Unmasked. "Looting and arson aren’t violence, they argue. And yet physical violence directed at their opponents is also not violence but rather ‘self-defense.’"
Ngo began writing the book (which comes out Feb. 2) in 2019 with plans to publish in 2020. He pushed back the deadline, however, after Antifa and Black Lives Matter protests ignited in May, following the death of George Floyd. Ngo said he witnessed the two organizations—bound by Marxism and a disdain for the American criminal justice system—blend into one entity.
"There are different agendas, but enough overlap that they have really merged into the same entity," Ngo told the Free Beacon. "There’s cooperation, from what I can see, and an ideological cross-pollination from both sides."
As it evolves, Ngo will continue tracking Antifa and its mission to upend America and its institutions. For him, it’s personal: His parents came to the United States in 1979 after fleeing from communist prison camps in Vietnam.
"As much as this book is about antifa," Ngo's final lines in Unmasked read, "it’s also a letter of gratitude to the nation that welcomed my parents, penniless refugees from the socialist republic of Vietnam, to become equal citizens."