I made a start on my usual Daily Tweets post and before I knew it, hundreds of words about the horror in Charlottesville were on the page. Thus, a separate post is in order.
The violence is bad enough, but it’s what’s behind the violence that has me feeling physically ill. The blatant racism and bigotry on display is just sickening. Remember all those people who thought that electing a black president meant that racism was no longer a problem in the US? I admit, I felt hope at the time. I’ve always seen the US as more racist than most predominantly white countries, but I thought Obama’s election in 2008 meant that was changing. I was wrong.
Instead it seems to have seen the worst of the racists want to perform a last hurrah in the same way the right wing relgionists are.
Originally, this was a protest about the removal of a US Civil War era statue of General Lee. I have some sympathy with that protest; we can’t go around wiping the bad bits out of history. It’s important to know about them, and to confront them. It’s one of the best ways to stop them happening again. I often wonder if the current increase in anti-Semitism is partly because today’s youth is the first generation where it’s possible to grow up without knowing anyone who was a part of World War II. Back then, everyone said “never again” in relation to the Holocaust. But more and more are denying it was even a real event.
The Washington Post is reporting that is was not only “White Lives Matter” that the white supremacists were chanting too.
Tensions began to escalate Friday night as hundreds of white nationalists marched through the campus of the University of Virginia, chanting “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”
Anti-Semitism is part of what’s happening in Charlottesville too.
The original cause of the protest became a rallying cry for white supremacists and a very ugly event. Marchers carrying white torches were reminiscent of KKK rallies from way back when.
Hundreds of white supremacists staged a march in #Charlottesville, resulting in mass chaos pic.twitter.com/jvWJACqYbz
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 12, 2017
Rally Speakers in Charlottesville
The violence at Charlottesville was always likely to happen when the following people became speakers at the rally. The list is from an article ‘‘Pro-White’ Agitators Rallying This Weekend In VA To ‘Unite The Right’‘ at Right Wing Watch.
Jason Kessler: Right-wing blogger and “pro-white” activist; intent on protecting Confederate monuments; has committed assault and allegedly been assaulted in his quest to protect Lee’s statue.
Warlocks Motorcycle Club: violent; “whites only” motorcycle gang that is providing security for Kessler.
Richard Spencer: neo-Nazi; responsible for term “alt-right;” founder of white supremacist National Policy Institute.
Christopher Cantwell: once wrote that it is necessary to kill government agents; hosts a call-in talk show; stated his “goal here is to normalize racism”; wants an Anglo ethno state.
Matt Heimbach: white nationalist; founded the Traditionalist Youth Network; training director at League of the South; founded the White Student Union at Towson University in Baltimore; labeled “the next David Duke” by the Washington Post.
Pax Dickinson: former Chief Technology Officer at Business Insider who was fired when reporters took notice of his racist and sexist Twitter habit; founder of CounterFund (an alt-right version of Patreon, allowing people to financially support podcasts, etc.)
Dr. Michael Hill: neo-Confederate secessionist; president of League of the South; seeks to revive Southern heritage; warns of a coming “real civil war”.
James Allsup: student at Washington State University (class of 2018); “Senior Advisor” at Students for Trump; right-wing video blogger; was punched in the face at DC inaugural events and allegedly hit in the head with a flag pole; created a racist video about Black Lives Matter.
Rally Speakers Who Don’t Even Have the Courage to Use Their Own Names
Mike Enoch (real name Mike Peinovich): once a leader of the alt-right; created neo-Nazi site The Right Stuff; had anti-Semitic podcast called The Daily Shoah; doxed by “anonymous left-wing users on the Medium blog site” when it was discovered that his wife is Jewish – a search that was prompted by right-wing agitator Mike Cernovich.
Baked Alaska (real name Tim Gionet): former Buzzfeed staffer who says he was radicalized to the right when he was told he shouldn’t say “spirit animal;” road manager for Milo Yiannopoulos’ college tour before Milo fired him; a self-described “wild, redneck, kick-ass” rapper.
Augustus Invictus (real name Austin Gillespie): believes he was born to start a second Civil War; is a practicing pagan who once sacrificed a live goat; renounced his U.S. citizenship; advocates for a eugenics program in the U.S.; accused of domestic violence; kicked out of the Libertarian Party; spoke at “Make Men Great Again” conference.
Johnny Monoxide (real name Johnny Ramondetta): neo-Nazi; writes on white supremacist blog The Right Stuff; arrested for dealing cocaine; briefly served in the Navy; supported Occupy Wall Street before being “red-pilled;” thinks the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax; believes African Americans are racially inferior; host of Paranormies podcast.
