Antifa vs. Proud Boys: group or extreme “ideology”

How do we define the organizations of far left and far right protesters?

Members+of+the+Proud+Boys+demonstrate+their+support+for+President+Donald+Trump+at+the+Million+MAGA+March+on+Nov.+14%2C+2020%2C+in+Washington.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Members of the Proud Boys demonstrate their support for President Donald Trump at the Million MAGA March on Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington.

Hana Tariku, News Editor

During the first (and possibly more memorable) presidential debate with both candidates, both Antifa and Proud Boys came up in conversation. When President Donald Trump was asked to denounce white supremacy, he made that strange announcement directed towards Proud Boys. 

When questioned on why he hadn’t denounced white supremacy, Trump deflected by talking about how Antifa was the more serious issue. President-elect Joe Biden quickly responded that Trump’s own FBI director recently said that antifa is an ideology, not a group.

What is an extremist group, what is an ideology, and do these fall into the same boat?  

An extremist group is defined as a group of individuals whose values, ideals, and beliefs differ widely from societal norms. These groups are often associated with violent tactics as a means to communicate their ideology to outsiders. 

An ideology is a set of opinions or beliefs of a group or an individual. 

Even though Antifa seems to be a group of individuals with a common ideology, working towards a similar goal while gaining an active following, FBI Director Christopher Wray offers a different opinion. During a congressional hearing on the matter, Wray gave testimony on antifa, as reported by CNN.

“It’s not a group or an organization. It’s a movement or an ideology,” Wray said. 

If the Proud Boys, a group spreading their ideologies to gain a larger following, is considered to be an extremist group, then why is Antifa, a similar organization in structure, considered an ideology?

The Proud Boys is a far-right wing organization, based in Canada and the U.S., that promotes and participates in political violence. The Proud Boys have repeatedly stated that they are not a racist organization, but a sum of their members are white supremacists and they have been linked to white supremacy in the past.

The Proud Boys’ mission is to not let their culture be lost–the culture of white males of European descent. They feel that this culture is under attack because of the growing number of leftists, and others, attempting to abolish or denounce organizations, systems and rituals they believe relate to who they are. 

Meanwhile, antifa is a scattered group of local activists fighting against fascism. They utilize tactics such as political violence and non violent protests. The group also branches off and stands against white supremacy, nationalism, xenophobia, and more far-right ideologies. 

Looking at both organizations, it can clearly be seen that they are both extremist groups. While the individuals involved may have their own reasons and while the aim and purpose of one group might be more socially or morally acceptable, both organizations are attempting to achieve these aspirations in a dangerous and unlawful way.

Whether implied or explicit, the question now following the debate is “Is Antifa an ideology or an extremist group?” Lewis’ Law and Action teacher Steven Hirsch gave insight on how an ideology can transform into an extremist group.

 “Any large group that coalesces itself into an  active following now goes from a movement to a group,” Hirsch said.

Antifa is an extremist group, just as much as Proud Boys is. In these days, the ideology of Antifa may be one more Americans find acceptable as compared to that of Proud Boys. However, that should not distract from the fact that neither antifa nor Proud Boys should be condoned. 

America is at a turning point, especially during this contentious election season. As we grow to be more politically, socially and morally aware, we should not allow groups like these to deter the progress that has been made. 

Being an activist is fine; flooding the streets with our voices is something that should be done when policy reform is direly needed. As Americans, we should fight against what is unjust. But using violence and terrorizing people is not the way to do it.