The conundrum of Powell’s Books: affirms free speech but refuses to place anti-Antifa book on its shelves

January 14, 2021 • 9:30 am

The book below is scheduled to be published in about two weeks, which means it’s not even out yet—unless they released it beforehand. It’s by Andy Ngo, a conservative journalist who’s described by Wikipedia as “editor-at-large of The Post Millennial, a Canadian conservative news website”.  We’ve encountered him before in several posts on this site, many of them covering Antifa in a negative light (Ngo is from Portland: Antifa Central); but I haven’t followed his reporting or writing in a long while, and didn’t know that he wrote a book on Antifa. It’s due out February 2.

But although the book hasn’t yet been released, it is in fact #1 among all Amazon books (Obama’s memoir is number 5), so It’s already a bestseller and will haul in a lot of dosh for Ngo. But its Amazon site (click on cover below) is curiously devoid of descriptions, and has no endorsements. That’s highly unusual for a #1-ranked book. I haven’t read it, but I suppose its popularity is due to the public’s increased interest in Antifa, alleged—falsely—to have participated in last week’s storming of the Capitol.

Portland is of course the wokest town in America, and is also home to Powell’s Books, one of America’s best bookstores, which also has a reputation for wokeness. I spent a lot of time in Powell’s on my two visit to Portland, and actually bought some books there despite my own bookshelves being jammed full.  It’s an excellent store. Portland would of course carry Ngo’s bestseller, but it poses a dilemma for them. The town is woke, the bookstore is woke, yet the book is anti-woke and anti-Antifa. What to do?

The good citizens of Portland (and I use that adjective ironically) decided to picket the bookstore—not because it actually had the physical book in its store, but because it was carrying it onlineThere were protests in front of the chain’s flagship store on Sunday and Monday, and eventually they closed the store.  Here are two photos from OregonLive: though it’s not much of a demonstration.

I don’t think Powell’s closed its store to send a message to the protestors so much as to protect its property from Antifa’s well-known propensity to do damage. But they did issue a statement about why they are carrying the book—a statement that asserts Powell’s commitment to free speech but, at the same time, emphasizing that the book is basically against the store’s values and causes “pain” to the community. In other words, Powell’s sent a mixed message, trying to satisfy everyone.

Further, the store has emphasized that it won’t be carrying the physical book in its store: you can get it only by ordering online. That’s part of the mixed message as well. You can see Powell’s high-sounding statement by clicking on the screenshot below.

Now in fact this would be an excellent statement if it didn’t go out of its way to denigrate the book. Here’s a statement from the store’s owner, and there’s more on the site. The emphasis is mine.

Dear Powell’s community,

At Powell’s, a lot of our inventory is hand-selected, and hand-promoted. And a lot of our inventory is not. Unmasked by Andy Ngo came to us via one of our long-term and respected publishers, Hachette Book Group. We list the majority of their catalogue on automatically, as do many other independent and larger retailers. We have a similar arrangement with other publishers.

Since Sunday, Powell’s has received hundreds of emails, calls, and social media comments calling for us to remove Unmasked from Demonstrations outside our Burnside store have forced us to close to ensure the safety of employees, protestors, and neighbors. If we need to remain closed, we will not hesitate to do so.

As many of you may be following these events, I want to offer additional context about our decision to allow this book to remain online.

Since the first published texts there have been calls to disown different printed work, and at Powell’s we have a long history of experiencing these calls, and the threats they bring with them, firsthand. Until recently the threats were from those who objected that we carried books written by authors we respected or subjects we supported. The threats were real but we could feel virtuous — we were bringing the written word to the light of day. We could feel proud of our choices, even when the choices created conflict.

Our current fight does not feel virtuous.  It feels ugly and sickening to give any air to writing that could cause such deep pain to members of our community. But we have always sold books that many of us would reject.  We have fought for decades, at Powell’s, for the right of a book to stand on its own. Doing so is one of our core values as booksellers.

In our history we have sold many copies of books we find objectionable. We do that in spite of all the reasons not to, because we believe that making the published word available is an important and crucial step in shedding light on the dark corners of the public discourse. It is actually a leap of faith into the vortex of the power of the written word and our fellow citizens to make sense of it.

