Ngo, Andy. Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy. (New York: Center Street Press, 2021)
Andy Ngo’s book, Unmasked, pulls together the history, methodology, and activities of Antifa. Although they proclaim themselves to be fighting fascists, their tactics and philosophy copy those used by the Fascists, the fighting wing of the NSDAP and it’s successors, and of course, the Communist Antifascistiche Aktion of Germany in the 1920s-30s. Ngo connects the past with the present, showing how the movement came to the US and what its goals are. For some of us, this is well-known material. Even so, it is worth reading.
Ngo works backwards, starting with the infamous “milkshake” assault in Portland in June of 2019. He has suffered from physical problems and Post-Traumatic Stress since then, a common result of attacks by antifa and its fellow-travelers. Ngo traces the activities of antifa in Portland and Seattle in 2019-20 and how events grew, then spread when several major US cities erupted in riots between May-October of 2020. From there he jumps backward to the period between the World Wars, looking at the original Antifa, before returning to the present to show how the US organization trains members, carefully weeding out those deemed untrustworthy. To fail or betray antifa is to put one’s safety, mental health, and in some cases the safety of one’s family in danger. Next Ngo returns to Europe and tracks the movement’s rebirth out of Baader-Meinhoff and the Red Brigade of the 1960s-70s to the US.
One of the author’s quirks might be a little distracting to those used to the US movement being written as Antifa. Ngo reserves that for the original group, and uses “antifa” for the modern US incarnation. Likewise he uses “black bloc” as an adjective where I have seen it as a proper noun. He considers antifa-US to be more of a persuasion and deliberately diffuse movement rather than a specific group, thus his typography. I somewhat disagree, but it’s his book, and once the reader gets used to his conventions, not distracting. There’s more than enough to distract the reader as it is. Alas.
Since I followed the goings-on out of semi-professional interest and a healthy sense of self preservation, much of this is not new. In fact, it gets very, very, repetitive. In a way, that’s his point. The group uses the same tactics and handbook in different places, for the same goal. End the republic, end certain civil liberties, end private property ownership, and set up a socialist/communist government with mutual defense groups keeping order (instead of the state having police power). Minorities – racial, ethnic, sexual – will achieve redress and true justice and equity only when “capitalism” and the free-market are forcibly rooted out of American society and white-privilege is extirpated. This idea, in less blatant forms, has been promoted by elected officials at the municipal, state, and federal levels, as Ngo points out.
Antifa is not “soyboys” emerging from their parents’ basements like roaches under the cover of darkness. Neither is it an all-powerful force that is responsible for everything from riots to halitosis. It needs to be taken seriously, and stopped, because what it advocates is profoundly anti-American and anti-civilization. One look at the Seattle CHAZ/CHOP experiment shows that.
I’d recommend this book for those curious about antifa and its links to other movements (BLM most famously, but also others). Also for those concerned about how urban riots work, and what to look out for in their own communities. The intimidation tactics used by antifa work all too well, and have been copied by others.
Ngo finishes with the story of two young people in Vietnam. Both are caught in the collapse of South Vietnam, and survive “reeducation” and prison camps, escape, and manage to reach the US. They are Andy’s parents, and their story is a warning as well as an inspiration. This is not a pleasant read, but a very useful one. Alas.
FTC Notice: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration from either the author or publisher for this review.