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Charlottesville and the loss of America’s sanity

Published: 
Friday, August 18, 2017
Analysis/opinion: Washington Times
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White nationalist demonstrators, right, clash with a counter demonstrator as he throws a newspaper box at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday. The deadly white nationalist demonstration in Virginia has brought new attention to an anti-fascist movement whose black-clad, bandana-wearing members have been a regular presence at protests around the country in the last year. Members of the antifa movement were among those protesting the Charlottesville rally last weekend. AP Photo Photo by:Steve Helber

President Donald Trump, bombarded in a speech on infrastructure with repetitive and aggressive questions about Charlottesville, made clear—again—that violence, bigotry and racism in all its many forms, in all its various shapes, were not to be tolerated.

He dared to defend his initial Charlottesville comments, the ones where he neglected to specifically condemn white supremacists and the KKK, and for that, the mainstream media has determined, he must die.

Just about, anyway.

Let the feeding frenzy of media sharks begin. It’s as Rahm Emanuel, former White House top dog and current mayor of Chicago says: Never let a crisis go to waste. My, how that principle is playing here.

America, bluntly, has lost her sanity over Charlottesville. It’s like the words “white supremacist” came in the room, and critical thinking scurried.

Let’s reel back for a moment, shall we?

What took place in Charlottesville is more complex than a white supremacist’s fatal attack on an innocent woman. But what’s happened, in the emotionally charged atmosphere of the media’s narrative, is that those who try to explore the facts are automatically cast as a white supremacist; conversely, those who wildly proclaim that hate speech must be shut down are seen as reasoned and level-thinking.

It’s like there’s a Box A or a Box B. There’s nothing else to talk about.

Well, that’s just not realistic or truthful. And what’s needed is a collective breath, a unified step back from the overheated rhetoric.

On one side of the Charlottesville matter, you have the white supremacists, the radical element—the groups that are justifiably slammed as bigoted, racist, ugly, the alt-right, if you will. They’re the protesters—the ones who came to Charlottesville to protest the tearing down of the Robert E Lee statue.

On the other side, you have the alt-left—the Black Lives Matter crowd, the LGBT activists, the socialists, anarchists and never-Trumpers-type we’ve seen over the course of many months at rallies and events across the nation. They’re the counterprotesters, the ones who came to Charlottesville to protest the counterprotesters. For motive’s sake, let’s be specific: They weren’t there to protest the Robert E Lee statue cause; they weren’t there to show solidarity with those who wanted to remove the monument. They were there specifically to denounce the protesters themselves—the white supremacists.

And that’s fine. Both sides have First Amendment rights.

But the protesters had a permit.

The counterprotesters did not.

Standing with the protesters were various defenders of America’s history and the First Amendment, some of whom were former military folk, some of whom were openly carrying weapons, as lawful in Virginia—and, it should be noted, as often done by the alt-left’s own New Black Party Panthers organisation.

The permit the protesters carried was hard won. Jason Kessler, a protest organiser deemed a “relative newcomer to the white nationalist scene” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, explained via YouTube the permit was first granted, then yanked by the Charlottesville city manager a week before the rally. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Rutherford Institute stepped in to sue, and a federal judge ultimately ruled the city acted unconstitutionally. The permit was returned.

As a backdrop, and to try to understand the politics of how the permit could first be granted then suddenly yanked, the mayor of Charlottesville, Michael Signer, is not only a Democrat. He’s a Democratic activist with a committed anti-Trump view. As the Daily Caller noted, Singer, at a rally in January, declared Charlottesville the “capital of the resistance,” an apparent reference to the Democratic Party’s national co-ordinated plan to thwart all-things-Trump.

On the heels of the fatal car-plowing of Heather Heyer, Signer made the national television circuit and drew a direct parallel between Charlottesville’s violence and the White House, telling CNN to “look at the campaign he ran” and pointing fingers for the white supremacist gathering squarely on the back of Trump.

Shortly after, four special interest caucuses in Congress—the progressives, the Asians, the Hispanics and the blacks—penned a letter to the White House, calling on Trump to fire three aides seen as fuelers of the white supremacist fire: Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on the National Park Service to rescind a permit for a white supremacist rally scheduled for San Francisco.

Never let a crisis go to waste.

The media, meanwhile, have been having a field day furthering the connection between Trump and Bannon and the white supremacist movement, absent any proof but rather interspersing heated denouncements from outraged members of various left-leaning factions with graphic and violent videos of Confederate flag-waving, torch-bearing rally-goers.

Plenty of Republicans have joined in the furor against Charlottesville, against white supremacists, against even the White House and Trump, as well.

What’s missing from all this media coverage is context; what’s lacking is a look at the facts. Witnesses say the alt-left faction—the counterprotesters—started the violence. Witnesses say the police did nothing to stop the violence—that they either failed to arrive on scene or were ordered to stand down and let the violence unfold as it may. Witnesses say the protesters were wrongfully corralled into a space that included barricades—barricades that were put there when the city manager yanked the permit, but never removed when the city had to return the permit—and that the positioning of these barricades forced the protesters to walk closely by the counterprotesters, directly in their line of fire, so to speak.

Just some thoughts to chew. Just some questions that need answering.

Now flash to Trump, who in the immediate aftermath of the violence that left Heyer dead—and before the name of the suspect was even released—called out violence and bigotry on all sides. And the nation went nuts. On Monday, Trump made clear: White supremacists and KKKers were scum. The nation wanted to know why he waited to call out white supremacists. On Tuesday, he defended his initial reservation about naming white supremacists and KKKers, and that “both sides” played a role in the violence—and the nation went nuts again.

Let’s be clear: The KKK touts a wicked message. The idea of white supremacy is repulsive. But in America, these groups have the right to exist, to assemble, to speak. Similarly, Black Lives Matter touts a wicked message. The notions put forth by the New Black Panther Party are repulsive. But these groups have rights to exist and assemble and speak as well.

Charlottesville shows what happens when such types of mindsets clash. People are killed and injured. Emotions are charged and fiery.

But it’s at times like these that cooler heads are most needed. The left is using the ugliness of Charlottesville to full political gain, calling for clampdowns of the First Amendment, drawing unjustified parallels between racist groups and the White House. The media are irresponsibly hiking tensions by stifling any critical look for facts and context. And Republicans are cowering, unwilling to be perceived as racists by merely asking necessary questions. Where did our sanity go?

It seems, as Americans, we should be able to at least agree on two points: Racism, in all its forms, is evil. And the First Amendment, at all costs, must be protected and preserved.

But apparently, saying so is outlandish. That’s a Box A answer for a Box B world.