I'm Will Carless, a reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, where I cover hate and extremism in the U.S. I recently embedded with anti-fascists and discovered that they have a "hit list" of alt-right activists, which they disseminate ahead of protests. Many of them believe that pre-emptive violence is the only way to shut down hate speech.

Read my latest: https://www.revealnews.org/article/antifa-has-a-rapid-response-team-that-targets-alt-right-organizers/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/yj1cela4fboz.jpg

Comments: 449 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

coryrenton44 karma

what was the socioeconomic background of most of the people you encountered? are any at risk of losing their jobs or livelihood because of their activities?

WillCarlessReveal54 karma

All over the place, from proud working class to middle class kids. As for losing their jobs, most of these activists don't do anything illegal, and they're very careful about being doxxed. If they are doxxed, I would say they're less likely to face social ostracizing because of their beliefs than, say, closet neo-Nazis!

coryrenton20 karma

what would you guess the race/gender breakdown is as well? also, in general, do their friends and family know what they're doing?

WillCarlessReveal33 karma

I don't know about the overall race/gender breakdown because the reality is that when these guys amass in large numbers, they almost always cover their faces. I spoke to mainly men, but also a few women. Most of the people I spoke to were white, but there are POC in the movement too.

coryrenton12 karma

what would you say is the most divisive issue within the movement? also, have you spoken to any people who have recently left the movement, or people who have recently converted?

WillCarlessReveal27 karma

I've spoken to people who recently converted. I think the most divisive issue is probably how to organize effectively and whether violence is ok or not and whether it's helpful or not to the overall cause.

coryrenton6 karma

What's the most dramatic conversion you've seen (e.g. ex-KKK member etc...)?

Were there any unusual signifiers you noticed cropping up (e.g. a disproportionate number of members are into Bojack Horseman or something like that)?

WillCarlessReveal13 karma

I didn't see any really dramatic conversions. Although the to-and-fro between Alt-Right provocateurs and antifa provocateurs is interesting and something to watch. As for unusual signifiers -- nothing specific comes to mind. Although obviously a lot of these people are anarchists as well.

newsensequeen34 karma

Most people think that non-violence is the way to go and that violent, aggressive responses could backfire, that is play into the hands of white supremacists by using violence. What do you have to say about that?

WillCarlessReveal33 karma

I agree. Most people do think that. But some elements of the antifa don't think that. I think we've already seen even targeted violence blowback onto antifa's image among the general public. But I also know that the people committing this violence aren't really concerned about their perception among the general public. I would agree that they have "played into the hands" of some white supremacists. I think that's kind of inevitable. And I know that's of concern to some within the antifa movement. I think that's why we saw so little violent action in Berkeley this week.

newsensequeen9 karma

So as per your experience what do you think can be done when you’re at the early stages of struggle, before you get to the point where there are tanks, artillery and heavy weapons?

WillCarlessReveal30 karma

What some antifa believe is that by disrupting groups like the alt-Right while they're in the organizing phase -- by shutting down their meetings, blocking their protests and violently confronting their spokespeople, fascism can be "nipped in the bud." That's how anti-fascists have traditionally operated for almost 100 years. TBC: I am not condoning. I am passing on info!

WorkHardPlayHard61834 karma

Thank you for this AMA. After spending time with antifa activists, how much do you lean towards the view held by some that both they and the (alt)right are "violent extremes" and practically the same?

WillCarlessReveal84 karma

That's a GREAT question. Firstly, as my reporting shows, there are clearly elements of antifa who are willing to use violence as a last resort against people who might threaten vulnerable members of their community. But antifa as a concept, and as a movement, is primarily defensive. I think the two-sides thing is very misleading. On the Alt-right side, you have groups who want to actively disrupt and harm large numbers of people (immigrants, minorities, feminists, LGBTQ population, etc.). On the other, you have people who are willing to do very limited violence to stop a greater harm from happening. I don't think the two are in any way equate-able on a moral or practical plane.

bowyer-betty40 karma

This reply seems rather disingenuous. I think we've all seen videos of antifa activists engaging in unprovoked violence, and altogether seeming like they're enjoying themselves. That's far from a last resort protecting the greater good.

