Last week, the Media Research Center (MRC) published a report gleaned from Freedom of Information Act requests that shows how the Biden administration has weaponized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to target political opponents. DHS provided $352,109 in grant funding to the University of Dayton’s PREVENTS-OH counter-extremism project. The grant application was based in part on the work of openly anarchist Antifa-affiliated Michael Loadenthal, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cincinnati who, by his own admission, is a far-left violent extremist.
In 2021, Loadenthal spoke at a “White Nationalism Workshop” and an “Extremism, Rhetoric and Democratic Precarity” roundtable at the University’s “Social Practice Of Human Rights Conference.” During the white nationalism workshop, Loadenthal introduced himself by stating that he is militant Antifa; he then continued his talk by teaching audience members how to securely dox people to their employers. He detailed how he uses a VPN, burner phones, encrypted communications, and “sock puppet” accounts to dox people.
Throughout the talk he framed his work in explicitly “antifascist” terms, explaining how he employs “antifascist intelligence” to dox individuals online and in real life. He detailed what “antifascists” do with that information: “We contact employers, landlords, commanding officers, school officials, family, clergy, and we pressure service providers [PayPal, GoFundMe, Patreon, Amazon etc.] … and people will kick people off.” When asked during the question-and-answer section how people can help his work, he stated, “Donate money … We have defense funds because we get into trouble. A lot of the things we’re doing are illegal … a lot of it involves breaking the law.”
Loadenthal’s talk is a naked attempt to launder Antifa tactics of online harassment, doxxing, deplatforming, and illegal activity to make them sound academic. The danger of mainstreaming these violent extremist tactics became glaringly obvious in Loadenthal’s second presentation at the conference.
His talk on “Extremism, Rhetoric, and Democratic Precarity” opened with an image entitled “The Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization.” In it, he presented a taxonomy of the “far right,” which implies a pipeline from mainstream conservatism to violent extremist terrorism. He stated, “This is the modern far-right as articulated by what I think are some smart folk. We have a tiered system here between mainstream conservatism on the bottom, what is falsely called the ‘alt-lite,’ what used to be called the alt-right, which has been abandoned as a term, and when we look at the top, accelerationists and folks who are engaging in violence.”
Loadenthal did not give a citation for the image during the conference, and when Fox News asked him to clarify its origins, Loadenthal was not able to point to the source materials for greater context. He told them he believed it was authored around 2018 and that he “found it a helpful conceptual scaffolding and used it.” In other words, Loadenthal grabbed the first image that reaffirmed his political beliefs and used it not knowing any of the deeper concepts — if any — that went into its design. If an undergraduate student did that in a presentation, he would receive a failing grade.
Aside from an implied pipeline from mainstream conservatism to violent extremism, the placement of different groups and media outlets on the pyramid is ludicrous. For example, in the second rung of the pyramid, the “alt-lite” tier, centrist news outlet Quillette is placed alongside the Proud Boys and InfoWars. So should Quillette writers, as supposed members of the “alt-lite,” be doxxed, harassed, and fired? Yes, apparently.
Activist Not Academic
If Loadenthal appears to have a tenuous grasp on academic research and seems more like an activist than an academic, that’s because he is. His academia.edu account might look impressive at first glance, but a review of published academic papers quickly reveals a lack of reliable academic research.
He employs a full grab bag of buzzwords to get around the pesky “methodology” section of academic writing. His research methods include using a “Scavenger methodology” as practiced by “queer linguist” William L. Leap to explain why far-left eco-extremists are good but far-right eco-extremists are bad, a “Discourse analysis and Autoethnography” to justify Antifa rioting, and a “Foucauldian analysis of disciplinary power” to justify far-left ecoterrorism.
Often he doesn’t even bother to employ a methodology, as in “Othering Terrorism: A Rhetorical Strategy of Strategic Labeling,” where he makes the case that the term terrorism is racist based on a review of the movie “Black Hawk Down.” This, sadly, is not an exaggeration. All his papers are personal political screeds influenced by his activism, reliant on highly subjective methodologies and anecdotal evidence.
Further listed as academic output on his ResearchGate profile is a 2018 interview with violent militant anarchist collective CrimethInc in which he confirmed he is a militant anarchist. During the interview, he stated, “We can see some success … recently in the more mainstream acknowledgment of the effectiveness of militant antifascism.” Loadenthal is explicit. He praises the mainstreaming of militant antifascism and rioting.
History of Antifa Association
For Loadenthal, these are not empty words. He has been arrested numerous times for his activism. Though his Twitter account is currently locked, I possess an archive of all of his tweets pre-2019 as Loadenthal is featured in my peer-reviewed research on Antifa on Twitter. The research identified him as one of the most Antifa-embedded academics in the United States.
On Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2016, there was massive, premeditated rioting and property damage caused by anarchist and Antifa groups in Washington, D.C. Loadenthal’s tweets from that day show that not only was he there, but he was arrested with black bloc Antifa. In fact, he found it funny, writing in one tweet, “This is the slooooowest mass arrest I’ve ever been a part of. Not bragging but I’ve been through a few. #disruptj20 #washingtondc.”
Brazenly, Loadenthal used the experience of being arrested that day to write another article, arguing that empiricism and objectivity in academia are bad and that “action-centric, emancipatory-focused” approaches — activism — should be the basis of academic publishing. Once more he is attempting to normalize illegal Antifa activities within academia.
It seems impossible that the University of Cincinnati would still employ an openly violent, extremist Antifa anarchist who was arrested during the 2016 Inauguration Day riots. It seems impossible that the University of Dayton would give him a coveted speaker position to teach conference participants how to dox, harass, and deplatform political opponents while openly stating that his work is illegal. Most of all, it seems impossible that DHS would give the University of Dayton more than $350,000 in grant funding to combat domestic terrorism based in part on the work of this violent domestic extremist.
Yet here we are. The only obvious conclusion is that DHS has been thoroughly weaponized by the Biden administration against centrist and conservative Americans.