Author: Cathy Young
Antifa protesters against Trump in Phoenix in 2017
Image: Carptrash [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Amidst the disturbing trend of political conflict in the United States escalating into violence, it has been a staple of conventional wisdom that the real danger comes almost entirely from the far right. Thus, after journalist Andy Ngo was beaten up by activists from the militant left-wing “Antifascist” movement at a protest in late June, commentators such as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp cautioned against attempts to portray Antifa’s record of violent behavior as even remotely comparable to that of far-right extremists. Beauchamp quoted an Anti-Defamation League primer on Antifa which said, “To date, there have not been any known Antifa-related murders.”
But is that still true today? We don’t know if Connor Betts, the 24-year-old Ohio man who killed nine people (including his own sister) and wounded 27 more when he opened fire on a crowded street in Dayton on Sunday, had any involvement with Antifa. But Betts’s Twitter trail makes it clear that he was a hardcore leftist who embraced some fairly extreme ideas—and, in some cases, advocated violence toward political enemies in Antifa-style language.
The profile for the now-suspended Twitter account @iamthespookster, confirmed as belonging to Betts, identifies him as a “leftist” (and specifies his personal pronouns, a common left-wing calling card). The posts on the account show that Betts—a registered Democrat—was an Elizabeth Warren supporter and a fan of the progressive “Squad,” but also had far more radical political interests.
“I want socialism, and I’ll not wait for the idiots to finally come around to understanding,” said one of his tweets. His retweets included a graphic in which Smokey the Bear, sporting a red face mask with a hammer and sickle, holds up a sign that seems to encourage terrorism against the “capitalists” said to be responsible for killing the planet.
“Kill every fascist,” Betts tweeted a year ago, commenting on the anniversary of the Charlottesville far-right rally. He also retweeted “Punch a Nazi”-type tweets that celebrated street violence against white supremacists. And this past May, Betts shared a tweet by a prominent Antifa account, “Antifash Gordon,” identifying people “confirmed or likely to be at the KKK rally in Dayton,” with the comment, “Know your enemies.”
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