Phony Anarchism, Bogus Research

By Dean Thomas

The title of Chip Berlet’s piece in the January 2009 issue of Z Magazine, “Brownshirt Anarchism, Bogus Journalism,” has nothing to do with the article. It is plainly misleading. There is nothing in the article about “brownshirt anarchism.” In fact, Berlet’s article has nothing to do with anarchism. It is mentioned briefly in the beginning to make some broad point without a single fact to back the assertion.

The article is about a book written by non-anarchists, specifically a chapter written by Alan Bock, a libertarian. Berlet claims editors Joshua Frank and Jeffrey St. Clair in their book, Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, encourage an alliance between left and right activists. Neither of these people are anarchists.

Berlet spends most of his article attacking the chapter in the book written by Alan Bock. What does Bock’s chapter have to do with “brownshirt anarchism”? Absolutely nothing. Berlet primarily counters the perspective and challenges a few “facts” Bock presents in the chapter regarding Ruby Ridge and the Weaver family. The entire chapter has absolutely zilch to do with anarchism.

Where are Berlet’s “brownshirt anarchists”? They are nowhere to be seen in this article. Regarding the second half of the title, it’s hard to tell who Z Magazine’s editors believe is engaging in “bogus journalism,” given how the article has nothing to do with the title. Is Z Magazine referring to the “pedestrian writing” found in a few of the chapters to Red State Rebels or are they referring to how Berlet constructed his article, in which the opening two paragraphs have no relation to the rest of the article?

Perhaps Z Magazine’s editors were expecting Berlet to submit an article similar to the one by Spencer Sunshine that ran in the winter 2008 issue of Public Eye Magazine, a publication of Somerville, Mass.-based Political Research Associates where Berlet serves as a senior analyst. If so, then perhaps Z Magazine’s editors forgot to change the placeholder headline when the article arrived and it wasn’t about “brownshirts” or “anarchism.”

Sunshine’s article, titled “Rebranding Fascism: National-Anarchists,” chronicles the small phenomenon of neo-fascist groups adopting selected symbols, slogans and stances of left anarchists. In his own article, Berlet appears to be headed down the same path as Sunshine but then gets sidetracked in the third paragraph by reliving the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho between the Weaver family and federal police agents.

The title of Berlet’s piece is a misrepresentation of what’s in the article and also serves to discredit anarchists by tying them with fascists. Genuine anarchists oppose nationalism and explicitly reject so-called “national anarchists” as frauds. And the article itself does a disservice to Frank and St. Clair by suggesting they are encouraging alliances between left-wing activists and fascists.