Antifascists, or Antifa, are engaging in the same activity fascists did in the 1930s and 40s – burning books. It seems like putting “anti” in front of something slowly lost its meaning over time, at least for them.
Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon has been a victim of dangerous threats in the past. The store noted on a page of its website entitled “Powell’s Commitment to Free Speech” that it received bomb threats in the past for selling books by Salman Rushdie, especially for selling his 1988 book The Satanic Verses. Rushdie quickly became a target of Islamic extremists. In a statement released on their page, Powell’s highlighted their commitment to free speech saying:
There are books in our stores and online inventory that contain ideas that run counter to our company's and our employees' values of safety, equality, and justice. However, many of us also read these books to inform ourselves about events; learn about local and global history; and to understand the arguments of people and groups with whom we disagree. While we understand that our decision to carry such books upsets some customers and staff members, we do not want to create an echo chamber of preapproved voices and ideas. It is not our mission or inclination to decide to whom our customers should listen.
Decades after the bomb threats, Powell’s received a new kind of threat at its front doors. On Monday, far-left Antifa activists gathered around the bookstore demanding that they stop selling journalist Andy Ngo’s highly anticipated book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy. Obviously, the title alone did not settle well with the activists who most likely didn’t read a sentence of the work, let alone a word. Ngo has been documenting the far-left group’s gatherings and actions for the past few years.
One of the activists who showed up to the demonstration outside the store went so far as to compare the book to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. She said, "I completely understand those criticisms saying [Powell's] sells Mein Kampf, they sell these things, but they don't sell the Anarchist Cookbook, but anyways, I see that argument, but at the same time, this is active fascism.” She continued, "there's a difference between the historical value that we get from Mein Kampf, to not repeat that. This is different. This is active fascism that we can do something about right now."
So, let me get this straight, this activist believes that Powell’s selling a book detailing the group called “Antifascism” is fascism, but the group “Antifascism” demanding a store to stop selling the book simply because of its contents isn’t fascism? Right.
Eventually Powell’s caved to what they believed was a middle ground for both sides. They removed Ngo’s book from its shelves and issued a statement saying that even though they don’t agree with the contents of the book, they’ll continue selling it online.
At Powell’s, a lot of our inventory is hand-selected, and hand-promoted. And a lot of our inventory is not. With several million titles available online at any given moment, complete hand-curation is not possible. Unmasked by Andy Ngo came to us through an automatic data feed via one of our long-term and respected publishers, Hachette Book Group. We list the majority of their catalogue automatically, as do many other independent and larger retailers. We have a similar arrangement with other publishers.
This book will not be on our store shelves, and we will not promote it. That said, it will remain in our online catalogue. We carry books that we find anywhere from simply distasteful or badly written, to execrable, as well as those that we treasure. We believe it is the work of bookselling to do so.
Decades ago we received credible bomb threats for selling the work of Salman Rushdie, and yet we carried on. We cannot behave any differently today when we feel differently about the book or writer in question.
What happened on Monday with far-leftists demanding a book be permanently shelved is nothing new. We have entered an age of digital book burning where it is easy to remove digital copies of books. In terms of hard copies, that ritual still is far from over.
Back in late July 2020, numerous journalists reported the burning of Bibles and American flags in front of the federal courthouse in Portland.
At around the same time, signs were placed in multiple locations around a different part of the country. In Newnan, Georgia signs read, “Book Burning Event, sponsored by Democrats for Social Change, ANTIFA and BLM. Philosophy, history, poetry, theology, etc. all will burn this Saturday, 6 p.m. at the courthouse. BYOB.” The town’s police department stated that no permits were issued for the far-leftists to engage in a book burning.
This isn’t just about Andy Ngo’s book being removed from shelves, but about all books that don’t align with leftist ideologies and practices being removed for good. As we’ve seen in the two events provided above, the Bibles burned in the Antifa hotbed of Portland, OR and the signs left around Newnan, GA, the left is out to destroy anything that teaches us a side that doesn’t benefit their own, just as the fascists and Marxists of the 20th century did.