August 18, 2017 11:26 am

COMMENTARY: It’s fair to call out violence on the left and right — but make sure to do both

White nationalist demonstrators, right, clash with a counter-protester as he throws a newspaper box at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017.

Steve Helber/AP/File
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Whenever a tragedy unfolds, too many people view it solely through the lens of how it either reinforces, or threatens, their pre-existing worldview.

We see this after Islamic terrorist attacks, after police shootings, and after last weekend’s Charlottesville protests.

The so-called Unite the Right rally on Saturday in the small Virginia college town did not simply morph from a reasonable protest into a magnet for the country’s true basket of deplorables — those folks were the ones organizing it.

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From the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website to Richard Spencer’s alt-right National Policy Institute to the National Socialist Movement, the event’s masthead reads like a Who’s Who of human excrement.

Yet I defend the right of these fecally-minded people to speak out, just as I do for the right of those standing up to them.

READ MORE: What is the ‘alt-right’? And definitions of other words in the extremist lexicon

There is a clarity to the goals of the Unite the Right protesters — terrible people standing up for terrible things, and thus easy to condemn. The groups opposing them have more shades of grey. Many, perhaps most, showed up to unite against racism and white supremacy — but many didn’t.

Antifa in particular, with its network of bandana-clad agitators, has a history of violent and hateful rhetoric and actions, from shutting down disagreeable speakers to shattering store windows to dousing people with urine.

Former dictator Benito Mussolini saw the rejection of individual identity and liberty as a hallmark of fascism, rendering Antifa, which seeks a singular worldview, the very portrait of what it claims to oppose.

These protesters, who often shroud themselves in Communist regalia and symbols, are at odds with history, the rule of law and free speech itself.

There is no moral high ground for Antifa’s pursuit of silencing dissidents and creating chaos.

How are they at all superior to the alt-right types seeking a white ethnostate?

They’re fascists, yet are rarely criticized as such by the mainstream left or media.

We can haggle over whether one of the group’s goals is marginally more immoral than the other, but our contempt for one side shouldn’t take away from our ability to criticize the other.

I’m a right-winger who thinks both are awful, yet I’ve been accused multiple times this week of being a “Nazi apologist” or “fascist” for saying such.

This double standard is similar to the widespread acceptance of communism — an ideology that has claimed over 100 million lives — whilst condemning the equally brutal Nazi fascism.

This is apparent in the backlash to U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments taking aim at Antifa on Wednesday.

In true Trump fashion, his messaging shifted in just a few days from a call for love to triumph over hate, to a statement condemning white supremacists and violence “on all sides,” to the tense back-and-forth with reporters at Trump Tower during which he asked, several times, “What about the ‘alt-left?'”

“Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he asked.

READ MORE: Donald Trump says the ‘alt-left’ shares the blame for Charlottesville. Here’s where that term came from

I thought the exchange was tactless and juvenile compared to Trump’s previous statements, which actually struck the right chords. But he is not wrong to call out violent, radical leftists.

More people should. Not instead of calling out those on the right, but in addition to that.

But we can’t do this when conservatives and liberals are limiting their finger-pointing to the other side’s problematic members.

The media doesn’t even want to acknowledge the existence of an alt-left.

Scott Gilmore, the allegedly conservative Maclean’s columnist, tweeted a Second World War image of Allied soldiers storming the beaches with the caption, “Alt-left, violently coming at the alt-right, circa 1944.”

After Trump’s “alt-left” remarks, Wired ran a column titled “There is no ‘alt-left,’ no matter what Trump says.” CNN concluded that “experts say it’s a ‘‘made-up term.'” Vice writer Eve Peyser urged people to “stop saying ‘alt-left,'” a sentiment shared by many others.

WATCH: Candlelight vigil held at University of Virginia campus in support of Charlottesville victims

The left is ignoring the alt-left problem at its own peril. If past fringe movements are any indication, this group will grow to be such a force that people will start to see it as representative of the mainstream left, as has happened to conservatives with the alt-right, which was originally dismissed as little more than angry YouTube commenters.

Everyone has a moral obligation to condemn the radicals in their midst. Moderate Muslims must rebuke radical Islam. Christians must cast out phonies like those in the Westboro Baptist Church. And the political left and right must disavow their own extremists.

If we are to find our common ground and condemn the reprehensible, it must be done, as Donald Trump said, “on all sides.”

A true anti-fascist would do this.

Andrew Lawton is host of The Andrew Lawton Show on AM980 London and a commentator for Global News.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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