That leap of faith is inextricably woven into our existence as Powell’s: faith in our customers is what first propelled us from a small corner store into who we are today.  We recognize that not every reader has good intentions, or will arrive at a writer’s intended destination, but we do believe that faith must extend to our community of readers. That offering the printed word in all its beauty and gore, must ultimately move us forward. As my father says, if your principles are only your principles sometimes, they’re not principles at all.

Read more about our commitment to free speech below.


Emily Powell
President and Owner
Powell’s Books

Get that bit about the book causing “deep pain to members of our community”!  If the book isn’t out yet, and people haven’t read it, then where does the “deep pain” even come from? Presumably from Ngo’s reputation alone. It’s typical of of the censorious Left to demand the banning—for that’s what they want here—of books they haven’t read. In fact, they don’t care what’s in the book; they’re trying to prevent people from reading anything by Ngo. And that is cancel culture.

Now there’s a FAQ section of Powell’s response as well, which has virtuous statements like the following:

Booksellers are not censors. We have the privilege to curate, promote, and act as guides to the books and ideas we value, but it is antithetical to our core mission of free speech to impose limits on what our customers read. At the end of the day, making space for books and readers with whom we disagree is the nonviolent antithesis to the dominant impulse to shout down (or worse) anyone who doesn’t support your worldview, something we see daily on social media and, more terrifyingly, in America’s seats of power. Given the choice between holding our noses over a book and bowing to pressure to begin banning them, we will always choose the former.

and this:

As an independent bookstore, Powell’s believes that it is our responsibility to respect your choice of reading material. We are dedicated to providing a wide array of books, authors, viewpoints, and voices, and our selection is one of the things that sets Powell’s apart from our peers in bookselling. We provide these options out of deference to the First Amendment, but just as importantly, because we believe that exposure to a multiplicity of writing — in fiction and nonfiction alike — facilitates critical thinking and spurs conversation and growth.

That is all good stuff. But why did they have to ruin it by saying stuff like this?:

Why wouldn’t you make an exception to your policy for a book as inflammatory as Unmasked?

Unmasked was written by a provocateur who has made a career of inciting violence over inflammatory and inaccurate ideas that divide people into factions. It is natural that his supporters and detractors have passionate, emotional responses to our carrying his book online.

Talk about inciting violence! That’s Antifa’s modus operandi!

The next question they answer is “Why would you carry books you find deplorable?”, implying that Powell’s does indeed find Ngo’s book deplorable. You can read the answer for yourself.

The most arrant hypocrisy is the failure of the store to carry the physical book so that people can go into the store, look at it, and decide whether to buy it. Now you’re saying, “Well, the Antifa folks would just damage or destroy any physical books on the shelves.” That may be true—and of course shows that Ngo has a point, for exercising censorship is eroding democracy—but Powell’s could always keep the book behind the counter.  Here’s Powell’s unconvincing explanation for why it’s selling the book only online.

Why would you sell the book online but not in stores?

Even a store as large as the City of Books can’t carry every book on the market. To expand our offerings for our customers, Powell’s and many other retailers make their distributors’ and publishing partners’ catalogs available for purchase online. This is how a book like Unmasked, which our buyers did not purchase for the stores, finds its way onto

Yeah, right. They can’t carry the #1 book on Amazon in the store? Who on earth believes that explanation? And of course they could order more copies to sell in the stores. No, they aren’t carrying the book either because they’re afraid of Antifa or because they are exercising some kind of restricted access—censorship. Either alternative bespeaks cowardice and undermines the eloquent defense of free speech given elsewhere in Powell’s statement.

h/t: Mark

48 thoughts on “The conundrum of Powell’s Books: affirms free speech but refuses to place anti-Antifa book on its shelves

  1. “Unmasked was written by a provocateur who has made a career of inciting violence over inflammatory and inaccurate ideas”

    That is Bullshit. Provide one example of Ngo inciting violence. (I think this is the bullshit position of “words = violence”.)

    I probably disagree with most of Ngo’s politics; but so what? What kind of intellectual wimps are (for instance the picketers outside Powell’s) that you can’t counter his points with debate and more speech?

    I recently had an online back-and-forth with a usually pretty sane left-leaning FB “friend”. (I don’t consider people actual friends if I have never met them. Call me old-fashioned.)

