|Charlottesville riot could have been prevented, but that wasn’t the plan
(August 31, 2017, updated Sept. 23)
Like the World Trade Center/Pentagon attack, the Boston Marathon bombing and the two bombings in Paris (Charlie Hebdo and the Batalcan), what took place recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, had less to do with a conspicuous act of violence than with how that act of violence could be exploited to serve a political purpose.
The specific details of the event—the Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, the protests and counter-protests of the decision, the loss of a life—have been eclipsed by excoriations of President Donald Trump and boilerplate condemnations of the Confederacy, slavery and Southern racism.
The media—bless their little hearts—took it upon themselves to moralize the event in this manner to ensure that the right people were blamed; the right people were sanctified; and the right lessons were learned. No proper analysis about what happened and why is possible or necessary: like the other events mentioned above, the Charlottesville riot (for want of a better word) has been firmly placed in the quasi-religious context of good vs. evil.
To take issue with any aspect of the official narrative is to invite the slur of being a Trump supporter, a “racist” or a neo-Confederate. Case closed; minds closed, or at least that’s the general idea. But the freedom to express informed dissent on any subject is the foundation of a free society. There should be no stigma attached to anyone who finds fault with the mainstream media’s selective, sanctimonious coverage of the riot. If the riot is liberated from the spin-doctored narrative, a different interpretation emerges, one that points to a violence potentially greater than the one caught on film. First, though, I must reluctantly come to the defence of President Donald Trump.
THE BLAME GAME
Media coverage of the riot went off the rails immediately after Trump said “many sides” were to blame. This statement came after it was claimed that James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of protesters killing one person, 32-year-old legal assistant Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. Typical of the general reaction to Trump’s comment was a screed in The Washington Post by Austin Gonzales, chairman of the Richmond chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. One can understand to some degree the emotional tone of his first-person account, but that cannot excuse his preposterous, politically motivated distortion of what took place. Here’s an excerpt:
President Trump might claim that there was violence from “many sides” in Charlottesville, drawing a parallel between white nationalist terrorism and antiracist protest. But I was there. And there is no parallel. We will continue organizing and demonstrating against white supremacy that manifests as terrorism and white supremacy that manifests in subtler, more insidious ways. And white supremacists will continue to wage a violent war against equality, while Trump refuses to label the nature of their crimes.
Gonzales uses Trump’s words to sermonize about “white nationalist terrorism” versus “antiracist protest,” but this black-and-white moral dichotomy, prevalent in the mass media, is dishonest.
Leaving aside for the moment that “terrorism” has been reduced to an empty epithet, Gonzales is wrong to criticize Trump. Trump’s comment may have seemed callous and inept in light of the Heyer killing and the video of white nationalists (again, for want of a better term), beating on counter-protesters, but it was accurate, although not in the way he meant it.
Second, both white nationalist protesters and black antifascist counter-protesters came ready for a fight. In fact, members of Antifa (short for “anti-fascist”) led the violence by throwing feces and urine, something for which Antifa is well known. Far from being simple protesters, Antifa’s members behaved like agents provocateurs.
It turned out, however, that James ALEX Fields was not the driver of the vehicle. I was a James G. Fields. James Alex Fields, who washed out of the military soon after joining because of psychiatric issues, was set up. In fact, the whole evetn was atage-managed political theatre. Trump was right: others were also responsible for the violence, two in particular.
Charlottesville City Council
In February this year, the city council, over the mayor’s objections, voted to sell a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Lee Park, which it renamed Emancipation Park. Discussions about the statue’s removal had been going on for years.
The impetus to remove it at this particular time must be understood as a product of a growing climate of black anger. Two events that galvanized black militancy across the nation were the fatal shootings of two black teenagers: 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In each case the shooter was white. Martin’s assailant was found not guilty of murder and a grand jury refused to indict the police officer who shot Brown.
Whether the outcome of the shootings reflected justice or injustice is less important than the powerful, emotional image of a black being killed by a white. Against this background, Confederate monuments like the Lee statue have come to be seen as increasingly oppressive and anachronistic given that they appear to sanction the sort of culture that permits the killing of black youths. The South, as the argument goes, needs to abjure its prejudiced past to join the 21st century, and that means doing away with monuments that ennoble slaveholding and anti-black terrorism. Therefore, the council decided to get rid of the statue.
