On Saturday, August 12th, 2017, a large, permitted right-wing rally dubbed “Unite the Right” took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. This rally was organized as a result of numerous incidents and events that had occurred in Charlottesville over the course of several months prior. In February – after a few years of being pressured by Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy and other local and state politicians and leftists, and in reaction to Black Lives Matter activism – the city council voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that stood in Lee Park, and to rename the park. The major reasoning behind the changes was that Lee and the Confederacy are seen by some as deplorable monuments to slavery, racism, and white nationalism. Presently, the statue remains due to a court injunction halting its removal for six months, but the park was renamed to Emancipation Park.
In acts of resistance against the city council’s decision, multiple right-wing rallies were organized to occur in Charlottesville, including two alt-right rallies in May led by their poster boy Richard Spencer (who went to college there) and a Ku Klux Klan rally in July. These groups believe that the statue and similar Confederate monuments throughout the country should be left untouched. Though there are somewhat valid reasons for keeping or modifying these monuments – including remembering history, not erasing it – it is clear that these people in particular are fighting for the monuments because they are white nationalists and white supremacists.
Local and non-local counterprotesters showed up to these numerous right-wing rallies in Charlottesville. Notably, the counterprotesters vastly outnumbered the KKK during their permitted July rally, with all reports saying that a few dozen KKK activists faced over 1,000 of them. 23 counterprotesters were arrested throughout the day, mostly when they were blocking the overmatched and fleeing KKK members from leaving Charlottesville. (This of course drew backlash from the radical left, who claimed police brutality and complicity with the KKK and an oppressive government.)
All of this culminated on August 12th, the date of Charlottesville resident and alt-right proponent Jason Kessler’s “Unite the Right” rally – which largely drew the presence of the alt-right and more traditional neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups rather than uniting the right in general. It also drew the presence of an equally large (if not bigger) amount of counterprotesters; they ranged from moderates and Democrats and liberals and clergy to Black Lives Matter activists and radical left anarchists and socialists and communists. On both the left and right, activists came not only from all over Virginia, but certainly from states hundreds of miles away as well.
The radical leftists who showed up fancied themselves “anti-fascists” or “antifas.” As such, they came into the counterprotest with a predetermination to utilize black bloc tactics meant to mask their identities while engaging in the typical violent and destructive behavior they exhibit against anyone or anything they dislike. Some of their typical targets include any Republican politician, police, corporations and other “evil” capitalist institutions, the government, the military, and even the “state” in general – basically, anything to do with sustaining the Western way of life. Today, however, antifa rage was aimed at actual neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The result was a monumental disaster. The right was violent. The radical left was violent. Non-radical counterprotesters and the police were caught in the middle as the two sides clashed near Emancipation Park, forcing the police to declare an unlawful assembly and ordering a dispersal. Nearly two hours later, James Alex Fields Jr. – a 20-year-old alleged white supremacist who apparently espoused pro-Hitler views in high school – drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of leftists marching throughout the streets. He killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounded 19 others before fleeing the scene and being apprehended by police. (Two Virginia State Troopers also died later that day after the helicopter they were using to monitor the day’s events malfunctioned and crashed.)
The world awaited what President Donald Trump had to say regarding the day’s conflict and tragedy. Shortly before Fields crashed his car into the protesters, Trump condemned what he saw in Charlottesville as an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides” and said “that the hate and the division must stop.” Two days after the chaos in Charlottesville, Trump stated that the Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into Fields, and that neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK, and all hate groups that commit racist violence are repugnant criminals and thugs. His responses were fair and accurate, yet they underwhelmed the mainstream media and at least half of the country that pays attention to politics; they all believed that the counterprotesters had a moral high ground compared to the right-wing activists – so nothing bad should have been said about them – and that Trump enjoys the support he receives from the alt-right.
However, what Trump had to say the next day about Charlottesville during an “off-script” press conference at Trump Tower gave the mainstream media and many others the fight they were looking for. At this point, Orderly Conduct must make it clear that we do not necessarily consider ourselves as either Trump supporters or detractors – there are plenty of things we find disagreeable with Trump’s character and politics and there are some areas in which we find him reasonable. While we do not necessarily believe there is a massive mainstream media conspiracy against the President as he likes to claim, it is clear that they have a largely antagonistic relationship. We believe that some aspects of a lot of reports and reactions stemming from this particular press conference are unfair in certain regards and gloss over important details. Further complicating this issue is that when the President speaks without having a prepared statement, he sometimes doesn’t always clearly express himself and adequately make his points. We believe that there are some parts of this particular press conference that many have misinterpreted – deliberately or not – and Orderly Conduct feels obligated to offer some clarity here.
