activism Matt Taibbi Media Politics

Enough Is Enough: Antifa Attacks Reporter in Portland

Antifa's influence may be exaggerated, but it's not a mythical Snuffleupagus, either, as they showed in attacking reporter Maranie Staab this past weekend.

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 othersTheir 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”?

25 comments

  1. I’m not convinced that this was the work of an antifa member. You said he was a member of an antifa affiliated group. It sounds like you are familiar with this group. Why didn’t you name the group? How do you expect to get an apology from a group you didn’t name? Are you hoping that an actual antifa group will come out and apologize so you can say, aha, this proves that the right wing was right about antifa? You admit that antifa is not an organized entity. Anybody can claim to be part of antifa and, unless you can come up with some independent proof, your reporting is no better than the “unnamed sources” used to propagandize the general public. How do you know they were affiliated with antifa? Their words and actions are more consistent with right wing behavior. If you don’t do any investigating aren’t you setting yourself up to duped?

  2. Matt, have you considered the possibility that this “anti-fa” thugs were provocateurs, acting on behalf of some other element? There are certainly plenty of logical candidates.

  3. Sounds like an attack by a bunch of thugs calling themselves antifa. Isn’t adopting that term equivalent to a bunch of adolescents taking on the name “white aryans” or something like that? Such a name does not imply any sort of formal organization. It would not be like the KKK in any way. Similarly, “antifa” doesn”t have widely accepted writings, leading figures, a network of communications, or any financial backing. Taibbi is rightfully angry at the way this journalist was treated, but he is foolish to go after “antifa,” a mythical group that exists more in his mind than in the real world.

    1. I wouldn’t call Antifa “a mythical group”; nor would I dismiss the possibility that they were agents provocateurs. It is easy enough
      to call yourself Antifa behind masks and black outfits. And it certainly is in our “leaders” interests to libel Antifa.

  4. I get what you mean, Matt, but what, exactly, is”antifa”? Who, exactly speaks for it? Is it a national organization, or just any group at any location who at any time chooses to call itself “antifa”? These are honest questions that are relevant to your article.

  5. Furious and just wanting an apology don’t quite add up. Antifa may have a website with some good ideas on it but in practice they have offered nothing to any progressive movements or communities of color, who they profess to be in alliance with.

    They think these are the streets of Berlin and it’s 1919, and it’s not. Any serious leftists organization that’s not infiltrated by agent provocateurs understands the strategic use of disruption.

    The non-violent civil disobedience of the civil rights movement was a politics of disruption. The more recent pipeline protests, environmental anti-logging protests were the politics of disruption.

    But all stemmed from real politics where disruption was one of many tactics which were part of a broader strategic plan. And for the most part, their objective was to bring public attention to an issue that was being ignored.

    I have no idea what Antifa’s politics are nor do most people. Violent clashes with these right wing thugs have accomplished little, except helping the Biden administration broaden its own definition of “domestic terrorism” to sweep much farther to the left while supposedly protecting us from the right.

    There are times when violence or the threat of violence has to be confronted. Just ask the veterans from Alabama who formed the Deacons for Defense or read the late Rob Williams, “Negroes With Guns.”

    But pitched battles over who can demonstrate in front of a federal building strike me as what Lenin called infantile disorder.

    1. Antifa has declared its politics, and it’s anti-fascism. It has no obligation to you or anyone else to define itself further. At least part of the reason is that it is composed of people with differing ideologies.

      I was at a demonstration in Oakland in which a few black bloc adherents did a small amount of dumb stuff, like break a few windows. Then Chris Hedges ran an account of Antifa destroying Oakland’s downtown. This is part of a syndrome of left commenters trying to prove their ‘balanced reportage’ bona fides while slandering the same groups fascists do. They are detached enough from the real struggle to not know, or depend on their readers to not know, the difference between groups that wear clothing that helps render them anonymous. I hope Matt Taibi has not succumbed to this syndrome.

      Doxxing and victimization by police and fascists are real. Those of us who have been victimized by this have a right to ask for a minimization of identification. If reporters chose to do the work of the police they should not be surprised by a hostile response.

      As for Lenin’s pamphlet “Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Antifa. This is a straw man aside from someone who cares little for honest criticism.

  6. This type of article is something one would expect from fox nooze….really stupid. Btw, you know there’s no org called antifa, right?
    With all that’s going on now, this is the garbage you’re running? Very disappointing, I expected better quality content than this.

