Ngo spoke at the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw’s Ujazdowski Castle (U-jazdowski, for its Polish abbreviation) about the false claim that antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” poses a danger to liberal democracies. The speech was the latest in a year-long string of appearances by far-right and conservative American figures in Hungary and Poland. Many in the broader American far-right movement regard these nations as examples of good governance.
The governments of Hungary and Poland are widely seen as illiberal democracies that engage in anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ policies, media consolidation and court packing to achieve their goals, as of the hard right wing of the Republican Party. The Hatewatch report is the first to detail a contract between an American right-wing figure and Polish government institutions.
Ngo did not respond to two email requests for comment before publication. After the posting, Ngo responded via Twitter, saying he owes Hatewatch “nothing” and chooses “when or if” he responds.
Ngo also said he stood by his comments to U-jazdowski.
The contract stipulated that Ngo was to be paid “360 euros per hour” for his speech and an accompanying question-and-answer section. The document also states that the payment for Ngo’s “performance… shall not exceed” 720 euros.
This amount is far less than what Hungary paid Ngo’s contemporaries for speeches. A Hungarian cultural institution has paid Steve Bannon – a former adviser to former President Donald Trump and former head of the Breitbart News Network – and far-right racist troll Milo Yiannopoulos $20,000 each, plus accommodation and travel, for one-hour talks in 2018.
A Hungarian educational institution also paid Dennis Prager, co-founder of the influential right-wing nonprofit propaganda channel PragerU, $30,000 for a one-hour speech in 2021. The contract claimed that tax funds Hungarians had been used to pay for Prager’s flight, but Prager disputed this at Hatewatch.
The contract between Ngo and U-jazdowski does not include flight or accommodation costs.
Rafal Pankowski, a Polish political scientist and co-founder of the anti-discrimination association Never Again, told Hatewatch that the event was a reaction to the Museum of Modern Art Poland’s 2019 exhibition on the importance of antifascist art. The Warsaw city government administers this museum, while the ruling Right and Right Party (PiS, by its Polish abbreviation), oversees U-jazdowski.
Pankowski described the event as an attempt to raise the profile of right-wing Polish artists who exhibited their work at the event.
Since the PiS appointed a new director for U-jazdowski in 2020, the center has become a “right-wing propaganda tool more than anything else”, Pankowski said.
Ngo is not an artist. He calls himself a journalist. Ngo rose to prominence after left-wing protesters attacked him in 2019. The attack came after Ngo regularly posted posts and tweets criticizing left-wing protesters and ‘waking up’ the culture throughout of 2018. Ngo was a regular at violent protests in Portland in 2018 and 2019 and faced allegations of cooperating with far-right groups. Ngo denied this.
What Ngo described as journalistic work largely consists of posting anti-antifa, Islamophobic and transphobic tweets and articles on his prominent Twitter account, as well as disseminating arrest records and personal details of protesters from left.
Ngo falls into the category of right-wing influencers on social networks. He helped shape the right-wing media narrative that antifa poses the real threat of political violence while downplaying the threat posed by the far right. This narrative contributed to former President Donald Trump’s attempt to label Antifa a national terrorist organization and fueled unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that Antifa was responsible for the pro-Trump insurgency from January 6 to US Capitol.
A YouTube video of Ngo’s speech, which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, shows empty chairs between the few attendees. Agnieszka Kolek, a Polish artist based in the UK, moderated the speech. Kolek appears alongside other right-wing commentators and artists and created works lamenting “Islamists” introducing “Sharia”-based laws after the Arab Spring.
Kolek said the antifas were “p*ssies” when Ngo claimed militants were attacking churches, but not mosques.
Rafal Ziemkiewicz, a far-right Polish commentator who makes explicit anti-Semitic remarks, was also present. UK refused Ziemkiewicz entry his opinions in October 2021.
During the Q&A section, Ziemkiewicz told Ngo that he respects him as a “journalist” and a “brave man”. He asked if Ngo had followed the historical similarities between antifa and the Sturmabteilung (SA), the first paramilitary branch of the Nazi Party that was active in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.
The SA, also known as “Brownshirts” for their uniform, frequently engaged in street violence against Jews, leftist groups and enemies of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
In 1938, the SA carried out the Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass, a Germany-wide pogrom against the Jewish people that resulted in the destruction of more than 260 synagogues and the arrest of around 30,000 Jewish men, whom the Nazis sent to camps of concentration.