It must be noted that during this press conference, Trump stated that Fields Jr. is a “disgrace to himself, his family, and his country” and reiterated that neo-Nazis and white supremacists “should be condemned totally.” Nonetheless, the mainstream media rather unfairly suggested that Trump was essentially walking back the negative things he said about the right-wing bigots since he also went on to defend the less extreme right-wingers. Firstly, he told all of those present that the “Unite the Right” rally were legally protesting since they had a permit – which is true. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union helped ensure that “Unite the Right” was able to keep their permit for rallying in Emancipation Park after law enforcement sought to rescind it. Secondly, Trump stated that not all of the right-wingers present at the rally (and at the rally the night before) were neo-Nazis and white supremacists; that some present simply wanted to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, yet it is absolutely true that some people do not want the statue removed for non-bigoted reasons. For example, Esther Lee, the president of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., doesn’t see a problem with confederate statues. She, historians, and others appreciate those monuments for their perceived historical value and significance. There truly is nothing in these remarks to suggest that Trump walked back his condemnation of neo-Nazis and white supremacy.
One of the more unclear parts of his comments during this press conference, however, came when he offered criticisms against the counterprotesters. It was they, after all, who were victimized by Fields Jr.; it was 19 of them who were run over by a car driven by a white supremacist; it was counterprotester Heather Heyer who was murdered. This clearly was the single most violent act of the day, committed by someone who stands for what is largely considered the greatest evil in the history of our species: racism, slavery, and fascism. The clear and easy narrative to take is to simply condemn Fields Jr. and all of the other violent right-wingers while offering sympathy to the other side. This is what Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders would have done as President. It is what the mainstream media and all of the Democrats and liberals and many others want to hear.
The problem with that narrative, however, is that it is a half-truth at best. The criticism Trump made against the counterprotesters is the other half of that truth that seemingly nobody wants to acknowledge; namely how the radical left is as destructive to Western civilization as their radical right counterparts are. What Trump didn’t make crystal clear was that his criticism of the counterprotesters was not about the vast majority of them who showed up – that is, his criticism was not against the peaceful, nonviolent clergy members, liberals, Democrats, and just generally decent human beings who showed up to say “no” to bigotry; human beings who really don’t need to be leftists to understand that white supremacy and neo-Nazis are evil. No, when Trump criticized the counterprotesters, he was referring specifically to the relatively minor contingent of radical left antifa anarchists, socialists, and communists who came looking for a fight, who he dubbed the guilty “alt-left.” He accurately described that specific set of counterprotesters as troublemakers “with black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats” who came to Charlottesville with the express intent of violently engaging the alt-right. “And nobody wants to say it, but I’ll say it right now…they came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”
He’s right, and this is a truth that, again, a President Obama, Clinton, or Sanders – any Democrat, really – never would have admitted. All of them, for example, did little to nothing to challenge the most radical elements of Black Lives Matter who claim that all police departments and the criminal justice system were totally systemically racist. All of them instead chose to take the side of those activists – who they perceive to be their base – while occasionally offering an obviously fake, half-hearted defense of police. There is no way that those people would have spoken the whole truth about Charlottesville as President. Even Republicans wouldn’t need to speak this whole truth because when a politician must offer a reaction to something and there is an uncontroversial, easy way out that leaves most of everyone happy – say, blaming neo-Nazis – then it is a political rule of thumb that one must take that way out, the whole truth be damned. After all, Nazis are totally wrong and everyone hates them, so why not just focus on them in this situation? It is what every other politician has done (and it is indicative of why politics is one of the most disgusting and dirtiest businesses one could get into). President Trump was right in this situation to buck that trend and it honestly is something for which he should have been appreciated. It is one of his unique strengths. Instead, he has faced significant backlash for speaking this truth; his approval rating hit a new low, the media has torn him apart, people claim he is walking back his condemnation against neo-Nazis and white supremacists, American business leaders abandoned his advisory councils – and the destructive antifa walk away looking better than ever, lending them an air of legitimacy and even moral superiority that they do not deserve.
You don’t just say the word “Nazi” and the argument is finished, and just because the Nazis are wrong doesn’t make their anarchist enemies right. No, the anarchists still want all of the world to resemble one big Occupy Wall Street encampment. Instead of being able to buy and own your own private home and not be bothered with politics and the outside world, they still want you to become focused entirely on being politically involved in a “directly democratic” world. You don’t get to make that choice anymore – every single thing you do, think, or say needs to be radically politicized. They still want all stock exchanges to collapse, eradicating your 401k and your family’s wealth. They still want to abolish all prisons and jails and the rest of the criminal justice system and destroy all police departments – and they offer no realistic replacements. They still want you to live in a utopia they have absolutely no way of creating or sustaining. And yes, if you disagree with them, if you resist them, they’ll still bomb you in your capitalist restaurants and condos and office buildings – because they feel they are absolutely correct and have a deeper understanding of the world and you are simply part of the problem. And if you survive the bombing, maybe they’ll hand you off to one of their communist comrades who will send you off to die in a Soviet-style gulag.
Remember all of this when you want to applaud radical leftists for fighting neo-Nazis. They’re not defending anyone. They’re not saving anyone’s life. The violence and destruction they aim at the neo-Nazis could easily be aimed at you. Applauding them in this case is an ignorant act of inadvertently endorsing their ideology of violence and destruction.
Please don’t support them just because you don’t like Donald Trump. In many ways, they’re worse than he is.
Editor’s note: to see a partial list of the sources used to make the arguments in this article, please click here.