Car Ploughs Into Counter-Protestors
There’s no official information yet about the motives of the driver of the car. From the video it appears to be a deliberate act. However, it’s far more likely that the driver is a supporter of the white supremacist group than those opposing them.
From the Washington Post:
Video recorded at the scene of the car crash shows a 2010 gray Dode Challenger accelerating into crowds on a pedestrian mall, sending bodies flying — and then reversing at high speed, hitting yet more people. …
A 32-year-old woman was killed, according to police, who said they were investigating the crash as a criminal homicide. The driver of one of the vehicles was taken into custody and charges were pending, said Al Thomas, the Charlottesville police chief.
The Dodge Challenger is registered to 20-year-old James Alex Fields of Ohio, according to vehicle-registration records reviewed by The Washington Post. Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Col. Martin Kumer told The Post Saturday that a man with the same name and age was booked Saturday on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding, failure to stop for an accident involving a death, and a hit and run. Kumer said Fields is currently being held without bail.
One is dead and 19 are injured after a car drove into counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally (warning: graphic) pic.twitter.com/f8rjBoB4Ki
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 12, 2017
Those with injuries were all taken to the UVA Medical Center. Of the nineteen with injuries from the car driving into the crowd, five are critical. City officials said to the Washington Post that there were also another fourteen with injuries from street brawls.
Local Politicians Comment
From the Washington Post:
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who had declared a state of emergency in the morning, said at an evening news conference that he had a message for “all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”
Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s African American city manager, looked stricken as he spoke. “Hate came to our town today, in a way that we had feared but we had never really let ourselves imagine would.” …
“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” said Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer in a tweet. “I urge all people of good will–go home.”
Elected leaders in Virginia and elsewhere urged peace, blasting the white supremacist views on display in Charlottesville as ugly. U.S. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called their display “repugnant.”
His supporters like the fact that Trump isn’t a politician, but at least the politicians say the right things. Trump, who usually Tweets at the slightest provocation, was off Twitter all morning. When he finally got there, he got it wrong.
President Trump Comments
Trump’s first comment was unbelievable. The problem was on “many sides” according to him, and his main aim was to absolve himself from blame.
What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.#Charlottesville pic.twitter.com/DB22fgnu6L
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
An hour later, this clip made it to Twitter in another attempt to make sure the blame went everywhere, and not just the white supremacists.
We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST. pic.twitter.com/FesMiQSKKn
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
Shortly after we get a third clip from his speech. In this one he’s making a point of telling us that the governor thanks him, and finally his support for first responders makes it to Twitter. One phrase in his speech, “We must cherish our history…” is a call out to the white supremacists in my opinion. There’s certainly no condemnation of them.
We will continue to follow developments in Charlottesville, and will provide whatever assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able. pic.twitter.com/mCTYBgUePi
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
Another hour passes and this Tweet comes out. Finally one which is okay!
Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You’re all among the best this nation produces.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
And this one came out another hour after that. “So sad!” is dreadfully inadequate in my opinion. I think a president should do better than that at such times.
Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
David Duke Comes Out of the Woodwork
When Trump put out his tweet about the violence coming from “all sides,” the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t happy. From the Washington Post again:
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump supporter who was in Charlottesville Saturday, quickly replied. “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he wrote.
The Post goes on to say:
Dozens of the white nationalists in Charlottesville were wearing red Make America Great Again hats. Asked by a reporter in New Jersey whether he wanted the support of white nationalists, Trump did not respond.
At the event itself, the white supremacists were keen to shift the blame for any violence from themselves from the start:
By early afternoon, hundreds of rallygoers had made their way to a larger park two miles to the north. Duke, speaking to the crowd, said that European Americans are “being ethnically cleansed within our own nation” and called Saturday’s events “the first step toward taking America back.”
White nationalist leader Richard Spencer also addressed the group, urging people to disperse. But he promised that they would return for a future demonstration, blaming Saturday’s violence on counterprotesters.
Freedom of Speech
As a freedom of speech absolutist, I support the right of white supremacists to have their say. While I find their opinions beyond disgusting, they have a right to them, and to express them. Using violence, bullying, the law, or any other method to try to force their opinions on others though I oppose.
The violence and aggression in speech, posture, and actions belies their claim that they are peaceful.
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Thank you for putting this all together Heather. I agree with you and Voltaire of course about the right to express a view.
Despite this it is certainly an indictment on the American Culture.
I hope they learn from this and go forward.
No trumps here!
I need to contribute!!
