Providing Explanations and Solutions for the Actions of the Terrorist Group AntiFa from a Psychoanalytic and Behaviourist Perspective.

- Grateful Millennial 8/5/18

Domestic terrorism is defined as unlawful actions that either threaten human life or intimidate and coerce the population for political purposes (Golder & Williams, 2004). This essay aims to examine the causes and solutions to the modern terrorist group AntiFa, short for Anti-Facism, from a behaviourist and psychoanalytic perspective.

AntiFa’s activities have been formally classified as “domestic terrorist violence” by the United State’s Department of Homeland Security (Meyer, 2017).  AntiFa have self-professed ‘progressive’ views and follow a Communist ideology (CNN, 2017), with the most common targets for AntiFa violence being Trump supporters and police officers (Meyer, 2017). In addition, AntiFa have caused significant damage to both public and private property with the February 2017 Berkeley protests alone resulting in over $100,000 worth of damage (Seunagel, 2017; Park & Lah, 2017).

Focusing on a specific terrorist group will allow for a more detailed explanation of the causes and solutions of politically motivated terror.

The behaviourist perspective will focus on how the violent and destructive behaviours of AntiFa can be changed through positive and negative reinforcement (Bandura, 1977; Ferster & Skinner, 1957). Alternatively, psychoanalysis is concerned with the mind and collective unconscious (Jung, 2011; Jung, 1983). Jung’s theory of the shadow archetype will be employed to explain political violence (Jung, 2011; Jung, 1983). The integration of the shadow at a personal and societal level will be proposed as the correct way to tackle the issue of domestic terrorism (Kaufman, 2001; Johnson, 2011).   

Operant conditioning is a theory developed by B.F. Skinner and is a practical method of controlling behaviour through reward and punishment (Iversen & Lattal, 1991; Skinner, 1938). In order to understand and explain domestic terrorism from an operant conditioning perspective, behaviourists would analyse the consequences affecting AntiFa’s violent actions.

Evidence has demonstrated that the violent protest which shutdown Milo Yiannopolous’s event at UC Berkley in 2017, received a significant amount of funding (Ross, 2017; Anonymous, 2017). When AntiFa receive funding to fuel their protests this is a positive reward, reinforcing violent behaviour. News articles have also highlighted that the police failed to intervene effectively and stop the violence at Milo’s UC Berkley event in 2017 (Shakeel, 2017; Zhao, 2018). This is a negative reward, absence of police enforcement means that the perpetrators of violence do not suffer consequences for their harmful actions. The theory of operant conditioning does not explain the original motivation for these violent actions, however it does highlight how these actions are being reinforced.  

Operant conditioning can be employed to eradicate destructive behaviour and teach constructive behaviour (Bandura, 1977). This article by Shakeel (2017) demonstrate’s that the peaceful protesters at the Milo event did not support AntiFa’s violence.

Mainstream media and left-wing news outlets have presented mixed reactions to Antifa’s violence, CNN initially expressed sympathy to AntiFa (Ahle, 2017; Beck, 2017; Crowder, 2017). However, more recently progressive show hosts like Trevor Noah have revealed the violence and hypocrisy of AntiFa (Noah, 2017). If more progressive news outlets came out to thoroughly condemn AntiFa, this would provide positive punishment (Skinner, 1953). Another form of positive punishment would be increased police presence at AntiFa protests, to control violent outbursts and arrest offenders. This would ensure protection for freedom of speech, and would prevent AntiFa from successfully shutting down legal events.


The shadow archetype is defined as the darkest and most unpleasant aspects of a person’s character which are subsequently pushed into the unconscious (Kaufman, 2007; Johnson, 2011). When AntiFa justify their militant tactics through expressing their ‘progressive views’ this is a suppression of the shadow (CNN, 2017; Johnson, 2011). AntiFa infiltrate protests through black bloc which involves dressing in all black and covering their faces, by hiding their identity they’re able to act out their collective shadow (Crowder, 2017). This is demonstrated in a series of photos that show AntiFa attacking an elderly Trump supporter with signs that say, ‘No Hate’ (Mahaskey, 2017).

From a psychoanalytic perspective AntiFa are projecting their own shadow onto Donald Trump and anyone associated with him (Mahaskey, 2017; Jung, 1983). AntiFa are utilising the scapegoat in order to morally justify their desire for violence and power by force (Johnson, 2011).

