Antifa claims to be an anti-fascist organization that fights white supremacy and discrimination. But the group’s true aim is to overthrow the American government, says Martin Scott Catino, a Fulbright scholar and member of the nonprofit Anti-Communist Action Team, which exposes communism’s lies through research and personal stories.

Catino, who has spent over 20 years studying terrorist organizations, joins the podcast to explain Antifa’s tactics to gain support and how it spreads its propaganda. 

Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about a new pro-life documentary featuring former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson. 

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript. 

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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Dr. Martin Scott Catino, a Fulbright scholar, member of the Anti-Communist Action Team, an educator, and an author. Dr. Catino, thank you so much for being here.

Martin Scott Catino: Thank you for the opportunity to be here, I’m really looking forward to this.

Allen: So, you have done extensive research on a pretty heavy topic, Antifa, on their methodology and their history. And I think for many Americans, including myself, we have really not even heard much about Antifa until, gosh, probably about three years ago. So if you would, can you just begin by telling us what is the history of Antifa?

Catino: Sure. First I’d like to say yes, as a researcher and professor, looking into these groups, these types of terrorist groups, and how they create unrest is something I’ve done for well over 20 years, but I’m also a veteran.

A reason why so many of us are concerned about this is because we went to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and deployments and visiting moments in other areas of the world where we’ve seen this, we’ve witnessed these types of terrorist groups organizing, creating insurgencies, and the horrible consequences of it.

So you’ll find people like myself that have worked in the intelligence and the security field and research field being so very concerned about this issue, so we’re spending a lot of time on it.

So an answer to your question, Virginia, the history of this, it actually has multiple routes, that even though we can trace Antifa back to European communist groups and strains of radical anarchism in the United States, we have to be careful with the history because they are very committed to their effective violent street action.

They’re very adaptive, they are more committed to being tactically effective, to carry out their destructive mission than conforming to any historical or organizational format they may have had in the past.

Allen: Antifa claims that they’re anti-fascist, I think right on their website, in a lot of their material, that’s kind of their banner is that we are an anti-fascist organization. They say that they stand against white supremacists and injustice.

But you wrote in a recent op-ed for the Anti-Communism Action Team, which is titled “Antifa and Its Propaganda,” you say that Antifa, it’s really not accurate to say that they’re an anti-fascist organization. So who are they really?

Catino: Yes. It’s a very clever cover. It legitimizes them, and it makes them seem as if they have somewhat of a decent or respectable cause to crush white supremacists, to actually go out and fight this fascist movement that’s harming Americans.

They’ll even so hypocritically say that they’re out to really just help the average guy, but their actions are very different, they’re not limited in their scope of operation.

When we look at who they’re targeting, I mean, we don’t have to get overly scientific about this, you look in the newspaper and you see the terrible work they’re doing against police, you see what they’re doing by trying to occupy areas, and I don’t mean just the CHOP in Seattle, but just other areas of the country, and just the horrible damage they’re doing with arson, and attacking our institutions, our courthouses, our sacred heritage, and really even an entire class of people, our business class.

We see that they are a very, very dedicated terrorist group that has an objective of overthrowing our government and harming our republic.

Allen: So is that really their ultimate goal? To overthrow the government?

Catino: They’re not shy about it, you have to dig a little deeper. Because on one side, they’re going to put out their cover, their mask, and they’re going to have propaganda in that regard.

But they’re actually very open on their websites, their doctrinal statements, their actions, and even after events, they state that their objective is the overthrow of the government of the United States and the destruction of our entire system, politically, socially, and culturally.

Allen: Wow. I mean, it’s wild to almost just face that reality that they genuinely believe that that’s possible, or that they believe that that’s a just cause.

What are the tactics? What is the strategy that they’re using to ultimately try and achieve that goal of overthrowing the government?

Catino: Yeah, that’s an excellent question. I think, first of all, we say in the trade, we watch their feet, they’ll talk with their mouth, but watch where their feet are going.

It’s interesting when the police reports, the news reports, and particularly a piece of information that’s been overlooked, what the business community is saying that’s going on. It’s very obvious that they’re using multiple tactics and strategies.

No. 1, we’re seeing these … clad in the black outfits, covering their face, street action, where they’re not just committing violence against the targets I just mentioned, but they’re carefully manipulating the post-attack scenario.

For instance, they have lawyers, they have people working in the media, they have people that are very pro their activities. And laws are being changed, they’re expanding their networks, their recruitment level is increasing, and their capabilities are increasing.

So it’s very clear what they’re doing. They’re working on that violent black block tactic … and on the other side, they’re working in the political system.

