Randy Stapilus

Randy Stapilus

The Idaho Public Television journalist Melissa Davlin tweeted on Tuesday: “After searching, I saw a number of bots posting about Antifa heading to (Coeur d’Alene), which spurred the armed people to ‘protect’ downtown. Antifa never showed, and now the armed people are claiming victory. Meanwhile, a few bots are still posting that CdA is under siege from Antifa.”

That was one social media post among many, and apparently one of the few which actually was accurate. Another, Monday on Facebook, from Payette County Sheriff’s Office: “The (PCSO) has been monitoring social media posts that have stated FALSE information. The original post (with false information) states: ‘Family and friends in Idaho. We were told by our Congressman (name and location not named) that Antifa has sent a plane load of their people into Boise and three bus loads from Seattle into the rural areas. The sheriff in Payette has already spotted some of them. We were warned to lock our doors and our guns. We think they will stay in the larger communities but it is best to be prepared.’ The Payette County Sheriff’s Office has not had contact with and has not verified that Antifa is in Payette County. The Payette County Sheriff’s Office has not given any specific warnings to our citizens about Antifa or other organizations. The information in this social media post is not accurate.”

An example of the social media reports law enforcement was dealing with came under the banner of The Real 3%ers Idaho: “We have credible intel tonight that Antifa and other groups are planning a riot tonight in the Boise area. Their plan is to destroy private property in the city and continue to residential areas.” Of course, nothing like this happened.

What actually has happened in Idaho this week has been mostly peaceful vigils, small rallies from Idaho Falls to Moscow and a mass vigil by the Statehouse in Boise. They stayed calm and nonviolent.

The Antifa scaremongers are playing off a lack of information about what Antifa actually is. The word sounds exotic, but it is actually just a shortened “anti-facist,” which probably sounds pretty agreeable to most of us. It isn’t a group or organization; there is no hierarchy, no actual Antifa leader, no membership role. Rather, people communicate in small clusters and, when they feel like it, they just show up.

There is a book, written by Mark Bray and called “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” It describes its intent: “Antifa aims to deny fascists the opportunity to promote their oppressive politics, and to protect tolerant communities from acts of violence promulgated by fascists.”

It does have a style of sorts — dressing in black. Its playbook specifically does allow for violence. Actual cases of Antifa violence, however, have been few and in nearly all instances in response to violence or threats of violence from their opposition. Most accusations of its involvement in violence at protests around the country have proven unfounded. The FBI, for example, looked into Washington, D.C.-area violence last week and found “no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence.”

Because it is so decentralized, Antifa usually has been active in places where groups of participants live and seldom far away; that fact should have been an immediate red flag for the social media reports that they were being bused or flown into Idaho. Idaho likely doesn’t have many (any?) Antifa people locally, which means they’re less likely to be seen there.

However. Individual and groups of white nationalists have been seen, and sometimes arrested, at violent incidents around the country, and (in one news report) “in some cities, local officials have noted that black protesters have struggled to maintain peaceful protests in the face of young white men joining the fray, seemingly determined to commit mayhem.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who saw violence happening in her city, remarked, “It is striking how many of the people who were doing the looting and stealing and the fires over the weekend were young white males.”

Idaho has been spared the violence, so far and hopefully for good. But if it should happen, ask which population of malefactors sounds more like an Idaho group: leftist Antifa or right-wing white nationalists?

Randy Stapilus is a former Idaho newspaper reporter and editor and blogs at ridenbaugh.com. He can be reached at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com. His new book "What Do You Mean by That?" has just been released and can be found at ridenbaugh.com/whatdoyoumeanbythat and on Amazon.com.