Richard Kreitner is a writer on politics and history who contributes to The Nation, The Baffler, and Raritan, among other publications. His most recent book is Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union (2020). (July 2020)

Follow Richard Kreitner on Twitter: @RichardKreitner.

NYR DAILY

A Brief History of Dangerous Others

White nationalist militia members drawn to the Gettysburg National Military Park by a hoax that an Antifa group would be burning of American flags there, Pennsylvania on July 4, 2020

Wielding the outside agitator trope has always, at bottom, been a way of putting dissidents in their place. The allegation is not even necessarily meant to be believed. It is simply a cover story, intended to shield from responsibility not only the authorities implicated in crimes or abuses of power, but also society as a whole. It is a strategy of shock-doctrine reaction. But now the side of social justice has its opportunity.