Those may well be a small minority of antifers, but to portray that minority as some defenders of the peace who only use violence when it's called for is just false. At least take the reasonable route and say there are bad people involved, just like pretty much every other group in human history.

WillCarlessReveal8 karma

I said elsewhere on this page that there was a lot of indiscipline in early months. I think antifa are working on that! And yeah, I'll agree that there are people within the movement who act rashly and stupidly, as there are in almost any group of protesters. So, yeah, wasn't meaning to downplay that.

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

I'm responding based on my experiences and the people I spoke to.

itty5328 karma

On the other, you have people who are willing to do very limited violence to stop a greater harm from happening.

How do they quantify the potential of this "greater harm"?

Let's face it, you can't predict the future anymore than I can, or they can: so how do they measure the possibility and at what point is it suddenly "violence is okay now"?

WillCarlessReveal41 karma

This is a very complex question to answer, and the reality is that the line is different for everyone, both within the movement and outside of it. But I know there are people within antifa who believe that the US is facing a legitimate "fascist creep" and that they can prevent lives being lost in the future by using calculated and isolated violence now. I'm not endorsing that view, but it's out there.

itty53-2 karma

Okay, try to generalize then.

What events, what citations, what reasons are given? Or are any given at all -- is it just kind of "well we all assume..."

For an example, are members of Antifa saying "if [this] then [that]"? Or is it closer to just organizing numbers at a protest and just letting the energy turn to violence?

I'm wondering if there's a legitimate thought process behind it or if they're just going to these protests with the mindset of "violence isn't explicitly bad, it's okay to some extent" and letting that drive them where it will?

Also wondering how many of them ever actually say out loud "capitalism is fascism". When you're allowed to define fascism as anything you like, the word loses all meaning. Orwell called that happening as far back as 1944.

WillCarlessReveal19 karma

I think you'll probably get a better answer by listening to our interview with a radical Bay Area antifa who goes by "Dominic" on our latest show: https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/street-fight-a-new-wave-of-political-violence/

I guess my best summary would be that some antifa are willing to target specific "Nazis" (as they call them). And that's a very loosely defined group. I think what we have now is antifa willing to take a "defensive stance" by confronting and shouting at and pushing and, possibly fighting, far-right agitators who are specific defined targets of the movement. But there are also antifa who, in the heat of the moment, will target banks and corporations for targeted property damage -- actions they see as completely defensible and legitimate. What I will say is that the violence isn't just wanton or random. Hope that helps!

itty5312 karma

So... no leadership, but "specific defined targets". Hrmm.

That sounds exceedingly dangerous, stupid, and criminal. But I appreciate your answers, I understand that you're not condoning or defending any of this, just doing the journalism thing.

WillCarlessReveal16 karma

Right. Exactly. Indeed, some of the antifa I interviewed and wrote about no longer talk to me.

WillCarlessReveal3 karma

Yep. Thanks!

JasonDavidWongPargin2 karma

That sounds super wanton and random to me, with very meager attempts to color it otherwise.

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

I disagree.

misterwizzard-7 karma

Either violence is a valid form of protest or it is not. Do you really think that the protesters today, with social media and a camera in EVERY hand that they are having a harder time than the civil rights movement of decades past?

They stood in the face of police batons, attack dogs, attacks from citizens and fire hoses and held a higher moral ground than this movement. Care to respond?

WillCarlessReveal17 karma

I think you're asking me to defend something that I haven't endorsed and do not participate in. What I will say is that, for those activists who engage in violence, they see it as completely legitimate. Listen to the interview with "Dominic" on our podcast, which should give more background: https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/street-fight-a-new-wave-of-political-violence/

usrnamealreadytakn-21 karma

You just said in your previous answer that it is morally defensible for antifa to use localized violence to prevent a perceived greater harm from happening. You ARE endorsing that view.