Ngo said that if you “take off the uniforms” of anti-fascist groups and Nazi paramilitaries in pre-WWII Germany, their “actions…were really the same”.
Some members of Germany’s historic anti-fascist movement were Stalinists, led by the German Community Party. Although these members sometimes attacked liberal Social Democrats, German anti-fascists never sent tens of thousands of people to concentration camps because of their ethnicity or religion.
Ignorant or “dishonest”
Ngo’s 2021 book reviews, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, note his attempts to downplay the fascist and far-right political ideology of the groups antifa clashes with in street protests. Critics also denounce its “dishonest” portrayals of the antifa threat.
Ngo used this narrative during the event. He showed photos of Adam Kelly, a man whom Gage Halupowski attacked with a baton during a noisy protest in June 2019 in Portland. Photos show Kelly bleeding from head injuries.
Rose City Antifa has documented Kelly’s ties to hard-right and anti-government groups, including a leadership position in the Oregon state militia. Kelly and his militia organized with the Proud Boys, one of the largest far-right groups in the United States, events in the Pacific Northwest. Activists have also documented Kelly’s closeness to associates of the far-right Patriot Prayer group.
An article in the Portland Mercury, a Portland bi-weekly alternative newspaper, claimed that Ngo joined Patriot Prayer meetings without filming. The report claims that Ngo only turned on his camera when antifa appeared, hoping to catch some altercations. Ngo denied this after the story was published and threatened legal action.
Ngo did not mention Kelly’s ties to extremist groups during his speech. He said Halupowski was convicted and sentenced to almost six years as ‘one of the very few’ left-wing activists convicted of violent crimes and suggested there was more left-wing violence than right-wing violence , if the murders were omitted.
Statistics show that far-right extremists are responsible for the overwhelming majority of all political violence in the United States, including the recent mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, which has been linked to a white supremacist document that has been circulating online.
Ngo made other spurious allegations in his speech about law enforcement efforts to apprehend left-wing activists who engage in violence and compared antifa to international terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Ngo said that when the criminal justice system charges individuals with violence during protests, the charging documents don’t include “social media posts, other stuff that kind of contextualizes why the violence happened.” produced”.
Ngo lamented that “the individuals would just be prosecuted strictly for the crime they committed, which should happen, but if you look at the court documents…you see no mention of them…involved… with antifa”.
However, there are numerous examples of law enforcement monitoring the social media accounts of suspected left-wing activists, sometimes leading to criminal prosecution.
Arizona police have followed an Indigenous man, Loren Reed, on social media and charged him with a plot to burn down a courthouse amid nationwide protests against police brutality in 2020. The majority of evidence presented by the police were social media posts.
Reed accepted a non-cooperative plea deal in May 2021.
Hatewatch reported last December that the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had been regularly tracking left-wing anti-racism groups on social media for years, while largely ignoring far-right protests.
Reports have shown Portland police have a warm relationship with Patriot Prayer. Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was an FBI informant and allegedly had a close relationship with an MPD lieutenant.
Censorship and solidarity
Pankowski, the co-founder of Never Again, noted Ngo’s apparent ignorance of Poland’s political environment.
Ngo began his U-jazdowski speech by expressing his “solidarity with artists whose works … either face censorship or call for censorship,” in reference to right-wing artists who participated in the event.
Poland routinely censors artists, most often through a 1932 law that prohibits blasphemy or offensive religious sentiments. Generally, these censors affect artists and performers who disagree with the PiS’ conservative religious style of government. Adam “Nergal” Darski, lead singer of extreme metal band Behemoth, has faced various charges of offending the Catholic Church with his music and performances since 2010. His latest blasphemy charge was dismissed in September 2021.
Poland has also brought charges against three human rights activists who hung posters of the Virgin Mary with an LGBTQ rainbow for a halo. The case was dismissed in January.
Pankowski concluded, “As a taxpayer who paid my money for this event…I don’t know why. [it] must be supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Editor’s Note: Hatewatch contacted Andy Ngo for comment prior to the publication of this article. Ngo responded after publication with a post on Twitter, and we’ve added a summary of his comments to this article.
Photo illustration by SPLC