“Who was that masked man?”
When I was a kid, that was the question occasionally raised about television’s Lone Ranger, who along with his sidekick Tonto rode around the West wearing a mask, taking down the bad guys, and shouting “Hi-Ho, Silver! Away!” The Lone Ranger wore the mask to conceal his identity from a group of outlaws who had ambushed and killed five Texas Rangers, including his brother.
Zorro and Batman were other favorite masked heroes of my boyhood.
Today kids and some adults wear masks to celebrate Halloween. Some celebrants put on Carnival masks for their Mardi Gras parties.
Typically, however, Americans associate masks with people out to break the law: bank robbers, cat burglars, and muggers.
In the United States we also associate masks with two political movements. The first is the Ku Klux Klan, whose members wore hoods and masks to prevent identification and to intimidate their victims. Reduced today to between 5,000 and 8,000 members, many of them aged, the KKK now has little power, and its adherents rarely wear masks in public.
The second association is larger than today’s KKK, and far more active. This is, of course, Antifa, the “anti-fascists” whose supposed sworn enemy is the far right. Composed of individuals and groups on the political left, Antifa believes in attacking those whom they oppose with direct action rather than through elections. This direct action can range from online harassment to doxxing those they hate, from attacks on property to fighting in the streets.
When in public, these extremists wear masks to conceal their identify from the government, to intimidate, like the KKK, those whose views they despise, and to avoid being charged when they engage in vandalism or violence.
Most recently, Antifa made headlines when masked thugs in Portland beat journalist Andy Ngo so badly that he needed hospitalization for a bleeding brain. Other masked Antifa punks beat at least two other men on the same day.
In their online article “Unmasking the Leftist Antifa Movement,” CNN journalists Sarah Ganim and Chris Welch report on the reasoning behind these assaults.
Antifa activists often don't hesitate to destroy property, which many see as the incarnation of unfair wealth distribution.
"Violence against windows -- there's no such thing as violence against windows," a masked Antifa member in Union Square told CNN. "Windows don't have -- they're not persons. And even when they are persons, the people we fight back against, they are evil. They are the living embodiment, they are the second coming of Hitler."
So let’s see. The gay journalist Andy Ngo who is the son of Vietnamese immigrants; supporters of Donald Trump; all those who believe the ownership of property is a fundamental human right; conservatives in general: these are the living embodiment of Adolf Hitler?
You gotta be kidding me.
Here are three recommendations for Antifa hooligans strutting around with handkerchiefs covering their faces.
First, learn some history. The United States is not Nazi Germany, though you seem intent on making it so. Quit buying into your own propaganda. (And please, for the love of the language, stop using Hitler as a simile for all that is evil. The comparison is hackneyed. As alternative spices to your goulash of comparisons, try sprinkling in some Mao, Stalin, and Castro to liven up the taste.)
Next, define the word “evil.” Do you mean sinful? If so, are your motives religious? If not, then is evil simply a handy label to hang on those who disagree with you or whose views you oppose? Are you on a higher moral plateau than the rest of us? If so, then why not reach out and lift the rest of us out of the abyss?
Finally, show some guts and ditch the masks. You’re like those folks online who disguise themselves with a pseudonym and a fake picture, and then leave obscene or abrasive comments on various posts. If you’re ashamed of what you do, or if you aren’t willing to put yourself at risk for beating up some guy taking your picture, then what sort of creature does that make you?
Man up and take off the masks, you bunch of bullies.
[Image Credit: Flickr-Old White Truck, BY SA 2.0]
Jeff Minick lives in Front Royal, Virginia, and may be found online at jeffminick.com. He is the author of two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust on Their Wings, and two works of non-fiction, Learning as I Go and Movies Make the Man.