  7. The agent provocateur has been a staple of right-wing activity since before Haymarket Square.
    His foremost employer is called the FBI.

  8. Why give the morons so much free publicity, especially when a moment of fame appears to be their only aim? Maybe if TK News/News2Share and all the rest of the media stopped paying so much attention to the attention-grabbing idiots, the “antifascists” and “right-wingers” would just fade away. How much attention does the small group of losers “show(ing) 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..smashing things” deserve?

  9. Don’t worry, Taibbi, I am sure your allies in the Proud Boys will avenge you if this ever happens to you!

    1. Matt Taibbi allied with the Proud Boys. Not only is this a silly slur it is ungrounded from any bit of reality. Taibbi has been one of the mot courageous journalists working.

      1. Editor: I see a couple typos in my comment (it’s early in the morning). Please substitute this version:

        Matt Taibbi allied with the Proud Boys? Not only is this a silly slur it is ungrounded from any bit of reality. Taibbi has been one of the most courageous journalists working.

    2. How is Matt Taibbi a right winger. Just because he criticizes a left wing group doesn’t mean he sides with the right or far right by default. People like you need to stop this binary way of thinking, it’s not helpful nor constructive and frankly a juvenile way of thinking.

  10. Matt
    Your late to the prom, the proud boys intentionally hold their rally’s in Portland to stir up trouble. This isn’t the first time they’ve bee shown the door in Portland. I don’t think you’ve been well enough informed on this one!

  11. Chris Hedges was right about antifa and the black bloc years ago. They are leftist authoritarians. I rolled with these types and even identified with them for a time. They think they are right, and any means to their ends are justified. They wish to tear it all down, even the good, in order to build their impossible utopian fantasy. They make dialogue impossible.
    They should be crushed.

  12. Missing is the name of this particular group. Black Bloc and ‘Antifa’ are not quite the same. Could be a plant in this org, sure, but need proof. I don’t like being filmed at protests, but that is the way it is. Black Bloc are mostly hard anarchists. Antifa is a loose collection of communists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarchists, socialists or generic anti-fascists. Since the words of this punk were odd or chauvinist – ‘slut’ and a Hindu word for dog, as well as a dopey comment about Columbia – all seem to hint at a not-very-politically-correct anarchist, which might hint that this guy is not what he seems. Or have the anarchists descended to this level now?

  13. I couldn’t watch 30 seconds of this without thinking it’s only FBI theatrics, but anyway, Hard Lens Media correctly pointed out that the real emphasis should be on the fact that when the cops hung back, there was less violence. Think about that- the presence of law enforcement increases the likelihood of violence, leaving aside the actions of agent provocateurs. Matt doesn’t talk about that for some reason.

  14. I definitely do not like Taibbibi’s TK “news” channel on youtube: if you make any comments to counter all the hate consumed right wing Trump goons–Taibbibi/his moderators ghost ban you/delete your comments! Like Greenwald, Taibbibi is going right wing. To attack ANTIFA (which stands for anti-fascist btw) and blame them for the violence is to side with Trump, Proud Boys, and other extreme right wing hate groups. This article is a fine example of cherry picked propaganda targeting ANTIFA–and willfully turning a blind eye to the MUCH larger, MUCH more extreme right wing violence at these demonstrations in Portland, L.A. etc done by right wing hate groups who are vehemently, violently against LGBTQ, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, wearing masks to stop spread of Covid-19, and socialists. But Taibibi here choses to attack Antifa–who defends all these groups I mentioned! Disgraceful. Maybe Taibibi and Greenwald can start a new “We’re now right wingers too” website.

    Watch: my comment will be deleted in a matter of minutes…

  15. Here at Scheerpost we’re proud of our censorship of comments that don’t neatly fit into the narrative of Matt Taibbi, a right wing journalist who has big problems with Antifa (but is silent about rampant Proud Boy, Boogaloo Boy, Trump extremist violence done to gays, transgendereds, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, people who wear masks to stop Covid-19 from spreading, etc etc).

    1. Deschutesmaple wrote about Taibbi, “…but is silent about rampant Proud Boy, Boogaloo Boy, Trump extremist violence done to gays, transgendereds, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, people who wear masks to stop Covid-19 from spreading…”

      Do you follow Taibbi’s columns and podcasts and read his books? He has spoken against all those things many times.

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