I was actually listening to lectures on the Enlightenment while tiling a couple of days ago. While Voltaire clearly thought things like that, it isn’t actually a quote of his. See here, entry #7
Well, Mr Trump is Mr Trump. At least he tried (and yes, failed on several accounts) to be ‘presidential’. I think his problem is that -apart from being somewhat tone deaf- much of his base (about half according to Ms Clinton) actually is ‘these people’, a deplorable situation indeed.
Reading this post this morning was the first I heard of this appalling act of terrorism. Trump could hardly have got this more wrong. Even his prepared script is abysmal, and as usual he can’t resist going off it from time to time, generally making matters worse.
Not until his fourth tweet does he mention sympathy for the bereaved, and here he is talking about the police officers killed in a helicopter accident (not and act of terrorism, at least not regarded as such at this stage). Only after that does he mention the dead and injured by the terrorist. Next time I’m offering condolences to a bereaved person, I must remember to add, “So sad”, to emphasise my sincerity.
I’ve now just watched the whole speech here, and at about 5:15 he goes off on a tangent (and off script) about his great record on unemployment and bringing jobs back to the US. Unbelievable! Nowhere in the speech does he mention sympathy or condolences with regard to the dead and injured. At the end he twice ignores questions from the press about white supremacists.
Thanks for putting this post together, Heather.
Just watching it again, and when during his opening remarks about Charlottesville, he says, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence…” His body language has “(it says here)” written all over it. He shrugs and tilts his head in a dismissive fashion. Have a look, starting at ~3:55.
There was a report going around last night (flagged as an unconfirmed rumour) that Richard Spencer had actually been arrested. Rumour – not confirmed.
Didn’t know about a police helicopter going down – was initially trying to square up reports and wondering if the woman killed by the car-terrorist had been a police officer.
What are the odds of the car terrorist turning out to be (1) Christian (better than 90% chance, IMO) and (2) ISIS-inspired ? Odd of him actually being charged under anti-terrorism laws : negligible.
This filthy event, like so many others during recent years and decades in the US but also many other places in the world, shows with graphic brutality that the post-Holocaust outcry “Never again!” has become “Ever again!” Invincible ignorance is on the march again. Is this reality its last gasp before the better angels can finally declare victory? Or is the final victory going to go to the deplorables?
Racism is still with us here in the US. In many places it is hidden and seldom gets much attention. There are places, especially in the conservative South, where it is much more out in the open. Conditions have gradually improved, but the election of Trump on a undisguised racist platform is an indication that there are substantial forces of racism just under the surface. I’m still very hopeful that in the long run our society will be largely rid of prejudice of this sort, but it is so ingrained in the culture and probably in human nature(instinctive xenophobia and tribalism) that it will take a very long time to be tamed.
It seems all the wonderful words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were ignored by these supremists. Hate is the only word they follow and it seems this President has stoked that emotion. I grieve for my country.
“Originally, this was a protest about the removal of a US Civil War era statue of General Lee. I have some sympathy with that protest; we can’t go around wiping the bad bits out of history. It’s important to know about them, and to confront them. It’s one of the best ways to stop them happening again. “
I couldn’t disagree with you more regarding the removal of the Lee statue. Do you really think that when people walked by the Lee statue that they said themselves, “Boy, I’m glad that statue is there. It reminds me that Lee was a slaveholder and traitor. If that statue wasn’t there, how would I know?” No, statues and similar memorials are erected to HONOR certain people and events. They tell people that such people did something good. The removal of the statue has NOTHING do with forgetting history. The proper venues for the study of Lee are museums, classrooms, and history books. By your logic, Germany should be filled with statues of Hitler and his minions to remind people of how evil they were. The removal of Lee’s statues and other Confederates is an appropriate response to the realization that they served an evil cause – the defense of slavery.
I cannot agree with your understanding on the removal of the statue of Lee if I understand you correctly. You say the statue should be removed and I would say not. Whether or not people understand the statue or know anything about the history is not the question. My guess would be almost none of the demonstrators know much of anything about Lee and if they really do, why would they go after him? He was simply a general and fought in the civil war. He had no slaves and did not promote slavery but again, what difference does that make now? Regardless of the cause and reasons for the war, each side has a right to acknowledge their heroes of the conflict and graves and monuments to these people. Why would you erase that. The idea that this would be no different that statues of Hitler is nonsense. The idea that you would compare a statue of Robert E. Lee to one of Hitler is without understanding. You must understand that there is a difference between a person and a symbol such as the Confederate flag verses a statue of Lee. On the other hand, there is no difference between Hitler and his flag.
