Another tragic demonstration of extremist lunacy. Another subsequent orgy of false equivalence and general stupidity. But this time was different. This time we had the acting president of the United States repeating and amplifying the deranged fringe media rhetoric. Here were some of the most notably absurd, delusional, hateful and downright idiotic reactions to Charlottesville:
1. “Both sides are to blame”
It’s inevitable that whenever a gaggle of right-wing miscreants get caught doing something unpleasant, their defenders will try to defend them by resorting to the “both sides” tactic. “Both sides are equally to blame”. The other side does it too. It’s a result of conflict from “many sides”.
This is never an encouraging bit of rhetorical legerdemain, but in this case it was especially chilling: the supposed leader of the free world declared — twice — that Nazis were morally equivalent to those taking a stand against them. Nazis, he insisted, weren’t all really Nazis or white supremacists, and included some “very fine people”. As usual, he merely was brainlessly parroting his media enablers, who declared that the demonstrators had “a reason” to be there. The White House Occupant also tried to defend the white supremacists by saying that they had a permit, and that “the other group didn’t”. The former is irrelevant; the latter is a baldfaced lie. The counterprotesters did indeed have a permit of their own.
Coincidentally, the white supremacists who are rallying and stirring up violence around the country are the putative president’s most solid base, the main choir he is preaching to — the hardcore supporters who view him as their messiah who will lead them to their Promised Land of ivory purity. It was they, more than anyone, who praised his remarks about Charlottesville — while also praising the murderous driver and belittling and insulting Heather Heyer, the woman he killed. Very fine people, very fine.
2. What about violence on the other side?
Hand in hand with bothsidesism, you have whataboutism. Like a schoolyard brat caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he often tries to deflect focus away from his culpability by accusing someone else of something.
What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right?’ Do they have any semblance of guilt…. What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs?
Once again he’s just echoing unfounded rumors. There’s been no evidence of any violence by counterprotesters, nothing more than using mace to defend themselves when they were surrounded, threatened and assaulted by the “very fine” Nazis — who were the only ones swinging clubs. The Cult Of Trumpery, however, has been so desperate to pin blame for violence on the antifascists that they have circulated a fake photo of one of them assaulting a police officer.
3. The “alt-left”
Not only does the putative president parrot the loony ideas of the fringe media, he also uses their vocabulary. There is no such thing as the “alt-left”. What exactly would an “alt-left” do, anyway? Gang up on people and try to give them healthcare?
“Alt-left” is a label made up by the “alt-right” to help advance a false equivalence. And while “alt-right” is itself a label of questionable accuracy (which is to say, it’s a euphemism used to cover up fascism and white supremacy), it is at least a legitimate category because it was coined and self-applied by the right-wingers themselves. There is no comparable label, or coalition, on the left.
4. Greasing the slope
It’s a very common tactic, almost a knee-jerk reaction, for right-wing extremists to attach the term slippery slope to any action that doesn’t meet their seal of approval. They never seem to apply it to any situation where it’s actually appropriate — i.e., environmental plundering or the intrusion of religion into government — but they are ever eager to apply it to situations it doesn’t fit.
If we take down Confederate statues, say the putative president and his puppeteers, then it won’t be long before we’re taking down statues of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, and demolishing Mt. Rushmore. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they’re comparing a group of historical figures who fought to establish, strengthen and protect the union to a group who fought to rip it apart.
The metaphor of a slippery slop works only if you are talking about a continuum of possible events along the same slope. Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln are on a totally different slope, and indeed an opposing slope, from Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. No, it still isn’t comparable just because Washington and Jefferson owned slaves; Lee and Jackson not only owned slaves, they waged a war against their own country to protect the very institution of slavery.
Most preposterously, some members of the punditocracy even suggested that maybe book burning will come next on the slope. Apparently, they’re blissfully unaware that Confederate monuments are being defended by neo-Nazis; and it was Nazis themselves who were among the most infamous book burners.
4. Those beautiful statues
Another of the putative president’s tactics was to bemoan the destruction of such beautiful works of art as the Confederate monuments. But no monuments have actually been destroyed, nor is that the plan. The plan is to move them to museums, or somewhere besides the public forum. Even the one that was torn down by citizens in North Carolina is currently stashed in a warehouse until someone figures out what else to do with it.
