Phony Anarchism, Bogus Research

A Reply to Z Magazine

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 Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland book encourage an alliance between left- and right-wing 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 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.

Dean Thomas is co-editor of Alternative Press Review. He can be reached at Read other articles by Dean, or visit Dean's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. anok4uok said on January 8th, 2009 at 12:00pm #

    Id expect as much from Z mag. I have read their publication since I was in high school (about 10 yrs ago) and this is par for the course. What do you get when you mix angry, discredited stalinist/leninists trying to make money (pay site? surely you joke) with the reality that anti authoritarianism is the only viable alternative for the left? Why , you get Z! Just ask Mr. Albert…hes more than willing to name drop anarchism, while in the same breath tell you why 99.9% are “bad anarchists” Tell me, why would an anarchist or antiauthoritarian run a for-pay web site filled with Democrat Liberal writers and party operatives? Easy…they wouldnt.

  2. The Angry Peasant said on January 8th, 2009 at 9:08pm #

    About as bogus as some corporate rag like Rolling Stone acting like it’s this progressive/grassroots/left-wing magazine, while throwing corporate products like Britney Spears on every other cover. A magazine that isn’t what it claims it is ain’t worth wiping your ass with.

  3. Brian Koontz said on January 9th, 2009 at 8:18am #

    In a world controlled by capitalist hierarchy, the only way to get to what’s good is to go between the lines. Once a location becomes defined and clarified, if it’s also threatening the elite move in to destroy it.

    Agility, deception, and transience in public and brutal honesty in private is the methodology of revolution.

    Once something becomes an *institution* it’s acceptable to the elite. All institutions are mausoleums. Z Magazine may qualify as an institution.

  4. The Angry Peasant said on January 9th, 2009 at 9:40pm #

    Nothing is safe from the soulless capitalist money-grabbing monster. Take Bonnaroo. What a beautiful thing that was in its first few years. Almost like another Woodstock. Real musicians playing quality, meaningful music and making a political statement. Now look at it; sold out to big corporations, big record labels, the whole shot. Used to be Edgar Meyer; R.L. Burnside; Tortoise. Now it’s Metallica and Kanye West. Pathetic. When Rolling Stone began its run back in the day, it was a true underground, politically-charged magazine. Now: Corporate rag. Nothing is sacred; nothing is safe. Such a shitty country that steals everything from the people.

  5. ceti said on January 10th, 2009 at 1:42am #

    Chip Berlet is getting almost as bad as Morris Dees in raising the dreaded right-wing extremist bogeyman to shake down liberals. While neo-nazis, militia conspiracy nuts, and assorted extremists exist, they are a rather marginal lot. The real danger is the Warfare State which both libertarians and the principled internationalist left identify as the main oppressive and destructive force in the world.

    Otherwise, Chip is good on a number of issues, but it’s sad to see his fearmongering veer so far off the mark.