For most of the past 30 years, violent extremism has been most closely associated with the far-right in America. The media, the government, and watchdog groups like the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation league have railed against the far-right for a generation, and used scaremongering to convince the masses that conservative rhetoric was becoming more violent, and that right-wing groups pose a serious and growing threat to our society.
Of course, they often neglected to mention that the far-left has a long history of violence, especially when you consider the wave of domestic terror attacks that occurred throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. Perhaps these institutions should have been paying more attention to the Left, because while they were screaming about right-wing groups all these years, far-left radical groups like BAMN and ANTIFA have been riding under the radar.
However, “extremism experts” are finally starting to take note. Vice News recently interviewed Brian Levin, a former member of the NYPD who studies domestic extremism. He started focusing his efforts on the Left when he attended a public KKK rally last year to study the group, but found himself protecting one of the Klansman from a violent member of ANTIFA. “At that point,” he revealed “I said we have something coalescing on the hard left.”
The evidence is so far largely anecdotal. Levin says that since December 2015, he’s documented nearly two-dozen episodes in California where political events turned violent because of agitation on both sides, something he says he hardly ever saw before. Now, there are violent clashes on college campuses involving groups like Antifa, the anti-fascist group, taking on the alt-right; and aggressive anti-Trump rallies attended by members of the Redneck Revolt, a new pro-minority, anti-supremacist group that encourages its members to train with rifles. Online, hard leftists increasingly discuss politics in dire terms, and rationalize violence as a necessity— even the true inheritor of traditional progressive activism. (Or, in the case of the “Punch a Nazi” meme, a fun game.)
And Levin isn’t alone. Other watchdog groups that typically focused their attention on the Right, are now taking a second look at far-left radicals.
“I think we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the Left,” said Oren Segal, the director of the Center on Extremism, an arm of the Anti-Defamation League. Over the past few months, the ADL, which hosts regular seminars on homegrown extremism for law enforcement officials, has begun warning of the rising threat posed by far-left groups, most recently at a seminar just this past Sunday. “When we have anti-fascist counterprotests — not that they are the same as white supremacists — that can ratchet up the violence at these events, and it means we can see people who are violent on their own be attracted to that,” Segal said. “I hate to say it, but it feels inevitable.”
The fact that Vice, a very liberal media outlet, is wincing at the sight of violence among liberals, is very telling. The fact that these organizations are taking a look at the Left speaks volumes. Liberals can’t ignore or encourage this behavior any longer, because even the groups that are typically hyperventilating about conservatives, are beginning to admit that there’s a problem on the Left.
And that problem has wider implications. As leftist rhetoric and actions become more violent, and as the police in urban areas fail to rein in leftist counter-protesters time and time again, it won’t be long before right-wing protesters begin to retaliate. You can’t expect anyone, regardless of their political beliefs, to keep taking it on the nose indefinitely, without fighting back. When that retaliation becomes commonplace, the results will be unbelievably ugly.