In fact, Lee was a slaveholder, a defender of the institution, and a traitor. You seem to think that it is perfectly fine to honor such a person in the United States of America. I do not so. See this article from the Atlantic:
If this is your stand, why would you tolerate a statue of Jefferson, or Washington. Four of the first 5 Presidents of the country should be removed from every park, every school named after them, even blow up that Mt Rushmore while you are at it. You study History but your mind is stuck in the 21st century. That distorts everything.
You need to draw a distinction between honoring historical characters and doing dispassionate historical analysis. Every generation decides on what historical figures to honor or not. If a generation reaches a consensus that a person should not be honored then the symbols of such honor, like statues, should be removed. Whether early slaveholding presidents such as Washington or Jefferson should be honored is a complex question and I am not going to start a long debate on that topic. My only comment on that is that if I were African-American I would not have their portraits hanging in my home.
No, whether Washington and Jefferson should be revered for all time by freedom-loving people everywhere is not a complex question, a close question, a trick question — or any kind of question at all.
(And the irony must be noted that blacklisting Jefferson would deprive Charlottesville of her raison d’etre.)
Depends on how it’s done. There are still monuments to the Nazis that have been left in tact as a kind of museum. Here’s a church with depictions of Nazi soldiers walking with Jesus–
(There are also the odd ones that no one’s noticed — like this one not far from where I live: St Bernard of Clairvaux gives the Nazi salute, from 1936 and still standing)
I guess this is basically my lack of understanding of your history that I don’t see it quite the same. We never had slavery here, and from the earliest contact between Maori and European there were genuine love matches and subsequent marriages between the two. We also never had legal segregation. There were plenty of shameful episodes of course, but efforts continue to be made to fix those in whatever form/s seems most appropriate. Compensation, government apologies, targeted assistance programmes, special initiatives, changes/additions to school curriculum etc.
I don’t know whether a comparison between Lee and Hitler is appropriate, but ime comparisons with Hitler rarely are. However, you surely know what is appropriate for your country better than I do.
Heather, I thought your report on the issue was excellent. I left an additional comment on the History business down below and should probably rest on that. I think my ideas on this matter are known well enough. You simply cannot go back in history and then do a cherry pick of those you like and don’t like based on your knowledge and understanding today. If you did, you would be like Germany or Japan and simply rewrite it the way you want. That is what the south here in the states has done. If the Japanese Americans went out to the camps we locked them up in during WWII and put up a monument to that event, how would that go over. Or maybe because Roosevelt is the guy we could blame, we should remove his statue wherever it is. Do you see how nuts this thinking is?
Thanks Randy. I’m not going back on what I wrote – I stand by it. I was concerned that perhaps General Lee was more controversial than I realized. Your comments re the slave-owning presidents etc made me decide that Lee is not such a big deal.
When I wrote that part of the post I was originally going to include a comment about getting rid of every statue of a sexist man. Judging all men and their attitudes to women based on today’s standards would see just about all statues wiped off the face of the planet.
Whether or not you believe Lee’s statue should be removed, he is a big deal. Saint Robert is one of the tenets of an argument engendered by former Confederates after the end of the Civil War that has come to be known as the “Cult of the Lost Cause.” These people argued that the South had every right to secede, slavery was not so bad, and that next to Jesus, Lee was the greatest human being to walk the face of the Earth. This effort to justify secession turned out to be for many decades hugely successful. Starting in the last decades of the 19th century and the first five of the 20th, Northerners bought the crap that the war was really just a misunderstanding and that both Northerners and Confederates were equally patriotic, good Americans, both paradoxically fighting for noble causes. It has taken a long time for perhaps a majority (I’m not sure of this) of Americans to realize how vile was the Southern system of slavery was and that Lee was a loyal part of this system. I recommend this article from the Encyclopedia of Virginia to gain an understanding of the Cult of the Lost Cause.
Heather, as a non-American obviously very interested in the United States, knowing about the Civil War and its aftermath is critical to understanding this country. I wish only that more Americans had this understanding.
Thanks. Very interesting. I’ll check out the article. I do need to know more about US history because I write about the country so much.
Going off on a tangent, I think your comment about the Lost Cause movement shows why freedom of speech is so important. It took a while, and obviously there are still plenty with a lot to learn, but discussing the issue is helping people understand why slavery etc is wrong. If talk of it was just banned, like Holocaust denial is banned in Germany, it creates a cult support, conspiracy theories etc.
Yes, there would be a run on statues for sure and damn few left. How the average male today treats and thinks of women is amazingly low today even. You could immediately eliminate males with just about any religious belief – those are lost. Very small sample left.
