Although launched not even two years ago, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) seems to have quickly been elevated to the status of Canada’s go-to “hate monitor.” Most of the major outlets—the CBC, Global, etc.—regularly seek comment from the group whenever sensitive issues like offensive speech and alleged hate crimes are trending in the media. They also reliably cover CAHN’s investigative research on “hate groups” operating in Canada.
Our American friends down south know “hate monitoring” organizations well, chief among them the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). That organization, which CAHN in fact has a partner relationship with, is currently undergoing a public relations-crisis following revelations from a former insider that the group is essentially a scam; one which regularly reported that “hate always continued to be on the rise” in order to bilk its “gullible Northern liberal” donor base. Last year, a group of employees accused the SPLC’s leadership of fostering an environment where racism, sexism and sexual assault was allowed. It led to the organization’s founder being fired and the resignation of its president.
CAHN is now facing its own public relations challenge after it was alleged, among other things, to be pursuing similar “hate group” alarmism in Canada. According to CAHN, there are apparently 300 “right-wing extremists” groups operating across the country; more per capita than what even the SPLC finds in the US. The piece, published in an online journal curated by Preston Manning’s Manning Foundation, was indeed thoroughly critical of the group’s methods. It apparently cut so deep with CAHN executives, they responded with a positively frenzied open letter accusing the journal of manufacturing half-truths, straw-man arguments, and even outright lies.
A major focus of the piece is CAHN’s supposed defence of the extreme far-left antifa movement. Most Canadians by now know antifa well, having seen images of its black-clad, mask-wearing members committing unprovoked acts of violence or aggression against those not just on the far-right, but also conservatives, free speech-advocates, journalists, and even geriatrics. Operating transnationally, the Department of Homeland Security has described some of antifa’s actions as “domestic terrorist violence.”
But in their letter against the Manning Foundation, CAHN attempts to argue that antifa violence isn’t the same as “fascist” violence and that there is “zero equivalency” between the two. Antifa, they write, only “appear when… neo-Nazi groups that want to take power to carry out discrimination, deportations, and genocide” arise, and to say the two sides are comparable “is an intellectually devoid exercise.”
But take antifa-researcher Andy Ngo’s picks for the worst examples of the movement’s violence last year in the U.S. None were in reaction to “fascists” at all:
In one, accused antifa member Charles Landeros of Eugene, Ore. had been stockpiling weapons in order to “kill pigs,” or law enforcement, before police got him first in a shootout at an elementary school. His comrades called him a “martyr” and a bomb was left outside a local police station. That incident is still under investigation.
Willem van Spronsen in Washington state called on his comrades to “take up arms” against the government in a manifesto he released before attempting to murder federal immigration agents using a rifle and explosives. Luckily, his gun malfunctioned and he was shot and killed. Again, antifa supporters call him a “martyr.”
This included Connor Betts who tweeted the message just before he shot and killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio. Betts had antifa connections and was in communications with an antifa militia group prior to the killing.
Again, none of these cases involved entanglements with “fascists.” And according to coverage of the Betts case, a short time before his death, he tweeted: “I want socialism, and I’ll not wait for the idiots to finally come round understanding.” Clearly, at least in part, his mass-killing seemed to have been about accelerating a revolution, not reacting to “fascism.”
In Canada, members of law enforcement have stated that antifa compared to the extreme right is “more violent in some cases.” Like CAHN’s media-appointed status as Canada’s “hate group” arbiter, why should antifa have license to be judge, jury and executioner when it comes to countering political violence? If there truly is a violent threat from an extreme-right group, it should be the police and the legal system that deals with it, not unaccountable, private militia groups. CAHN does say in its letter it’s against the use of violence, however, to defend or fail to disavow antifa, as they apparently do, would seem to encourage the normalization of its tactics.
Moreover, CAHN’s support for aggressive countermeasures, such as pushing for greater public and private censorship and directly confronting “hate groups,” might actually be fueling “hate” and right-wing extremism, not restraining it. For instance, Dr. JA Ravndal of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism and an expert on right-wing extremism has concluded that “countermeasures intended to constrain radical right politics appear to fuel extreme right violence” and that “[r]ecognition, open-mindedness, and dialogue might then work better than exclusion, public repression, or aggressive confrontation.” If CAHN really wants to stop the supposed increase of right-wing extremism in Canada it may want to focus on the former, not the latter, measures.