On strictly moral grounds, the decision is defensible, but morality is not defensible as a determinant of policy. A moral decision is by definition selfish because those who make it inhabit a reality of their own making and are blind to any appreciation of cause and effect. Those on the receiving end—those who support “immorality”—can be expected to fight it. Indeed, so-called neo-Confederates and white nationalists came out to protest the decision, which they said was an attack on their culture. That sparked a counter-demonstration by Antifa and Black Lives Matter, and violence ensued.
All of this could have been prevented if the council had not been reckless and arrogant. The city council’s decision set the riot in motion because certain members couldn’t or wouldn’t see what its decision would lead to. It is regrettable that the council didn’t heed the advice of political strategist Tyrion Lannister:
“You need to take your enemy’s side. You need to see things the way they do, and you need to see things the way they do if you are going to anticipate their actions, respond effectively and beat them.”
By provoking civil unrest over a statue without putting in place adequate safeguards, the city council acted emotionally, not rationally, and is therefore indirectly culpable in Heyer’s death.
Arguably the councillor most culpable is Charlottesville’s black vice-mayor Wes Bellamy, who became notorious for tweeting anti-white, anti-homosexual and anti-female slurs. So egregious were his comments on rape and women that he had to resign from the Virginia Board of Education and from his job as a high-school teacher. The charges of his being a black supremacist and misogynist are justified. Typical of Bellamy’s anti-white prejudice are these tweets:
“I DONT LIK WHIT PEOPLE SO I HATE WHITE SNOW!!!!! FML!!!!”
“I hate seeing white people in Orangeburg,”
This is the prejudiced background against which the council’s decision must be viewed. If the council wanted to redress historic wrongs in a responsible manner, it might have done one of two things. First, it could have negotiated a move. Since the statue in question was built 60 years after the end of the Civil War, it carries little historical meaning.
Second, the council could have voted to erect a monument to honour black Civil War heroes. As it is, the anti-Confederate movement has only censorship and negativity to offer, both of which feed the perception that it is trying to erase history.
Regardless of one’s opinion of Confederate monuments, the decision to sell the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park was not an act of enlightened moral revisionism; it was a deliberate act of political aggression. Heyer’s death was a tragedy in the proper sense of the word: it could have been prevented.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe
If the city council is guilty of hubris, Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe is guilty of dereliction of duty, gross incompetence and contributory negligence causing death. McAuliffe deliberately held back the 1,000-man State Police and national guard force from separating the factions and as such is the person most responsible for the riot and Heyer’s death. In other words, McAuliffe bears a greater responsibility for Heyer’s death than Fields does, yet there is no mass media campaign for his arrest.
It is hard to believe that a political leader charged with the safety and welfare of citizens could say the following:
You saw the militia walking down the street; you would have thought they were an army ... I was just talking to the State Police upstairs; [the militia members] had better equipment than our State Police had. And yet not a shot was fired, zero property damage.
Business Insider reporter Harrison Jacobs deftly captures the perversity of this statement:
McAuliffe's response that law enforcement’s handling of the violence was successful because there were no bullets fired and “zero property damage” would appear to ignore that dozens were left injured and a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an apparent white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd.
Beyond his misrepresentation of the cuase of Heyer’s death, McAuliffe’s attitude that official law enforcement should take a back seat to armed militias is inexcusable and likely unconstitutional. Just what “order” did McAuliffe think these pro-Confederate militias were going to uphold? Even The Washington Post reported that police in riot gear merely watched as groups beat each other with sticks and that many on both sides came armed with helmets and chemical irritants. Of the dozens of armed and camouflaged militias, none tried to keep the peace.
McAuliffe’s disregard for his office and the lives of both protestors and counter-protesters contrasts sharply with the conduct of Michigan governor Frank Murphy. In February 1937, Murphy sent in the National Guard to protect striking GM employees from the police and corporate strikebreakers. Murphy was a governor who knew his responsibilities. By rights, McAuliffe should face criminal and civil prosecution.
It may be infuriating for the mass media and black activists to accept, but Trump was correct. Many sides were responsible for the riot. If Trump had bought into the monocausal Antifa/BLM version of events, as he was expected to do, he would have endorsed a political manipulation; by equivocating on responsibility as he did, he opened himself up to vilification. A proper response would have to have been well researched and artfully delivered, but such qualities are beyond Trump. It’s unclear how much he even knew of the event before speaking.
Clearly, the pro-black, moralized mass media narrative is indefensible, so to appreciate the riot properly attention must be focused on McAuliffe’s abdication of political and moral leadership.