And the neo-Nazi mob that gathered in Charlottesville was not there to protect statues. It was there to take a stand for white supremacy — as its swastikas, Confederate flags and chants of “We won’t be replaced” and the like make clear.
Your putative president is obviously very concerned about the preservation of beautiful historical markers. So much so that he’s willing to erect one himself on his golf course, in commemoration of a battle that never occurred. Good thing he’s so adamantly opposed to “fake news”.
5. Birds of a feather
People in North Carolina were understandably upset about the Charlottesville incident. Even so, their angry reaction was in itself rather dumb. They should have been aware that the punditocracy is constantly on the lookout for any little event they can tout as proof that “liberals” are unruly scum. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened.
It was a different group in Durham, and a much smaller one — just 10 people appear to have participated in actually toppling the statue. But the punditocracy wasted no time in lumping them all together, and declaring that they were all representative of the violent and unsavory Left in general. But they didn’t stop there; they also lumped the protesters together with the Taliban, with the Khmer Rouge, with ISIS — with anyone who’s ever taken down a statue in any manner for any reason.
A few hours later, vandals spray-painted the Lincoln Memorial in Washington with graffiti. (So, Mr. President, was the Memorial equally to blame?) As of this writing, there is no word on who the guilty party was, or whether they had any particular motive, or what their ideology was, if any, other than destructiveness. What we do know is that this was one of a spate of such vandal attacks that have occurred in DC over the past few months; and there appears to be no rhyme or reason to them. They have targeted the Lincoln Memorial before, as well as the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Smithsonian Institution. Messages have included “Jackie Shot JFK” and a reference to 9-11.
No matter. As far as the reactionaries were concerned, this latest attack on the Lincoln Memorial was obviously related to Durham and Charlottesville, and was more conclusive proof that them librulz are all a bunch of lawless thugs. It never seems to have occurred to any of them that Lincoln was about as far on the other side of the racism divide as you can get.
Needless to say, we’ve seen the same tactic after a gang of hooded, self-branded “anarchists” crashed a peaceful demonstration in Berkeley more recently. There’s a big difference between anarchist and antifascist — except in the brains of reactionaries.
6. “Erasing history”
This is the most absurd spin of all, so naturally it’s the most frequently invoked. Eliminating Confederate statues, they say, is an effort by them librulz to erase history and rewrite it to their liking. As if statues are the way we encapsulate, preserve and transmit history. As some people have noted, you’d be very hard pressed to find a monument to Hitler anywhere in the world; yet virtually everyone everywhere in the world knows perfectly well who he was, what he did, and even what he looked like. Monuments do not exist as vessels of history, but as vessels of emotion. (More about that in a moment.)
Newt Gingrich, whose neurons have not held up well under advancing age, even proclaimed:
And you have a great deal of people on the left who if they could destroy our entire memory of America, they would wipe it out and we would have no knowledge of what it meant to be an American.
There is no reason for you to be this stupid too. So here are two facts Mr. Gingrich is trying to ignore: it was the Confederacy that fought to wipe out “what it meant to be American”. It is the people who defend the Confederacy who are trying to destroy the memory of what happened.
Far from erasing history, removing Confederate monuments is an effort to get history straight — to cease making heroes of men who fought against their own nation in the deadliest American war ever, for the cause of continuing the practice of brutally enslaving countless others. (And yes, the Civil War really was about slavery.) And while it’s true that the Founding Fathers also declared war against their own country and were considered traitors, the cause could not have been more different: eliminating oppression as opposed to preserving it.
It doesn’t work to glibly say “heritage, not hate”, because the Confederate heritage is a heritage of hate. And it’s especially bizarre to hear Santayana’s maxim “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” spouted in defense of mobs displaying the swastika and the “heil Hitler” salute.
7. Butwhatabout Muslims?
“Okay, so the Confederates attacked the United States. But so have Muslims. So if we’re going to remove Confederate monuments, shouldn’t we also remove mosques?” That, in all seriousness, was an argument made by an Oklahoma lawmaker, and picked up by many of his kindred spirits on social media.
