Surveillance Strategies from the Antifa Underground: Lateral Surveillance, Obfuscation, and DIY Community Policing

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:45
Oral Presentation
Abigail CURLEW, Carleton University, Canada
Our current socio-political climate has hit a crescendo as far-right groups become more visible and brazen in pushing a white nationalist political agenda further into the public realm. As these groups take to the streets, the far-right are often met by masked anti-fascist (Antifa) protestors who purportedly claim to defend communities from the growing threat of fascism. These protests and counter-protests have been a major source of public controversy, as activists, political pundits, and academics debate about the use of violence as a legitimate form of resistance. Antifa is not an organization, it is a set of social movement strategies that have been deployed to challenge the threat of Fascism in whatever form it takes. These strategies have been taken up by a wide variety of groups on the radical left. Many of these groups have developed digital sanctuaries, where they communicate, strategize, and organize. This paper will look at Antifa deployment of lateral or peer-to-peer surveillance to resist, obstruct, and police the white nationalist movement in North America. This includes practices of intelligence gathering, doxing, and taking to the streets to physically “shut down” white nationalist rallies. This paper will also look at Antifa techniques of maintaining anonymity and obfuscating state and far-right surveillance. I will accomplish this project through a review of Antifa websites, zines, and online communities that explicitly discuss surveillance and obfuscation strategies. My goal is ethnographic—to understand the deployment of tactics from the social movement’s own cultural logics. This project will position Antifa tactics within the larger scope of critical criminology and surveillance studies to make sense of the current public controversies and the very real threat of the rise of white nationalism.