    In the end, I said: I don’t consider political violence to be acceptable. I noted that Antifa advocates for political violence and the abolition of Capitalism. (They state these themselves.) I cited the assault on Andy Ngo as a real life example. And I have stated again and again online that giving any violence a pass encourages more violence and makes one a hypocrite when they complain about violence on the other side.

    In the end he said (reluctantly), that, yes, political violence isn’t OK. But, he’d be buying beers for the guys after they assaulted Ngo. WTF? That’s just nonsense.

    1. The other thing I find not helpful at all is calling everyone that disagrees with you a fascist or a Nazi.

      Unless it’s obviously true: If they are carrying fascist or Nazi insignia, for instance. Or they self proclaim as Nazis or fascists. Or they are making the Hitler salute. Etc.

      I don’t count even the assholes wearing the 6MWE and Camp Auschwitz shirts. Sure, that makes them assholes, perhaps irredeemable assholes. But it doesn’t make them Nazis. I saw a total of one Camp Auschwitz shirt and one 6MWE shirt — maybe there were more; but I didn’t see them (in the 6-Jan-21 insurrectionist mob at the Capitol). To call the whole mob (roughly 10,000 I would guess) Nazis is just silly. And the Confederate battle flag doesn’t make them Nazis either. Just benighted assholes who consider black people to be second-class citizens.

      And saying they are all Nazis just gives your opponents the opening to criticize your real points. Name-calling is not debate or argument or evidence.

  2. Aww dids-wummzes. I do feel sorry for all the Antifa fascists, with their commitment to street violence, being caused such “deep pain” by a book documenting their tactics.

    And as for this by Powell’s:

    Unmasked was written by a provocateur who has made a career of inciting violence …

    That’s false, dishonest and perhaps actionable. Andy Ngo has never “incited violence” (I’m open to correction from anyone with proof). Note that legally, “inciting” violence means that one intends and desires the occurrence of violence.

  3. 3.5 great paragraphs and then they dig their own hole.

    I have little problem with a bookseller today uploading a publisher’s catalog but selecting which books they carry in their store. Know your market, as it were. I expect a bible belt bookstore to carry more religion, and a Portland bookstore to carry more woke. As a sci-fi fan, it might have been really annoying (pre-Covid) to go into a smallish mall book store and not see much selection in my genre, but I understand they aren’t necessarily catering to me. So no biggie.

    But, I fully agree with JAC that the “we hate this book” diatribe was unnecessary woke virtue signaling. Frankly, the whole ‘we feel virtuous when we sell a book we agree with’ thing was disgusting. The virtue is in the providing, not your personal agreement with the content.

    1. Powell’s is independent, but certainly not a small bookstore! Its flagship store’s footprint is a full city block and it has 4 floors, in addition to another store in SE Portland and a stall at PDX airport.
      Considering how many people in Portland have been harmed, threatened, forced to physically defend their property without police assistance, or had their businesses repeatedly vandalized or entirely destroyed by rioters (anarchists and Antifa), the local market for the book is probably significant, they’re just not out “protesting” to get the book on the shelves. Let’s not forget that in Powell’s very own neighborhood, Antifa attempted to set an apartment building on fire with residents inside it! I’m sure they’d like to stroll into Powell’s to pick up that book.

      1. Yeah i know – I’ve been there. It still doesn’t bother me if they actively choose not to carry some NYT bestseller in print.

        In fact, I can make the counter-case: the good bookstores of today are the ones that use a lot of their shelf space for the odd books, the ones other places don’t carry. If I want a NYT bestseller, I can pick that up on a shopping trip to Target. I can get it between flights (when I traveled) at any airport snack shop. If I’m going to schlep to a big bookstore, it’s probably to browse the stuff I can’t find in those other places. So if Powell’s doesn’t carry Ngo, and uses the shelf space for David Coperfield (with one p) by Edmund Wells, so much the better.

        1. This is an Amazon bestseller, not a NYT bestseller. And I doubt that Target is going to carry that book. And if you’ve seen Powell’s in Portland, you know that it’s not lacking in shelf space.

        2. I wonder if it would be inciting violence to sneak a print copy of the book into Powell’s (and put it next to books in the “Woke” section).

  4. Screw the apologies. The way for bookstores to handle free-speech issues is like a Haitian divorce — no hesitation, no tears and no hearts breakin’, no remorse.

