When something really big happens I often get quiet for a bit. I would not make a good politician because I would not be comfortable making an immediate condemning statement. In small things I often react quickly, but when it’s big I pull back for a few days. I need time to work it through my head. Other people and I disagree that everything is obvious. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. I am aware that that is not satisfying to some, but they’ll have to deal with it.
The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of those big events that I needed to work through before I went public with my thoughts. To give a brief recap, there was a large protest by various white supremacists groups (which I will refer to collectively as ‘neo Nazis’ from here on out for simplicity sake) over the removal of a Confederate monument, and in response opposition groups, including one known to be militant (Antifa, short for ‘anti-fascists’) in its own right, counter-protested. During the proceedings one of the neo Nazis purposely ran his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many.
That’s the basic rundown, and I have many thoughts on many aspects. Most of my thoughts are generally one-sided, but not all of them are. Again, that will not be satisfying to some, and that’s what makes me a Centrist… I prefer to consider the nuances and respond accordingly. Each nuance stands on its own and should be considered alone. I’m sorry, but not everything is as cut-and-dried as we’d like it to be. So, here we go, some various thoughts…
President Donald Trump
It is my opinion that Donald Trump is indeed a full-blown racist. That is not a conclusion that I make lightly. “Racist” is a word that is too easily thrown about without cause, and has become abused to the point that it almost doesn’t mean anything anymore. It has become something of a verbal “hammer” which one side wields in attempting to demonize the other side for the purpose of discrediting the other side’s viewpoint. But in the intended meaning, Mr Trump fits. Mr Trump is a racist. His constant vilification of Mexicans… and not just illegal immigrants… during the campaign was a sign. Fast forward to today and the fact that he was clearly loathe to name anybody as being wrong, especially the right and the neo Nazis involved. He only called them out a couple days later because pressure had gotten so strong that he felt backed into a corner and had no choice.
Trump has a knack for being wrong incredibly often, and there are many things in this issue where he is flat-out wrong, but he’s not wrong in everything, which leads us to…
Who’s to blame for the violence?
Read this carefully and don’t make the mistake of knee-jerking to a conclusion because it’s what you *want* to believe, and ignoring everything else. My two opinions regarding blame are not mutually exclusive.
The neo Nazis bear the majority of the blame, absolutely. They initiated the potential for violence by their mere presence and ideology, not to mention that they insisted on being fully armed and provoking others by their open aggressiveness. Without that, none of this would have happened. I am not convinced they wanted to start it, per se, but I believe they would have welcomed violent clashes had someone else started it, and may have even been hoping for that. That being said, Trump for his part placed some of the blame on the counter-protesters, especially Antifa, and I’m sorry, but Trump is correct on this point.
Assessing blame is not an either/or scenario. Antifa’s M.O. is to be violent as well, and they came armed with weapons of their own and looking for a fight. You can argue that it may be justified, and that’s fine, but don’t argue that non-self-defense violence is somehow noble. There are better ways.
Even Noam Chomsky, hardly a conservative shill, sees danger and concern regarding Antifa, stating…
“As for Antifa, it’s a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were,” Noam Chomsky told the Washington Examiner. “It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.”
Many activists affiliated with the loosely organized Antifa movement consider themselves anarchists or socialists. They often wear black and take measures to conceal their identity.
Chomsky said, “what they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive.”
The Examiner (not Chomsky) goes on in the same article to say…
Where Antifa fits in a historical context of progressive activism is not yet clear, but some observers see the increasingly prominent movement — members of which were mass-arrested at Trump’s inauguration after a march that featured window-smashing — as becoming an important, accepted part of the mainstream Left.
That’s bad enough, but the fact that so many otherwise good people on the left are accepting of this as reasonable and rational is scary. To make it worse, this perspective is being only reported in the conservative press, and is being pretty much ignored by more liberal outlets. This cherry-picking of viewpoints and information, this cherry-picking of bias confirmation, is part of the problem. Don’t be part of the problem.
But who, and what, exactly is Antifa? According to CNN the movement does indeed go back to Germany in the early 1930s, and was/is a self-defined anti-Nazi, or anti-fascist, organization. But they and their methods are more than that. They do not limit themselves to a solely anti-Nazi focus, and their methods can be questionable in their own right. Per CNN’s article…
Unlike the mainstream left, they do not seek to gain power through traditional channels – winning elections and passing bills into law.
Antifa is anti-government and anti-capitalist, and their methodologies are often perceived as more closely aligned with anarchists than the mainstream left.
Antifa does not shy away from militant protest methods, including the destruction of property and sometimes physical violence.
Another good article regarding Antifa can be found here: The Rise of the Violent Left
Ok, enough of that. By others, a common defense of Antifa is that they’re fighting Nazis… which in and of itself is not a bad thing, as I have stated… and we as a nation fought Nazis in World War 2, hence our soldiers would be categorized as “Antifa”, or anti-fascist. Problem is, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s a weak analogy that simply doesn’t pan out upon deeper inspection. Neo Nazis of today are all volunteers, and join of their own free will. Every one you see is there because they want to be there.
