When it comes to anything Timbers, I’m on the outside looking in. But since there’s an ongoing battle between Major League Soccer and antifascists, I’m briefly going to weigh in on the team’s front office statement today.
For obvious reasons banners and signs are widely visible to the broader stadium and television audience and thusly fall under a different set of guidelines. Despite its origins dating back to fascism opposition in World War II-era Germany and elsewhere, today most of the broader public are unaware of the Iron Front and its historic meaning. Instead it is widely associated with its frequent use by antifa, often in the context of violence at protests or counter protests. The Iron Front symbol is clearly different than a national symbol like the American flag, that some have tried to argue has been misappropriated by certain groups.
You know what I’m going to say before I say it. You can’t rightly point out the Iron Front’s “origins dating back to fascism opposition in World War II-era Germany and elsewhere” and then in the same breath state that because “it is widely associated with its frequent use by antifa” it’s become a problem
Antifa literally is a term that means “antifascist”. It’s right there on the tin. The front office of the Timbers openly asserts that an antifascist symbol cannot be flown on banners because of its use by antifascists. Antifa cannot “co-opt” the Iron Front, because antifa is antifascism.
In effect here, the Timbers front office is conceding the bad-faith argument that Black Bloc is all there is to antifa. There are good-faith arguments to be had over the nature of Black Bloc (most of which, for me, are lost by the critics) but this is an especially dangerous message for the Timbers front office to send. It’s also strangely mistimed, given the success of the serious yet joyful display put on by antifa in Portland just this weekend.
If you have a problem with Black Bloc, take on Black Bloc. But if the front office truly values “safety” and “inclusion” as they claim, they should be helping to educate the public about everyday antifascism rather than surrendering to the lowest-common-denominator smears that only serve to make the Timbers front office complicit.