Alt-right vs. Antifa: How a political clash is turning the Internet into battleground

Disturbing trend towards vigilantism:

The four men charged after a self-styled “Canadian patriot” and far right provocateur was allegedly beaten and robbed in Ottawa on Saturday will appear in court later this month, but that’s not enough for Kevin J. Johnston.

“We need a name. We need an address. We need a phone number,” Johnston urges his followers after posting video on his Freedom Report website that shows a photo of a man Johnston claimed instigated the attack.

The call for online action is a nasty tactic of the increasingly volatile conflict between the far right and the far left that’s playing out in Canadian cities. Opponents on the left (the ‘Antifa’ for anti-Fascist movement) say they’ve received death threats and been the victims of “doxxing” — having personal information published online — as retribution from the far right or “alt-right.”

One man Johnston targeted is Kevin Metcalf, a member of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, who says he was at the Hill protest as an observer, shooting pictures and video of people at what was billed the “Million Canadian March.”

Johnston posted a video Tuesday showing Metcalf’s picture and called him “a coward, domestic terrorist and stalker of women.”

“If you see this man, you have to assume he is armed,” Johnston told his followers. “We have to get this guy behind bars, people. Get him behind bars now.”

Metcalf says he was on Parliament Hill conducting interviews around 11:30 a.m., the time it’s alleged Johnston was assaulted in Confederation Park. He says he’s considering legal action against Johnston over the online video.

“It’s concerning. I’m certainly taking precautions,” Metcalf said Wednesday. “I’ve received death threats before but since he published the video it’s increased exponentially.”

As an advocate for free expression, Metcalf has attended a number of rallies like Saturday’s march on Parliament Hill, which drew an eclectic mix of about 300 to 400 people, including groups such as the far right Soldiers of Odin and Jewish Defence League of Canada. Though billed as a pro-Trump rally by the American alt-right website Breitbart, the Ottawa demonstrators’ wrath was aimed at the Canadian government’s anti-islamophobia motion, M-103, as well as issues such as carbon taxes and Liberal spending.

Does freedom of expression cover someone such as Johnston, who rejects being labelled as “far right” but wants the Qur’an banned in Canada and has called Liberal MP Iqra Khalid an “islamic terrorist”?

“It’s a tough landscape to negotiate,” said Metcalf, who describes himself as being left-leaning personally. “There’s a protective right in Canada for free expression. At the same time, we recognize the important role that counter speech plays in fostering public discourse. So when people show up and say ‘Hey, you’re a bunch of racists. We don’t want you in our community, that’s also free expression. That needs to be supported and protected.”

Like the Million Canadian March demonstrators, Saturday’s counter-protest drew a mix of social justice advocates, including black-clad, balaclava-wearing members of a group calling itself Anti-Fascist Action. Metcalf said many of the counter demonstrators are “college-age, white and of relative social privilege” who track right-wing groups’ activities. They’ve taken to wearing masks to protect themselves from “doxxing” and online attacks, he said.

Source: Alt-right vs. Antifa: How a political clash is turning the Internet into battleground | Ottawa Citizen

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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