Reflections on the Charlottesville Conflict (Part 1)

For the last few weeks I’ve been holidaying with my partner in Tobago, and have only caught wind of the ‘Unite the Right’ march and the Charlottesville conflict passingly through popular media. I’m going to do a lot more research in the coming days, but for now I’d like to record some of my preliminary thoughts on the various issues that have arisen in response to this conflict. I don’t yet know all the facts and want to avoid saying anything too concrete.

If anybody would care to make my job easier, I’d really appreciate if someone could comment in order to fill in the blanks for me. Links would be useful too. Questions I need answering:

  • How was this march organised and promoted?
  • Was the term ‘white nationalist’ or anything specifically racialist included in the “promotion” of this march, or was that tacked on by the media later?
  • Were David Duke and the KKK (clear) organisers of this event (or, in other words, would it have been obvious to prospective marchers that this was an event that Duke had a hand in in advance of the march)?
  • What involvement did the League of the South have in the event?

The reason I ask is because, while this is being marked out clearly as a “white nationalist march” in popular American media, other sources are telling me that this was a ‘Unite the Right’ march with the clear intention of protesting against the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue. The prime reason this concerns me is that, if there was a local ‘Unite the Right’ rally formed to oppose the removal of confederate and colonial monuments, I myself might have attended such an event! So, I’d like to be clear on just how many of those in attendance were present for the same reason I may have been, and how many were present because they identify as white nationalists or white supremacists and were showing solidarity with those causes specifically.

What I’m trying to determine is just how comparable this event was to the early English Defense League marches, which were originally well-intentioned protests organised by Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll (however you may feel about either of them, there is no evidence that they are or ever were racially motivated) against Islam as a political ideology. The EDL had no membership and (originally at least) no firm rules of conduct, and they naturally attracted violent neo-nazis and other undesirables that aided the media in painting the entire attendence as “racist” or “far right” while those that have done their research know better.

Now, I am well aware that the ‘Unite the Right’ rally was composed of the KKK and neo-nazis, but it also apparently included Trump supporters, militias, “outlaw bikers”, alt-righters (including “alt-lite” types), identitarians, neo-confederates, “Southern identity” defenders and other more difficult-to-classify elements that don’t fit neatly into violent or “white nationalist” categories, and I can’t place my finger on whether or not this march can be easily defined as “KKK-like” or whether it represented the hard right (and anti-left) more broadly. I’m also aware that characters like Faith Goldy, Augustus Sol Invictus and Baked Alaska were present, who cannot fairly be called “white nationalists” either.

In Defense of Trump’s first response

“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides…it’s been going on a long time in our country…what is needed now is a restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society, and no child should ever feel afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents…the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection for each other. Above all else remember this truth: no matter our colour, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first.”

When I first heard this response I could not help but applaud. As president of the United States, Trump gave the perfect response to the violent conflict that took place on Friday. Condemning violence on all sides was the boldest and most ideal response he could have possibly given, and I was thoroughly impressed with the clarity with which he responded to the conflict (and resulting tragedy) with.

charlottesville

The way that the liberal media have reacted to this response, with universal vilification of Trump for not singling out “white nationalist” ideology as the raison d’etre of the violence displayed, has been absolutely disgraceful. Those would-be Americans ought to study their constitution more closely. However disgusting the views of racists and neo-nazis are (and they are, without question, disgusting) all Americans have the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to freedom of speech, belief, expression and association. This does not just apply to people that we agree with, but to our foulest enemies as well. Trump condemned the violence that took place, that is his constitutional duty. And there was violence on all sides, this was not an assault by one group against another. The church groups acted the most respectably, but there were counter-protesters that turned up with masks and weapons that obviously intended to fight. I saw the footage, there were arms swinging from every direction. Trump has no responsibility whatsoever to question or condemn citizens for exercising their constitutional right to free speech, however offensive that expression may be. On the contrary, he swore an oath in November to defend such liberties, even when they take on their ugliest form.

Liberty and bigotry

People often wrongly interpret open expressions of racism and bigotry as clear signs of illiberalism in an oppressive society, but they have the whole thing backwards. In totalitarian countries, we don’t see offensive opinions expressed unless they are government-sanctioned. Neo-nazis are not liable to speak out in North Korea or Saudi Arabia. This is not because they are peaceful countries that are incapable of hateful speech, but because they have no freedom of speech whatsoever. Quintin Hogg once wrote that “abuse is the hallmark of liberty,” and American liberals would do well to keep this in mind. This does not simply apply to white nationalists and nazi-sympathisers; the USA is a republic in which a Harvard professor can teach that the “white race” needs to be abolished and that “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity”, that a popular comedian can pose holding a replica of the severed head of the president, and performing artists can tear up and burn the Holy Bible on stage. All hateful acts, yet all “hallmarks of liberty.”

