The simplistic recitation of what happened in Charlottesville last Friday was that a bunch of fascists organised a protest against the removal of a town statue of Robert E Lee and a counter-protest was organised by anti-fascists. The fascists had a perfect right to peacefully protest (although given their ideology, cringing in their basements in shame would be more appropriate), and the counter-protesters were almost inevitably present – arguably with also a right to be there (peacefully).
The protests turned violent, and on Saturday a fascist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protester killing one, and injuring 19.
Who was to blame? Well before I add my opinion to the pile of opinions out there, let’s take a look at some of the others that have come out since the attack :-
- Trump initially sought to blame “all sides”, then went back on his word, and then rolled it forward again. Such decisiveness. But blaming “all sides”? So in other words, the victims of terrorism are to blame as well as the terrorists? You could be generous, and assume that he intended to blame all sides for the general violence, but not to call the attack on anti-fascists terrorism was unforgivable.
- Early on, some fascists even tried to claim that the terrorist attack was perpetrated by anti-fascists to blacken the name of fascism. Unfortunately I cannot find a source for this, although I recall it being mentioned (perhaps an entry on the Stormfront site which is currently unavailable to unregistered users). This was a fore-runner of the next part of the “blame game”.
- “But BLM/Antifa are terrorists too”. Victim-blaming; even if it were true (I’ll come back to that), the only terrorist attack at Charlottesville was perpetrated by a fascist with anti-fascists as the target. Besides which, the majority of the counter protesters were not members of BLM or Antifa; students, church groups, local residents, hell anyone with half a sense of decency could have been there opposing the fascists.
- The deceptive use of the “Alt-Left” label. There is no equivalent of the alt-right on the left; the left have a pretty consistent attitude towards racism. Using the “Alt-Left” label implies that the counter-protesters were members of the lunatic fringe of the left. For a start, whatever you think of the old hard-left (communists and the like), they certainly aren’t new or “alt”in any way. And secondly, many of the counter-protesters were certainly not part of the far left; hell there were probably right-wingers as part of the counter-protesters. I’ve got a low opinion of the mainstream right.
Variations on number 3 above has been common enough online that I have seen it multiple times in my Facebook feed (and elsewhere). Let me emphasise something I mentioned earlier – two wrongs don’t make a right, and there was no BLM/Antifa terrorism at Charlottesville.
Now onto my opinion about who was to blame.
As mentioned before, the only terrorist attack at Charlottesville was carried out by a neo-fascist, and the terrorist attack was the only reason why Charlottesville made a big news story. The counter-protesters were not involved in terrorism.
Now onto the violence. Determining blame here is tricky for several reasons :-
- You cannot tell from media reports who was to blame for crowd violence; in particular video footage can be very deceptive especially once it is cut to “sex it up” for the news. When some bozo starts windmilling punches at the fascists, how do we know that he wasn’t hit by a stone thrown by the fascists just before? That could easily be not shown on any video footage. When police forces ask for everyone’s mobile phone video and pictures after a terrorist incident they do so for a reason – they want to see things from as many perspectives as possible.
- Reacting with violence to extreme provocation is wrong, but those going out of their way to provoke things are not entirely blameless. Having been on anti-fascist protests myself, I can say that fascists can be extremely intimidating and provoking.
Having said that, there is a school of thought that says that giving a fascist a good kicking is a job well done. Having recently seen a film of what racism seems to inevitably lead to, it is hard to condemn such an attitude :-
Watch that film, and dare say that nazis deserve the protection of the law. At the very least, punching a nazi is no crime. (whatever the law may say).
I have previously used the generic term “fascist” to describe the protesters at Charlottesville, but in reality there was an alphabet soup of right-wing extremists – the KKK, white supremists, neo-nazis, and every other bunch of thugs that are collectively known as “alt-right”. Yes, I said thug. If you scratch the surface of any low-level fascist, you will find a young man who is into violence. What passes for their idiotic ideology is little more than an excuse to justify violence against certain groups.
If you look at listed terrorist attacks in the USA by ideology, 15 attacks have been by left-wing extremists since 1901; 51 have been by right-wing extremists (which excludes lynchings which would bring the figure up into thousands). So which group is the most violent?