Richard Spencer isn’t having fun anymore. In a lengthy YouTube video posted on Sunday, the white nationalist announced that he would be suspending upcoming public speaking engagements and halting his controversial “college tour”. He said of his rallies, “When they become violent clashes and pitched battles, they aren’t fun”. “I really hate to say this, and I definitely hesitate to say this”, said the poster boy of the so-called alt-right. “Antifa is winning to the extent that they’re willing to go further than anyone else, in the sense that they will do things in terms of just violence, intimidating, and general nastiness.” He stated that the willingness of far-left activists to use any means necessary in attempts to shut down his speeches has left the far right “up the creek without a paddle”. Spencer’s announcement came a week after he gave a scarcely attended speech at Michigan State University. The appearance drew antifa protesters that clashed with Spencer’s far-right supporters, landing 20 people under arrest — nearly all from the antifa contingent. Spencer’s statement, celebrated by antifa groups and supporters across social media, offers a sharp rebuttal to the glut of claims that antifa practices serve as a gift to the far right. Antifa, which is short for anti-fascist, is not a group or an organization, but a set of political practices aimed at expunging neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and adjacent groups from public spaces on and offline. While these practices, which include but are not limited to physical confrontations, have been deployed against fascists since the early 20th century, President Donald Trump’s election and the resurgence of overt white supremacy brought antifa opposition to the fore. Where white nationalists gather — from Berkeley to Boston to Charlottesville — antifa has been there with the intent to disrupt those gatherings (…) The antifa strategy aims to create material, felt consequences for neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups, and those who would organize with them. The approach takes seriously that young, white, often alienated men see promise, belonging, and elevation in these organizations. They don’t join groups like Identity Evropa, an American white supremacist group which has focused heavily on campus propaganda, because of the strength of their arguments — and they won’t leave such communities because of the flawed logic of their ideology, either. To make the consequences of joining the white nationalist movement appear less appealing — to take the “fun” out of fascism — is precisely the antifa strategy to stymie the movement’s spread. Spencer stating that his rallies are no longer “fun” is music to antifa ears. It is no accident that antifa tactics beat back the rise of neo-Nazism in the 1970s and 1980s punk scene, or that fighting squads of Jewish ex-service members halted the upsurge of Oswald Mosley’s anti-Semitic, fascist organizing in Britain after World War II. And it’s no surprise that the so-called alt-right has been forced to reconsider its tactics today.

Natasha Lennard in Is Antifa Counterproductive? White Nationalist Richard Spencer Would Beg to Differ. (Intercept)

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