Have you ever heard anyone suggest the removal of churches because the Confederates were Christians? You’d probably never think of holding Christianity accountable because millions of traitors were Christians; so why would you hold Islam accountable because an infinitely smaller handful of terrorists have been Muslim? (Particularly when terrorist attacks are carried out more often by white Christians than anyone else.)
If, though, there were statues of Osama bin Laden on U.S. soil, it might not be a bad idea to remove them. But there aren’t any. Because Americans had the good sense not to erect any in the first place. There are, however, countless statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson — who killed far more Americans than bin Laden did. So why the preferential treatment? Are we cutting them slack because they were Americans too? That says we consider it not only acceptable but heroic and honorable to commit mass slaughter and devastation against America if you’re American and a traitor to boot; and that doesn’t speak very highly of our values. Or are we cutting them slack because they were white Christians? I shouldn’t have to tell you what that says about us.
8. Defensive about offensiveness
Also making the rounds on social media was this little gem:
Ok, I can play “Lets Erase History” Erase Welfare, Food Stamps, Free Housing & College – that’s OFFENSIVE to those of us that WORK
You have to be impressed when anyone can compress so much nonsense into such a small space. We’ve already discussed the straw man of “erasing history”. It’s unclear what “free housing and college” is supposed to be referring to but this meme is evidently changing the subject by paying homage to a number of myths about public assistance (“welfare”).
For one thing, there’s the myth that Americans can be neatly divided into either working stiffs or welfare bums. In reality, most “welfare” recipients also work — including quite a few military families. Thus, it’s absurd to suggest that working people on the whole resent “welfare” recipients. There’s also the myth that funding these assistance programs significantly drains the pocket of the average American. In reality, if you earn 50,000 a year, you pay about 10 cents a day for “welfare” — as opposed to about $16.50 a day to support corporations.
The biggest red herring here, however, is the use of the word “offensive”. The official spin is that the whole reason people want to take down Confederate monuments is that they are “offensive” to African-Americans. And hey, so what if they are thereby reminded of the bondage and torture and persecution their forebears endured? They should just get over it like us white folk have done.
It’s probably true that these monuments stir some unpleasant feelings among many African-Americans, but that isn’t the main reason for taking them down. The big problem is not the reaction they provoke among some blacks, but the reaction they provoke among some whites. Monuments, as mentioned, are not erected for the purpose of preserving history. They are erected for the purpose of preserving and inciting emotion – generally pride, honor, duty, etc.
So what response do these monuments provoke in today’s white supremacists? Exactly the response they were designed to. And that’s the main reason they need to come down.
9. Confederate flag and rainbow flag
Meanwhile, back at the loony bin of fairandbalanced Fox “News”. Star Parker declared that the Confederate flag and the rainbow flag “represent the exact same thing”. Parker, by the way, is both a right-wing extremist and an African-American; as such, she’s a popular token black on outlets like Fox, much like the appropriately deranged fellow who keeps popping up at presidential rallies. You have to hand it to them for doing their part for racial equality by demonstrating that African-Americans can be just as dopey as anyone else if they put their minds to it.
10. Butwhatabout Black Lives Matter
Speaking of African-Americans, there’s been another popular thread among reactionaries in comparing the antifascists to Black Lives Matter. And the comparison is somewhat valid, but not in the way they intend. The antifascists are peaceful protesters, and so are those affiliated with Black Lives Matter — which, unlike the guy in the White House, denounces violence promptly and unequivocally.
11. False flag
It goes without saying that, as usual, the right-wing loony fringe media from which your putative president obtains his Real News went ballistic with the conspiracy theories. The organizer of the Nazi demonstration was actually a “liberal” spy. It was all a setup by Democrats. Obama was behind it. Hillary was behind it. Black Lives Matter was behind it. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe was behind it. Jews were behind it. Extraterrestrial lizard people were behind it. Etc., etc., etc.
12. What matters to the putative president
And of course in delivering his remarks about Charlottesville, the putative president made certain to emphasize what mattered to him most about the community: he owns a house and a winery there. And it is, naturally, the biggest and best winery in the whole fucking galaxy.