You are effectively lumping every single non-extreme left people into the same neo-nazi label, in turn justifying the anarchic use of violence by those self righteous guardian of morality.

WillCarlessReveal16 karma

I don't believe I'm doing that at all. And that isn't what I said. What I said is that, in my opinion, racists and white supremacists (who are willing to use violence) are simply not on the same plane as antifa (who are willing to use violence). I don't see those two things as equal. That doesn't mean I think antifa violence is justified or acceptable. I just don't (personally) place it on the same moral level as what the Alt-Right are doing.

MikeTorelloMCU-18 karma

very unbiased reporting...ha ha ha ha...typical. do you realize in the first answer you lost all credibility?

WillCarlessReveal22 karma

This isn't "reporting." I was asked for my opinion, and I gave it. If you disagree, that's cool. Peace.

JavierLoustaunau28 karma

I hear that for every confrontation in the streets, there are a bunch more events they got shut down or cancelled by lurking in fascist forums and outing the nature of the event to the community.

Did you see a strong online component to the people you interviewed?

WillCarlessReveal40 karma

Thanks for the question! Yeah, there's definitely a lot of activity by antifa online. But I think that's unsurprising. A lot of these people are young and live much of their lives online. So, there's certainly a proxy battle going on on the internet, as well as on the streets.

a66hawks1425 karma

In the media we see a lot of Antifa protesters using violence to oppose other views. Do the majority of members use this tactic, or are they a loud minority with in the group itself?

WillCarlessReveal44 karma

Definitely the latter. There are many, many people who describe themselves as "anti-fascist" to some extent. The people willing to engage in violence are a vocal minority. But I would say they're largely accepted by the majority.

ragnarspoonbrok23 karma

After spending time with members of antifa are you more or less sympathetic to their movement and why?

WillCarlessReveal72 karma

Good question. And a difficult one to answer. I would honestly say that I'm sympathetic to an overall fight against fascism. And I would say that traditionally, some sort of violence has inevitably been an element of any successful struggle against fascism. But I would say that the antifa, especially those practicing violence and property damage, have been more damaging to their movement than positive. I think in the early part of this year, there was a lot of indiscipline within the movement. I think that's changing.

ragnarspoonbrok8 karma

Good and well thought out answer. It would be interesting to see how you feel antifa in general are evolving at some point in the future. Glad to hear that the more violent element if antifa are disapearing i mean i strongly believe in violence at the right time and for the right reasons but so far from the little that ive seen this hasnt been the case.

WillCarlessReveal13 karma

Thanks. Yep. And I would strongly recommend reading Mark Bray's "Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook" if you're interested in the history of the movement.

Public_Fucking_Media16 karma

What do members of Antifa think about the fake antifa accounts tied to Russia, such as @antifaboston ?

WillCarlessReveal28 karma

Good question. I know there's a lot of frustration about disinformation out there, but don't forget that antifa have been pretty effective at trolling the Alt Right using fake Alt Right social media accounts or by creating their own false antifa accounts. It's all a game for some people. I doubt many antifa are too worried about the false accounts.

GearyDigit13 karma

Reactionaries don't seem to like what you're saying here very much. I suppose they were hoping you'd just confirm every belief they had?

WillCarlessReveal27 karma

This pretty much sums up the journalistic experience in 2017 :)

shitsouttitsout1 karma

piggybacking. does this make you cynical at all? is there is any hope?

WillCarlessReveal4 karma

It doesn't make me cynical as much as depressed. There's a real lack of dialogue between the two sides and that's a real shame.

AFeloniousMonk8 karma

Which regional Anti-fa did you embed yourself with?

WillCarlessReveal12 karma

I spent time with the antifa in the Bay Area, California.

AFeloniousMonk6 karma

What do you think the predominate political affiliation of Anti-fa members in the Bay Area are?

WillCarlessReveal16 karma

I don't think most of them have any time for either of the parties, tbh.

AFeloniousMonk4 karma

I guess I mean to say: what political philosophy do they most associate with?

WillCarlessReveal14 karma

Most believe in some form of anarchism and/or socialism.