When we look at these people that are actually being arrested, we’re seeing that these are school teachers, these are people that are associated with universities, these are people that are embedded in organizations in America. So this is something we need to be really concerned about.

Allen: So this goes much deeper than just some youth who are young and overly excited and getting caught up in a movement, this is actually becoming something that is deeply embedded, and you’re saying, even our media, and lawyers, and political leaders.

Catino: Yeah. Unfortunately, we’re getting a window into that when we see areas like Portland, we’re seeing problems in New York, we see this in Washington, and there’s just so many cases of this, not just Seattle.

At the local level, ground being granted to them, I mean, even in the state of Virginia, we’re seeing laws being lessened, there’s a decriminalization of their activity, violent activity, and this is exactly the kind of effect or consequence they’re trying to achieve, and they’re happy about it, and they brag and boast about it.

Allen: You write in your piece that Antifa cements its internal unity by building its groups and networks from friendships, social workplace, and even sports associations, and thus creates a bottom-up or horizontal linked organization. Can you just explain this strategy a little bit further?

Catino: Yeah. We’re seeing a change from the old Cold War communist anarchist era where we had a lot of foreign influence as the chief agitation.

We’re not talking about a situation where it’s the communist party, let’s say, that’s agitating in a top-down Soviet or Maoist Chinese organization working internationally, spreading cells and spreading propaganda.

The way they work, they work primarily through the university, and a lot of young people and some old guard people that have been around a long time actually try to develop these groups from sports societies, from friendship groups, from college groups. And they create these loose cells and organizations that coordinate and are just really synergistic working with each other, they’re committed to working in that type of manner.

Allen: … As you’re saying this, I’m wondering, people talk about how this younger generation is one of the loneliest generations and how social media has actually isolated so many people. And it sounds like part of the strategy of Antifa is to pick people out who feel alone and lonely and to pull them into this community, make them feel welcome, and radicalize them.

Catino: I think so, I think so, ma’am, that there is a psychological component of this. They’re able to see the very disconnected and discontented, they have an ability like other terrorist groups to be able to identify that type of personality, and then very carefully bring them into a group.

They, Antifa, and groups like them and other radical anarchists, they talk a lot about a concern of infiltration, they’re very aware that our security agencies are trying to get inside, gather intelligence, and break them up. So they’re very clever on who they target for recruitment, and then they nurture them along every step of the way.

Allen: I think it’s amazing, the more and more we learn about Antifa, just how formalized the organization is.

In your op-ed, you included this really fascinating chart, which was developed by the Huntsville, Alabama, Police Department. It actually shows all of the different roles that members of Antifa play during riots. Could you just explain that chart a little bit?

Catino: Sure, sure, I’d gladly. First, if I may just quickly preface that our heart has really got to go out to law enforcement. These are people that have specialized knowledge, they’re witnessing this terrible ground game of terrorism that’s occurring, their expert formations, their tactical expertise.

They’re witnessing this thing is on the ground and many of these reports are classified, so the information is so well known, much of it’s highly classified, and they have to be careful how and when they speak.

So the information comes out in bits and pieces, so we have to be careful to pick it up because the enemy, these terrorists, are doing such a great job, Antifa, of putting out a message, “Don’t listen to them, all police, they’re evil.”

But getting to your question, if we go to the ground level, and we are actually looking at these riots and these types of attacks that are happening, we see very specialized ground players.

We see attack teams, distraction teams, medics, we even see lawyers or legal experts walking on the ground, people livestreaming actions, people that are seeking to exfiltrate and get out under a difficult circumstance, and many types of arsonists, agitators, people in charge of movement. It’s highly specialized.

Allen: Wow. I mean, that’s wild. We spoke with a gentleman named Gabe Johnson just a few weeks ago on this podcast, and he lives in Portland and has experienced exactly what you’re talking about firsthand.

He’s gone to the protest, he’s been filmed and followed by members of Antifa, and has seen how they have these assigned roles. They’re very organized as an organization, everyone seems to know what they’re doing, and they carry out their roles very well.

Catino: That’s exactly true.

Allen: Do we know who is funding Antifa? … They’re getting all these supplies, these weapons supplies to make homemade weapons from somewhere, where is this money coming from?

Catino: Yes. We have to be very careful with that because these types of terrorist movements are expert at diversifying their streams of revenues, their revenue streams, because they know ultimately when there’s a legal operation against them, a law enforcement operation, they’re able to interdict one, two, or more of those.