While I agree with your point that these memorials do feed into racist and White supremacist behaviors, I’m afraid your point implies that the feelings of African Americans are moot. I humbly disagree. The African Americans were the ones most hurt by those memorialized – their feelings about such things are paramount. Not that the African American community is in any way a monolith of like thinking. Still, their concerns are valid and we do need to hear them.
Yes, absolutely. I certainly didn’t mean to imply otherwise — my comments about their concerns were partly ironic. But the main point was that the purpose of the monuments is to perpetuate feelings of white supremacy. And that, more than anything, is what makes them harmful and dangerous.
Hi POP, I decided to submit a better written copy of my first comment on this thread. You may delete the first one if you like.
One thing that should be remembered is that, while confederate leaders schemed about how to preserve the economically rewarding institution of slavery, and eventually concluded that portraying it as a noble fight intended to defend State’s rights, made the simple, ordinary, people that fought under Generals like Lee, rather heroic since they went into the fight thinking that they too were serving in a just cause.
Even if they were too poor to own slaves themselves, they bought hook, line, and sinker, the idea that those damn Yankees were planning to assault the holy grail of State’s Rights (a ploy often used by Republicans of today. But they were not evil people any more than were our many Vietnam veterans many of whom at one point, thought they were doing the world a favor by preventing communist control of South Vietnam.
In hindsight, many in the south have now admitted to the immorality of owning other human beings even though their attitudes may still be tainted with racism. But at the time of the Civil War and during the lives of Jefferson and Washington, being opposed to slavery had not yet become the hot button issue that it was later destined to become. Even many northerners likely just viewed it as a fact of life, and were merely lukewarm about asserting justice by opposing it. It could be that a man like Jefferson, who actually hated slavery, knew that the time for hard changes had not yet come?
Many of us remember the Joan Baez version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which paints a bleak picture of how ordinary southern families volunteered either for the North or for the South simply because the Confederate cause was thought of as a noble endeavor. In one part of the song a southerner, who chose to fight for the confederate side, laments that he “took a rebel Stand,” and resentfully mentions his brother who “was just 18, proud, and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave.” (approximate lyrics from memory). So, the war actually set brother against brother, some of whom died while fighting the most horrific and bloody battles that history ever Knew–against each other!
So, the point I am trying to make is that for many ordinary Southerners today, whose great great grandfathers may have fought in the Civil War, there is a valid point for them wanting to be reminded of the sacrifices their ancestor made, even when fighting for the South.
However, for contemporary minds which are no longer clouded by the bizarre social zeitgeist surrounding the Civil war, we can now all see how morally deficient the basic concept of one man owning another, and being given complete control over him or her, is (like a mere piece of property). And for those of us who saw the movie “12 Years a Slave,” or read the works of Richard Wright, there is no way we can deny the horrendously cruel and morally corrupt way that Southern institution condoned slavery and then ignored the surreal cruelty which was the Jim Crow South–long after black Americans were supposedly given their freedom?
So yes, it is correct that we should not display memorials glorifying southern politicians and Generals who attempted to secede from the Union—just to preserve their immoral and dubious cause. We can also only wince and become sick to the stomach after learning about how 14-year-old Emmett Till was abducted and brutally tortured to death just because he made the mistake of smiling at a friendly white woman who working at a soda fountain!
No black man should have to encounter statutes glorifying the civil war or praising those who fought to tear down our government. So, the only places statues like those should be displayed is in museums, or perhaps in special areas set aside for those who have become Civil War History freaks, or for families who merely want to remember the lives that their relatives from the distant past, sacrificed.
In many ways though, the alt-right and its Nazi like ideology is far worse for simply fanning the fires of propaganda while pretending to be morally superior (yuck)! Such people seldom possess any truly noble cause to justify their actions, and are today, in general, seem either mentally ill or on the edge of insanity.
As far as southern heritage goes, at least soldiers on each side made moral decisions to follow where their consciences. And we should also remember that when Lee surrendered at Appomattox he feared that Grant would immediately arrest him as well as his ragged group of surviving soldiers—Instead Grant realized that we were are all war weary Americans, and so he let Lee and his ragged soldiers to go peacefully on their way.
At a gathering soon after the war, history remembers that Lincoln told the band to play Dixie in honor of those who fought for the confederacy while they wholeheartedly believed in their cause.