  5. I entirely agree. The point has been made that a bookseller will know that to stock based on what sells well and in an area like this it won’t stock it because it does not sell. If they sell on-line then they stock everything because on-line is everywhere and a lot of the profit is in the long tail of smaller sales in larger numbers.

    What is stupid about this is that people don’t always obtain books to read them BECAUSE they disagree with them and want to be able to counter their arguments.

    If it is rubbish, and I suspect it is, then Antifa should use some intellect and attack it. This is much better than using protests.

    1. And if the book alleges inconvenient truths, how will Antifa react? Laid bare like this you can see the problem is not this particular book, nor the booksellers, but the perceived expectations of the Antifa reaction. Ones which they appear to promote as it extends their political power.

  6. During a visit to the University of Chicago many years ago, I wandered around Hyde Park a bit and
    was astounded to discover a small bookshop called Powell’s. The people inside told me it was owned
    by a relative of the Portland Powell family, and thought that the Portland branch had actually invested
    in the Chicago bookstore. Is the Chicago Powell’s still there? If so, maybe they could be persuaded to carry copies of Andy Ngo’s book (about which I suggest three cheers for the Hachette Book Group). We could hope that, sensitive as they may be, the wokies of Portland could manage to endure the deep pain of the book’s physical presence in a place 2100 miles away. But maybe not, in which case they might picket Powell’s in Portland anyway, as well as all other bookshops that do not not officially proclaim Mr. Ngo’s evilness—or which carry books by authors who fail to do so.

    1. Apparently, Powell’s in Hyde Park is still there. I still have many books on my shelves that I bought in Powell’s when I was in college.

      1. Oh, wow, I think I’ve bought books there, too. It was a long time ago, since I haven’t been to Chicago in about two and a half decades, but when I looked it up online, it’s quite clearly the place.

        Now if only I could go to the Chinese restaurant I used to go to when I lived there.

    2. Yes, it’s still here, and it’s where I sell my unwanted “new” books that people send me. But it’s been closed for months because of the pandemic. Given that, I’m not going to try to persuade them. In fact, ALL bookstores in Hyde Park (and probably Chicago) are closed.

  7. Antifa is a very broad bunch of radicals, communists, larpers, middle class clueless twerps, hard left extremists, violent thugs,….and….some genuine antifascist campaigners. The latter are welcome. The others, not so much.

    However, there are some really vicious elements attracted to its drumbeat. I saw one the other day essentially defending the fascism, warmongering and imprisonment of minorities of a non-Western regime. This is a common pattern with other shades of hard left “pro peace” warmongers and “anti-racist” antisemites. Apparently, these “antifascists” really struggle to identify or condemn the fascism of non-Western regimes. In a lot of cases, they carry water for them.

    I don’t know a lot of Ngo (excuse the pun), but I do know (ahem) that Dan “The Zionists” Arel was trying to get him banned from Twitter. Something to do with Ngo posting videos showing Antifa “in action”. Arel, a self-proclaimed anarchist (or sometimes Communist or (don’t laugh) ‘Humanist’) was claiming there was some sort of copyright issue. Do anarchists believe in copyright? 🙂

  8. It is not always easy to stick up for what you believe in, but it’s easier to stick up for free speech when you agree with what’s being said. Perhaps the owners of Powell’s are discovering that they believe less in free speech than that they just previously agreed with books they defended.

  9. Antifa is good, on balance, but hyped up as a national threat in the USA by the entire right wing ecosystem. There is street violence but in a grotesque manner the opponents of Antifa are never seen, as if they march against invisible forces.

    The far right wing power of invisibility is only shattered briefly when Trump endorses them; when they gather explicitly as a “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville and want to be seen; in killing sprees; or when swarming into the Capitol. But even that is allegedly a false flag action by Antifa. To Ngo‘s credit, he told the press that the Capitol trespassers didn‘t look like Antifas.

    But we know what goes on, because the underbelly of the right wing information system, to which Andy Ngo belongs, is boasting about how geared-up “patriots” fight with Antifas in the street. Here is a simple search showing just that.

    It‘s not too difficult to piece a more coherent picture together, and then comparing it to what others have found out, by looking at what‘s extensively documented even on Ngo‘s own Wikipedia page. I did it that way, and it‘s a parsimonous picture of a reporter who travels with right wing groups and gets his infos from them, then points his camera and pen at the Antifa side only, deliberately leaving out the right wingers. This is then amplified to the extreme in the usual hyperventilating, fear-mongering fashion the US right wing media is known for.

