Charlottesville is such a hot topic of debate that I wasn’t planning on going into it at all. But this does look bad for “the right” and it would be weak to pretend like it never happened, and there are some angles worth addressing that haven’t been covered over and over already.
As with many political events, the reaction to what has happened is more telling that the event itself. The most tragic aspect of what has transpired in Charlottesville is that a person has died. At first, the online community – based on, it seems, research by Reddit users – blamed the attack on a left-winger. I must admit I fell for it, too. But the suspect in custody is indeed a white nationalist / alt-right protester.
Of course, it is frustrating for many of us that authorities and media are so quick to call this a deliberate attack, many even calling it terrorism, and to disclose the suspect’s name and political affiliation – while with islamic terror attacks (or left-wing terrorism like the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise for example), speculation is avoided at all cost, and even when motive and affiliation are crystal clear, the mainstream media often still work hard to keep islam from being implicated. However, going by the video footage going around, the crowd that was hit seemed peaceful, at least at the time of the attack. If they were, and suspect James Fields’ car was not under attack, this does indeed seem to be a terrorist attack.
First-hand accounts on Twitter indicate that after the police canceled the event at the last minute, the right-wing protesters were forced to leave the location of their protest and disperse, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by counter protesters. We have seen a lot of political violence, often initiated by the left, in the past monts, so it is understandable that tension was high. An article on The Hill describes that the right-wing protesters were trying to leave Charlottesville, fearing both the police and the counter protesters. The article also mentions that protesters’ cars were being attacked while retreating:
As a few of the militiamen, some carrying rifles and two wearing President Trump’s signature “Make American Great Again” hats, got into a grey Lexus SUV, counter-protesters circled and shouted at them to renounce the KKK and get out of town.
As their SUV pulled out, counter-protesters chased it down, throwing rocks bottles, and a shoe, attempting to smash its windows.
The article suggests James Fields drove his car into a large group of pedestrians shortly thereafter. The above indicates the tension of the situation, but the crowd which was hit did not appear to be engaging in violence at the time of the attack. Chances of Fields receiving a fair trial seem slim to none, to be honest, so I’m not anticipating a “justifiable self defense” verdict either way.
The reaction to Trump’s reaction
Going by the video footage, the car attack was the most egregious act of violence that occured in Charlottesville that day. But it is striking that the mainstream media are completely silent about the left-wing counter protesters’ part in the violence. President Trump denouncing both the violence from sides of the conflict was not good enough to many people, both on the right and the left, while it was in fact very presidential. There was a chaotic, ongoing situation with many things unclear: where did the violence start, when did it start, and who instigated it? Trump was right to denounce the violence altogether, and it seems to me like that’s more than most (if any) left-wing politicians do when their self-proclaimed base engages in violence and / or terrorism.
We will likely never know where the violence started, but there was violence on both sides. There were people on both sides who were ready for violence and probably people on both sides looking for violence. I understand the right-wing protesters bringing shields and weapons considering the rampant violence the right has been faced with recently, and the lack of support from the police. But the mainstream media illustrate this to subtly (or not so subtly) suggest that the right-wingers must have been the aggressors.
From the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I cannot see who started the violence in Charlottesville. Initiating violence is despicable, and whoever did in this case is despicable. It is tragic that political violence in the US has escalated to the point of another fatality, but like many others, I fear this will be far from the end.
“Unite The Right”
The protests took place under the banner of “Unite The Right”, which is a noble undertaking. On paper it has my full support. One major problem of the right, perhaps in Europe more so than in the US, is that it allows itself to be divided. The left joyfully employs “guilt by association” to the extreme, and the result is that people on the right are quickly deemed damaged, isolating them from the more mainstream part of the movement. Entire organizations and political parties fall apart on this simple premise. Idealists are often neutralized first for their more hands-on activism or politically incorrect speech, and the bigger political parties are left largely in the hands of the incompetent and unprepared. This is an exaggeration, not meant to diminish anyone’s efforts, and the tides are changing, but this is a serious problem of the right.
So the idea of coming together to focus on issues that bind together the right and overcoming what divides us, seems great. But… then don’t show up carrying some of the most divise symbols in the world. KKK hoods, Swastika flags and Nazi salutes are reprehensible – they do not symbolize the right, they do not stand for the right and they are no way to “unite the right”. Those who brought these symbols to this protest are counterproductive to say the least. Even if these things represent your ideas, it should not have been difficult to figure out that not everyone – or hardly anyone – would want to march under those same banners with you. You have illustrated why it is so hard to unite the right, and you have made it that much difficult to actually unite the right, with or without you, for a long time to come.
I’m sure not all factions and all attendees were white supremacists or nazi’s, but those are all we are seeing in the media over here in Europe. Even non-establishment, right-leaning media are only showing these images and these photographs. Even if we know better, this is making the entire right look bad.
The most tragic aspect of the day is the death of a young woman of whom I have seen no indication that she had been engaged in the violence.
The mainstream’s response to the full series of events has been predictably biased and unfair.
A number of the participating factions in the Unite The Right protest were, sadly just as predictably, carrying extremist symbols which are contrary to the stated intention of the protest. This was a chance to show a kinder, milder face of the right, but even without the probable terrorist attack, without that car driving into a group of pedestrians, the opposite happened.