Yes, this is a good article. I’m thinking of linking to it retroactively in my own piece about the Civil War.
All wars are obscene, and the Civil war wouldn’t have needed to be fought if the twisted belief that slavery was a just way of asserting supposed white superiority were not involved. But many of the ordinary grunts in the confederacy undoubtedly did not believe that their cause was immoral. Even the Nazis were puffed up with claims that they represented the superior race, however some of them may not have felt that way once they found themselves hemmed in by the allies.
I know veterans who, when praised for their heroism, are unconcerned or even upset at having their past elevated in that way. They say instead, that they didn’t give a damn about saving America or destroying communism, When they fought they did so to protect their fellow soldiers, and surely the Southern Rebels felts the same way.
Many wars, except for possibly WW2, were really unnecessary and were fueled by the vanity of jingoistic old men who were given the task of telling young men who and what to die for! I think for that reason, that the ordinary southern soldiers who fought and died for the south, were basically no different—they were taken in by someone else’s grandiose political hustle and in the end, the faux ideals they fought to defend really boiled down to protecting their comrades, For that reason I believe the civil war was not fought by evil men, but rather because that role was best filled by politicians and generals who duped their troops to lay down thier lives. That’s also why I think some statues and other questionable parts of southern military history are fundamental to the ideals (which Rebel soldiers believed were axiomatic). And, because so many believed (even with dubious reasoning), that their cause was just, bits and pieces of their past should be displayed in areas where their progeny and everyone else who is interested in the Civil War should be given the chance to feel gratitude for the bravery and personal sacrifices made by Rebel soldiers–even if it was spent primarilly, with trying to save their friends.
Forcing black Americans to see these artifacts on their ways to schools or work, is of course, the ultimate injustice, And thus, southern memorability should be displayed in some sort of museum or privately funded public area unconnected to the government. The Civil war was exceptionally ugly, but all those who fought in it were presumably not!
I have often wondered what the big deal is that has caused such backlash against BLM Obviously it is not a call to play favorites or a claim that white lives, red lives, yellow, lives, gay lesbian, and transgender lives etc.etc somehow mean more than others.
One thing we all need to do is to just give up feeling so defensive and threatened, and like it or not the big mean black man myth among whites is not discarded by images of violence on the parts of black Americans. However, this is not the goal of BLM–to intimidate whites. if we can empathize with others, we need to ask ourselves how we would feel if a precious young white person was shot by police under dubious circumstances and if this white child was our own how would that make us feel?
Regardless of the fact that many cops deal with anger and anxiety provoking situations, and they might makes mistakes, all of that is not as immediately shocking as is the death of a parent’s young son or daughter as a result of meaningless or even unintended violence. At first all any parent can do is feel anger against the cops while knowing it’s is next to impossible to convict them.
BLM is merely an attempt to shine a light on the fact that all of us are basically the same, and that regardless of social injustices we are all much the same anyway. And in order to possess white privilege, we don’t have to order it through the mail. All we need to realize how many black Americans have had experiences that most white people just cannot understand. We are not personally responsible for “colored” washrooms existing, or for treating black people as societal slaves during the Jim Crow south. But what we take for granted about our social history is that it’s something that really does needs to be addressed and handled with care. Also that admitting to that fact is one way of ensuring that we all need to recognize how lucky we are when compared to those of other races and ethnic backgrounds. And knowing how easily these atrocities can be ignored, Should liberate black people as well as ourselves.
This was the most relevant article I could find to ask this, but sites such as Vdare, Unz, and the like are saying that the ADL extremism reports are “lies” because of classifications of White gang members, Black white ringers, and acts of violence by members but unmotivated by ideology.
I post this article specifically, because it uses corroborating evidence. People claim bias when these acts nonetheless aligns with actual trends, and actually shows how undermined this type of domestic terrorism is perceived. This goes against the bias they suggest for Antifa.
Even by the end of their analysis, it clearly shows how group-affiliated Right wingers whether “Aryan” or “Moorish” are more representative.
Sorry, I meant ask if you could discuss this in a future article.
Yes, quite possibly. Thanks for the suggestion.