WillCarlessReveal2 karma


Gangreless8 karma

What is your take on the argument that "Anti-fa" are anarchists using the anti-fa ideology as a facade?

WillCarlessReveal18 karma

Oooh. This is a really interesting question. I don't think antifa is "anarchism in disguise." But I have come to the conclusion that antifa is seen as some within the broader anarchist movement as a sort of effective "brand" to bring more young people (especially) into their fold. But at the same time, plenty of antifa are unabashedly anarchists. There's no real facade, is my point. Thanks for the question!

PabstyLoudmouth8 karma

What was the most shocking thing you learned about when infiltrated this movement?

WillCarlessReveal32 karma

Firstly, I wouldn't say I "infiltrated" antifa. I was very upfront about the fact that I'm a journalist and that I was working on a story. And I don't know that anything I learned really "shocked" me. I found it interesting that some antifa are willing to essentially hunt down people they disagree with, but I guess I assumed that was out there, and it was. You can read my story about that here: https://www.revealnews.org/article/antifa-has-a-rapid-response-team-that-targets-alt-right-organizers/

sric28387 karma

Would you equate Antifa ideals and tactics with those of the Black Panther party of the 70's?

WillCarlessReveal15 karma

The honest answer is that I don't know enough about the ideals and tactics of the BPP. I would say that these are similar in that they're revolutionary movements, with an end goal that includes breaking down America's white supremacy. But I'd defer to scholars of historical civil rights movements on that one!

mracidglee2 karma

What about the Black Bloc?

WillCarlessReveal19 karma

One of the most misunderstood elements of this subject. There's no such thing as "the Black Bloc" Black bloc is an organizing tactic, used in protests around the world -- it basically means organizing in a mass of people, all wearing black, and moving as one. Here's a good backgrounder: https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/what-is-the-black-bloc/2017/04/27/f8cb4caa-2b58-11e7-9081-f5405f56d3e4_video.html?utm_term=.411251f3d526

fedoracat7 karma

To what extent are there different groups - with different agenda - operating under the antifa banner?

WillCarlessReveal15 karma

Yeah this is definitely happening. There is very little actual organization or coordination going on between different antifa groups, as far as I have witnessed. (Although of course, that may have been kept out of my sight).

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

I answered this elsewhere in the AMA. Yes, this is definitely the case.

the_villagerest5 karma

I've seen a number of folks on twitter talk about the danger that reporters put people in when they report and take pictures at anti alt-right demonstrations. Did you encounter any resistance towards your reporting due to similar criticisms?

WillCarlessReveal6 karma

I did. On a couple of occasions, I was told not to take photos of antifa. And I think there is some legitimacy to the fear antifa have of getting doxxed. Read up on what happened to Eric Clayton for more details!

When_Ducks_Attack5 karma

I think there is some legitimacy to the fear antifa have of getting doxxed. Read up on what happened to Eric Clayton for more details!

You'll forgive me for thinking that you could have chosen a better example.

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

My point was that Clanton was doxxed (if it was really him) via 4Chan. It was a pretty massive, organized effort.

TubbsMcHuggs4 karma

Can I assume an Antifa meeting involves a lot of Crass and Aus-Rotten patches?

WillCarlessReveal3 karma

I don't know what this means

TubbsMcHuggs2 karma

Both bands, and when I was really into the 90s SHARP and AFA scene, we all dressed like this, in Spokane.

WillCarlessReveal9 karma

Oh! Gottit. Yeah, there's definitely connections back to the AFA. If you were involved with those scenes, I'd love to talk more. Can you email me? [email protected]


forava73 karma

how did you get started and interested in this case?

WillCarlessReveal7 karma

We first started seeing antifa as an interesting group after the big protests in Berkeley in the Spring. As a reporter covering extremism, this seemed like a group I should look into. So I did!

forava73 karma

where you scared at all during your time embedded

WillCarlessReveal8 karma

Not really. I was with known antifa when I was in crowds.