Antifa attack elderly woman

Jung believed that it was impossible to completely eradicate the shadow, and that it was best to face the shadow and integrate it into your character (Johnson, 2011). The psychoanalytic method of acknowledging your shadow would be proposed as the solution to AntiFa terrorism (Jung & Franz, 1964). Jung believed that if you acknowledge your shadow this allows you to exercise partial control over it (Jung, 1964). Furthermore, this reduces the likelihood of unjustly projecting your shadow onto someone else (Jung, 1933). The members of AntiFa could be guided to face the shadow within through individual therapy (Jung, 1964). However, it is also important to highlight how society deals with the collective shadow and utilises the scapegoat (Johnson, 2011). Several articles emerged after the AntiFa riots at Berkley, which accused the speaker Milo for causing the violence with provocative speech (Oreskes & Kohn, 2017). This perspective removes the burden of the shadow from AntiFa, transforming Milo into a scapegoat, and making it justifiable to attack him and his fans as if they were evil incarnate (Johnson, 2011).

Behaviourist and psychoanalytic approaches to terrorism are in direct opposition from a theoretical perspective. Behaviourism focuses on changing and moulding the behaviour of terrorists, so that the consequences of their violent actions are potent enough to prevent them from repeating these actions (Iverson & Lattal, 1991). Behaviourism is a practical method, however it does not acknowledge the self-determinism of the individual (Skinner, 1948). Alternatively the psychoanalytic perspective is concerned with what is leaping out of the unconscious mind of a terrorist, in an uncontrollable and violent way (Jung, 1964).

The psychoanalytic solution to terrorism would be for the terrorists to face their capacity for evil and integrate this into the parts of their character that wish to do good (Johnson, 2011). Psychoanalysis provides an introspective approach towards terrorism, however it does require that the individual chooses to engage in therapy of their own free will. While these are both highly different approaches to dealing with terrorism it's possible that the combination of these paradigms could aid in the prevention of Antifa terrorism acts.


Thanks for your time,

- Grateful Millennial


Anonymous. (2017, February 2nd) Billionaire Financier Soros Continues to Fund Anti-Trump Protests. Sputnik. Retrieved from

Ahle, S. P. (2017, August 16) Where has the press and Obama been during Antifa and BLM violence. Conservative firing line. Retrieved from

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Beck, C. (2017, September 1) Obama’s FBI, DHS Warned About Antifa Committing ‘Domestic Terrorist Violence. The Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved from

CNN. (2017, August 19) Inside violent anarchist group Antifa. [Youtube video]. Retrieved from

Crowder, S. (2017). Undercover AntiFa: Their tactics and media support exposed. [Youtube video] Retrieved from

Ferster, C. B., & Skinner, B. F. (1957). Schedules of reinforcement.

Golder, B & Williams, G (2004) United States of America domestic terrorism: title 18 United States code 2331. University of New South Wales Law Journal. Retrieved from  

Iversen, I.H. & Lattal, K.A. (1991) Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Johnson, R. A. (2011) Owning your own shadow: understanding the dark side of the psyche. New York, US: Harpercollins.

Jung, C. G., & Franz, M.-L. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Dell Pub. Co.

Jung, C. G. (1983) Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York, NY, US: Crown Publishing Group/Random House.

Jung, C. G. (1933). Modern man in search of a soul. NY: Harcourt, Inc.

Kaufman, C.  (2007) Three-Dimensional Villains: Finding Your Character's Shadow. Retrieved from

Mahaskey, M. S. (2017, December 26). The Rise of AntiFa. Politico. Retrieved from

MEYER, J. (2017, September 1st). FBI, Homeland Security warn of more ‘antifa’ attacks. Politico. Retrieved from

Noah, T (2017). Antifa: The Punch-Drunk Left - The Daily Show | Comedy Central. [Youtube video] Retrieved from

Oreskes, B. & St Kohn, P (2017, August 30) After 'antifa' violence, Berkeley debates whether Milo Yiannopoulos and other conservatives are welcome. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Park, M & Lah, K. (2017, February 3) Berkeley protests of Yiannopoulos caused $100,000 in damage. CNN. Retrieved from

Ross, C. (2017, February 3rd) Look who funds the event at the call to Arms at Milo Berkely event. The DC.

Seunagel, G. (2017, August 16) AntiFa Protester Arrested For Destruction of Property. The USA Herald. Retrieved from

Shakeel, A. (2017, March 2) Aftermath: The Milo protests and where Berkeley went wrong. Berkley political review.

Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior.

Zhao, C. (2018, April 8) Berkeley Police Department faces criticism for lack of intervention at Trump rally. The Daily Californian. Retrieved from