Chris Hedges, Diana Johnstone, antifa

I was an admirer of Chris Hedges for many years. While I have not followed him regularly over the last couple, I recently went looking and was mildly surprised and curious to see that he had interviewed Diana Johnstone on his show on RT. 

I barely know Johnstone as a writer and thinker but found her to be a relatively early and concerning example of overlap between left / far-right in the Trump era—in practice, an advocate of the “red-brown alliance.” While I find Hedges’ views on antifa to be retrograde and simplistic, I was curious as to what their conversation would be like.

The first twenty minutes or so are actually quite interesting and not especially controversial, aside from particular emphasis being placed on *the switch on the left (to a focus on identity politics) happened at X point.* But broadly, the perspective is correct, and interesting, and the emphatic shift from a material approach to politics to a social-rhetorical one is as always worth considering—so long as you have somewhere to go from it.

I’m not sure Johnstone does, and Hedges, for his many merits, allows her critique of antifa as—rather inexplicably—“the thought-police… the storm troopers, of the system,” to go essentially unchallenged. He does not disagree—at best, whether he agrees or not is up for debate, and he does not challenge her. He goes on to restate his familiar, essentially reactionary criticisms of antifa: “it’s all about spectacle… they don’t organize, they don’t educate… they don’t have a vision.”

Rather than Johnstone’s view of antifa as the inevitable dead-end of a left focused on tone-policing social issues, a more reasonable characterization might see the movement as a particular phenomenon within a decayed and broken down era. Why she cannot square that circle is beyond me, but she certainly appears friendly to the far-right. Why Hedges, a man with a real grasp of history, also misses this point remains somewhat more unclear to me (much less, why he chooses to platform Johnstone). Whether he approves of antifa’s tactics or not is one question—moralistic condemnation is another beast, and at least in his case, constitutes a not particularly meaningful assessment. For whatever reason, he remains wedded to this criticism.