Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Ten Points on Trump and Charlottesville
This will be sort of free form. I have another set of thoughts on the alt-right generally that I will put in another post.
1. I followed the rally in Charlottesville closely on both cable news and Twitter. It was interesting seeing the contrasting presentations. My impression is that the rally was made up primarily of traditional conservatives and white identitarians (white nationalists). The Nazi / KKK / Confederate component seemed to be a clear minority. The rally appeared to only become violent when the right-wing protesters were attacked. This is a relevant detail.
2. In light of point 1 it is telling that the media characterized the event as a “Nazi Rally.” There is a significant difference between white nationalists and Nazis. There is also a significant difference between white nationalists and white supremacists. One can be an ethnic nationalist without hating all other races. Indeed I think most Japanese people are like this.
3. Trump's response was a blunder. He made a weak initial statement, then (foolishly) tried to appease the media with a second statement, then did a third press conference where he just spoke off the cuff. This set him up to look like he was sympathetic to white nationalists even though he didn't really say anything wrong. He condemned racism. He condemned white supremacy and Nazism. He also pointed out that AntiFa was also violent and partly responsible, which is of course true.
4. The media is attacking Trump for not buying their narrative – that violent Nazis were solely responsible for injuries and loss of life at the rally. This has been a common trope since the election. Even when Trump supporters were attacked and beaten at rallies the media characterized them as violent and gave AntiFa a pass.
5. Trump should have made a passionate defense of free speech in his first and only statement. He should have condemned the Nazis and also AntiFa. He should have then said that both sides have a right to free speech so long as they are not violent. He should have pointed out that people who supported feminism and civil rights for black people were once deemed offensive and were similarly disenfranchised and deplatformed.
6. On a personal note, this is why I am so dismayed to see big tech companies like Google try to ban white nationalists from using their services. No one who believes in free speech can cheer on a huge corporation censoring a political minority. I too am a minority. It was not too long ago that people felt justified in persecuting people with my skin color. They made the same arguments about private companies having the right to do whatever they want. It is amazing how leftists, who have never met a government regulation they didn't like, quickly become absolutists about private property when they see their political enemies being victimized. It speaks again to the fact that we live in an age where there are no principles, only gangs – only “good guys and bad guys” all seeking power.
7. People forget how quickly moral fashions change. A few decades ago people didn't think twice about a gay person getting beat up for being too “out,” about his sexuality. Decades before that it was totally cool to harass interracial couples and women who tried to enter male career fields. 30 years from now, be it from ecological disaster or political instability, the pendulum could swing back and the moral fashions could be totally different. And then today's leftists could be the ones being disenfranchised and silenced. It will be funny to see them scream and protest in favor of free speech again, as they did in the 1960's before they became the establishment. The only problem is that to anyone with a memory they will have zero credibility.
8. Trump also should have pointed out the evil of the Orwellian idea of removing historical monuments on the grounds that they conflict with today's values. Utopians always do this, be it ISIS, the Taliban, or the Chinese under Mao Zedong. They try to cleanse society of past “mistakes,” to create an eternal purified present. But historical monuments are not blanket endorsements of their subjects. If anything, today more than ever, we need monuments of controversial historical figures that we might learn from them.
9. The random acts of destruction of monuments across the country constitute yet another "trial balloon" on the part of the far left. The naked censorship being practiced by big tech companies is another "shot across the bow." They want to see how much they can get away with. Conservatives predictably have been mealy-mouthed in their response. Republicans were quick to turn on Trump and seek the media's favor. I heard Mark Levin on the radio say essentially that he had no problem with monuments being removed, but that leftists should do it "the right way," and respect municipal process. This will not inspire anyone to change their view. Similar arguments were made against every major revolution and civil rights movement. If something is believed to be morally wrong, passionate people will take matters into their own hands. You have to attack the core moral belief.
10. Ultimately I think those right-wingers at the rally who were protesting the removal of monuments had a legitimate grievance. I think the torches were bad PR, and the fact that they let Nazis and Klan members march along side them spoke volumes about their political savvy. Though the alt-right has become more relevant in the age of Trump, the movement is destined for irrelevance if they keep making it easy for the media to label it a Nazi organization. I have watched interviews with Richard Spencer, one of the leaders of the alt-right. He is not a Nazi, yet he has on multiple occasions been at public events with people doing Nazi salutes and wearing swastikas. So to the extent that he is the face of the movement, he and other alt-right people cannot really be surprised at the media coverage they get.
I have a separate post I will publish soon about the alt-right.