“Wait, you’re AntiFash Gordon?” a novice investigator asked excitedly, as it dawned on him that the mild-mannered instructor at the front of the room was practically famous — the Zorro-like figure behind a notorious Twitter handle. “Dude, will you autograph my arm after this? Can I buy you a drink?”
It was a punishingly hot Saturday morning in early July, and a dozen young members of a radical Jewish protest group, which I’ve agreed not to name, had convened in an empty sociology classroom at a public university that I’ve also agreed not to name, in a city (or town or hamlet) somewhere in the northeastern United States. They were there for an in-depth workshop in using OSINT, or open-source intelligence, to combat the alarming growth of the white nationalist movement.
“You can buy me a milkshake…” Gordon quipped, referring to a weapon of public humiliation often deployed by anti-fascists.
The mood at the meeting was upbeat but its purpose was grave: mounting an urgent defense against violent right-wing extremism. Skeptical that law enforcement authorities recognize the scope of the problem — or even regard it as a problem at all — Gordon and his anti-fascist comrades have increasingly devoted themselves to doing the job on their own. As he put it, “Antifa is about communities standing up for themselves — autonomous community self-defense.”
He began by noting that there are two distinct but related goals to doxxing: first, to unmask malevolent individuals who believe they are acting anonymously, and second, to expose the genuine hard-line views of those who cloak their extremist ideologies behind mainstream conservative rhetoric, the so-called “alt-light” or “crypto-fash.” In either case, the information is then publicized in hopes that social media sites, financial services companies, and public venues will “deplatform” their targets and that employers, schools, clients, and others will shun them. “The question,” as Gordon put it, “is how do we make their lives worse because of fascism?”