    I don‘t think a particular store absolutely must have specific books, and I don‘t think a particular bakery must offer same-sex decoration. Here you can reasonably shop elsewhere. The priorities here are tupsyturvy when so-called liberals cheer on as tech monopolies regulate quasi a public space with arbitrary enforcement of arbitrary TOS.

    1. Hello, I’d be (genuinely) curious to see a list of good things Antifa have done. All I’ve seen is street violence. They openly advocate for political violence and the “abolishment of Capitolism”.

      1. In the US, too, they put up counter-demonstrations to the Far Right, for example by Proud Boys. That’s one good thing.

        Here in Europe, they are central to left wing organising, demonstrations, also concerts and fun stuff that brings people together. This is by far most of what they do, my views are informed by that, rather than US Antifa where they seem more a new trend.

        There are also violent people in Antifas, just as there in about any group that clashes with some opposite group (hooligans, ultras, gangs etc). This was typically highly controversial among Antifa people, though I don’t know how it is now or in the USA. Noam Chomsky says of them they were a “major gift” to the right and that their activity were a “loss of the opportunity for education, organising, and serious and constructive activism” which is different from the Antifa actions I’ve seen.

        Antifas are independent, autonomous, leaderless, and so it’s up to individuals. Needless to say, I don’t approve of violence and consider it counterproductive. In my experience, a few violent people can easily draw attention to that violence and away from the reasons and slogans of the demonstrations. Hope that gives some perspective.

        1. Do I need to remind you about the havoc wreaked by Antifa in Hamburg, to mention one recent example? There are many many examples from Europe of violence and threats of violence commited by antifa targeted at politicians and businessowners.

          1. Not in reality. Literally dozens of groups and organisations opposed the G20, among them unions, of course left wing organisations (incl. antifas), Attac, kurdish organisations, youth-organisations including more of the same direction, left, socialist, student organisations, union for public sector workers, yes antifa, environmentalists and more. I take this list off the German Wikipedia article that has this sourced. Also, left-sided parties (Greens an The Left, naturally) supported the protests, and even a number of the Lutheran churches. In addition to that, Hamburg is the notorious centre of the autonomous scene, yet another faction, called the Black Bloc — these are much more punk, squatter types, plus Hamburg has a large, and famous leftist scene.

            For Americans this level of political detail might seem dazzling — but that’s really not all the same thing, even when Antifas are indeed “solidaric” to fellow leftists and there can be overlap on an individual level.

            Long story short, it was found later that (a) 60% could be attributed to domestic rioters, and the rest to riot tourism, according to Der Spiegel. (b) significant political mistakes were made, as the sheer level of opposition was underestimated, and the police tried to over-enforce and regulate protests — that didn’t sit well over 4 days on a fairly anti-authoritarian leftist demographic.

            Most of the protests were peaceful, and completely legally announced early on. Some of the protesting rights were temporarily curtailed, and this would later cause a significant political interrogation into the organisation of the 4 day event.

            One take-away is that right wing talking points are easy to spot, because they collapse all detail into one word, say, “The Left” or recently “Antifa” and they are some kind of Pelosi-loving college kid who is mean on twitter, and wants personal pronomes enforced by the state, but also a squatter-punk who hates the “police state” and sets cars on fire.

        2. > In the US, too, they put up counter-demonstrations to the Far Right, for example by Proud Boys. That’s one good thing.

          It’s the job of the police to deal with violent right-wing groups, not that of Antifa mobsters. This excuse of being legitimate because of successful intimidation of Nazis (like Andy Ngo?) could justify the existence of a lot of criminal gangs if you redefine “Nazi” a little. Afaik the Proud Boys justify their existence with the need to counter Antifa.

          As for being a gift to the right: The historical Antifa was a Stalinist puppet hell-bent on smashing social democrats (“fascists”) and overthrowing the Weimar Republic. Their impact on history may well have been negative, in that they helped the Nazis to gain power.

  10. I am Oregonian and love Powell’s. I think they are making the best decision they can and still stay in business. If they carry the book in the store, there will be rampant vandalism. By allowing us to order it online, they are standing up for freedom of speech in a reasonable manner. It’s not ideal but I support the decision. I preordered the book from their website along with another book for my daughter.