“Hate speech,” whilst being deplorable in itself, is also a sure sign of liberty in any given nation that does not punish or police it. Wherever you find one extreme expression of hate aired freely, you will find a thousand other free expressions of non-extreme sentiments that would be punished severely in many other parts of the world. Hate speech is not the goal of liberty, but a tacit proof of liberty in an ugly mask. It should not make liberals shudder, it should instead inspire them to think, “if they can get away with this, then surely my own freedom of expression is guaranteed.” I refuse to mince my words here, the way that many ‘liberal’ commentators have taken advantage of the tragedy, the death of an innocent woman, in order to bash their political opponents, is more reprehensible to me than anything that Trump has said (or hasn’t said) in response to this situation. I have heard a thousand offensive far right orations and witnessed countless conflicts between racists and anti-racists, what really upsets me is the death, violence and injury that occurred as a result of this particular conflict, not the ideological conflict itself (which is of course bothersome in its own right, but not nearly to the same degree that the murder of an innocent person is).

Equally if not more disgraceful is the way that both David Duke and Andrew Anglin (of the Daily Stormer) continue to claim that Trump supports their cause. Duke claimed that the rally was intended to “fulfill Trump’s promises”, and Anglin claimed that Trump did not condemn any white nationalist groups specifically and therefore supports their cause (despite stating clearly in his first response that “no matter our colour, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first,” a clear enough disavowal of racism as far as I’m concerned). On Monday, Trump issued a second statement on the conflict. This time, he directly ousted such groups: “to anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered…racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

This second response initially struck me as strange, as it appeared that Trump had conceded to his liberal detractors and expressed the condemnation that they originally demanded (which would be very out of character for him). However, this was before I read what Duke and Anglin had to say on the matter, and I am now certain that he issued this second response in order to defy their flagrant abuse of his name, not due to pressure from his attackers. Duke seems to have now gotten the message that Trump does not want to be associated with his kind (complaining that it was white nationalists that won him the election, even though they make up a relatively tiny portion of the overall electorate). Anglin and Spencer are still living in a dream, and are still claiming that Trump has not denounced white supremacists. It seems as though both the liberal media and these white power ideologues are hearing what they want to hear, as they are both in denial of the president’s disavowal of “the KKK, neo-nazis and white supremacists,” claiming that it either didn’t happen or happened too late. Dishonesty and stupidity know no place on the political spectrum.

The nomenclature of the alt-right

Regrettably, the term “alt-right” has been used so persistently by the media in relation to this conflict that it would probably be best to abandon the term to the white nationalists altogether. Fair enough, I guess that Richard Spencer secured the title first anyway. This is enough to poison the term ‘alt-lite’ by association (which is a term I never liked anyway), so now we need a new nomenclature specifically for the anti-establishment right-wing dissidence of Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos, Andrew Breitbart, Lauren Southern, Gavin McInnes, Augustus Sol Invictus, Blaire White, Stefan Molyneux, Ben Shapiro, Ezra Levant, Alex Jones, Paul Gottfried, Allum Bokhari, Razib Khan and other colourful, “alternative right” characters that cannot be boxed in with either white nationalists nor establishment Republicans. The Breitbart and Rebel Media rosters, the patriots and Kekistanians present at the Battle of Berkeley (a very different coalition from the Unite the Right marchers) and the cabinet of Donald Trump sum up what I’m referring to. Best to disassociate with the term alt-right, and leave it to be utilised by Richard Spencer and the Daily Stormer circle, which are hardly “alternative” given that they’re no different from the same old neo-nazi far right that has existed for decades, just with added memes and internet wit.

Concluding Thoughts

Jason Kessler, a character I have yet to do any research on, was apparently one of the prime organisers of the rally. The day following the conflict, Kessler attempted to give a press conference which may have elucidated many of the questions that myself and others have about why this disaster took place. Unfortunately, Kessler was not given an opportunity to speak or answer questions as he was jeered and shouted down by protesters, and quickly assaulted by a would-be ‘have-a-go hero,’ ending what could have been an opportunity for clarity in another display of brainless violence. This was not a loss for Kessler, but a loss for the nation that are trying to make sense of what happened. I cannot even judge whether the aggression Kessler faced was justified, as the opportunity to hear his take on the situation was robbed from us by the haughty attacker. Whilst the Charlottesville conflict was clearly a clash between racists and anti-racists, the meta-conflict behind this particular event may better be described as a spiritual or cultural clash between thinkers and fighters not limited by any position on the political spectrum. Hopefully Kessler gets a better opportunity to explain himself in the coming days, and we might get one step closer to understanding the tragic violence that took place on that fateful afternoon.

My prayers go out to the family of Heather Heyer, anti-violent martyr of Friday’s violence, and the two officers that died in the unfortunate helicopter accident. Prayers also go out to the nineteen others injured in the conflict, and to all those that are still convinced that violence and aggression are the answer to America’s ideological and cultural differences.

 

 

 

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