So they’re very, very clever in how they’re using individuals to give to these types of events, so they will diversify. Some of it’s open criminal activity. They openly talk about gaining insights from criminals, criminal activity, as well as revenues, and they use multiple streams of funds coming in.

Allen: Now, you have repeatedly referred to Antifa as the terrorist organization and President [Donald] Trump has as well. On May 31 he tweeted, “The United States of America will be designating Antifa as a terrorist organization.”

I was really fascinated just a few days ago, The Washington Post wrote a story titled “Five Myths About Antifa.” And they say that Antifa cannot be characterized as a terrorist organization because they’re not technically a centralized organization. What’s your response to this?

Catino: Yeah, that’s so obviously false because they are an organization, but a decentralized one. They’re not set up in a hierarchy, and they do that particularly to operate more effectively. But if you look at their doctrine, they’re openly calling for a unification organization and movement to overthrow the United States.

So you look at the intent. And then you look at how they are organizing, they are creating these small cells, these small groups, they’re linking these groups together, unofficially.

And then they also have this ability to rapidly mobilize. So when a certain event comes, they’ll create a shell organization that will call for a mass mobilization, and they’re able to bring it to the streets in those sophisticated tactics we talked about. So we have to be very careful of this.

… This is a point I brought out in another presentation, not in the article you had mentioned, but our intelligence organizations bring out what’s called in it a terrorist attack planning cycle, everything from the planning, to the implementation, to the surveillance, to the execution, to the exfiltration, and post-terrorist operations are all distinct phases. We find that Antifa has individuals trained and operating and evident in each one of those positions.

So we have to be very careful with that, they’re already operating like a terrorist group and they’re also planning to escalate to higher levels of terrorism when that operational moment occurs.

The Antifa we’re seeing now is nothing like what they’re planning to do. But they’re not foolish people, we have to be careful that we separate the ground-level young person who’s the trooper going in and really is being used by the higher-level leadership with the people that are up upstairs really just watching over the strategy, are very careful to know how and when to escalate and phase their operations.

So the worst is yet to come unless something is done to really push back on them.

Allen: So as you mentioned, you spent years and years and years studying terrorist groups, how do you stop a group like Antifa?

Catino: Yes, ma’am, we’ve seen this in Iraq and Afghanistan, this [isn’t] something new. These types of tactics aren’t just used by communists, I’ve seen this in watching Iranian terrorist groups and insurgent groups in Iraq, I’ve seen this in Afghanistan, I’ve seen this in studies in the Philippines, communist groups and how they operate in many other places. So we’re able to stop that just by what the Department of Justice is doing.

Now, we have to be patient, I know that for people who are on the ground that are watching their cities burn, it’s got to be painful. And I don’t want to seem callous by saying, “Let’s just be patient.” It’s easy for some of us who haven’t witnessed that in our very own cities to that degree.

But at first it’s going to take a very detailed intelligence collection operation, which no doubt is underway, to find out who are the leaders, how they’re moving their assets about, and how they’re staging their forces in various areas. And then it’s going to take an itemizing of these people, and then to begin to operate against them by prioritizing personnel and resources.

We’re starting to see that. We’re starting to see the Department of Justice not just arresting people, but knowing who are the people committing the crimes, where their leadership is located, and assessing this. So that’s exactly what we need.

And we have plenty of success stories, ma’am, in the past. The FBI in the past has done an outstanding job working against the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front, which are similar groups in their formations. So we really have a great law enforcement community. They, and many others, … are doing an outstanding job.

Allen: Dr. Catino, how can our listeners follow your work? You have so much insight on this subject, and I would love for folks to be able to keep up with what you’re doing.

Catino: Well, thank you very much. I have a website where I will publish this type of material. And I’d say, most importantly, the Anti-Communist Action Team is just an assemblance of people that are committed to standing up and standing against this, and promoting our foundational American values.

We can never forget, we have such an extraordinary ideology and putting all the sophisticated arguments aside, throngs of people continue to want to come into this country, and not only do they want to come in, they even want to come in illegally, this country is so attractive.

Obviously, they don’t see this as an oppressive, racist, unjust country. And not only that, people come here and they stay. You would think if it’s so horrible, like Black Lives Matter, and Antifa, and these other radical groups say, that we’d have throngs of people leaving. It’s just the opposite.

The American dream with these free, wonderful ideas of liberty, a free-market economy, and one nation dedicated under God is still a very, very attractive ideology.

Allen: Yeah, … you are absolutely right. Dr. Catino, thank you so much for your time. Really, really appreciate it. This is so, so fascinating.

Catino: Thank you, ma’am. It’s just been such a pleasure to talk about these critically important issues for our country and for so many Americans.