    I am waiting for the protester to hold a book burning to show how antifascist they really are.

    1. If there’s rampant vandalism, then Antifa isn’t so good after all, is it–being against free speech and all. You might want to look at commenter #10, who thinks Antifa is good. If you can’t carry a book they haven’t read because they don’t want YOU to read it, then they’re bloody well NOT good.

      1. It appears to me that you think I am I am pro-Antifa. I reread my remark and am not sure why you would think that. One of us is misunderstanding the other.

        I fully support the right to this peaceful protest even though I find the cause misguided. In other cases, Antifa’s vandalism and violence are both abhorrent and illegal. My book burning comment was a jab at their supposed antifascism.

    2. Given the unwillingness of Portland authorities to control Antifa and the company’s need to protect employees and property, it’s a reasonable decision.

      I notice that Powell’s Books publishes Mein Kampf and gives the proceeds to Jewish organisations. What should Antifa do about Unmasked? ‘Nice shop you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.’ (I’m NOT suggesting that’s why Powell’s gives the proceeds to Jewish groups.)

  11. Oregon has become a bit of a progressive learning lab for the rest of the US and with fully half of the state’s population, Portland is the nexus. Sometimes those experiments yield positive outcomes (mail-in voting, end-of-life autonomy, the Oregon Health Plan, decriminalization of marijuana, the most liberal Constitutional interpretation of free speech in the nation, COVID-19 control, etc.) and sometimes not (homelessness, antifa, community/police relations, etc.)

    Calling that small gathering of folks at Powell’s a protest is a bit of a stretch here in Stumptown. Portlanders protest everything from BLM to the weather report. It’s just our thing. If I ever go downtown and fail to see at least one picket, I’ll know the bombs went off in my sleep.

    This year, however, things went off the rail. Portland protests have become dominated by clashes between imported alt-right provocateurs, antifa, complete anarchists, and assholes who just like to break shit in the absence of effective leadership and a passive/aggressive police response.

    At first Antifa represented push back to gun-toting alt-right asshats who lived in southern Washington because they hated Portland but loved to take advantage of our lack of a sales tax, our services and food scene, and our liberal position on free speech. But Antifa has gone from a group resisting alt-right incursions to a bunch of roving street thugs looking for any excuse (or not) to destroy property.

    There was a massive and sustained BLM movement in the city, that was met with violence from the Feds. That did not help. The poor history of Portland Police (PPD) in dealing with the issues exposed by BLM lead to a shifting of some support for PPD programs toward social services trying to address mental health issues and race relations. The police union was of course completely supportive (sarcasm alert). Many of us have personally witnessed reduced police responses which, rightly or wrongly, is widely being viewed as being passive/aggressive.

    This has allowed destructive groups to pretty much have the run of the city. There’s video aplenty showing vandals in action but almost no response from the city or PPD. Thugs pretty much have free rein.

    Powell’s (one of the greatest bookstores on the planet) sits right in the center of the anarchy. Occupying a complete city block, I’m sure that some of this is generated by concerns that if targeted by the thugs, no one’s going to be there to stop it and with tight margins in a good year (which 2020 of course was not) they can’t afford to repair the damage likely to occur.

    1. This has allowed destructive groups to pretty much have the run of the city. There’s video aplenty showing vandals in action but almost no response from the city or PPD. Thugs pretty much have free rein.

      This is pretty much the problem, eh? Do we have a civilized society? Or mob rule (and it fucking doesn’t matter which mob)?

      Until the city/police/citizens get that sorted out, the other issues, such as free speech, are moot.

  12. I honestly don’t know what I’d do in the face of real implications of vandalism and who knows what else. There is cowardice, but bravery does not pay the bills, nor would it secure the well being of my dependents and employees, or keep insurance premiums down.

  13. I’m interested in seeing if Ngo has a coherent definition of “Antifa” that is not simply “everyone that doesn’t like Trump,” or “everyone at a BLM protest.” Certainly the latter two definitions seem to be the ones widely held in the right wing media ecosphere, as they drum up partisan resentments against anyone resisting Trumpism.

