An article claiming anti-fascists have become no different than fascists has inspired intense backlash online. People are especially incensed that the piece was published by the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. The center’s stated mission is to study and counter radical right-wing extremism.
People have unearthed tweets and previous comments by the article’s author, Craig McCann, that they say demonstrate his bias against antifascists specifically.
Many pointed out he was a former police officer, meaning his sympathies already were much more likely to align with the far-right than any leftist movement.
McCann, who is based in the United Kingdom, didn’t reply to an emailed inquiry about criticisms of his article sent Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, the British Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right published McCann’s piece, “Beware the Anti-Fascists, for they have become what they oppose.” In it, McCann writes of his concern about antifascists entering the field of countering violent extremism. He claims these antifascists advocate using violence against their ideological opponents on the far-right.
As examples, McCann points to people cheering white supremacist Richard Spencer getting punched and an interview in which a leftist spoke approvingly of “brass knuckling up and flattening the nose of a Proud Boy.”
McCann asserts that some antifascists can’t tell the difference between radicals and average right-wingers. “Their grievances against the status quo run wild and it is often difficult to identify a coherent strand of thinking, other than anger,” he writes. He claims that the “largely ignored antifa protests” in Portland that fostered “large scale disorder, criminal damage, and violence” are an example “of where the wisdom of the mob can lead.”
After saying that he opposes violence because it begets more violence, McCann lays out the thrust of his article. “Many years ago, we spoke of cumulative extremism in relation to the relationship between Islamist and radical right groups,” he says.
“Now we have the scenario where it is the radical left who have replaced the Islamists.”
“To those who advocate for violence against those you oppose, take a good look in the mirror, for you may have become that which you hate.”
The piece hit like a bomb on Twitter. Many pointed out that there are far more examples of violent right-wing extremism than the same by leftists and accused McCann of false equivalency.
Even those who conceded McCann may have some points felt that he generally failed to effectively make them.
“As a historian of fascism and anti-fascism, I understand that there are different approaches to anti-fascism and that militant anti-fascism is not the only form of opposition to fascism and the far right,” Evan Smith tweeted. “But this piece is not a serious engagement with this debate at all.”
Archives of McCann’s recently deleted Twitter account show that he’s been blasting antifa since at least 2020.
In October 2020, he tweeted, “Antifa has been described as ‘an idea’—this is that idea given form. Public disorder, criminal damage and violence, with the police being seen as fair game. The truth laid bare.”
Last summer, McCann retweeted right-wing provocateur Andy Ngo and wrote, “Watching from afar what is going on in Portland. It ain’t pretty.”
Travis Brown, who compiled McCann’s archived tweets, wrote, “Shocked to learn that the ex-cop who wrote that ‘Beware the Anti-Fascists’ thing was also an anti-woke grifter reply guy.”
Some turned on the center itself, where McCann is a fellow. Critics include people who describe themselves as fellows there.
“As many other @C4ARR fellows and researchers of the far right, as well as a someone who identifies ‘passionately as Anti-Fascist’ myself, I am am strongly condemning this article,” Greta Jasser tweeted.
Matthew Feldman, director of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, defended its work and commitment to publishing a variety of perspectives.
“Genuinely, the thing that I’m proudest of is our independence—from academia, from government; from everyone,” Feldman tweeted of the outrage. “It allows us to publish a wide spectrum of views rather than to be a comfort blanket—for anyone.”
Feldman also said that the center has granted one of its fellows the right to reply to McCann’s piece.