German soldiers of WW2, on the other hand, were mostly just soldiers and patriots of their own country. Drafted or coerced, not volunteers in the true sense. Sure, some were indeed Nazis, and the government certainly was, but most German soldiers were not, and as such bear no resemblance or comparison to the neo Nazis of today. They only fought either for their country or because to not fight would have brought worse consequences from the Nazis upon them and possibly their families. To lump all Germans of the era into the larger group is an incorrect assumption.
As stated, it is not incorrect to place some blame on both sides. Most to the neo Nazis, as I said above, but also some to Antifa. Just because Antifa is on the correct side of this particular event does not automatically make them a noble organization worthy of our praise and admiration. They actually advocate the abolition of capitalism and things like free speech. They’re only the good guys here due to relativism, but when assessed alone they’re not all that dissimilar to the neo Nazis. Both want to suppress freedom and force people to live how they want you to live. I see nothing noble in that whatsoever.
Responses to Trump’s Responses
Many people have severely criticized Trump’s responses, and that’s fair. His initial response was weak and vague, absolutely. His follow-up response was stronger, but not genuine. Claims of “too little, too late” were shouted out. But let’s be honest, for the vast majority of these people, there is literally nothing that Trump could have said or done that would have been good enough. Let’s not lie and pretend that we would have given the man a fair shot.
The murder of Heather Heyer by James Fields
James Fields’ running of his car into the crowd of anti-protesters is a separate event to me. I do believe that the neo Nazis were wanting a fight, though maybe not to blatantly start it. That said, I think it’s pretty clear that the car ramming was not planned and was purely an individual and spontaneous act by Fields. I believe Fields got caught up in something of a “mob rule” mindset and acted impulsively.
Does this excuse Fields’ action? No, it does not. Am I making excuses or rationalizing Fields’ action? No, I am not. His action was influenced by the larger neo Nazi group, yes, and I am a big believer on “mob rule” mentality, but I also believe that people are responsible for their own actions. Fields is solely to blame for his action.
Why the nuances are important
I am sure some people will read my words and think I’m defending the neo Nazis. If that’s what you think you are wholly mistaken, and probably biased from an extremist left-wing point-of-view. I am actually promoting rationality and long-term thinking in general. The neo Nazi aspect makes it difficult, because 1) they indeed are truly repugnant and don’t deserve rational defense, and 2) too many people run on emotion and lose sight of the long term picture.
The best analogy I can think of is child molesters/predators. Everybody hates them. I do, too. They are vile creatures. And in our quest to show how much they don’t deserve to meld into society we have created things like “sex offender registries”. Sounds good, right? We’ll ‘out’ them and make their lives very difficult (as much as we can within the framework of the Constitution). Weeeell, maybe not. Maybe we went a little too far. We got so intoxicated with emotion that we included people like the 18 yr old boy with a 16 yr old girlfriend who has a mad-as-hell father. We included the 19 yr old guy who got drunk at a frat party and pissed behind a bush, thus “exposing himself in public”. We have labeled people like that as “sexual predators”, when in fact they are no threat whatsoever to anybody in society, including kids.
To drive home this point, there have been cases of vigilantes seeing the name of a local ‘predator’ on one of these lists and murdering them. Take the case of Joseph Gray and William Elliott…
One of the men Marshall killed, Joseph Gray, was on the registry for raping a child. The other, William Elliott, was listed because he’d slept with his girlfriend before she turned 16.
One of the men on the list, Gray, was indeed a child predator, and you could argue ‘no big loss’. The other, Elliott, was not, yet they’re treated the same and neither the law nor the list makes any sort of distinction… and both were murdered. This is my fear for what will happen after more incidents like Charlottesville, more well-meaning but in reality seriously flawed laws. I’m thinking long-term and objectively, not knee-jerk and short term.
Most people, when discussed rationally and calmly, agree that that goes too far, and should be corrected. Yet, it’s still taboo for politicians to be perceived as “soft on crime”, lest their next opponent vilify them for it, so fixing it won’t happen anytime soon. That’s what I’m arguing against.
I don’t give a fuck about the neo Nazis. But I do want people to calm down so we don’t get stuck with laws that will snare unintended people later on. As a Centrist whose #2 pet issue is wrongful convictions, this shouldn’t be a surprise to you. If anything, I am being painfully consistent. And I know people will counter and say, “But we can fix those laws later, if we need to.”
Seriously? How often does that really happen? Truth is, it rarely happens, and when it does it takes a long-ass time. Time during which unintended and innocent people get caught up and pay a price that they don’t deserve. My “sexual offender list” example and my “soft on crime” example above being perfect examples. Most likely the laws were never intended to be used that way, but they are, and people are padding their personal law enforcement resumes with these easy convictions.
“Ok, then,”, people will say, “we will make sure and not go too far.”
No, you won’t. Ok, *you* might, but you’ll be in a small minority. Most people won’t think about unintended consequences, they just want something done and right now. And politicians don’t get elected by telling the people they need to calm down and dial it back. Politicians don’t get elected by telling people ‘no’. Politicians get elected by “doing something” and satisfying our emotional outrage, no matter how short-sighted and irrational it is.
So, something will get done, I’m sure. We’ll be all satisfied with ourselves. Later, we’ll regret some of it. Significant portions of it. Humans are irrational beings. I’m not hopeful.
I am Don Quixote.