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

No. Not really.

owlbearfeedingtimes3 karma

Do you see antifa engaged politically as well? Do they endorse candidates, seek office, provide campaign support or otherwise engage in democratic activities?

WillCarlessReveal13 karma

Not that I've seen, no. To the extent that the antifa I interviewed are interested in politics, they're much more interested in anarchism and/or revolution.

sssaucie3 karma

I frequently come across the question, "What is the difference between antifa and alt-right?" My answer is that antifa literally means anti fascism, and alt right is all about fascism. Is this accurate, in your experience? Further, do people have much to fear when they see a protest involving antifa?

WillCarlessReveal17 karma

I think this is pretty accurate. When you look at the stated goals of the Alt-Right, they're pretty close to what we typically know as "fascism." On the other hand, antifa are expressly against these things (racism, anti-gay beliefs) etc. So, yeah, while it's a bit simplistic, I think that's accurate. On your second point, I actually put this exact question to several antifa and their response was always the same: "People have nothing to fear unless they're fascists, unless they're racists."

sssaucie6 karma

Thank you for your answer. I have another question for you, if you don't mind. Have you seen the statistics for alt right sympathizers versus antifa sympathizers? Do the movements seem to be generally on an upward trajectory? If so, what do you think spurred the action? Is it a growing awareness of racism and prejudice in society?

WillCarlessReveal14 karma

Good question. As far as I know, there are no stats. These are organic movements, and they're very hard to gauge. I think they're essentially still "fringe" movements, but that increasing numbers of the "mainstream" identify with one or the other. Not to be too dramatic, but the Nazis were a fringe movement at one point too!

sssaucie7 karma

I might just pepper you with questions until you tell me to stop haha! 1) At what point would the antifa movement be considered mainstream? 2) They, along with alt right demonstrators, seem to receive a disproportionate amount of media attention. I'm guessing it's due to ratings, which equals funding. Is this a fair view, or am I seeing this too cynically?

WillCarlessReveal8 karma

Answers 1) I think we'll only know that when/if it happens :) I will say that most of what most antifa believe would be considered "mainstream" -- What many antifa said to me was "you're either anti-fascist or you're fascist!" So there's that. 2) W respect, I think that's a little cynical. I think America is enormously divided right now, and I think it's correct to focus on the extreme elements on each side. Maybe that twists people's views, but I think it's what the media should do, to understand where potential change/possible violence is likely to come from.

sssaucie8 karma

Thank you, again, for doing this AMA. This has been a real pleasure to read through and learn from your experience. As a journalist, do you feel that we need to focus more on the substance of the ideological views held by extremists? How do these views get created, and what makes them spread?

WillCarlessReveal11 karma

You're welcome and thank you. And yes, I definitely think this sort of reporting is essential to understanding where we are in America in 2017. I'm trying to do my own small part in that work. I think one of the biggest problems in society right now is the rush to categorize and define ones (political or moral or philosophical) opponents as quickly as possible, without listening to them. On that note, I would strongly suggest watching this TED talk I discovered this week: https://www.ted.com/talks/theo_e_j_wilson_a_black_man_goes_undercover_in_the_alt_right Cheers!

sssaucie5 karma

I loved this talk when a friend of mine sent it to me! 1) Are antifa people interested in engaging in dialogue with their fascist opponents, as this talk strongly urges, or do they seem more inclined to punch a Nazi? 2) Final question, I promise - I'm just intensely curious! For the uninitiated, what do the symbols on your paper mean?

WillCarlessReveal5 karma

1) No. Not really. And I think that's part of the problem 2) I (tongue in cheek) used the anarchist logo and a (not very good version) of one of the antifa logos -- three arrows pointing diagonally down.

SlashBolt6 karma

"People have nothing to fear unless they're fascists, unless they're racists."

Ah, the classic fallacy that allows them to label anybody opposed to them as racists and fascists.

WillCarlessReveal4 karma

There's certainly some of that going on, yes. I describe that in my article:

The Rapid Response Team was launched in the weeks leading up to the protests as a unit to protect marginalized communities from Nazis and fascists who mean them harm, according to Dominic and several other sources within the antifa and associated groups. The primary goal was to protect minorities and the LGBTQ community from attacks by right-wing agitators who have a history of targeting the liberal Bay Area.

