News & Politics

Canada's SPLC-Style 'Anti-Hate' Watchdog Carries Water for Antifa

A flag bearing the logo of the group Antifa is seen at a rally in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones)(Sipa via AP Images)

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) spearheaded the strategy of exaggerating the threat of “hate” on the right in order to bilk donors and attack its political opponents. Last year, the SPLC spread this strategy to Canada, giving a start-up grant to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN). While both the SPLC and CAHN focus on “hate” on the right, they ignore the threats and violence from the left associated with the anti-fascist “antifa” movement. Yet CAHN goes further than the SPLC in carrying water for antifa.

In recent years, antifa activists have turned out in large numbers to protest and harass conservative and alt-right speakers. They often wear black masks and physically assault people. In Portland this past June, antifa thugs beat up conservative journalist Andy Ngo and local conservative Adam Kelly. The man who busted Kelly’s head open with a baton received a 6-month prison sentence earlier this month.

Antifa has also wreaked havoc in Canada. Hecklers shouted, “Nazi scum, off our streets!” at an elderly lady with a walker just trying to cross the street. The thugs were there to protest a forum organized by political commentator Dave Rubin along with candidates of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), a split-off from the Conservative Party.

That protest appears to have been inspired by a CAHN op-ed accusing Rubin and the party of “ushering people into the neo-Nazi movement.” CAHN has repeatedly twisted the truth to smear PPC as a hateful political party. In August, CAHN ran an article from an antifa activist who bragged about pressuring a Winnipeg art gallery into canceling a PPC event.

Omar Kinnarath, who identified himself as a member of Winnipeg FF1, an anti-fascist group, claimed that PPC “attracts supporters and sympathizers of hate groups.” He mentioned alt-right figure Faith Goldy, neo-Nazi Paul Fromm, and a candidate who called for more “hate speech.”

Goldy has expressed support for the PPC but it appears the PPC has never supported her. When Fromm got his picture taken with PPC founder Maxime Bernier, Bernier said he did not know who Fromm was and repeated that racists were not welcome in his party. CAHN has also attacked the PPC for attracting former neo-Nazi Shaun Walker, who was promptly booted from the party after his history was uncovered. As for the “more hate speech” attack, it refers to candidate Cody Payant, who spoke out when Twitter banned free speech activist Lindsay Shepherd. Twitter later restored Shepherd’s account.

“Our country could use more hate speech, more offensive comments, more ‘micro-aggressions,’ more violation of safe spaces with words, and more critical thinking. Words are not violence and when we don’t have them to debate, and articulate our thoughts when communicating, then all we have left is guns,” Payant said. CAHN went on to “debunk” his claim, ignoring his call for free speech.

The heckling of an elderly woman outside a PPC event was apparently a response to an op-ed appearing in the local newspaper. It accused Rubin and his guests of “ushering people into the neo-Nazi movement” and demanded the venue renege on its contract — which nearly happened after venue operators claim to have received threats.

CAHN Executive Director Evan Balgord, who wrote that op-ed, has defended antifa and identifies himself as “anti-fascist” on his Twitter bio. In 2017, he employed a double standard, defending antifa violence as “defensive in nature.”

“While there have been several instances reported of black bloc anti-fascists assaulting demonstrators, as in a recent confrontation in Berkeley, California, there are also many examples of anti-fascists using violence to protect other protesters. For example, anti-fascists defended Jewish clergy from white supremacists in Charlottesville,” he wrote.

“Overall, anti-fascist tactics range widely, from simply taking up space to linking arms in front of ‘alt-right’ protesters, to physically removing the opposition (de-platforming). Some also engage in violence and property damage while wearing masks. However, they maintain that this violence is defensive in nature,” Balgord explained.

CAHN Chair Bernie Farber favorably quoted an article insisting that “there is no moral equivalency between the new alt-right and the anti-fascist movement.” He drew attention to this sentence: “While peaceful protest is usually preferable, there are times when more muscular resistance is inevitable.”

The CAHN website repeatedly praises “anti-fascists” and narrates political protest as a battle of good “anti-fascists” versus evil “hate groups.”

This rhetoric apes that of the SPLC, and for good reason. In May 2018, Balgord helped form CAHN with SPLC support.

“I realized there was a real sense amongst people who cover this issue that we didn’t have an organization like the Southern Poverty Law Center here in Canada,” he told TVOntario. “Something well-resourced, official, and that could speak authoritatively on these issues in Canada.” He organized the Canadian Anti-Hate Network to track “right-wing extremist” activity in Canada, complete with an SPLC start-up grant.

In March, the SPLC lost its co-founder, president, legal director, and a major board member amid a sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal. Amid this scandal, a former staffer came clean about being part of a “con,” and revealed the “hate group” accusations to be a cynical fundraising scheme — as well as a tool to silence political opponents.

After the SPLC smeared a Muslim reformer as an “anti-Islamic extremist,” the organization settled his defamation lawsuit by paying $3.375 million. The SPLC faces many lawsuits, and one of them has reached the discovery process, threatening to unearth the smear factory’s secrets.

CAHN is bringing the SPLC’s political warfare — and likely its fundraising tactics — up north. Its support for antifa may be a liability for the SPLC, as Americans and Canadians demand these liberal groups denounce political violence on the left.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.