All those statues of Jesus and the saints would be gone – maybe it’s not a bad idea! 😀
Historian should also well know that my understanding of history has nothing to do with that revisionist history he is providing. That has been going on for 150 years throughout the south and many other places. But it has nothing to do with statues and the culture in the south in the 1850. Another example, just for the hell of it. Lets say that Robert E Lee also ran the prison camp at Andersonville where prisoners were treated terribly. I would say then you should tear down those statues. I don’t even think that Lee was always such a great general but that has nothing to do with a statue either.
One example I always use is the amazing cathedrals built throughout Europe in medieval times. They’re beautiful buildings, and a tribute to the people who built them.
However, what they stand for, and especially the suffering of those who paid for them at the hands of the Church, is an absolute horror story. That does not mean we should demolish them.
America is a huge country with a large and very diverse population running the gambit from urban technocrat to subsistence farmer. In many cities the melting pot is packed together like sardines making it particularly difficult to avoid any kind of conflict. I would argue that among countries with large white populations none is more diverse especially since a lot of that diversity came about from immigration from other white countries over the decades past. Is it any wonder that the US is such an angst ridden place since that was the driving force for a lot of the people who came here in the first place. It’s hard and messy to hold all this diversity together but where has been more successful at it so far? We’ll get through this latest glitch in the program but it may not be pretty.
You have a point. However, diversity indices show that the US isn’t actually as diverse as ut thinks it is. NZ is significantly more diverse. When checking this several months ago, I was surprised to discover that Ireland was actually even more diverse.
Besides, the areas that are least diverse seem to me (which is hardly good evidence of course) to be the ones where the bigotry is worst. More diverse areas like the big cities on the east and west coasts generally do get on pretty well. Areas with less diversity are the ones that struggle with it.
May we ask where this diversity index may be found, or at least what it is called?
It’s a long time ago that I last looked at it, and it was hard to find, so it will take me a while. I’m busy right now, but I will get back to you.
Diversity does not tell the whole story. In the US the history is of centuries of black slavery which was only ended 160 years ago. That legacy is the largest factor in the awkward social fabric. Poor whites in the South feel they are in direct economic and social competition with blacks. Resentment after the loss of the civil war runs deep.
There are lots of people who think they know American History and believe the knowledge they have allows them to make judgments on the historical individuals based on their own current lives and beliefs. This is a bogus way to conduct your trip through past events and I know many historians who would say – don’t bother taking the trip if you are going to operate this was.
Lincoln himself did not go to war to eliminate slavery, he in fact, said there was nothing he could do about it. He did however intend to save the union that was separating because of slavery. Should we now tear down those photos of him and remove the statues and memorial….of course not. Before you judge, go back to 1860 and think 1860. Then judge if you must.
It’s not just American history they need to brush up on. Here is the manifesto of the group that terrorist belongs to–
“America was built in the image of the Roman Republic… Democracy has failed this once great nation. The time for a new Caesar to revive the American spirit has dawned.”
Yeh, a new Caesar is just what every republic needs.
Built on the Roman Republic? I guess I missed that part of American History. I know that Madison did some study before the trip to Philly and looked at several early Republic forms back in History. However, the Virginia plan that he presented at the Convention was just a draft and it got worked over pretty good by the other delegates. I don’t recall anyone referring to Rome. If anyone should bother to actually look at our Constitution it would appear that nearly all power was in the legislature with very little left for the Executive or Judiciary.
So sad is right, mr. trump. Tweeting a belated sympathy to the bereaved displays his blatant apathy.
Thanks for this post Heather.
This was a law enforcement failure for which the governor ultimately is responsible.
But of course. Nazis have been known the world over for their peaceful marches. It’s all perfectly normal to have Nazis marching through your streets carrying torches. Everything in Germany would have been just fine if the police had been able to keep the left wing extremists in check.
At some point in the future, jam you might realize what has happened to your country and you will stop applauding it.
This very interesting article and debate show the almost unsolvable problem to judge history in general and slavery in particular. When I see (pictures of) workers in certain environments (factories as well as commercial offices), I wonder if we can say that slavery is abolished. Regards.
Another excellent piece, Heather. The hits just keep on comin’. (And damned if you don’t keep getting keener as a prose stylist.)
Thanks so much Ken. I’m trying to get better. When I go back to my old posts, I can see now that a lot could do with a re-write, and I hope in the future I’ll think the same of the current ones.
FIRE executive director Robert Shibley:
The deliberate decision by political leaders to let violence start serves their own interests, and the interests of those who would squelch debate.
I actually partly agree with you. Fredom of speech, even for those we disagree with, especially for those we disagree with, is a topic I’m addressing in a follow up post that keeps interrupted by real life events (my life). I’m hoping to finish it today. Don’t expect it to say anything positive about Spencer, Duke, Cantwell et al though.