But on this day, their aggression toward those more dangerous factions bled into a more general offense against basically anybody the antifa classified as opponents to their cause.

The handful of conservative protesters at Fisherman’s Wharf soon was surrounded by the black-clad group, who screamed at them, telling them to get out of town.

“They were way more aggressive and intimidating than the protesters, to be honest,” said Mike Gaughan, a pedicab driver who witnessed the confrontation.

Mantisbog3 karma

What's better: Shake Shack or In N Out?

WillCarlessReveal8 karma

In N Out. Of course. Animal style all the way

Marylandman1012 karma

how big is their movement? Are they aware that a lot of people on the left are against them including Noam Chomsky who called them a 'gift to the right'?

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

It's very hard to measure how many there are. And yes, they're aware. Most couldn't care less.

Oak9872 karma

Are you too on a russian payroll?


WillCarlessReveal6 karma

Um. No.

MakesShitUp4Fun2 karma

If we need an 'antifa' movement to fight fascists, that assumes that there are fascists around every corner just waiting to take over the country. How many fascists (on a percentage basis) does antifa think there are in the US and how close are the fascists to taking over?

WillCarlessReveal19 karma

Good question, and obviously the answer is different for each individual. But I will say that many antifa feel that there's been a remarkable increase in proti-fascist sentiment, rhetoric and activity since the election of Donald Trump. I've heard that time and time again. Antufa point to the fact that Hitler's political party was tiny when it started (a few dozen people) and they look at groups like the Alt-Right and it worries them. My point is that these people are legitimately concerned about what they call "the fascist creep." It's not just some crazy concept to them.

slpgh2 karma

Are there expressions of "far left" antisemitism or antizionism within Antifa?

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

Not that I have seen, no. But I wouldn't be surprised if this exists.

enderparadise1 karma

Do you feel antifa would be better served using a more leaderless resistance model, ala the weathermen, to be more effective?

WillCarlessReveal23 karma

Thanks for the question. I'm not sure the antifa could be more leaderless. Everyone I spoke to in the movement said it is a horizontally structured organization (to the extent that it's an organization at all). I didn't see any evidence of hierarchical leadership.

mario_fingerbang1 karma

How many of these people actually have jobs? How are these activities funded?

WillCarlessReveal3 karma

Everyone I interviewed was working. They're everyday people. As for "funding activities," I don't know what you mean. It doesn't cost people anything, really, to drive or walk to rallies close to their homes. There's no big money being spent (that I've seen).

maschkala1 karma

What does the Antifa thinks about people who are more like "mid-left"? Sorry for my bad english :/

WillCarlessReveal3 karma

No problem! Basically, they don't have a lot of time for them. These people are radicals, and they're not interested in the political middle-ground.

vinhboy0 karma

These radical strategies have played right into the alt-right’s plan

Do you think it's possible that some of these agitators are actually right-wingers planting false flags? Seems like an easy target...

WillCarlessReveal14 karma

Yes. I think that's certainly possible. Indeed, a big part of my work involved checking up on people's backgrounds before reporting what they told me.

And yes, I think there is a clear delineation between "the left" and antifa. Most antifa talk in sneering terms about centrists and liberals. The two groups don't see eye-to-eye on many things.

AtomicKoala2 karma

Did you come across any antifa who weren't socialist?

It seems like these guys don't have much time for liberals given liberalism is capitalist.

WillCarlessReveal17 karma

Pretty much all the antifa I spoke to were/are disillusioned with liberalism and capitalism. They were a mix of anarchists and far-left socialists for the most part.

JBIII666-6 karma

Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

WillCarlessReveal12 karma


DarthVenti-15 karma

Did you ever explain to them that THEY are fascists? Everything they say and do is textbook fascism. Our education system really needs fixing.

WillCarlessReveal19 karma

I don't think this is correct at all. Can you elaborate?