    This is why I’d want to look at a physical copy before I’d buy the book. If Ngo uses those definitions popular in the fever swamp, then I know the book is a waste of time. But if Ngo has identified an anarchist subset of these populations, or anarchist or fascist left-leaning types that have co-opted the “antifa” movement, then there may be some value in the book.

    1. I’m pretty sure Ngo is targeting Rose City Antifa, which is an organization with a web site and everything ( Ngo has filed a lawsuit against them, which names 5 specific people I believe, but also RCA as defendants. It is worth noting that there is no national group that RCA could be connected with.

    2. ” . . . a coherent definition of “Antifa” that is not simply “everyone that doesn’t like Trump,” or “everyone at a BLM protest . . . the latter two definitions seem to be the ones widely held in the right wing media ecosphere.”

      I occasionally read here and there that “Antifa” is (just?) an “idea.” What group(s) widely holds that idea?

      1. I have read that Portland antifa is a leaderless organization which someone maintains order among itself. They do have certain tactics which seem consistent.
        1. Each night a different antifa cell would lead the rest to their riot/protest site. This prevents the authorities from preparing.
        2. They will use violence to prevent else from filming their action. This allows them to control their media image and makes identifying members difficult. Ngo has filmed them in the past which is one of the reasons they hate him.
        3. They take pride in provoking the police and others to start violence. This is a standard civil disobedience method.

  14. After the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses, Saturday Night Live had a skit in which armed and helmeted Barnes & Noble employees defend the “cashier bunker” while taking heavy incoming fire.

    B&N manager: In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have caved in on that first book…

    B&N cashier: Maybe if we had defied the ayatollah right from the start…


    1. Walden books actually declared they would not carry “The Satanic Verses”. Novelist Stephen King then announced that if they did not carry it, they would in perpetuity not be able to carry any Stephen King novels, ever. The next day “Satanic Verses” was back on the shelves at Walden Books. Salmon Rushdie has on more than one occasion since then expressed his gratitude to Stephen King.

      1. PEN America, whose then-president was was Susan Sontag, also showed up bigtime to help cover Mr. Rushdie’s six.

  15. In regard to anti-fa in Portland, I believe its ancestor was a nominally “anarchist” magazine of a few years back which came out of Eugene, OR. It was called “Black Clad Messenger” which, in a sense,
    gives the game away: the allusion is sartorial, rather than ideological, and was thus meant to appeal
    to its audience’s fashion tastes more than anything else—it is in the same category of things as “goth” or
    “punk”. Its writer(s) did describe it as “anarchist”, and offered pronouncements like this one: “When
    all the people have gone home and the lights are out…beware, we are there!” If its main purpose was to épater la bourgeoisie, then anti-fa has evidently inherited that mission.

  16. I knew Andy Ngo when he was a quiet, shy, pudgy, gay secular humanist here in Portland, with zero political ambitions, as far as we could tell. And also was in a class at PSU with him, where he became involved in the production of the student newspaper. His transformation into neo-fascist, right-wing firebrand, while branding himself as “martyr” for the cause, and playing the part to perfection, is nothing short of spectacular. Kinda despicable, but nonetheless spectacular.

    Powells? They’re a private company, and are allowed to put whatever books they damn well want to on their shelves. Oh, and the protestors out front have a right to protest, even if we disagree with their message. Works both ways, last time I looked.

    1. I see you haven’t read the book, so your comment on that is irrelevant. Further, nobody said that the protestors didn’t have the right to protest. What my point was, and one you apparently failed to grasp, is that Powell’s wants to sell the book but doesn’t have the courage to stock it on its shelves, because it’s likely afraid of Antifa, the very organization that Ngo is criticizing. Ironic, isn’t it? If Antifa was so peaceful and wonderful, the store didn’t have to be afraid of putting Ngo’s book on the shelf.

      On this site we discuss ideas, not someone’s “pudginess.”

  17. Here is where I end up in the poo:
    I’m not convinced that, outside a few hundred violent loser cosplayers in a couple of West Coast cities Antifa even exists in any meaningful sense. I do note our Orange Punishment president and the right wing mediasphere are UTTERLY obsessed with them. Why do you think Ngo’s (who is a bit of a ratbag btw) book is selling so well?

    Actual evidence of them – size, structure, budget, management, etc. and proof of them being a major threat to our American way of life seems… lacking.


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