By Matt Taibbi / Substack
This past Sunday, while covering a protest in Portland, Oregon for our video partner News2Share, a reporter named Maranie Staab was attacked by members of an Antifa-affiliated group. After complaining about a report she’d done in Colombia in conjunction with TK News, they maced her, shot paint at her, and threw her to the ground.
The backdrop for this scene was explained to TK readers this past weekend in our latest episode of “Activism, Uncensored” called “The Great American Fistfight.” After a series of violent street clashes between left and right activists in Los Angeles, right-wing protesters planned a “United We Win” rally in Portland, Oregon for this past weekend. Antifa and left-wing groups pledged to “defend Portland from racist fascists.” News2Share’s Ford Fischer predicted violence, and he unfortunately turned out to be right.
The exact sequence of events will be detailed in a longer report Ford has coming — the whole day turned out to be a mess, replete with violent confrontations and ending with an exchange of gunfire, in which a right-wing protester fired first (a Black Bloc protester returned fire but was not apprehended). Staab, it should be noted, was also first sprayed with WD-40 by a right-wing protester. But the more serious incident took place later.
In the relevant sequence, an Antifa-affiliated protester called Staab a kutta (a Hindi word meaning, “dog,” apparently) and “slut.” Then the masked protester demanded that press “get the fuck out” and stop filming, pointing in Staab’s face and making the following bizarre comment about a story we ran in July called “Colombia in Chaos”:
You fucking endanger people by flying to fucking Colombia and endangering everyone by opening them up to Covid!
Beyond the total incoherence of that comment generally, calling a woman a name like “slut” obviously flies in the face of what antifascist protesters generally claim to be their beliefs about things like misogyny. In any case, Staab then approached the protesters without her cameras out to try to talk things through, at which point they tossed paint at her, maced her, and threw her to the ground. Eventually, they also smashed both her iPhone and the lens for her digital camera. “Out!” they screamed. “How many fucking times do we have to tell you?”
In the coming longer video report on this site, viewers will see that the idiocies of Sunday ranged far and wide, with no shortage of violence from the Proud Boys and other rightist groups that showed up that day. However, only one group saw fit to attack a videographer, and I think it’s time the wider press took more notice, because this is not an aberration with this type of activist.
Having encountered Antifa-type protesters in the past, my impression was always that they were neither organized nor terribly numerous, and I always found them more ridiculous than threatening. I too have had the experience of being ordered not to photograph or film Antifa protesters, instructions that always made me wonder about the intelligence level of these people.
Yes, putting masks on prevents you from being identified, but it doesn’t confer the right of invisibility. Also, if you show up at a publicly-announced protest in a public place in broad daylight dressed like GWAR roadies or extras to a Terry Gilliam movie and start smashing things, one really has to wonder about the sincerity of your commitment to anonymity. Someone is going to film you, whether it’s the right-wing counter-protesters on the other side or the police, and in the case of the press, it’s actually their job to do it in a responsible way. You have a right to wear a mask, they have both the right and the obligation to film you, that’s how this works.
Nonetheless, antifascist protesters have taken their absurd demands of non-coverage quite far in the past, making lists of protester-approved media and going after reporters and videographers from papers like local CBS and ABC affiliates as well as the Washington Post, NPR, the Toronto Sun, and others. Their rationale is that filming hurts their cause by making them vulnerable either to arrest or doxxing, a dubious concept one could argue on multiple levels, but again, that’s what masks are for. Moreover — and I know this can be a hard concept — cameras generally help public protests, with the exception being when activists behave stupidly or unattractively in public. If you don’t do things like knock female reporters to the ground, you’re probably not going to end up dealing with negative press.
By general assent many mainstream outlets and politicians have taken the position that “Antifa” doesn’t exist, with outlets like Vanity Fair writing pieces like “Sure looks like the right’s Antifa boogeyman doesn’t exist,” and people like Jerrold Nadler calling Antifa violence a “myth.” It does seem to be true that there is no “Antifa” in the sense of a nationally organized phenomenon, and they certainly are not the threat Donald Trump claims they are, but that doesn’t mean they are a completely harmless non-entity either. Too many news outlets have respected the desire of such protesters to remain invisible when they behave atrociously, and this is one of those cases.
If the protesters from this past weekend had any integrity, they would come forward and start with an apology. There’s no excuse for attacking press, especially when your modus operandi is moronic attention-grabbing public stunts. I’ll let Ford and News2Share tell the rest of this story, but to say I’m furious about the events of this weekend would be an understatement. It also doesn’t say a lot about the ethics of mainstream press outlets that they let behavior like this go without comment. How is any of this “progressive”?